Utah is my home state, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. People often have misconceptions about Utah as a highly religious state with nothing much to do. Utah is full of picturesque wilderness to explore, as well as a rich history of Native Americans, Europeans, and Mormon pioneers.
Aside from this, Utah is home to over 100 ghost towns. Some of these ghost towns were once thriving communities dedicated to mining ore or minerals. Others were locations the early pioneers to the state settled before finding larger areas with more resources. Continue reading to find out my top pics for Utah ghost towns.
- 1. Grafton – A Mormon Settlement
- 2. Silver Reef
- 3. Russian Settlement
- 4. Terrace
- 5. Thistle
- 6. Frisco
- 7. Iosepa
- 8. Old Irontown
- 9. Nine Mile Canyon
- 10. Sego
- 11. Lucin
- 12. Gold Hill
- 13. Cisco
- 14. Latuda
- 15. Pahreah
- 16. Silver City
- 17. Widtsoe
- Utah Ghost Towns in the News
- Can You Metal Detect in Utah Ghost Towns?
- Are Any Ghost Towns Haunted in Utah?
- Houses For Sale in Utah Ghost Towns
- My Favorite Utah Ghost Town Story
- Kicking Up Utah Dust
1. Grafton – A Mormon Settlement
Grafton was originally settled by Mormon pioneers, who followed their prophet’s call to establish towns throughout the state of Utah. There was a nearby town called Wheeler, established in 1859. Settlers were attempting to grow cotton in southern Utah, but the Virgin River flooded and washed the town out. Settlers then built the town of Grafton in 1862.
It was soon established that southern Utah was not a good place to grow cotton as silt from the river clogged irrigation ditches. Tensions with the Native Americans in the area grew, and less than a decade after it was founded, the Mormon settlers were driven out. The schoolhouse and a graveyard are all that remain of the town.
Where to Find Grafton
From St. George, head north on I-15 to the exit for Hurricane. Take Highway 17 in Hurricane north to Highway 9. Head east and you will find Grafton on the south side of the highway.
2. Silver Reef
Silver Reef was established in the 1860s after a prospector from Nevada found silver veins in sandstone, which is extremely rare. By 1879, approximately 2,000 residents called the town home. It featured a mile-long main street, a Wells Fargo office, restaurant, and a Catholic Church despite most townspeople being Mormon.
This same year, a fire destroyed many businesses. They were rebuilt, but the mines closed by 1884 as the price of silver declined.
Most of the town’s buildings were either torn down or moved to Leeds. Operations of silver mining opened once again in 1916 but did minimal mining due to the looming Great Depression. During the late 1940s, the Western Gold & Uranium Corporation bought the silver mines and began mining uranium.
They sold the company to the 3M Corporation in the late 1970s. The Wells Fargo office, restaurant, and a few buildings and homes remain in Silver Reef today.
Where to Find Silver Reef
From St. George, head north on I-15 to the Leeds exit. Take Silver Reef Road in Leeds north, then follow it as it turns southwest. Silver Reef is on the north side of the road.
Insider Tip: While visiting the Silver Reef area, check out the Silver Reef Museum. The museum gives great details and information about the once thriving town, as well as tours and walking trails of the sites. Set among the beautiful southern Utah red rock desert, you will enjoy this look into Utah’s past! Learn more here: http://www.silverreefutah.org/
3. Russian Settlement
Russian Settlement is the placeholder’s name for a town that never had an official name. The village was founded by Russian Christians, a change from the bulk of Utah towns settled by Mormon pioneers.
The Russian settlers came for the promise of cheap land, which was true, but it turned out the land was basically uninhabitable. Around 125 people called the area home after moving there from Los Angeles in the early 1910s.
Despite the hardships they faced, the Russian settlers established a town center and a school. Their crops continuously failed, leading to the complete abandonment of the town in 1917 after 3 long, hard-fought years. Today, you can see several home foundations, a white picket fence, and a few gravestones.
