California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures - 42

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP

18
Ghost
Towns

B ODI E

A S G O L D M I N I N G F E V E R G R I P P E D C A L I F O R N I A in 1849, fortune seekers journeyed to the
deserts and mountains with picks, shovels, and high hopes. Miners built bustling towns in the state's
most remote outposts. Some struck it rich. Most didn't. When the ore ran out, so did the people, leaving
behind sagging storefronts and mining detritus. On this far-flung road trip, you'll explore those once
booming towns that have morphed into historic sites.
Begin your tour at Shasta State Historic Park west of Redding. In the 1850s, Old Shasta was the queen
city of California's northern mining district. The town supported hotels, stores, and saloons in the largest row
of brick buildings north of San Francisco. Tour the crumbling remains, including the 1861 County Courthouse.
Then grab a sandwich at Shorty's Eatery and zoom three hours south to the Sierra foothills.
Northeast of Nevada City, the village of North Bloomfield once served the world's richest mining
district-until 1884, when hydraulic mining was outlawed. At Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, stroll

Explore California's boomand-bust heritage as you visit
deserted settlements, rusting
railways, and abandoned mines

around a restored saloon, barbershop, general store, and former dance hall (now the park museum). Less
than an hour away, California's richest hard-rock mine extracted nearly six million ounces of gold from 367
miles of underground tunnels. Those tunnels still exist at Empire Mine State Historic Park, where you can
enter the Secret Room to view a scale model of the tunnels or peer into a deep mine shaft.
Get a good night's sleep in Grass Valley or Nevada City, then get up early for a half-day drive along Lake
Tahoe's west shore and through the Carson and Walker river valleys. Stop in picturesque Bridgeport for
sustenance at the Burger Barn, then head into Bodie State Historic Park. The West's rowdiest city in 1880,
Bodie had a population of 10,000 and more than 60 saloons. Now it's California's largest unrestored ghost
town, with dozens of deserted buildings silhouetted against sagebrush plains. Peek into the windows of
the abandoned church, barbershop, and saloon to see interiors left as they were during the town's heyday.
Back in the car, drive south to Tioga Pass, Yosemite's eastern entrance. From Junction Campground,
hike to the remains of Bennettville's silver-mining camp. A 1.5-mile trail leads to the mine's assay office, a

STA R T
Shasta State
Historic Park

Rest for the night in the town of Lee Vining, then boomerang from the mountains to the desert. North
of Trona, see adobe ruins and weathered wooden shacks at the lonely Death Valley outpost of Ballarat. In
1898, the town's population soared to 400 after successful gold strikes in the Panamint Mountains, but
after a few years, the miners' luck ran out.

4 770

days

miles

Traveling south, the living ghost town of Randsburg saw its peak in the 1890s when gold, silver, and
tungsten were discovered in the high-desert hills. In 1899, the town's population topped 3,500, but it now
hovers around 70. Order a root beer float from the General Store's 1904 soda fountain and marvel at the
Rand Desert Museum's mining machinery.

FINISH
Calico

Make a final push to Barstow, where you'll find food and lodging. Rest well, because this trip's last
stop is the liveliest (for a ghost town, anyway). Calico, the site of California's largest silver strike, is now
a ghost town theme park. Fill a day panning for gold, riding the rails, browsing the shops, and knocking
back sarsaparillas at Lil's Saloon (mosey in through the swinging wooden doors). On Saturday nights,
you might be able to make contact with Calico's ghosts on a tour through the spooky darkness of the
1880s Maggie Mine.

42
VISITCALIFORNIA.COM

PHOTOGRAPH: MARIA DOLORES LOPEZ FALANTES

bunkhouse, and a tunnel lined with ore-car tracks-all set in drop-dead gorgeous scenery at 10,000 feet.


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California Road Trips - 50 Life-Changing Adventures

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