5 Must-See Ghost Towns in New Mexico
The Land of Enchantment has several hidden secrets scattered across its dusty landscape.
These disappearing communities conceal ghosts and tantalizing histories that swirl around mining, outlaws, and even diamonds tucked away in various locations.
The ghost towns in New Mexico make intriguing travel destinations for those who enjoy an adventurous outing full of historical lure.
What is a Ghost Town?
Many towns get a kick-start on growth when a natural resource is discovered. Resources like gold, silver or water, attract people with the promise of wealth or a new start on life.
But, what happens when that resource is played out or the railroad decides to bypass town? Much of the population moves on to the next “big thing”. They abandon their homes and businesses, which are left to the whim of Mother Nature.
These ghost towns become relics of time gone by, with empty buildings, forgotten opportunities and the sounds of silence.
Chloride Ghost Town
The discovery of silver in the hills of Sierra County, New Mexico brought a steady stream of miners to the region. The town of Chloride sprouted out of the landscape when Harry Pye staked the first claim in 1881. Miners poured in and businesses that supplied them with equipment and entertainment soon followed.
In its heyday, Chloride had eight saloons, a hotel, three general stores, a restaurant, and a Chinese laundry – all servicing 2,000 people.
But, as with most boom-or-bust industries, the silver lost its luster. And, with the demonetization of the precious metal in 1893, Chloride’s riches began to dwindle. Today the town consists of about 20 people, many of whom are direct descendants of the original population.
Today’s visitors to Chloride can:
- Visit the Old Pioneer Store Museum
- Walk the streets of Chloride and be taken back in time, with many authentic buildings from the 1880s
- See the Hangin’ Tree, still standing in the middle of Wall Street
- Shop at the original Monte Cristo Saloon and Dance Hall
- Ogle at Harry Pye’s log cabin, finished shortly before he was ambushed and killed by Apache Indians
Nearby Camping: Apache Kid RV Park
Located right in ‘downtown’ Chloride, the Apache Kid RV Park has 5 full hookup spaces. These spaces can accommodate any sized travel trailer or motorhome. It’s a great home base from which to explore the ghost town and the surrounding Black Mountains.
Shakespeare, New Mexico
Water was the driving force that created Shakespeare, New Mexico. Apache Indians, stage coach lines and cattle rustlers, along with law abiding citizens, stopped in to what was then called Mexican Springs to drink up before heading further into the desert.
Soon, a few curious souls discovered some rich silver ore in the mountains surrounding the village. As a result, miners began to congregate.
The population grew to more than 3,000 residents. But soon, greed took over, with rumors announcing the discovery of not only silver, but diamonds!
When the ‘sparkling’ hoax was discovered to be untrue, Mexican Springs/Grant/Ralston City had mud on its face. So one large land owner decided the town needed a fresh start with a new reputation. He renamed this thrice-named city Shakespeare.
The mines played out pretty quickly. Although the community had a colorful past, the last citizens abandoned Shakespeare. It officially became a ghost town by the turn of the century.
Nowadays, visitors to Shakespeare can:
- Take a guided tour of the ghost town for $7
- Walk the old stage coach lines of the San Antonio/San Diego and Butterfield Mail Lines
- View a living history reenactment on the streets of Shakespeare
- Learn about cattle rustlers who were left to hang in the town for several days to deter other lawless acts
Nearby Camping: Lordsburg KOA
Take a dip in the pool at the Lordsburg KOA to cool off from the desert heat. Then enjoy your own home cooked meal at the outdoor kitchen. This campground provides everything you need. Including: full hookups on pull-through sites, a sparkling clean shower house, also a helpful staff.
The first gold rush west of the Mississippi wasn’t in California or Colorado, but in a fold of the Ortiz Mountains northeast of Albuquerque. Aptly named Golden, this community was home to placer gold mining in the late 1820s. As more miners moved in, several businesses opened up.
A Catholic church was built on the hill overlooking town, and soon the village grew to include a general store, as well. That store is the only business that is still in operation today.
