7 Utah ghost towns that are worth a visit this summer (2024)

Utah's ghost towns invite you to step off the well-worn tourist trail and dive into a piece of hidden history. These places that once bustled with life now stand as silent witnesses to a bygone era. From abandoned mining camps to deserted homesteads, each site offers a glimpse into the state's rugged past.

It is important to recognize, however, that just because a town is abandoned does not mean the property is open to the public. Many Utah ghost towns sit on private property and others have active mining claims. If you visit, please don't violate trespassing laws or you can expect to be prosecuted.

If you want to step back in time and get a taste of the old American West, here are a few different Utah ghost towns that are well worth a visit this year.

Paria

Paria (or Pahreah) is a ghost town near Kanab that's worth visiting for the geological views alone. The colorful, striped mountain vistas that surround this little settlement make you wonder why anyone ever left it.

There are no buildings left at the town site, but there is a cemetery and it is obvious that people still visit to pay their respects. Gold mining was the principal draw for the town's early settlers.

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If the location seems familiar, it might be because the location used to have a western movie set with multiple buildings. Americansouthwest.net reports the site was featured in several films, including some scenes of Clint Eastwood's "The Outlaw Josey Wales." The buildings were destroyed by vandals in 2006.

The road to old Paria is gravel, but it is usually well maintained and passable even in a car. All bets are off, though, if it happens to be raining or wet. In fact, the wet roads were a problem for the town's settlers. Repeated flooding from the Paria River is what caused people to leave.

Cisco

Writing for Only In Your State, Catherine Armstrong explains how the little town of Cisco went from being a thriving community to a deserted little town with a heartbreaking history.

Cisco used to be a main stop for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroads and a place for people to stock up on supplies. In 1924, it was Utah's largest producer of oil and a very popular destination for road-tripping families.

But then, in what feels like a storyline from a popular Disney movie, Interstate 70 was built. And since it bypassed Cisco, people had to go out of their way to get there. Soon, people started moving away and the post office closed.

The town isn't totally abandoned, however. Atlas Obscura reports that a woman named Eileen Muza purchased the town in 2015 and has slowly been restoring it, adding its own art residency.

"Today, there are approximately 100 abandoned buildings in Cisco, most of which are dilapidated sheds and shacks, and building materials left scattered about," Atlas Obscura states. "Muza estimates that there are only seven fully intact buildings, one of which is her log cabin, another being Ethel's Cafe."

Muza even stars in a documentary called "Cisco Kid," which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023.

If you decide to visit, be respectful and careful not to trespass on Muza's property.

Castle Gate

Another once-thriving mining town, Castle Gate in Carbon County used to be a popular hideout for train robbers — most notably, Butch Cassidy. It was here that Cassidy and his sidekick Elza Lay famously stole about $8,000 from an arriving train.

On a sadder note, Castle Gate faced a bigger tragedy a few decades later when a big mine explosion killed 172 miners in 1924. According to Legends of America, "At the time it was the third-worst mining disaster in the United States and is still the tenth deadliest to this day."

Silver Reef

Just about 15 miles northeast of St. George lies the old mining boomtown of Silver Reef. Silverreef.org reports the town gained quick notoriety in the late 1800s when silver was discovered in the local sandstone — "a geological rarity." If you're in the area, pay a visit to the Silver Reef Museum and learn all about the site's unique Old West history.

Sego

Legends of America states that Sego used to be a thriving coal mining camp until railroads began using diesel engines in the early 1950s, which reduced the need for the mine's products. It wasn't long before the land was sold and many of its buildings were moved to Moab.

"Today, the old site continues to display numerous signs of its prosperous past. The stone walls of the old American Fuel Company Store continue to stand, though its windows and roof are long gone," Legends of America notes.

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You can also see crumbling structures, mine shafts and old railroad bridges throughout the canyon, as well as a cemetery with a few marked and unmarked headstones.

Bonus: Just before you get to Sego there are two amazing panels of petroglyphs from three different historical periods. The oldest are the Barrier Style, dating back 2,000to 6,000 years ago.

Old Irontown

About 20 miles west of Cedar City, you'll find Old Irontown. Originally known as Iron City, Brigham Young sent several families to the area in the 1850s to establish an iron works there. The town grew quickly at first — but it didn't last long.

As reported by Visit Cedar City, "While Iron City seemed prosperous at the time, it only operated for seven years, closing due to the lack of sufficient transportation for the iron ore and the money panic of 1874."

You can still tour the ruins of the iron works and the beehive-shaped charcoal oven when you visit.

Grafton

Arguably the most popular ghost town in Utah is Grafton, which is located just south of Zion National Park. Latter-day Saint pioneers originally settled the area but were forced out less than a decade later due to tensions with Native Americans. Today, all that remains of the town are a schoolhouse and a graveyard, though they make for great photo ops.

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"Some say that Grafton is the most photographed ghost town in the West," the Utah Office of Tourism website states. "It was even one of the filming locations for parts of 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,' among other Hollywood movies."

There's no shortage of ghost towns in Utah

Ghost towns actually dot the map all over Utah, so there are plenty more to check out once you've crossed these ones off your list. According to data from the Utah Automated Geographic Reference Center, there are at least 195 recorded ghost towns throughout the state. To see the full list, click here.

Some Utah ghost towns are located near major roads and are easily accessible with any passenger car. Many others are in remote locations reachable only with a high-clearance off-road vehicle.

When visiting those in hard-to-get-to areas, make sure you have emergency supplies and that someone knows your travel route and expected return time. After all, you don't want to become the only permanent resident of a bygone community.

Is Utah really the most affordable state? 5 keys to know about USA Today's report

In March, USA Today released a report about the cost of living in each state. It might shock you to learn that Utah came out on top. If you're confused as to how this could possibly be true, it might help to break down USA Today's methodology. Here are a few things to understand about what went into the rankings. Spoiler alert: Things might not be as cheap as you think.

Siegfried & Jensen

Since 1990, Siegfried & Jensen have been helping the people of Utah and surrounding states who have suffered needless injuries and death caused by car accidents, truck accidents, medical malpractice, defective drugs, dog bites, wrongful death, and other types of personal injury.

The firm is committed to keeping Utah families and communities safe by ensuring wrongdoers are held accountable. While a lawsuit isn't always the answer when it is needed having someone on your side can mean the difference between declaring bankruptcy and rebuilding your life and moving forward, especially when you're up against an insurance company or a hospital.

Siegfried & Jensen has represented more than 35,000 clients and recovered over $1.2 billion for them.

7 Utah ghost towns that are worth a visit this summer (2024)

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