5 Must-See Ghost Towns in Texas
Abandoned settlements have always held an allure for the traveler. Maybe it’s the unfulfilled dreams of long lost residents or the imagined hustle and bustle of days gone by. These ghost towns in Texas draw us in with stories of what might have been.
As long-time RV travelers, my wife and I discovered that we love exploring ghost towns across the USA. And if you’re anything like us, you know that camping is the best way to really experience these areas.
That’s why we’ve also included the best nearby campsites to each of the 5 must-see ghost towns in Texas.
Let’s get spooky!
What is a Ghost Town?
Any deserted village or town that once had a thriving population would be considered a ghost town by today’s standards.
Because mining is usually a boom or bust proposition, many of the cities that grew around mines have now become abandoned today. They now draw only tourists to their empty streets and buildings. Other communities succumbed to acts of nature or human oversight… But, all suffered the consequences of losing residents.
Texas has several communities that “went bust” after years of success. Here are five ghost towns in Texas that caught our eye:
Located close to Big Bend National Park in the southwestern corner of the Lone Star State, Terlingua is the classic ghost town. With a hillside full of abandoned houses, the abandoned mine, and a few colorful locals all still around to tell stories of the town’s past.
The Chisos Mine Company pulled record amounts of cinnabar out of the ground here. This mine produced quicksilver during World War I. But, when the market for mercury crashed, so did the population.
In recent years Terlingua has found its niche, drawing visitors from around the world to its championship chili cookoff and its quirky attitude.
Today visitors to Terlingua can:
- Taste test the chili on the first Saturday of November
- Take a self-guided ghost town tour
- Enjoy roadside art of every genre
- Visit the Terlingua Trading Post (the old mine company store)
- Grab dinner and drinks at the Starlight Theater, then enjoy live music most nights
- Look for Elvis, who has been sighted singing in the cemetery from time to time
Nearby Camping: Retro Rents RV Park
If you are looking for a unique lodging experience in Terlingua, look no further than Retro Rents RV Park. These “Painted Ladies” (and one gent) are retro travel trailers that offer a glamping experience like no other. You will be spoiled in air-conditioned comfort, complete with wifi and the hint of a 1950s renaissance.
The Grove, TX
This town grew up around a grove of live oak trees, prompting many to ask, “Why wasn’t it named Live Oak?”.
We may never know the answer to that question, but we can still explore several businesses that line an otherwise empty Main Street.
The Grove thrived when a dependable source of water was found in 1872. The well still produces water even in the worst droughts.
But, when the Texas Department of Transportation wanted to cap the well and build Highway 36 right over it, the townspeople refused. The highway had no choice but to bypass downtown, and the population began to dwindle.
The final nails in their coffin were twofold: Fort Hood took 250,000 acres of local farmland for its training center, and Lake Belton required 50,000 more. Today 40 hardy souls call The Grove home.
Visitors to The Grove can:
- Peruse Dube’s General Store, with an amazing selection of local antiques
- Listen to live bands on Main Street every 3rd Saturday of the month
- Attend The Grove Homecoming, with parades and music
- Tour the Cocklebur Saloon and a restored blacksmith’s shop
Nearby Camping: White Flint COE
Cast a line from your campsite along the shores of Lake Belton. With a multilane boat ramp, full hookups, screened overnight shelters and hot showers, you are sure to enjoy this Army Corps of Engineers year-round campground.
Route 66 crossed the Texas/New Mexico border at Glenrio, giving this railroad town a bit of prestige and a lot of tourist traffic. But once the Mother Road was decommissioned, Glenrio faded quickly into the background of the West Texas desert.
Today, all that remains of this ghost town in Texas are 17 abandoned structures. They include a gas station, an old cafe, the skeleton of an old post office, and one small business building.
The wind now whistles through what must have once been a brisk stop along Main Street of America.
Today’s visitors to Glenrio can:
- Photograph the empty shells of business buildings
- See the road bed of the original Route 66
Nearby Camping: Walnut RV Park
With hot showers, a clean laundry facility and pull through sites, Walnut RV Park is just the ticket for an overnight stay close to I-40 and the West Texas border. There are 40 full hookup campsites, and you might be entertained by an impromptu concert of guitar aficionados in the evening!
Lobo Ghost Town
Founded when the Van Horn Wells were discovered in far West Texas, Lobo became a watering hole for the Butterfield Overland Mail Line and then the Southern Pacific Railroad. Cotton gins sprouted up in the community, with the ability to irrigate cotton, and the town grew. But by the mid 1960s the water table was drawn down to dangerous levels and irrigation was curtailed.
The last resident left in 1991, but recently three friends purchased the town with hopes of renovating it.
Today visitors to Lobo can:
- Pay $15 to tour the ghost town, complete with several abandoned buildings and an empty swimming pool
- Enjoy the Desert Dust Cinema Festival in Lobo once a year
Nearby Camping: Van Horn RV Park
Play a free round of golf and enjoy a good meal when staying at the Van Horn RV Park. Swim in the pristine blue waters of their pool and bring your horses with you, as the park has corrals, doubling as a horse motel. This campground is at the crossroads for travel to Big Bend, Marfa, El Paso and Carlsbad, making it a convenient stop along almost any trip through West Texas.
Indianola Ghost Town
Begun by Germans looking for a deep water port at Matagorda Bay on the Gulf of Mexico, Indianola eventually grew to over 6,000 people by the mid 1870s. Steamships lined the bay, and trade was robust. But recovering from one hurricane after another become untenable and by 1886, the town’s fate was sealed with one last act of Mother Nature. Losing a great number of their citizens, this community chose not to rebuild on this site and its remaining population fled.
Today, all that exists close to the townsite are a few beach houses and a state historic marker commemorating what once was an important seaport. The actual site of the town lies underwater in the bay.
Visitors to Indianola can:
- View the LaSalle Monument, which documents the explorer’s two shipwrecks and their remains, which were unearthed only a few years ago.
Nearby Camping: The TWO RV Park
Enjoy all the amenities of camping on the coast at The TWO RV Park. Fishing is the big activity, but birdwatching here comes in a close second. Campsites have full hookups and landscaping around them, providing a secluded private enclave for your camping experience.
To add adventure to any RV trip, put these ghost towns on your itinerary. You will come away from each with a bit of unique history, great images of the present and memories of the past.
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site!
We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: