Los Angeles is such a hectic city, it’s hard to imagine there would be any towns even close that are totally deserted. But still, there are some areas within a day’s drive that were once thriving and now just sit quiet and long abandoned. These ghost towns may not have residents anymore but they’ve still got many old buildings and relics that are fascinating to explore.
Only two hours east of L.A., just outside of Joshua Tree National Park, Pioneertown isn’t like any ghost town: it was originally built in the 1940s and had been used as the set for old western shows (like The Cisco Kid). After all, it’s in the perfect setting for a Western, amid the hot and dry So Cal desert. The town only has about four blocks to explore, with abandoned buildings like a bowling alley, bank and hotel, as well as old homes where the actors used to live on-set.
Established in 1881, Calico was an old mining town in the Calico Mountains of the Mojave Desert. They once boomed with over 500 mines that produced $20 million in silver ore in only a 12-year period. But silver dropped in value by the mid-1890s, so the miners had to pack up and move, and the town soon became abandoned. By the 1950s, Walter Knott purchased the ghost town and restored most of the buildings to look just like they did back in the 1880s. It’s now a popular destination loaded with history, and includes a few small shops, dining options and remote camping opportunities (for both tents & RVs).
An old mining town, Randsburg is just off Highway 395 about 2 ½ hours north of Los Angeles. It’s not completely abandoned – with about 69 residents who still live here – but it does offer a interesting step back in history. Many of the buildings have been refurbished to look original, and there are still a few businesses like an antique shop, general store and museum that are open to explore.
I know, Bodie is a lengthy 6-hour drive north of L.A., but it has to be the coolest ghost town in California. This is a real abandoned mining town with deserted streets that will take you back to the times of the Gold Rush. The town was officially designated as a California Historic Landmark in 1962 and remains preserved as Bodie State Historic Park. Although, there aren’t very many buildings that still remain after years of harsh winters, weather and decay, and most cannot be entered by the public. But the photo opportunities are still endless, and it’s easy to spend a few hours wandering the old grounds.
Like most of California’s now-abandoned towns, Havilah was once a gold mining town with 2,000+ residents in its heyday. It was originally designated as part of L.A. County, but in 1866 was voted to be part of the new Kern County. For a few years, Havilah held the county seat in this new region, but in 1874, Bakersfield stole the seat by just one vote. It was contested after the election, but there was no luck. It didn’t take very long after that for the town to become completely abandoned. Only a couple of buildings are still around today, including the old court house, pictured above.
Have you been to any of these ghost towns? What are some other deserted areas near L.A.?