Leave the shimmering lights of Las Vegas and you just might find yourself on an empty desert road that leads to the decaying structures of a ghost town. As a result of Nevada’s boom-and-bust mining history, there are a number of abandoned communities spread across the state. In fact, there are more ghost towns in Nevada than there are inhabited towns. If you’d like to make a day trip to one while you’re in Las Vegas, here are five to consider.
Nelson is one of the easiest to visit – and most photogenic – ghost towns near Las Vegas. Located just 45 miles outside of the city down Eldorado Canyon, this former site of the first major gold strike in the state is littered with the ruins of buildings and vehicles, plus the odd site of movie props, like a plane that was used in the movie 3,000 Miles to Graceland. Take a mine tour and keep an eye out for the occasional movie or photo shoot.
St. Thomas, Nevada
The story of St. Thomas is an eerie one. Once a Mormon settlement, St. Thomas spent decades at the bottom of Lake Mead after the lake filled up. As a result of drought, the town is visible again, and can be toured on foot. Drive to the northern reaches of Valley of Fire State Park and take a stroll around.
Death Valley visitors love to swing by Rhyolite on their way into the park from Beatty. It’s easy to see why Rhyolite is popular. The ghost town itself is large and well preserved, and still features a number of structures including a bank building, railroad depot, store and school. Rhyolite also has the distinction of being the site of the Goldwell Open Air Museum, a mecca for fans of offbeat art installations. Check out the ghostly homage to the Last Supper and a sculpture depicting the Greek myth of Icarus.
If you’re traveling to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, your best bet for exploring a ghost town is Calico. Located in Yermo, California just off of I-15, Calico was settled during a silver strike in 1881 and abandoned before 1900. This ghost town has been restored by the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system. It features a mine, museum and lessons in gold panning. If you’re so enchanted by Calico that you want to stay the night, you can camp or stay in a bunkhouse and grab a beer at the saloon.
Gold Point, Nevada
Part ghost town, part bed and breakfast and 100 percent Nevada, Gold Point is a must for travelers who like to get off the beaten path. Located 185 miles outside of Las Vegas, the town of Gold Point was purchased by a Las Vegas gambler who has spent years lovingly restoring the buildings to their former glory. Rent a cabin here, or camp and enjoy family-style meals, fossil hunting, stargazing and shuffleboard in the saloon.