Where to Find Russian Settlement
From Snowville near the Idaho border, head west on Highway 30 to Park Valley. The old townsite lies south of Park Valley, with no mappable road leading to it. You will find small dirt trails leading to the old town.
Terrace was established in 1869 when the Central Pacific Railroad operations base, a route on the First Transcontinental Railroad, came through the area. The town had approximately 1,000 residents during its heyday, including a large population of Chinese railway workers. The town was named for the nearby shoreline terraces of the former Lake Bonneville, which covered most of the area.
In 1904, the Southern Pacific Railroad completed the Lucin Cutoff across the Great Salt Lake, which bypassed Terrace. The town became a rarely used branch of the main railway. Terrace was home to a chain store, library, opera house, public bath, justice of the peace, and a saloon. The railroad was abandoned in 1942, and many buildings in the town were moved to Monticello.
Where to Find Terrace
From Park Valley, head south on Highway 30. Terrace lies to the east and requires some backcountry navigating along the Transcontinental Railroad Backcountry Byway.
Looking for how to get to Terrace? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Terrace UT
Thistle is unlike some towns on this list, had its demise in the early 1980s. Thistle was established as a railroad town in the late 1800s as a waypoint between Denver and the west. In 1983, a massive landslide triggered a flood that wiped out the entire town. During its peak, the town was home to about 600 people (1917). Approximately 50 residents still called the area home during the landslide and flood of the 1980s.
Today, you can still see some structures, although many are trapped in silt from the flood. Homes and archways to long destroyed buildings still dot the landscape. You can even see some rusty cars among the debris.
Where to Find Thistle
From Salt Lake City, head south on I-15. In Provo, exit the freeway onto Highway 6/Highway 89. Follow this to the Highway 6/Highway 89 interchange, then head southwest on Highway 89. The historic Thistle schoolhouse is on the northwest side of the road, and other parts of the town are on the east side of the road.
Frisco was named for the nearby San Francisco Mountains. The area was a booming mining location, and the commercial center for the San Francisco Mining District. It was also the terminus of the Utah Southern Railroad extension. The Horn Silver Mine was established in 1875 and produced a whopping $20 million in ore by 1885 including silver, zinc, copper, gold, and lead.
Frisco was home to 23 saloons and was known as the wildest town in the Great Basin area of Utah. The population reached some 6,000 residents in 1885. The Horn Silver Mine, an open pit, 900-foot-deep braced mine, completely collapsed in 1885. Today, some dilapidated buildings, closed mine shafts, and eroded beehive kilns are all that remain of the once booming wild west town.
Where to Find Frisco
From Milford, head northwest on Highway 21. Frisco will be on the northwest side of the highway.
Looking for how to get to Frisco? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Map to Frisco UT
Mormon missionaries went to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1850s and 1860s. Fun side note, my great grandmother was Hawaiian and met my grandfather, a Mormon missionary, while he was on the islands.
He came back for her following his missions, and my family settled in northeastern Utah. Back to Iosepa. As Native Hawaiians came to Utah to follow the Mormon faith, church leaders created a community of about 100 Hawaiian converts in the desolate area of Skull Valley.
Today, the site is a private ranch. You can, however, visit the old cemetery and a memorial and historical marker describing the settlement and the area.
Where to Find Iosepa
From Salt Lake City, head west on I-80 to the exit for Skull Valley Road/Highway 196. Head south. Iosepa is on the east side of the highway. Keep in mind you are on private property as you approach the old cemetery, so be respectful and mindful.
Looking for how to get to Iosepa? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Google Map to Iosepa
8. Old Irontown
Old Irontown is known as Utah’s first ghost town. Iron was discovered in the area in the 1850s, and the Mormon pioneers settled the area. Iron was of utmost importance for the pioneers, as it was used for everything from cooking (Dutch ovens) to wagon wheels.
