Arizona Ghost Towns: Spirits, Cowboys, and More Exciting Must-See Things

I’m a sucker for history, so naturally, Arizona’s famous ghost towns have always appealed to me. This trip was on assignment for ROVA Magazine, and the full story can be found there. I don’t know what I expected, but it was a cross between a poorly-done Disney ride and Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean.

These ghost towns did not disappoint, although I did feel severely underdressed on a few occasions and did actually wish I owned cowboy boots and a hat. YEEHAW.

Goldfield:

The people working here really make it feel like a true mining town and take their jobs comedically seriously. Men dressed as cowboys wander the streets, announcing when the next gunfight reenactment is and giving directions if necessary. The old wooden architecture, mine with tours available, and horses tethered to posts outside the bars all lend for a really authentic Wild West feel in this restored mining town from 1890. Goldfield is across the street from Lost Dutchman State Park, so we camped and hiked in that area. I love hiking here, there are tons of trails in the park and the views are straight off the Instagram Explore page. #goals.

Meanwhile in the background, cowboys scream at each other over $10.

Tombstone:

Between the wooden saloons spotted with bullet holes, gunfight reenactments every hour, and the horse-drawn carriages, I felt like there should have been a sepia filter on the whole day here. I swear, half the people in Tombstone wore chaps and bolo ties for costume and the other half were actual ranchers dressed for a normal weekday. We sat in the Crystal Palace Saloon and were served whiskey by a girl wearing the tightest corset I’ve ever seen, all while watching some more grown men yell and pretend to shoot each other repeatedly. Ah, tranquil vacation memories. We only spent a day in Tombstone, mainly because I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was going to approach me and tell me this town wasn’t big enough for the two of us. It stressed me the hell out, and next time I go I’m bringing backup or dressing like a saloon owner.

Two girls just trying to make it out of Tombstone without getting shot, is that too much to ask for?

Bisbee:

This old mining town is a peculiar combination of creepy and quaint; full of haunted establishments that offer nighttime seances, but also home to quirky shops and bizarre restaurants, notably the smallest bar in Arizona, the Silver King (closed when we went, much sad). It was decidedly spooky, I’d love to return and take a ghost tour or attend a seance. Mysterious staircases lurk at the end of alleyways, leading to a whole host of destinations; we ended up trespassing in someone’s yard after taking one. Camping in this area is fairly straightforward and simple, if maybe a little stressful since you’re right by the border.

Sweet, sweet Bisbee. Full of secrets. Full of slightly drugged-out inhabitants.

Oatman:

The drive to Oatman sucks, I’m not going to romanticize it. We’re talking seven hours of driving, most of which is not scenic enough to captivate and snap you out of highway hypnosis (I suffer from this so badly). You’ll want fun snacks (this is a given for road trips, duh), a solid playlist (I recommend show tunes), and some coffee. Oatman’s claim to fame is both its gold-mining history and the lumbering burros that roam the streets. I’m not joking, these creatures meander through the town like common pigeons. Big Cars vibes from this place, too. Really want to return here, if only because my camera was having ~a day~ and wouldn’t cooperate. Beautiful mountain scenery, plenty of awesome hiking, and cool historic buildings all coalesce to create a delightfully Old West vibe.

Jerome:

The drive to Jerome from Oatman takes you along Route 66 for a while, and I really recommend stopping in Kingman on your way, it’s a classic Old West town like Williams, still obsessed with neon signs and old cars. Tucked in the mountains, the drive to Jerome is twisty, turny, and full of stunning views of the surrounding mountains at every turn. The Jerome Grand Hotel was once a hospital, hence the plethora of reported hauntings. We camped and hiked in the nearby Woodchute Wilderness, which I absolutely loved. Maybe I’m just a sucker for snow and pine trees. Midwest girl at heart and all that.

Jerome, keep doing what you’re doing, but maybe consider opening just one or two more restaurants with outdoor seating.

Arizona is full of incredibly rich and interesting history that seems almost too cool to be true. It’s one thing to watch movies like Tombstone and find the rough-and-tumble cowboy life appealing, it’s an entirely different thing to visit the town and realize that people actually lived like that, and not that long ago at that. I loved visiting the ghost towns and thought it was absolutely a worthy expedition.

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