Last Updated on October 16, 2021
Ghost towns take us back to a different period, providing secrets and clues to a life that existed long ago. Ghost towns aren’t spooky like the name might imply. Instead, they’re abandoned towns and cities, mostly mining towns, where buildings and other structures still remain. They’re great fun to explore, and the Las Vegas region of Nevada is full of them.
Take a day trip and enjoy a historical tour through the old west and visit one (or more) of these Nevada ghost towns.
Rhyolite Ghost Town
If you have the time to devote to a ghost town day trip in Nevada, Rhyolite should be at the top of your list. Famous for being the most photographed ghost town in the west, Rhyolite experienced a boom when gold ore was found there in the very early 1900s. Mining camps soon began popping up, and the region became known as the Bullfrog Mining District.
Within about six months, the population of Rhyolite had grown to about 5,000, which was very sizeable for the time. After a hard and heavy few years, the gold mining town of Rhyolite died about as fast as it was born. That wasn’t the end of its story, however. Rhyolite was used as the setting for the film Air Mail and is also home to the Tom Kelly Bottle House, the largest bottle house known in the United States.
It takes about 2 hours to get from Las Vegas to Rhyolite, which is located near Death Valley National Park. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the outdoor art park featuring the Last Supper Sculpture, created in 1984 by artist Albert Szukalski.
For another southern Nevada ghost town experience, take the Valley of Fire Highway for a little over an hour until you come to St Thomas, a town whose residents were told they would have to leave as Lake Mead was being built. In the 1930s, when the lake’s waters began to rise, the town of St Thomas lost the battle and found itself underwater. At the lake’s highest point, St Thomas was about 60 feet underwater.
St Thomas ghost town is located within the boundaries of Lake Mead National Recreational Area, so there is also plenty of opportunity for hiking, biking, sightseeing, and photogra[hy.
Gold Point Ghost Town
Of the ghost towns on our list, Gold Point is a little further away from Las Vegas, at nearly a three-hour trip. That’s ok, though, because they also offer accommodations which we’ll get to in a minute.
Gold Point got its start in 1868 as a silver mining camp and was booming (at least considering how sparsely populated the old west was in general at that period of time) by the turn of the century. Mining came to an end in the 1960s when a dynamite mishap caused enough damage that it made more sense just to close down than put the money into repairs.
Today, you can visit Gold Point and get a taste of the authentic wild west roots of the old mining town. You can make reservations to stay in a guest house at this Nevada ghost town. A minimum; two-night stay is required and includes a family-style all-you-can-eat breakfast. Just remember that everything you can see and touch (well, except for cabin and guest house amenities) is part of the ghost town’s history and shouldn’t be removed from the area.
Eldorado Canyon / Nelson Ghost Town
If your guest for adventure has you craving a trip to Nevada’s liveliest ghost town, Eldorado Canyon and Nelson Ghost Town is definitely the destination you’re after. While things have definitely calmed down since the town’s gold mining days of the mid to late 1800s, what remains is either well preserved or has been restored as an act of love by the people who purchased the land in 1994.
At the height of the mining days, the Techatticup Mine in Eldorado Canyon was still desolate enough that lawlessness was the name of the game. With the nearest sheriff about a week’s trip away, it’s safe to say that this town embodied the wild west landscape that we think of today – complete with gunfights, bloodshed, and scandal.
Eldorado Canyon is just about an hour outside of Las Vegas, making for a perfect day trip for the afternoon while still leaving plenty of time to get back to the Las Vegas nightlife. Techatticup Mine was a location for the movie 3000 Miles to Graceland, so it’s not only a piece of wild-west history but something movie buffs will enjoy as well.
Goodsprings Ghost Town
The mine in Goodsprings, about 45 minutes from Las Vegas, is a great chance to sneak away from the city and experience one of the most famous Nevada ghost towns. Visit the ghost town to be transported back in time to around 1904, where the Keystone Mine was put on the map just a couple of years before. The mine ended up being a major producer of lead and zinc — about 85 million pounds worth.
All the buildings you would expect to find in a wild west town were erected shortly after, including post office, schoolhouse, general store, and saloon. The Pioneer Saloon, which is still in operation, is the oldest standing bar in southern Nevada. There are also plenty of rumors of paranormal activity at the Pioneer Saloon, so this is one bar where the spirits you end up with might not be the ones you ordered.
If you’re hungry, try the Food Network featured Killer Ghost Burger, then head out for either a walking tour or off-road tour of the area. This adventure is a favorite of ghost town aficionados everywhere.
Belmont – Manhattan Ghost Towns
Why take a trip to visit only one ghost town when you can experience two? The combined duo of Belmont and Manhattan ghost towns is definitely a drive from Las Vegas ( about 4 hours) but such incredible pieces of the history of the Silver State of Nevada that it’s worth it.
Structures and artifacts remain that tell such a vivid story of both of the mine’s glory days. At Belmont, you’ll find a 100 ft chimney that was used as target practice during World War II, complete with bullet holes. You can wander around on a self-guided walking tour, then quench your thirst at Dirty Dick’s – a storied watering hole where anything can happen.
Then, a mere 15 miles away, you can experience another one of the best ghost towns in Manhattan, Nevada. Rumor has it that when Belmont became too populated with miners seeking a bit of the fortune, that many of them headed down the road to Manhattan. It’s one thing to pack a bag and hope for the best as you build a new town. The new residents of Manhattan took it one step further by stealing the old church in Belmont…yes, the entire church.
With a story this good, you know the rest has to be just as entertaining. Ask any Las Vegas local about how they would plan an overnight trip to these ghost towns, and they’ll just straight up tell you that staying in Tonopah at one of the most haunted hotels in America is a must. This adventure isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is a fun way to travel Nevada.
Pioche Ghost Town
Pioche ghost town, about three hours from Las Vegas, is another that has a reputation of being Nevada’s liveliest ghost town. Really, there are a few in line for this title, so we’ll leave it up to you to decide who should be crowned the winner. Pioche is more of a living ghost town, as contradictory as that might sound, with beautiful state parks, museums, saloons, and more. Visiting some ghost towns leaves you feeling a little dusty and parched, but this isn’t one of them.
Like other towns of the old west during the time, Pioche was known as a wild and rowdy place. To see evidence of this, take the time to also visit Boot Hill Cemetery at Pioche. Shootouts were so common that they had to bury the bodies quickly. Boot Hill was where they were laid to rest. According to legend, the name comes from the fact that bodies were buried so quickly that their boots allegedly stuck outta the sand.
Of course, the boot tips aren’t visible any longer, but it is a neat little piece of trivia to take with you on your day trip excursion to Pioche.
Delamar Ghost Town
The last of the ghost towns on our list is Delamar. Delamar is only about an hour from Pioche, so if you’re traveling off the beaten path away from Las Vegas anyway, this is definitely worth the trip.
The beauty of Delamar is that so many of the structures are still standing, and the golden hour sun makes for a gorgeous sunrise and sunset. If you can, plan your trip so that you’re on-site to see the sunrise or fall. It’s truly beautiful.
The left behind evidence of the once lively ghost town includes the still-standing remnants of dozens of buildings, cabins that housed the miners, a brick archway created from beautifully colored stones, and many more ruins that tell a fascinating story.
Ghost Towns and the History of the Silver State
Nevada is home to many famous gold and silver mines that were once booming in the west. Today, you can still experience history through these preserved and restored ghost towns. Make a day of it, explore, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures of these ghost towns that are just a short drive from Las Vegas.