The Great Western Iron Company built 2 charcoal ovens to help the pioneers and the town grew. In 1870, about 100 settlers lived in the area, but the Iron Company brought in laborers, which clashed with the Mormon settlers restrictive and conservative views.
The town peaked in the 1870s and was home to a school, post office, and boarding house. The town produced between 5 and 7 tons of pig iron daily, supplying ore for the Utah Western Railroad, and mining companies in Nevada. The remains of the town today are part of the Frontier-Homestead State Park in the Dixie National Forest. It was made a historical landmark in 1971.
Where to Find Old Irontown
From Cedar City, head west on Highway 56. Turn left onto Iron Town Road. This leads directly to Old Irontown.
Looking for how to get to Old Irontown? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Google Map to Old Irontown
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9. Nine Mile Canyon
Nine Mile Canyon is a little different than the other towns on this list. The Canyon was home to the ancient Fremont Native Americans. The walls of the canyon are covered in carvings and pictographs, some over 1,000 years old.
Despite its name, the canyon runs for 40 miles. Aside from the Fremont Native Americans, early Ute Native Americans and other tribes inhabited the area. The images on the walls depict hunting scenes and scenes from daily life.
Halfway through the canyon is a ghost town called Harper. Harper was once a stagecoach stop. Be aware the area completely protected by the Antiquities Act, as it is threatened by natural and man-made erosion and defacement.
Where to Find Nine Mile Canyon
From Vernal, west on Highway40/Highway 191 to Myton. Turn left onto Pariette Road/Sand Wash Road. Turn right onto Sand Wash Road for 20 miles. Turn right onto Wrinkles Road which turns into Nine Mile Cutoff Road. Take a slight left onto County Road 140321 and merge onto Nine Mile Canyon Road.
Looking for how to get to Nine Mile Canyon? This spot is a little bit tougher to find. Let me help with a Google Map Link 👉 Nine Mile Canyon
Sego started due to the discovery of coal. English farmer Harry Ballard began buying property all around his small settlement in the 1890s. His neighbor became curious. Ballard had discovered coal on his land and was securing his future and mining rights to the precious resource. A company in Salt Lake City got wind of the discovery and offered Ballard, and his neighbor, a hefty sum for their property (which was auctioned off to the highest bidder).
Sego was a profitable town but plagued with issues. Water problems were widespread and caused major issues in railroad buildings. The tracks constantly washed out, and the railroad was abandoned in the 1950s.
Sego also caught on fire 2 different times. Today, the forgotten boom town is the remains of homes, foundations, dugouts, an old boarding house and store, cemetery, and a coal seam fire that cause smoke to rise from abandoned shafts.
Where to Find Sego
From Salt Lake City, head south on I-15 to the I-70 interchange. Head east toward Colorado. Exit at Thompson Springs, and head north on Highway 94. Highway 94 turns into Thompson Canyon Road, and BLM159. Sego is on the east side of the road.
Looking for how to get to Sego ? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Sego Utah
Lucin was founded in the 1860s as a railroad community during the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad 10 miles north of Lucin. It was moved to serve Lucin as the head of the Lucin Cutoff, connecting Lucin to Ogden, Utah. This included a 12 miles railroad trestle that spanned the Great Salt Lake. Lucin was abandoned in 1936.
Several years later, a handful of retired railroad workers moved back to the town with fond memories of their time there. The last one moved away in 1972, and the town was once again abandoned. Today, it is managed as a migrating songbird and wildlife area by the Utah Division of Wildlife.
The only resident, a man named Ivo Zdarsky, moved into an airplane hangar on the edge of town in 2007. His hangar, and a few dilapidated structures are all that remain of the town.
Where to Find Lucin
From Park Valley, take Highway 30 southwest. Turn left onto Pilot Mountain Road. This road twists and turns but leads right to Lucin.
Looking for how to get to Lucin? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Lucin
12. Gold Hill
Gold Hill was established in the late 1800s as a mining town for gold, arsenic, silver, tungsten, and copper. It was the southern end of the Deep Creek Railroad. Gold Hill gained fame as the gold found there was the richest known at the time. The town began to decline, but the 2 World Wars revived the town temporarily.
