In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Arizona’s mining industry was booming. Several small towns and even some booming towns popped up all over the state at various mining sites. However, not all of the mines were fruitful for long. Eventually the mines would dry up and the people would move on, leaving their homes, saloons, liveries, etc. behind. These towns became Ghost Towns.
Due to our hotter climate, many of our ghost towns are reduced to foundations and scattered mining equipment. Despite this fact, there are still a few towns that have been preserved. The towns are fun to visit and can be very educational. You feel like you have stepped back in time and that you may run into Wyatt Earp or Billy the Kid at any second. Some of the towns will put on gun fights shows which is always entertaining. A day trip to a ghost town is a fun adventure for the whole family. We have selected a few that you may be interested in visiting.
• Goldfield Ghost Town
4650 N. Mammoth Mine Rd
Apache Junction, AZ 85119
Open Daily: 10 AM – 5 PM
Take a 20 minute scenic train ride around the town while the engineer tells you the history of Goldfield, the Superstition Mountains, and the desert southwest in general. The train departs every 35 minutes. After that head over to the mine for a 25 minute underground tour. Your guide will educate you on the history of the mine, town, gold mining equipment and procedures. On the weekends the town puts on gunfight shows, and you can have the sheriff arrest one of your friend or family members.
Other attractions include gold panning, a reptile exhibit, a museum, livery stables, jeep tours, zip lining, Lu Lu’s Bordello, and more. Entrance to the ghost town and the gun shows are free, however some attractions may have a small fee.
• Jerome and the Gold King Mine Ghost Town
The historic copper mining town of Jerome is located between Prescott and Flagstaff.
Jerome was founded in 1876 and was at the time the fourth largest city in the Arizona territory. After World War II the demand for copper slowed and Jerome’s mine eventually closed and its residents scattered. Only 50 to 100 people stayed and they promoted the town as a historic ghost town. The federal government declared Jerome a National Historic District in 1967. Today Jerome is a thriving artist and tourist community with a population of around 450. Jerome is now known as the largest ghost town in America.
According to their website, Jerome is an enchanting town, and a photographer’s paradise. From its external appearances it hasn’t changed much in nearly 100 years. Many of the buildings used by present-day business folks are those built after the fires of 1894 and 1899. A number of the buildings have been restored and more are planned for restoration. Stay in one of Jerome’s historic bed and break fasts, and visit the Douglas Mansion or go on one of the town’s haunted tours. There are several quaint and eclectic shops and diners to try as well.
Visit the Gold King Mine Ghost Town just one mile north of Jerome. When the Haynes Copper Company of Jerome dug a 1200-foot-deep shaft in search of copper, they were disappointed at the absence of copper, but miners hit gold instead. The site is now a museum where visitors can see continuous demonstrations of antique mining equipment and the operation of a turn-of-the-century sawmill daily. Other highlights include walks in an authentic mine shaft, animals (mules and goats) to pet and feed, a circa 1901 blacksmith shop, and the world’s largest gas engines. The Museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Facilities include rest rooms and a large parking area.
Oatman is located between Kingman and Bullhead City on Historic Route 66. In its prime Oatman and its neighbor Goldroad were the largest gold producers in Arizona.
The sidewalks in Oatman are wooden, and most of the buildings are refurbished to look just as they would have when they were originally built. Town store owners and residents dress in authentic western clothing to try and help recreate the early days. There are around 40 gift and antique shops for your perusal. Several times a day there will be gunfighters performing Western shoot outs in front of the Old Oatman Hotel.
There are wild mules that are the descendants of the mules from the mining days that roam the town’s streets. Many of the stores sell carrots for you to feed the mules, but be careful, they may follow you into a store!
Tombstone is approximately 180 miles from Phoenix, and about 70 miles from Tucson.
A prospector named Ed Schieffelin founded Tombstone in 1877. Ed would go out “looking for rocks” and people often told him “the only rock you are going to find out there will be your tombstone.” One day, Ed did find his stone, and it was silver! So remembering what people said, he named his first mine The Tombstone.
At its peak, there were over one hundred saloons, several restaurants, a large red-light district, schools, churches, newspapers, and one of the first public swimming pools in Arizona (which is still used today). There were a few theaters in town, the most famous of them being Schieffelin Hall and the Bird Cage Theatre. Tombstone is also the home of Boothill Graveyard.
Tombstone was the location of the most famous shoot outs in the Wild West, the Gunfight at the OK Corral on October 26, 1881. The shoot-out didn’t actually occur at the corral, but in a vacant lot on Freemont Street. Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp along with Wyatt’s friend Doc Holliday had a run-in with some of the members of the “Cowboys.” Thirty shots and as many seconds later, Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury were mortally wounded.
Today, tourists can walk the streets of Tombstone and eat at one of the eclectic restaurants or shop at one of the many gift and antique shops. Gunfighters put on shows frequently here as well. You can have your photo taken in historic Western wear at an old time photo booth. Test your shooting skills at the shooting gallery, or take a ride on a stage coach through town. There are mine tours, historic tours and ghost tours as well. Visit the Historic Bird Cage Theater Museum or the Old Boothill Graveyard, amongst other historic buildings. There is a little something for everyone in Tombstone.
Tombstone is a town and is free to visit, however some attractions may have a fee.