A guide with the best deserted places and beautiful, abandoned places in USA you must visit
There’s something about abandoned places that draws you magically towards them but on the other hand, there’s something spooky about them too! Imagine if these places could tell all the stories they’ve seen already! The States are filled with deserted places and today, I’ll take you to the best-abandoned places in the USA that you should visit!
For this, I asked travel blogger friends to share their favorite deserted or empty places. Places with a story to tell. Places for visiting since they make great photo motives. Places that make you reflect and escape our busy world for some time.
You shouldn’t wait that Halloween arrives to visit some of these gorgeous, forgotten places. Indeed, they make a great destination for a day trip or a photoshoot throughout the year!
Many of the here listed places have a fascinating background story! I had so much fun reading the contributions of my blogger friends.
Do you know any abandoned places near where you live? Is it featured in this list? If not, I can’t wait to hear about it in the comment form!
1. The Great Saltair, Utah
If you find yourself in Salt Lake City, Utah, you’ll probably hear about the great salt lake (the dead sea of America) where you can float on the water. Now, I must tell you that you’ll encounter corpses of dead seagulls, swarming flies and a putrid odor!
If you take the plunge, there’s no way to miss the Saltair. A huge building with Moorish domes that you can see at the same time when you can smell the stench.
The Saltair that you see now is actually the third one. The first one was built in 1893, in order to provide a safe venue for recreation for families. It became immensely popular with all kinds of events until its pavilion and a few other buildings were ravaged by a fire in 1925.
Although it was rebuilt a second time, it never achieved the same popularity. In a period marked by the great depression, WW2, and several mishaps, it finally got destroyed in an arson fire in 1970.
The third one was built in 1981, approximately a mile from the original venue. The lake flooded it a few months after it opened, and receded away after it was restored. But the decline was final. Although from time to time, there are concerts out there, if you visit the lake, you can only wonder what the hell is going on here!
By Deb Pati – The VisaProject
2. Bodie State Historic Park, California
Bodie State Historic Park is a gold-mining ghost town in California. It’s an interesting place where you can walk down the deserted streets of a city that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people! You can feel a true atmosphere from wild-west movies.
Why is Bodie worth visiting? You’ll see all the historical buildings and sites from the gold rush times including a bank, a post office, a church, a museum, a stamp mill, a graveyard, and various abandoned machinery and cars. You’ll just experience the true atmosphere from the wild-west gold rush as seen in many famous movies.
How to get there: Bodie is situated at the northeast of the famous Yosemite National Park in California and north of Mono Lake (which is also worth visiting!). It’s a 3-hrs drive from Yosemite and a 2-hrs drive from Lake Tahoe. Just be aware that the last 3 miles are on a dirt road and can be tough during worse weather!
3. Overlook Mountain House, New York
Overlook Mountain House is in the Catskill Mountains just above Woodstock, NY. Drive through Woodstock up to the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Tibetan Buddhist Monastery.
A small parking lot across the road is the trailhead for a hike up Overlook Mountain. Near the end of the hike, you’ll come across the ruins of a former hotel. The concrete ruins are one of the few remains of the many historic Catskill resorts that were extremely popular in the 19th century.
Most were built of wood and have long since burned or been torn down, so seeing the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House is a rare treat! A narrow dirt track leaves the main trail and goes to the doorway. It’s safe to walk around inside the remains of the main lodge.
Trees are slowly overtaking the building, but you can still climb a staircase to nowhere and explore nooks and crannies.
The current ruined hotel is actually the third Overlook Mountain House built on the same site. The 1st started as a small lodge in 1833 and was turned into a 300-room hotel in 1871, but burned down 4 years later. The 2nd was rebuilt in 1878 and burned down again in 1921.
The 3rd version was built of concrete to prevent it from burning down a 3rd time. Unfortunately, it was never finished, and the unfinished hotel is the ruined shell we see today.
It’s eerie, but a fun place to explore before continuing up the trail to the overlook that gave the hotel its name, and the incredible views over the Hudson Valley below (especially stunning in the fall!).