Where to Find Gold Hill
From Salt Lake City, take I-80 west to Wendover, Nevada (just across the Utah border: part of Wendover lies in both states). Take I-93 south where you will see a small sign pointing east to Gold Hill.
Looking for how to get to Gold Hill? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Gold Hill
Cisco is another ghost town created by railroad development, as well as discoveries of natural gas, oil, and turquoise. The creation of freeways and better train systems bypassed the town, and it was all but forgotten. Around 100 abandoned buildings still dot the Cisco landscape, and artist Eileen Muza has lived here since 2015 restoring the town with salvaged materials.
Where to Find Cisco
From Thompson Springs, head east on I-70 to the exit for Highway 128. Continue east to Cisco.
Looking for how to get to Cisco? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉Map to Cisco
Latuda began in the early 1910s with the discovery of coal mining in the area. About 20 homes surrounded the mine. The town included a school and post office. Avalanches in the 1920s struck, killing residents, and destroying homes. Mining slowed and the mine closed in the late 1960s. The town was abandoned a year later.
Where to Find Latuda
From Salt Lake City, head south on I-15 to Spanish Fork. Exit onto Highway 89. Take Highway 6 at the interchange of 89/6 south. In the town of Helper, head west on Spring Canyon Road which leads to Latuda.
Pahreah (also called Paria) was settled in 1880 by Mormon pioneers. The town grew quickly and included log and sandstone homes, a general store, and a church. The town flooded several times, forcing residents to leave. A gold mine opened in the early 1910s, reinvigorating the town for a brief period. The mine also flooded, and the town floundered.
Where to Find Pahreah
Looking for how to get to Pahreah? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Map to Pahreah
From Kanab, head east on Highway 89. You will find the Old Paria Mesa. The old townsite is north of this, along some bumpy dirt roads.
16. Silver City
Silver City bustled with over 1,500 residents in its prime. Silver was discovered in the area in 1869 and produced a significant amount for the British settlers. Mines produced rich silver ore until the 1890s, when they hit water.
The town faded out as the most profitable mines began to close. Old mining equipment, tailings piles, a cemetery, and some old foundations are all that remain of the town today.
Where to Find Silver City
From Eureka, take Highway 6 south. Silver City lies on the east side of the highway.
Looking for how to get to Silver City? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Silver City Utah
Widtsoe was founded in the early 1900s by a dry farmer. The town flourished due to this farming technique and had a hotel, church, mills, and stores. During its peak, 1,100 residents called Widtsoe their home. Severe droughts drove most residents out, and the town was abandoned in 1938.
Where to Find Widtsoe
From Panguitch, take Highway 89 south to Highway 12 east. Turn left onto Johns Valley Road. Widtsoe is on the east side of the road.
Looking for how to get to Widtsoe? Here’s a Google Map link to guide you 👉 Map to Widtsoe
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Utah Ghost Towns in the News
There are many instances of ghost towns in the Utah news. One article written early in 2023 is a guide of how to visit Utah ghost towns. The article details what to take along with you, how to research ghost towns prior to visiting, what to look for and take pictures of, and gives information about visiting the small towns nearby the ghost towns. These towns will have histories that often include ghost towns.
Learn more about this article dedicated to visiting ghost towns in Utah here: https://www.deseret.com/utah/2023/1/21/23549285/utah-ghost-towns-mormon-history
Can You Metal Detect in Utah Ghost Towns?
Metal detecting is allowed in Utah, with some restrictions. Utah has 5 National Parks and 7 National Monuments, all of which forbid metal detecting. Utah also has 43 State Parks, which do allow metal detecting with a permit. Stop at any park ranger station to obtain a metal detecting permit to search Utah’s many State Parks.
