Arizona—A portal to the Wild West
Close your eyes and picture this—tumbleweeds, red sandstone, cacti, and the classic three note tune heard in every cowboy film.
You see it in your mind? Want to experience it? Well grab enough water and hop in your car, you’re headed to Arizona!
Arizona had a mining boom in the 1800s. Many men and their families headed here to find their fortune.
For curious tourists today, the real treasure is being able to explore these ghost towns and walk alongside history. Due to donations and state funded programs, Arizona has many ghost towns waiting to be explored.
Of course, the town with the most name recognition on this list, Tombstone is home to the O.K. Corral, where the infamous showdown between Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp took place in on October 26, 1881. The town is now home to a state park and museum, where visitors can see antiques from days yonder or take a stagecoach tour.
Vulture City grew fast in the late 1800s up until World War II, when it quickly fell from stardom after the federal government closed all nonessential mines. Visitors today can see 12 restored buildings and artifacts, including the cookhouse, post office, brothel, and the town’s original hanging tree!
If you have kids, Oatman is sure to bring a smile to their faces while they feed the wild burros that roam around town (don’t worry about packing an extra sandwich for them—most shops sell carrots). A fire in 1921 burned down most of the original buildings, but you can still visit the Oatman Hotel and watch fake shootouts on the weekends.
If you are someone who enjoys ruins more than restorations, Two Guns is a great place to visit. A town built up to be a tourist stop on Route 66, Two Guns has seen its share of tragedy with a mass Apache battle, and fires that gutted businesses. Visitors can explore the town’s cave and what is left of its buildings and the old zoo.
Out near the Arizona-Nevada border, you’ll find a living ghost town. Chloride still has a functioning post office and one of the older cemeteries in Arizona. Thanks to the local historical society, you can drive and walk-through town, peering into shops, an old jailhouse, homes, and the town playhouse.
If you are looking for a true ghost town experience, go about four miles north of the Mexico border to Ruby. The town no longer operates, but visitors can wonder around the wood and adobe houses after checking in with the town’s caretaker. If you visit from May to September, look up (carefully!) around dusk and dawn to see Mexican freetail bats cover the sky as they fly in and out of the old mine shaft.
Arizona is a great state to hop around ghost towns on your way to and from different hikes. Always make sure you pack enough water, food, and gas, since many of these towns might not have these amenities. And be sure to leave everything as you found it in the less restored or maintained ghost towns.