5 Spooky Ghost Towns in Utah (and Awesome Nearby Campsites)
Ghost towns aren’t necessarily haunted; they’re just places that are deserted for one reason or another. But some of them do seem to have some unsettled spirits wandering the grounds.
Are these spooky destinations something to fear, or are they simply historic places that are interesting to visit because they tell us stories from the past? Take a tour of these ghost towns in Utah and decide for yourself!
What is a Ghost Town?
A ghost town is a town, city or village that’s no longer inhabited. Many are former mining towns, while others were abandoned because of some other circumstances, such as a disaster of some kind or even because of pollution.
Living ghost towns are ghost towns that still have a few residents or activities for tourists.
Ghost towns often have a colorful history – and many of them have ghost stories, too!
Many of Utah’s ghost towns are former mining camps. But, Grafton was a small community of Mormon farmers who endured hardships like harsh winters, Indian attacks and flooding from the Virgin River before moving away to the larger town of Rockville.
A handful of residents lingered until 1945. A few partially restored buildings and some farm relics from the 1860s remain on the site, which is the southwestern part of the state near Zion National Park. The surrounding countryside is orchards and farmland.
Today, visitors to Grafton can:
- Visit the picturesque adobe schoolhouse that was built in 1886
- See the site of a movie set that was used in the classic film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Wander through a few houses that remain standing
- Read what’s on the tombstones at the historic cemetery
- Take a side trip to Zion National Park
Nearby Camping: Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground
Just minutes away in the town of Virgin, Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground offers great amenities in a wilderness setting with stunning mountain views. It’s clean and tidy with pull-throughs as well as back-ins, full hookups and wide, level sites with cement pads and grassy areas between them. Extras include a heated pool and hot tub plus opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and rock climbing.
Cisco Ghost Town
Cisco is another of the ghost towns in Utah whose history is fairly modern.
In eastern Utah near the Colorado line, it was settled as a place to service the steam-driven trains of the old Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which later became part of Union Pacific. As many as 200 people lived in Cisco before its decline, which started with the advent of diesel engines in the 1950s.
The final nail in Cisco’s coffin came when Interstate 70 bypassed the town when it was built in the 1970s. A few old buildings and cars and trucks remain in this modern ghost town that has appeared in several movies, including Thelma and Louise.
Today, visitors to Cisco can:
- Visit the Cisco Landing Store, which was once a popular gathering place
- See the nearby spot where oil was discovered in 1924
- Photograph the crumbling buildings that remain, including the old post office
- Try and recognize places you may have seen in the movies
- Take in nearby attractions that include historic petroglyphs and pictographs
Nearby Camping: Ballard RV Park and Vacation Rentals
Take Exit 187 off I-70 to reach Ballard RV Park and Vacation Rentals in nearby Thompson Springs. Besides having full hookups and pull-through sites up to 120 feet, the campground welcomes all kinds of hikers and explorers for the miles of surrounding trails that are great for ATVs.
Frisco Ghost Town, Utah
Frisco was a booming mining town for more than half a century. It was booming until a sudden tunnel collapse brought things to an end.
Between the years 1875 and 1929, millions of dollars were generated from silver, gold, zinc and copper, and as many as 6,000 people lived in the west Utah community at its peak. (It also had a host of saloons, brothels and gambling halls.) One morning in 1885 the residents felt tremors and suddenly there was a massive cave-in that was felt up to 15 miles away!
The mine’s tunnels had given way under the weight of rain and snow that had fallen. The town never fully recovered, and finally gave up the ghost by the 1920s. (Some mining started up again in 2002, however.)
Today, visitors to Frisco can:
- View the charcoal kilns that are on the National Register of Historic Places
- Read the names and epitaphs at the cemetery
- See the abandoned wood and stone structures and old mining machinery
- Enjoy the beauty of the San Francisco Mountains
Nearby Camping: Lions Club Campground
If you are looking for a rustic boondocking experience, this is the place for you. In nearby Milford, Lions Club Campground has a half a dozen spaces and a couple of water spigots and not much else except for a sewage dump and a box for donations. Groceries, gas and supplies are just down the road.
Ophir Historic Site, Utah
The glory days of gold and silver mining in Ophir Canyon were during the late 1800s, and they have returned to some degree.
The once-dead mining town has been revived as an historic district that consists of plenty of cool restored attractions. These include houses and a post office as well as a shoemaker’s shop and a fully furnished train.
These history-minded folks have done a great job piecing together a realistic picture of the past. It’s like an outdoor museum!
- Hop aboard for a tour of the train
- Sign the guestbook in the train’s visitor center
- Get a feel for pioneer education inside the restored schoolhouse
- Learn about the town’s biblical namesake
- Visit the nearby Ophir Canyon Educational Center
Nearby Camping: Vorwaller Homestead and RV Park
Vorwaller Homestead and RV Park is quiet and peaceful, despite being located on Main Street in the town of Tooele. There are full hookups, and it is walking distance to shopping and dining. Some sites are dirt, some paved. You may share the shaded grounds with some long-term tenants.
Sego Ghost Town, Utah
Coal mining in Utah? Yes, there was.
A rancher named Harry Ballard made the discovery in the early 1890s. He started up a small mining operation, but then sold out to a group of Salt Lake City investors who expanded production, eventually to the tune of 800 tons a day!
They built a store and a boarding house and some other buildings, but before long the water supply dried up. The mine, which was in a narrow, winding canyon, was closed in 1947.
Today, visitors to Sego can:
- See the ruins of remaining buildings
- Learn about the miners’ history with union organization
- Check out the intriguing message on the tombstone in the southwestern corner of the cemetery
- Experience the amazing rock formations and Native American art in Sego Canyon
Nearby Camping: Ballard RV Park and Vacation Rentals
Just a half-hour’s drive from National Arches Park, Ballard RV Park and Vacation Rentals has wide gravel spaces as well as super-clean restrooms and showers. Some sites are slanted from side to side, however. Take advantage of the canyon trails and keep an eye out for grazing antelope!
We love visiting deserted places as often as possible on our travels. By visiting these ghost towns in Utah, you’ll get a new perspective on the olden days. You may not find yourself being haunted, but you’ll certainly have some new stories to tell!
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 who 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: