11 Abandoned Places in the U.S. for a Creepy Road Trip
Abandoned places can be fascinating and fun stops on a road trip. You might even want to create a game out of it.
For instance, how many creepy locations can you visit in a year?
Keep reading to learn about 11 places left to collect dust. Then, consider taking time to visit some of them on your next road trip, if you dare.
Is It Illegal or Dangerous to Explore Abandoned Places?
Some abandoned places are legal to visit. They typically have caretakers, rules, and an entry fee. At the same time, there are many abandoned structures and locations around the country that are private or dangerous and illegal to explore.
The abandoned places on our list are all legal to visit and explore. However, we highly recommend consistently exercising caution in an abandoned area. You never know what wood is rotten or if the structure may collapse.
And be keenly aware of approaching private property; don’t make the mistake of trespassing.
11 Abandoned Places in the U.S. for a Creepy Road Trip
We found these 11 abandoned places in the U.S. that are fun and creepy to visit. If you have a vivid imagination, we think you’ll particularly enjoy exploring these. While they span the whole country, it could be fun to check off a couple over a season of RVing.
Most of them are in areas where there are other activities and destinations to explore so you can make the most of your time there.
1. Bannerman Castle, New York
Bannerman Castle sits on Pollepel Island in the middle of the Hudson River, just north of New York City. Francis Bannerman was a migrant from Scotland. In 1901, he built the first structure on the island to resemble a Scottish castle. Bannerman was a munitions dealer and stored goods in the castle.
He used the house on the island as a summer residence. Over the years, the buildings were left empty. In 1967, Bannerman’s grandson handed the then abandoned island over to the Taconic Park Commission.
Today, you can take a walking tour of the island. You’ll need to reach the island by boat or kayak. Visitors aren’t allowed inside of the structures due to safety issues. But you can partake in a guided or self-guided walking tour to learn about it and take in the views.
New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation cares for the building. Members of the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc. work on preserving the structures on the island and raise funds under their non-profit organization. When you visit, your tour fees are helping contribute to the restorations.
2. Alcatraz – Abandoned Island
Alcatraz Island sits in San Francisco Bay with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The National Park Service now owns the abandoned maximum security prison. Alcatraz has a complex history.
It has been a Civil War fortress, military jail, federal prison, bird sanctuary, and the first lighthouse on the West Coast of the U.S. It was also the birthplace of the American Indian Red Power movement when in 1969, Native Americans occupied the island for 19 months.
You can visit Alcatraz Island and go on a tour. Transportation to and from the island is by ferry boat. Upon arrival, you can participate in a self-guided Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour, which is available in multiple languages.
The tour includes the inside of the cell house at the top of the island, where the prison held inmates from 1934-1963.
Pro Tip: Make sure to make a reservation before you go.
3. Old City Hall Station, NYC
Old City Hall Station in Lower Manhattan is also called the City Hall Loop. Due to its proximity to the newer Brooklyn Bridge Station, this station shut down in 1945. However, the skylights illuminate the station. It remains unique, beautiful, and mysterious.
You can tour Old City Hall Station through the New York Transit Museum. The track is still active as a turnaround for the number 6 train, but trains don’t stop at the station. As a result, some people illegally stay on the 6 train during the turnaround to get a peek at the abandoned place from the train.
We discourage this. Instead, book a legal tour with the museum.
4. Michigan Central Station
Michigan Central Station in Detroit is another abandoned train station. The station went into service before completion due to the original one suffering a fire in 1913. It was a three-story train depot and an 18-story office tower. Constructed of more than eight million bricks, 125,000 cubic feet of stone, and 7,000 tons of steel, the station is enormous.
The entire project cost $16 million, which is the equivalent of around $332 million today.
Unfortunately, rail depots began shutting down in the 1950s due to a lack of business. After years of keeping Michigan Central Station open, it couldn’t keep up with Amtrak and other factors.
In 1988, the last train left the station. Thankfully, the National Register of Historic Places registered the structure to spare it from demolition. In 2018, Ford Motor Company purchased the station with plans to renovate it into the campus for developing self-driving cars. The completion date will be the end of 2022.
