Town of Tombstone AZ

Trip Planning

Go RVing to These Western Ghost Towns!

Taking a trip across the western United States? Make sure to stop by these historical ghost towns and experience everything they have to offer!

America’s national parks are some of the most popular destinations for RV enthusiasts, particularly Out West, where Yosemite, the Grand Tetons, Zion, the Grand Canyon and other parks showcase some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. But RVers invariably discover that the Western states have also preserved many of their historic gold, silver, and copper mining towns, most of which hit their peaks in the late 1800s as pioneers sought to make it rich working in the mines.

The boom periods for each of these towns were relatively brief, but stories about the outlaws, gamblers, and gunslingers who roamed the streets of places like Deadwood, South Dakota, and Tombstone, Arizona have taken on a life of their own in American folklore and in real-life as actors roam the streets of these towns, dressed in period costumes, giving visitors a taste of life in the Old West.

In Tombstone, visitors can witness daily reenactments of the famous shootout at the O.K. Corral and take stagecoach rides through the historic town, which offers a mix of original buildings, including a courthouse, saloons, and museums, such as Wyatt Earp's House, along with modern tourist shops and attractions. In addition to having actors walking its streets in period attire, Deadwood offers everything from Wild West-style shout-outs on the street to historical talks.

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Photo courtesy of Cripple Creek KOA Holiday

Many of the historic mining towns of the Old West have been able to maintain their unique charm thanks to local efforts to preserve their beautiful historic homes and buildings, which complement the history tours, museums and Western-themed stores and attractions that travelers enjoy today.

Visitors to historic Virginia City, Nevada for example, can take tours of actual gold and silver mines and walk the streets, which are lined with original Victorian-style homes and buildings dating back to the late 1800s. Some of the historic mining towns of the West have become true ghost towns, like Bodie State Historic Park, which was developed on a cold, windswept plain 8,000 feet up in the Basin Range, just east of Yosemite. Bodie offers visitors the opportunity to explore the Western states’ largest concentration of original homes, storefronts, and mining facilities that date back to its heyday in the late 1800s.

To jumpstart your RV tours of the Old West, here are more detailed descriptions of several historic mining towns of the Old West, complete with listings of nearby campgrounds:


Tombstone and Jerome, Arizona section

  •   Tombstone: One of the best known historic silver mining towns of the “Old West,” Tombstone is the site of the famous Oct. 26, 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which actually took place on an empty lot on neighboring Fremont Street. While Tombstone has many tourist shops, the town also has many historic structures, including its Victorian-style courthouse, built in 1882, and the Bird Cage Theater, built in 1881, which was a gambling hall, dance hall, house of prostitution, and the site of many gun battles in the late 1800s. Tombstone is also the home of the Oriental Saloon, which was frequented by Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and other gunslingers during Tombstone’s “Wild West” days. Actors frequently walk Tombstone’s streets in period attire, and if you hang around long enough, you’re bound to see a gunfight show.

  • Bisbee: Drive a winding road 30 minutes south of Tombstone and you’ll end up at the historic silver and copper mining town of Bisbee, a charming, hilly town that retains one of the largest concentrations of historic architecture in Arizona. Historic buildings include the Copper Queen Hotel, built in 1902, and the Copper Queen Hospital, built in 1880 and the Phelps Dodge mining company headquarters, erected in 1886. The Bisbee Central School was built in 1905 and 1906 using Italian Renaissance designs. 
  • Jerome: Jerome is historic, mile-high copper mining town whose 19th and early 20th century buildings literally cling to the side of Cleopatra Hill, overlooking the Verde Valley. Much of Jerome is comprised of art galleries, restaurants, jewelry, and clothing stores. But the town also entertains visits with its mine shafts and museums that harken back to its copper mining days. A focal point of Jerome State Historic Park is the Douglas Mansion, built in 1916 by James S. Douglas on a hill overlooking his Little Daisy Mine. Jerome is also the site of the Jerome Grand Hotel, which, according to The Arizona Republic, is considered to be among the most haunted places in Arizona. The hotel was built inside a former hospital where over 9,000 people died. “The hotel's reputation led to The Travel Channel filming an episode of ‘Ghost Adventures’ in 2011. Doors slammed, voices captured, unexplained dark masses documented, and the crew felt numbness and tingling in their extremities,” The Arizona Republic wrote in its October 18, 2016 report on the hotel.

Image removed.The town of Bisbee, AZ


  • Bodie: Bodie is the largest authentic ghost town in the Western United States. Unlike many Western mining towns, whose historic structures are vastly outnumbered by retail stores, restaurants, and other modern structures, Bodie is a state park that is preserved in a state of “arrested decay,” with its many picturesque structures gradually decomposing under the constant assault of sun, wind, rain, snow and ice on a barren plateau 8,000 feet up in the Basin Range. Bodie’s boom began when large deposits of gold and silver were discovered by the Bunker Hill Mine in 1876.

    According to a historical report by the National Park Service, “This bonanza resulted in a population boom as people streamed into Bodie in search of riches. By 1879, the town had grown to over 250 buildings and 10,000 residents, encompassing houses, a school, a Wells Fargo bank, four volunteer fire companies, hotels, a jail, cemeteries, stores, churches, newspapers, a mortuary, and other structures that supported the large community."
  • Bodie State Historic Park is roughly a three hour drive northeast of Yosemite Valley and about 20 miles east of the tiny, historic town of Bridgeport, which also has several historic buildings, including California’s second oldest courthouse, a Victorian structure in continuous use since 1880. 