Metal Detecting Tips: Check out my list of where to swing your metal detector in Utah 👉 Where to Metal Detect in Utah
Utah has several Native American Tribes that call the state home, with several Native Reservations throughout the state. You may not metal detect on Tribal lands. You can always ask the Tribal authorities if they would allow you to metal detect in a location on their land. They may or may not allow this. Do not try to metal detect on Tribal lands without prior authorization.
You can also metal detect on public lands in Utah. (think of BLM) Just be sure to avoid any private property, federal property, or other marked property that disallows metal detecting. Many cities and towns in the state allow metal detecting. Simply speak to the City Hall in whichever place you would like to metal detect to find out full details of what is required to detect (permits, exclusions, etc.).
If you know someone with property in Utah, ask them if you may metal detect on their land. There are few restrictions on private lands, so you may hunt to your heart’s content!
Are Any Ghost Towns Haunted in Utah?
Several ghost towns in Utah are said to be haunted. Utah has a long history of haunted locations. I grew up near Skinwalker Ranch, which many people have heard about. This area is full of unexplainable experiences. I have several stories I could tell, but I digress.
Sego is said to be haunted. The town boomed after coal was discovered. Many left after the resources of the area could not keep up with demand. The town caught fire twice, and coal fires still burn within the mining shafts today.
Nine Mile Canyon is another location that has an eerie feel to it. The area was inhabited by Native Americans for centuries. The “World’s Longest Art Galley” in the canyon shows pictographs and prehistoric drawings all over the walls. Many claim to have seen spirits and shadows, as well as unidentified aircraft in the area.
Utah is also home to between 8,000 and 10,000 abandoned mines. Many of these old mining locations have lore surrounding them. If you want to explore any of these areas, take along a digital voice recorder and a camera with a flash. Maybe you can capture a voice or photo of something you cannot see or hear with your own senses!
Houses For Sale in Utah Ghost Towns
As of 2018, the ghost town of Lucin, Utah was for sale for a mere $18,500. With a 30-year mortgage, this would amount to about $100 a month! The property covers 40-acres and lies approximately 3 hours from Salt Lake City. There is some scattered rubble from the remains of the town, and an old phone booth. Aside from this, the property is bare.
Learn more about this property for sale here: https://www.realtor.com/news/unique-homes/ghost-town-utah-less-than-new-car/
Woodside, Utah is another ghost town that was listed for sale. This property is much more expensive than the town of Lucin, at $3.9 million. The town was listed for sale in 2012 but received few inquiries due to the steep asking price. Those who visited the town to consider purchasing it thought they were getting an old western style town. That was not the case, and no offers were put in.
My Favorite Utah Ghost Town Story
The story of Ouray, Utah has always been interesting to me. I grew up not far from Ouray, and the area is still used today for the oil and gas drilling industries. Ouray is the second oldest settlement in the Uintah Basin and was named in honor of the Uncomphagre Ute Native Chief Ouray. Settled by Europeans in the 1830s, a trading post was established by French settler Antoine Robidoux.
Decades later, a Native Agency for the Uncompahgre was established, and they built a post office. As a response to the Meeker Massacre in Colorado, Fort Thornburgh was built in 1886. It was moved nearer to Vernal a few years later when it was replaced by Fort Duchesne.
The post office closed in 1964 as the population kept declining.
Today, Ouray is within the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation southwest of Vernal. The area still bustles with drilling activities.
Learn more about Ouray here: https://historytogo.utah.gov/ouray-chief/
Kicking Up Utah Dust
Utah has no shortage of beautiful scenery, diverse terrain, and ghost towns to explore. With over 100 choices of ghost towns, you will not run out of places to explore! Enjoy some time in the picturesque Utah wilderness searching over these forgotten towns.
Malory Ericksen discovered metal detecting in 2015, initially unearthing nails and pull tabs in Idaho. The finding of an old railroad tie cemented her passion for the hobby. Now in Utah, she delights in uncovering historical treasures, driven by her love for history.
Read Malory’s complete bio 👉 About Malory Ericksen