4. Silver City, Idaho
Silver City, Idaho was at one point one of the largest cities in Idaho. The town was established in the mid-1800s, during the gold and silver rush of the western United States. By the 1880s, the town’s population rose to 2,500 people.
At its height in the 1880s, it was a gold and silver mining town with a population of around 2,500 and approximately 75 businesses. As mining in the area began to die down, so did the city. In 1942, the last mine in the area was closed.
You can still visit Silver City, which currently has around 70 standing buildings, including the old church, a hotel, the Masonic Hall, and old homes. You can also walk through the cemetery and old mine shafts.
Silver City is considered a ghost town for two reasons: because it’s all but abandoned and because many of those buildings are rumored to be full of actual ghosts from the mining days!
Silver City is now owned by the US government and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s considered one of the best-preserved ghost towns on the west coast and one of the best day trips from Boise.
5. Murphy’s Ranch, California
One of the best hidden gems in Los Angeles is Murphy’s Ranch, an abandoned bunker with layers of California history. It requires a hike to reach and is located right in Pacific Palisades. This makes it a great day hike in the US!
It was built in Rustic Canyon in the 30’s by Winona and Norman Stephens, anti-Semitic members of the Silver Legion of America. The group was supportive of the Nazi party before and during WWII, and the bunker was designed as a base for Nazi activity in the US.
The ranch was equipped with water and fuel storage, a bomb shelter, bunkers and other buildings around the compound.
In 1941, the local police raided Murphy’s Ranch and detained the 50-member force left to guard the compound. The structures were left abandoned until the 60’s when they were occupied as an artist’s colony. A forest fire destroyed the site in 1978 and it’s currently abandoned.
The property is owned by the city of Los Angeles and the powerhouse, water tank and gardens are still standing. They’re boarded up and covered in graffiti, but the relic of history can be a great stop while hiking around LA.
6. Centralia, Pennsylvania
Taking a scenic drive to Centralia, Pennsylvania makes the East coast bucket list for strange, abandoned places to see! This ghost town was once a great mining area until the underground coal fires started in 1962.
This now-abandoned town inspired the 2006 horror movie Silent Hill with its eerie existence or should I say non-existence? The town has been burning for over 50 years and is condemned. The zip code of Centralia has been eliminated!
If you visit today, you can still see the smoke seeping out of the earth in certain spots. The abandoned route 61 has become a sightseeing spot known as the graffiti highway.
To get to Centralia, you can take Pennsylvania highways 54 and 61, and Centralia is just 2 miles north of Ashland. When you come to the point where the highway has been rerouted due to the fire, park your vehicle and look around at the old highway.
You should be able to see smoke coming from the larger cracks in the asphalt. For this road trip, bring your picnic basket or stop in Ashland for your dinner because nothing is open in Centralia!
7. Kennicott Mine, Alaska
The Kennicott Mine in the settlement of Kennicott, Alaska, used to be the largest copper mine of the state. Due to its remote location (high up in the wilderness of Wrangell St. Elias National Park) and after years of service, it eventually lost its value since the transportation to the coast took forever and copper could be found cheaper elsewhere.
These days, the old mill building is accessible by a guided tour that will take around 1-2 hrs. Other activities nearby include glacier hiking, rafting, and ice climbing among other adventurous things to do in Alaska. Indeed, Alaska is famous for hosting some of the best outdoor experiences in the US.
As a mining ghost town, Kennicott Mine is located in the heart of Wrangell St. Elias National Park and looks out over the massive Root Glacier. There’s just one way into the park and it’s a not very well maintained gravel road.
Most rental car companies do not allow driving this road with your rental vehicle (not even when it has high clearance!) so your best bet is to either jump on a shuttle bus or do it the proper way: by bush plane.
8. Bannack Ghost Town, Montana
When it comes to the creepiest place in America, no one can miss Bannack Ghost town because of its paranormal stories. This old mining town is located near Grasshopper Creek in Montana. The area is famous as a National Historic Landmark and operates as a state park in the US.
To enter Bannack, follow the easiest way to reach there. From Dillon, you can take the Interstate highway route to quickly reach your destination.
