Utah July 03, 2016
This Haunting Road Trip Through Utah Ghost Towns Is One You Won’t Forget
Summer is the perfect time to explore the Beehive State. Why not take a ghost town road trip to see some of the remnants of Utah’s Wild West history? These ten towns are perfect for exploring and photography…and a few of them might just send chills up your spine.
Utah is full of cool ghost towns, and we wanted to design a trip that you could reasonably do in 1-2 days, so this trip just covers some of the towns in southern Utah – we’ll create another ghost town road trip for the northern part of the state soon!
For the full road trip details, check out this Google map and route we’ve prepared for you.
Google notes that this trip is over 14 hours long, so clearly you'll want to plan it over a few days so that you'll have time to explore each town and the many cool places nearby.
The little ghost towns of Sego, Cisco and Thompson Springs are just about five miles apart, so you can easily see all three. The towns were founded in the 1880s and were both involved in coal mining. Sego’s population declined during the 1930s; Thompson Springs still had about 40 residents during the 2010 U.S. Census.
Cisco and Thompson Springs
Cisco was an important stop for the railroads - both for refueling the trains and the people (via the saloon). Like many towns in the area, when I-70 was built, traffic was diverted away from the area.
Sulpherdale was founded in 1870 thanks to a large deposit of sulpher ore in the area. The town once included many homes, a school and mining offices (an abandoned mining office is pictured here). Sulpher production started decreasing in the 1940s, and by the 1970s, Sulpherdale was a ghost town.
Widtsoe was only in existence from 1908 to about 1936. In the 1910s, the town thrived briefly with hotels, a church, schools, shops and sawmills. The drought in 1920 had significant impact on the town, as did the relocation of the Forest Service office in 1925. In 1936, the Resettlement Administration bought out the remaining families.
In the 1870s, Paria (also called Pahreah) was home to about 47 families. The town had a general store and church and many homes. Unfortunately, the Paria river flooded regularly, destroying property and crops. After many such floods, most families moved out. The post office shuttered its doors in 1914.
Grafton is popular with photographers and is one of the most well-known ghost towns in the West. It was founded in 1859, but farming was difficult. Frequent flooding and Indian attacks led to the abandonment of the town. Starting in 1997, the Grafton Heritage Partnership began renovating several buildings in Grafton. You can visit the church, cemetery and several homes.
Harrisburg had a short, tragic history. Originally founded as Harrisville in 1859, the town was flooded in 1869 and moved farther north up Quail Creek. The new town, Harrisburg, also flooded. Indian attacks and a locust plague finished the town off by 1895. Several stone houses, including the Orson Adams Home (pictured here) still stand.
Modena was a railroad town founded in 1899. Though the town once thrived, its buildings are now abandoned.
Old Iron Town (also called Iron City), had a brief history. It was founded in 1868, and was vacated by 1876. Ruins include a charcoal oven, portions of the original foundry and some building foundations.
Frisco was once a thriving silver-mining town with over 6,000 residents. The town was founded in 1879, and quickly boomed. It was known for its wild, unlawful residents (the 23 saloons in town probably didn’t help). Homicides were a common occurrence in the mid-1880s. In February, 1885 the silver mine collapsed. Most people moved out shortly thereafter. By 1929 the town was completely abandoned.
Ready for another southern Utah road trip? This one is full of amazing views and vistas!