Once the gold played out, the miners moved on down the road to the next strike. Golden became another of the ghost towns in New Mexico in 1928, when the post office left with the last of their citizens.
Today, visitors to Golden can:
- Photograph the restored San Francisco Catholic Church and cemetery
- Roam past the many ruins of buildings that one held lively gatherings
- Visit the Glass Bottle House for a must-see experience of fences and gardens created with glass bottles
Nearby Camping: Turquoise Trail Campground and RV Park
With 70′ long pull-thru sites on a shaded landscape, the Turquoise Trail Campground is a prime stopping point along the scenic byway that connects Albuquerque and Santa Fe. You’ll discover peace and quiet in this campground, with clean restrooms and a laundry facility, and its proximity to several small art towns along The Trail give you many daytrip options.
Mogollon Ghost Town
“There’s gold in them thar hills” was never a more appropriate cry that in Mogollon, New Mexico back in the 1870s.
It was then that an officer from nearby Fort Bayard discovered the shiny metal, but it took another 20 years before large numbers of miners infiltrated the Gila Mountains to extract it. People kept coming, until the population of Mogollon topped 6,000! A post office, five saloons, two hotels and various brothels sprouted in this community along Silver Creek.
Mogollon was a lawless town, mainly due to its isolation amid rugged terrain. In fact, it became known as the wildest mining town in the west – even stagecoach robbers were let off the hook here. The same thief robbed the line 23 times in one year!
Several adobe and wooden structures still stand today. Many of the buildings on the main drag have seasonal businesses, including the 130 year old Silver Creek Inn, which offers lodging and a restaurant, as well as resident ghosts from a bygone era.
Visitors to this ghost town in New Mexico can:
- Get a room and a great meal at the Silver Creek Inn
- Visit the museum, cafe, antique store and an art gallery on weekends from May through October
- Hike up to Graveyard Gulch
Nearby Camping: Double T Homestead
With 5 full hookup sites to choose from, the Double T is an excellent, if not small, place from which to launch day trips to Mogollon and beyond. It’s a laid back campground with self registration, located in a quiet stretch of land filled with deer, burros and also javelinas.
White Oaks, New Mexico Ghost Town
In the hunting grounds of the Apache lay a thick vein of gold. The town of White Oaks grew around this mineral deposit, as miners and those that supplied them flocked to the region of south central New Mexico, where ribbons of lava were the only other significant landscape feature.
White Oaks soon boasted an opera house, several saloons, a town hall and many brothels.
In fact, more than 50 businesses were supported, making it a community that rivaled Santa Fe in the late 1880s. Gold was plentiful for a while, and so were the lawless men who were attracted to the town’s entertainment.
Billy the Kid frequented White Oaks gaming halls, and on many occasions he targeted cattle to steal in the area, as well. Townspeople finally had enough and ran the outlaw and his buddies out of town.
Eventually the luster of precious metal was lost and White Oaks’ population began to dwindle. When they lost a bid to establish a railroad through town, the writing was on the wall. White Oaks is now another one of the ghost towns in New Mexico.
There are several well preserved buildings and homes to visit, including the town hall and the No Scum Allowed Saloon.
Today’s visitors to White Oaks can:
- Sidle up to the bar at the No Scum Allowed Saloon
- Explore Brown’s Store and the historic schoolhouse
- View several Victorian homes, like the Gumm and Hoyle houses
Nearby Camping: Sands Motel and RV Park
Carrizozo is host to the Sands RV Park, where all campsites have full hookups and are big enough to handle virtually any size rig. A shower house and laundry are also on site, and guests are in close proximity to White Oaks and the Valley of Fires Recreation Area, where a vast lava flow offers great exploration opportunities.
Are You Ready To Check Out The Ghost Towns in New Mexico?
The ghost towns in New Mexico were born from a diversity of backgrounds, but each offers a look back into regional history. Isn’t it time to discover their particular allure?
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