Why it is worth visiting and Background Story of Bannack Ghost Town:
It was famous as a mining town but then moved towards a visiting place and gradually, the town got empty from the residences before 1960. Now, visitors come to explore the unlocked buildings. The Masonic Lodge Old school buildings having antique desks.
Hotel Meade was the first brick court that converted into a hotel. You can see Gallows by climbing up on a hill. Besides that, Skinner’s Saloon, Methodist church, and Bessette House are also ancient historical buildings.
You must travel to Bannack as it will be worth to spend time in such a historic place in Montana. It’s definitely a thing to put on your bucket list experiences in the US!
By Mark – VogaTech
9. Thompson, Utah
Thompson, Utah is a strange little town on the side of the I-70, not too far from Moab. It may not technically be a ghost town now, but it’s pretty close even though there are still people living there! There are no businesses anymore. Just some old, abandoned buildings and a weirdly intriguing vibe. It’s super easy to get to. Just take the exit on the I-70 for Thompson Springs, drive past the 7-11 and you’re there.
The town was basically founded in the late 19th century as a station stop on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad but gained importance in the early 20th century when coal mines in the nearby Sego Canyon started popping up.
Then, like a real-life Cars (the movie) situation, the construction of the I-70 two miles away from Thompson Springs essentially stopped all traffic through the town. This was furthered by moving the passenger train station to nearby Green River in 1997, leading to more economic hardships for the town.
While the fact that it’s mostly a ghost town now might be an interesting draw, most people pass through to see the eerie robot-alien-like pictographs in Sego Canyon.
10. Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel, New York
Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel was a beautiful resort located at the Catskill Mountains in the Town of Liberty, nearby the Libertyvillage, New York. It is just 1h30 northwest of Manhattan. It was one of the largest Borscht belt resorts which primarily catered to the Jewish clients.
Well reaching there is also a wonderful experience. A drive-through the State route 17 witnessing the boarded-up summer camps, Jewish communities and the main streets. Later, you come across the hill where Grossinger’s Catskill Resort is seen on the horizon. This place’s worth visiting in the summer.
The beautiful mountains, pleasant weather, good food, and the eye-popping luxury of the resort beckons people in the resort. It included two Olympic sized pools (one each for indoor and outdoor), an ice-skating rink, and a private ski slope (the first-ever in the world!).
This resort briefly symbolized the vacation revolution of the American Jewish community.
However, in 1986, the Grossinger descendants sold this property and the resort areas closed. The golf course, however, stayed opened till 2017. Unfortunately, due to non-maintenance, it was demolished in July 2018,.
Watch out; there are rumours that this place is haunted! It’s thus perfect to visit around Halloween!
By Tanayesh from ShoeStringTravel.com
11. Arne’s Royal Hawaiian Motel in Baker, California
Located right off the I-15 in the Mojave desert lies Arne’s Hawaiian Motel. This abandoned motel sits on a strange street in Baker that is home to both the world’s largest thermometer as well as the infamous Alien Fresh Jerkey.
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to stay at the Bates Motel, wonder no more. Arne’s Hawaiian Motel is equal parts creepy and intriguing! Opened in 1957, this Hawaiian theme motel was in operation for decades before officially shutting its doors in 2009.
There isn’t much information about why the motel shut down, but a nearby correctional facility that boasted a large list of escapees could be to blame. Or it could be because of the numerous terrible Yelp reviews they’ve received (go check it out!).
The motel has over 40 rooms with the larger, more interesting rooms located towards the back on the property.
The motel is very accessible as it sits right off the freeway. The doors to most of the rooms are locked but feel free to take a peek through the windows. Their place has been ransacked but if you choose to venture towards the back on the property where the pool is, you’ll find rooms in a better, more pristine condition.
There have been rumors about the motel possibly opening its doors again, but that seems like a distant dream given the current state it is in.
12. Kelso Ghost Town, San Bernardino County, California
Elaine & David – Show Them The Globe
Kelso is a ghost town located in the middle of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California.