Keep an eye out for how you can visit this mammoth building.
5. Bombay Beach, California
How can a beach be an abandoned place? It’s a great question! Bombay Beach is on the Salton Sea near Coachella Valley in Southern California. The Salton Sea was once an up-and-coming vacation spot for the rich and famous. It was a saltwater inland lake. Then, the Salton Sea died.
The Salton Sea is 25% saltier than the ocean, so desert pupfish or high-salt tolerant tilapia are the only surviving fish. In the 1980s, the sea became ecologically unstable, and fish and birds perished in massive die-off events. Thousands of them washed up on shore, and the property values around the sea dropped. The events left resorts and marinas deserted.
Bombay Beach is one of the many abandoned places around the sea. Some call it an apocalyptic wasteland. But with a population of fewer than 200, artists are starting to bring some life back to the area.
You’ll find wind and salt-ridden junk turned into art installations. For example, the Bombay Drive-In has abandoned vintage cars lined up for the movie. It’s an interesting destination for sure.
6. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia is an abandoned gothic-style prison. It’s considered America’s most historic prison and was once the most expensive one in the world. Today, it’s empty, falling apart, and spooky. The facility held famous inmates like “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.
You can go on daytime or creepy night audio-guided tours of the old prison. They include historical displays and art installations as well as a walking tour of the prison.
7. Bodie, California
Bodie, California, was a gold-mining town in the 1800s. It became a State Historic Park in 1962 to stay in its original state. As a result, many of the ghost town’s buildings remain intact but weathered. Located near the Nevada border, Bodie has a “Little House on the Prairie” vibe.
You can visit Bodie and walk the streets of the past. Bodie State Historic Park is about 45 miles northeast of Yosemite and 13 miles east of Highway 395 on Bodie Road. The last three miles of the road into the park can be rough, so go slow and be cautious.
8. Kennecott, Alaska
Kennecott is an abandoned mining camp in a place with amazing views of the Wrangell Mountains. The 20th-century copper mine joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It cascades down a mountain and is a magnificent sight to see.
From 1911 to 1938, the mine processed around $200 million worth of copper. And it employed about 300 people at the height of it all. It was quite the operation and worth a visit on an Alaskan road trip. You can visit on your own or participate in a ranger-led walk.
9. Centralia, Pennsylvania
Centralia is an abandoned borough in the middle of Pennsylvania. So what made Centralia a modern ghost town? It used to be a coal town. In 1962, someone or something lit a fire in the town dump.
The fire spread underneath the entire valley and let up toxic gases into the air. It even caused a 150-foot sinkhole. The fire continues to burn beneath the surface today. By 1990, 63 residents remained, and in 2017 the population was five people.
While most of Centralia’s buildings and homes are gone, you can still visit. The streets and sidewalks are there, but other than that, it’s pretty bleak. One church, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, remains on a hill above town and holds weekly services.
10. Cahaba, Alabama – Abandoned Capitol City
Cahaba, Alabama, sits about 60 miles west of Montgomery and was the first state capital from 1819 to 1826. It has become Alabama’s most famous ghost town. The river town was abandoned shortly after the Civil War. By the 1900s, fire or decay claimed most of its buildings.
You can visit the ruins of the town for a small fee. The Alabama Historical Commission periodically hosts events in Cahaba as well to preserve the heritage and archeological site.
And you can rent the historic St. Luke’s Church that remains on the grounds for events.
11. St. Elmo, Colorado
St. Elmo, Colorado, is a ghost town in the Rocky Mountains that was founded in 1880. It became an abandoned place after train service stopped in 1926, and by 1958 it was nearly empty. Today, there are a few residents and businesses that operate, including the general store and a guest house.
With about 43 buildings remaining, this is a fun, intact ghost town to visit. It sits about 100 miles west of Colorado Springs. We recommend stopping in on a road trip or taking a day trip there when RVing in Colorado.
Are you ready for your creepy road trip?
Which of these places would you put at the top of your list to visit? Planning a road trip is all part of the fun. But when you add in some abandoned places, it can get interesting quickly. We hope you add a little spice and spookiness to your next adventure.
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