RVers with an interest in Colorado’s mining history will enjoy exploring the historic mining towns of Leadville, St. Elmo, Cripple Creek and Victor, all of which are two to three hours west, southwest or south of Denver.

  • Leadville is about a two-hour drive west of Denver, depending on traffic. In addition to being the highest incorporated city in the United States, at 10,152 feet, Leadville has so much authentic Victorian architecture that 70 square blocks of the town were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Attractions include Healy House, the Heritage Museum, the Delaware Hotel, Tabor Home, and the Matchless Mine, one of the richest silver mines of the late 1800s.
  • St. Elmo is a little over an hour’s drive south of Leadville. Founded in 1880, St. Elmo flourished as a silver and gold mining town for less than a decade, but it’s believed to be one of the best-preserved ghost towns of the Old West. Visitors can stroll the intact wooden sidewalks to view St. Elmo’s original general store, which is still in operation today as well as roughly 40 other historic structures, including Pat Hurley’s Saloon and The Miner’s Exchange, both built in 1892.
  • Cripple Creek and Victor: These two mining towns, just over two hours south of Denver, are the sites of Colorado’s last and greatest mining boom. Both towns were vibrant gold mining camps in the 1890s and early 1900s that left behind numerous historic buildings and mining structures, many of which can be seen on local ghost walk and history tours as well as self-guided walking, biking and hiking trails listed on the Trails of Gold website. Local attractions include the Cripple Creek Historical Museum, the Outlaws and Lawmen Jail Museum, and the historic Butte Theatre, which is one only a handful of theaters in the country that still offers live melodramas. Other attractions include the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad.


  • Virginia City and Nevada City lie along Alder Gulch about one mile apart, and is the site of the richest placer gold strike in the Rocky Mountains, with an estimated total value of $100 million throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, according to the Montana Heritage Commission.

    “Virginia City was designated as the new territorial capital of Montana in 1865 when Alder Gulch had gathered most of Montana's population,” the Montana Heritage Commission writes. “At its peak, 10,000 people flooded the area named ‘Fourteen-mile City’ for the numerous settlements that lined the gulch. Virginia City became the largest settlement with an estimated population of 5,000 by mid-1864. It rapidly became the territory's first social center and transportation hub.”

    But the mining camps of Alder Gulch were also the site of high tension, given the fact that many secessionists flocked to these mining camps during the height of the Civil War. Legends of America describes these tensions and the strategic importance of the gold mines in the Virginia City area during the Civil War years.

    “The majority of avowed secessionists living in the camp, which was then part of Idaho Territory and therefore ‘belonging’ to the Union, made it primarily a ‘southern’ town, with its residents’ sympathies lying with the Confederates,” Legends of America writes. "Furthermore, the camp produced enough gold to win the Civil War for whoever could capture it. Due to this strategic position, President Abraham Lincoln sent northern emigrants into the mining camp to help hold the gold for the North. This caused all kinds of tension in the new city, which quickly became one of the most lawless places in the American West.”


  • Virginia City: Once known as "the richest city in the world" for the wealth of gold and silver mined from the Comstock Lode in the 1800s, Virginia City is Nevada's largest and best-known historic mining town, federally recognized as a National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    Visitors to this 6,200-foot elevation mining town 26 miles southeast of Reno can take tours of actual gold and silver mines and walk the streets, which are lined with original Victorian-style homes and brick buildings dating back to the late 1800s.

    A walking tour through the Silver Terrace cemeteries reveals tombstone tributes to the culturally diverse labor force that produced fortunes for the "Silver Barons" who ran the town. Virginia City's history is entwined with the neighboring Sierra Nevada, which provided timber that shored up the mines and provided wood for the railroad routes across the Sierra where the mined treasure was transported to San Francisco.

South Dakota

  • Deadwood: About an hour’s drive north of Mount Rushmore is the historic city of Deadwood, the site of the gold rush of 1874 that drew miners and Western folk heroes to the Black Hills, including Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. According to an historical account on, “The discovery of gold in the southern Black Hills in 1874 set off one of the great gold rushes in America. In 1876, miners moved into the northern Black Hills. That’s where they came across a gulch full of dead trees and a creek full of gold and Deadwood was born.”

    Deadwood’s notoriety quickly enticed outlaws. “Practically overnight,” writes, “the tiny gold camp boomed into a town that played by its own rules that attracted outlaws, gamblers and gunslingers along with the gold seekers. Wild Bill Hickok was one of those men who came looking for fortune. But just a few short weeks after arriving, he was gunned down while holding a poker hand of aces and eights – forever after known as the Dead Man’s Hand.

    "Calamity Jane also made a name for herself in these parts and is buried next to Hickok in Mount Moriah Cemetery. Other legends, like Potato Creek Johnny, Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen, created their legends and legacies in this tiny Black Hills town.”

    Visitors to Deadwood can find these colorful characters walking the streets as a part of Deadwood Alive. This theater troupe reenacts the major historic events – like the Trial of Jack McCall and Wild Bill’s assassination— that inspired the legends that are part of America’s Wild West folklore today.
Jeff Crider


Jeff Crider, President and CEO of Crider Public Relations, has been involved in covering the campground industry for over 25 years. Jeff has worked as a freelance writer for publications such as RV Business, Motor Home Magazine, Trailer Life, Highways and other Affinity Group Inc. publications since 1995. He has also successfully pitched many of the nation's top tier media outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Financial Times, Reuters, The Associated Press and National Public Radio. In addition to writing, Jeff is also a talented photographer and humanitarian.