Many travellers embark on the well-travelled driving route between Las Vegas and Palm Springs along which Kelso is located. Together with Joshua Tree National Park and the iconic Roy’s Motel and Café on Route 66, Kelso is one of the main attractions on the drive.
Once home to 2,000 residents at its peak, little remains of the town today. Locals fought to save the train depot, a majestic building which has since been restored and is now the visitor center for the Mojave National Preserve.
An abandoned post office and basketball court remain, together with a jail cell which was used to detain rowdy drunks.
In 1905, the town sprang up as a service stop for passing Las Vegas trains. Helper trains were stationed at Kelso to assist with the ascent into the town, and it also acted as a food and water stop. Kelso gained popularity with the opening of borax and iron mines but the population dwindled when they shut.
Eventually, the train depot closed in 1986 and Kelso soon became a desert ghost town.
13. Belle Isle Zoo, Detroit, Michigan
Belle Isle is a small island in the middle of the Detroit River. To get to the former zoo, you can use the coordinates 42.3407°N 82.9815° W. Note that Belle Isle is a Michigan state park, which requires purchasing a Michigan recreation passport to enter!
Belle Isle is one of the most gorgeous places in Detroit, filled with rich history and beautiful buildings. Established as a city park in 1879, it became a space for relaxing and recreation for the wealthy. Because of financial problems in the early 2000s, the whole island fell into disrepair, and wound up being taken over by the state.
Many of the Belle Isle landmarks are still functional, either having been maintained or repurposed, and are now home to many nature walks, the oldest conservatory in the country, and a nature center, along with sweeping views of both the USA and Canada.
One site to not survive was the former Belle Isle Zoo, which opened in 1895 and was closed in 2002. What once a popular spot for locals and tourists is now overgrown by the natural landscape and crowded by dead trees that have toppled over onto the walkways.
The 2011 movie Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman featured a robot fight that takes place at the abandoned zoo. The site is still visited by explorers looking to glimpse a part of Detroit’s past.
14. Six Flags Theme Park, New Orleans
In 2005 (was it really already fifteen years ago?!), Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans, leaving devastation in its wake. Although much of the city is now recovered, the abandoned Six Flags theme park serves as a stark reminder, still (partly) standing just outside the city. The park, already closed at the time for remodeling, was completely flooded during the storm and remained so for several weeks. It has never been reopened.
Once popular with families looking for a fun day out, the park is now popular with urban explorers, photographers and has even been a backdrop for several films, music videos, and even fashion shoots!
Full of eerie, forgotten rides and attractions, a walk through the park feels like a visit to another world. Neon-painted rollercoasters being reclaimed by trees, an abandoned carousel, chairs missing, chains tangled, rotting ticket booths, and submerged cartoon figures covered in mud.
As always in Louisiana, the swamp is never far away. and the park is no exception as the water, trees, and undergrowth creep in further each year. There are even rumors of alligators hiding in the floodwaters!
Six Flags is about a 20-min drive from the center of the city, and it definitely helps to have a car to get there. Head North on the Interstate, and you’ll drive right past it.
Technically, the park is officially closed to the public, and security do sporadically patrol the site (and did I mention the gators!?), so please be careful! There’s a chain-link fence around the property, though it isn’t in the best condition. It’s easy to find holes to fit through or sections to climb over.
By Jenna – IKnowthePilot
15. Abandoned St. Ambrose Church in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin
Wisconsin is one of these states that keeps surprising you. Be it with its gorgeous natural wonders such as lakes or waterfalls, or its incredibly tasty food.
More than this, Wisconsin boasts several beautiful, abandoned places too. One of them is the scenic deserted St. Ambrose Chruch in St.Nazianz, Wisconsin.
St. Nazianz in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin was founded in 1854 by Fr. Ambrose Oschwald, a German immigrant who brought a group of lay faithful with him from Germany.
The church has been abandoned since 1812 but it’s an absolutely magnificent attraction to visit. It’s huge and when you step in, you can still feel how beautiful this place must have been. Even though in ruins, you can still witness the importance of this church back in time.
This abandoned place is located close to Milwaukee, which makes it a great place to visit in a day trip from Milwaukee.