Arizona’s 19th-century mining boom gave rise to numerous towns that bustled with near-instantaneous commerce, but whose rapid growth ended abruptly when precious metals were depleted.
Today, many of these outposts are little more than abandoned buildings. Yet others have taken on new life, drawing artists and free spirits who embrace their town’s haunted past and welcome visitors in search of spooky tales and Old West lore.
In a state full of ghost towns, you have your pick from the famous (Bisbee) to the infamous (Tombstone). Below are some of Arizona’s most distinctive ghost towns, each with its own quirks and curiosities.
Delve deep into Arizona’s mining past in Bisbee, a town of colorful architecture and equally colorful characters, and a ghost or two—many of the town’s locales are rumored to be haunted.
As you stroll through Bisbee’s winding, narrow streets and alleys, the town’s historic mining role resounds through remarkably preserved architecture, museums, and the underground Queen Mine Tour. Beautifully landscaped parks, cultural activities like the Bisbee Farmers Market and Arizona’s oldest baseball park, along with unique events like the Bisbee Stair Climb, Sidepony Music Festival, and Alice in Bisbeeland embody a community dedicated to entertainment for locals and visitors alike.
Those interested in the town’s spookier side, an evening walking tour with Old Bisbee Ghost Tour will introduce the towns dearly departed.
This tiny town in a rugged area carved out of the wilderness by determined miners is now populated by more wild burros than people. Good-humored shops line the street and the furriest residents—small donkeys descended from miners’ beasts of burden—contribute to the annual fall Burro Biskit Toss.
More than 500,000 visitors are drawn annually to Oatman’s gold mine history. The town prides itself on maintaining a Wild West feel, down to the wooden sidewalks, staged shootouts, and kitschy shops.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard allegedly honeymooned at the 1902 two-story adobe Oatman Hotel after marrying in nearby Kingman. Some say the lovebirds’ spirits as well as other former lodgers still vacation there.
Founded in 1876, Jerome was once home to the wealthiest mine in the world owned by one man; the whole town was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1967.
The third largest town in Arizona at its peak, the boom town was called the Wickedest City in the West in 1903. A local count showed 37 bars, 13 bordellos, and four churches. Jerome was the largest producer of copper, gold, and silver in Arizona in the 1920s before the mines closed in 1953 and it became the largest ghost town in the west.
Beginning in the 1960s, the town was restored with historic accuracy and revitalized as an arts community.
Nestled a mile high on the side of Cleopatra Hill overlooking the Verde Valley with spectacular views of the Red Rocks of Sedona and the distant San Francisco Peaks above Flagstaff, Jerome is a clear ‘don’t miss’ stop in Arizona.
The spirits of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton Brothers live on in the authentic old west town of Tombstone, home of Boothill Graveyard, the Birdcage Theatre, and the OK Corral.
After getting its start as a silver mining claim in the late 1870s, the settlement grew along with its Tough Nut Mine, becoming a bustling boomtown of the Wild West. From opera and theater to dance halls and brothels, Tombstone offered much-needed entertainment to the miners. In 1886, the mines flooded and the miners moved on to the next claim.
But the “Town Too Tough to Die” didn’t earn its nickname name for nothing. Now a tourist hotspot, you can still hang up your cowboy hat and dust off your chaps in the numerous saloons, restaurants, and shops that line Allen Street.
The undiscovered places that are interesting to me are these places that contain bits of our disappearing history, like a ghost town.