Five Great Reasons To Visit Bodie Ghost Town

Wheel, Bodie, California

Visiting the ghost town of Bodie was undoubtedly a highlight of our road trip around California. It was a unique experience full of surprises. Abandoned places are always intriguing to explore and Bodie is no exception. So apart from the fact that ghost towns are just really cool, why should you visit?

1. The Journey

Landscape, Bodie, California

No matter whether you’re coming from the north, south, east or west, the journey to Bodie Ghost Town will be unforgettable. Situated in the basin of the Sierra Navada mountain range the natural landscape in every direction is simply stunning. And besides, there’s nothing like that feeling of getting in your car and hitting the open road. Especially in the US where it seems everything is set up perfectly for a road trip.

We arrived at Bodie after a long day’s driving north along State Highway 395 from Death Valley. With the final 13 miles along largely unpaved and bumpy roads, it’s not the most comfortable ride. But it really feels like you’re visiting a long forgotten ghost town before you’ve even reached your destination. It’s a journey that will stay with me forever.

2. The Landscape

Path, Bodie, California

As you get closer to Bodie, it becomes more and more evident what a desolate and barren landscape the inhabitants had to contend with. I can only imagine the battle it must have been in the winter months. The shrubbery is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It really gives you a sense of life’s struggle at altitude.

At more than 8000 feet above sea level, Bodie can’t have been the most pleasant place to live at the best of times. That people came to Bodie in their thousands against the backdrop of such an unforgiving landscape is testament to the lure of fame and fortune during the great American gold rush.

3. The History

Relic, Bodie, California

Once the second most populous town in the state of California, the history of Bodie’s rise and fall is a great example of boom and bust in a fascinating period of history. Although the number of buildings that survive to this day only represents a small fraction of what was once a thriving mining town, many significant structures remain.

The town jail, barber shop and methodist church are still in tact, and the mill itself dominates the hill-side. Be it cold blooded killers, unrelenting vigilante groups or arsonists holding a grudge, Bodie has so many stories to tell. Despite the empty streets you can really feel its history coming to life.

4. The Aura

Church, Bodie, California

Looking at the tired, old, and worn buildings it’s hard to believe that Bodie once used to be a flourishing town. But look a little closer and you’ll see signs of life being lived behind its shabby wooden exterior. Peering through misty, scratched glass at a roulette table that must have been left untouched by time for more than 100 years is something I will never forget. It’s mysterious, haunting and at times incredibly eerie.

People lived out their lives and then seemingly left in an instant, leaving most of their possessions behind. But why? Was everybody really here just for the money? How did the decay begin and what was it like to live here? The intrigue of a time past is impossible to escape.

5. The Preservation

Sign, Bodie, California

As a direct result of the budget crisis in the State of California, state parks such as Bodie have been losing funding for many years. It’s my strong belief that looking after the world’s heritage is an incredibly important and worthy cause. By making a visit to the ghost town you can show your support for the efforts to preserve its history for future generations. If you’d like to find out more about preserving bodie you can visit the Bodie Foundation website for more details.

Have you visited Bodie Ghost Town? Or another abandoned location? How did they make you feel? Are there any other protected parks you think are worth visiting?

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17 thoughts on “Five Great Reasons To Visit Bodie Ghost Town

  1. suej

    Hi Ben, great post! One day I hope to visit Bodie, it’s on my bucket list… I’ve been to a number of abandoned places over the years, and they all have an atmosphere. Some have a palpable sense of loss, a truly sad atmosphere such as Spinalonga on Crete, visited more than two decades ago, before there was a museum. All are fascinating one way or another. The most recent visit was to Craco in Italy….wish I had gone years ago before it was 10 euros, a hard hat, and restricted access! Still worth the visit, though!

    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Sue, it’s definitely worth a visit. The history of Spinalonga is fascinating, just had a quick read. It’s certainly had a difficult past. Craco looks great too, but perhaps not the safest place to visit! At least they take safety seriously I suppose.

      I think they all have an element of sadness in their story, families being uprooted and having to leave for any reason is never easy. I don’t know whether the people living in Bodie thought they would be there forever. I guess it was never the most practical place to be living in the first place!

  2. Heyjude

    I have never heard of this place so thank you for bringing it to my attention. I love road-trips in the USA (avoiding cities of course) so if I am ever in the area I’ll make a stop. Interesting that the town is called Bodie when the man it is named after is Bodey. Wonder why they changed that? Nice photos Ben – love that church.
    Jude xx

    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Jude. I think the name was spelt incorrectly by someone creating a sign for the ranch. They decided that Bodie looked more pleasing than Bodey and so the name stuck! I hope you manage to make it there some day, it’s a fantastic place.

      Absolutely agree on avoiding the cities – I’d love to take a trip through Utah and Arizona. It’s near the top of wishlist without any doubt! I always imagine there would be plenty of interesting places to explore out in the desert. I’ve no idea if that’s true or not but I’d like to find out for myself.

    1. Ben Post author

      Thanks Mike! I think that’s one of the great things about travel, everybody has a unique perspective on the places they’ve been. I’m glad you enjoyed mine!

  3. Lucy Dodsworth

    I really wanted to visit one of the southwest USA ghost towns when I was out there earlier this year but never quite made it – will be back in Las Vegas next April so hopefully can do a trip from there.

        1. Ben Post author

          I’m sure there must be some tours, I know there are plenty for the Grand Canyon. I look forward to seeing what you get up to. Do you know which hotel you’re staying at yet? That’s half the fun of planning a trip to Vegas!

        2. Lucy Dodsworth

          I stayed in the Stratosphere, Paris, Tropicana and Treasure Island last year (thought I’d try a few!) so probably go back to Paris this year for part of the time and try somewhere new for the rest – so many to choose from!

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