An abandoned hotel in Bodie
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11 Best Things To See In Bodie Ghost Town

The Wild West boom of America’s expansion known as the Gold Rush was the primary draw to settle out west. What is now the Bodie State Historic Park was one such Gold Rush mining town that drew people in the hopes of striking it rich. Bodie Ghost Town went from being a vibrant and rowdy mining town to an abandoned town that is in arrested decay.

Bodie was one of the best gold mining locations in California in its peak years of 1877 – 1882. At the height of the boom, the town flourished at a population between 8,000 and 10,000.

Living in Bodie wasn’t for the faint of heart as it really pushed the “wild” in Wild West to the limits.

The Methodist Church is one of the best-preserved buildings in Bodie Ghost Town
The Methodist Church is one of the best-preserved buildings in Bodie Ghost Town

With the majority of young men living in Bodie, prostitutes, opium dens, and saloons were plentiful. In fact, the town of Bodie had more saloons (bars) than any other city in the country!

As you wander through the Bodie State Historic Park, what you see is only about 5% of what used to stand in its heyday. This quote seems to sum up what life in Bodie was like very clearly!

“Bodie – a town so lawless that in 1881 it was described as … a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion”. – Reverend F. M. Washington

Where Is Bodie Ghost Town?

The town of Bodie is located in Northern California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada region. Or rather I should say the remnants of a town, as Bodie is an abandoned town with no inhabitants. Unless you count the ghosts of Bodie!

The ghost town of Bodie is by far the best California ghost town and one of the top in the entire United States.

Bodie is about 2 hours north of Mammoth Lakes off Highway 395 or about 4 hours from the valley of Yosemite National Park. And it is also 1.75 hours north of Mono Lake. You will pass Mono Lake if you are coming from Mammoth Lakes.

Bodie had more bars than any other city of its time!
Bodie had more bars than any other city of its time!

Once you get to the town of Bridgeport, turn east onto Aurora Canyon Rd. Bodie State Historic Park is 13 miles off of Highway 395 at the end of Bodie Masonic Rd.

The road turns into Bodie Masonic Rd (from Aurora Canyon Rd) the last stretch and they are slow going.

The last 3 miles to Bodie Ghost Town is dirt and gravel so it will take a few minutes longer than anticipated. As with the surrounding area, you are at a high altitude of 8,379 feet (2,554 meters).

Bodie Ghost Town History

When you first arrive in Bodie, you think wow this town is in the middle of nowhere. And then to think that W.S. Bodey somehow stumbled upon this location in 1859 and discovered gold is amazing.

I don’t know if he had some strong tips or it was complete luck that this spot was rich in gold. Sadly, he died shortly after discovering the gold in the harsh winter conditions.

But word had traveled and soon a town was formed. They did name the town after him but for some reason, they changed the spelling from Bodey to Bodie.

I think this old car needs a bit of a tune up...
I think this old car needs a bit of a tune-up…

Although the gold rush boom peaked from 1877 to 1882, the mining still continued into the 1900s and finally closed in 1942. At that point, there wasn’t much action or people left. Even though the primary goal was to mine for gold, silver was also plentiful in Bodie.

It is estimated that about $15 million was mined in Bodie over a 25-year period. That is an insane amount for those times!

Anyone home in this old abandoned house?
Anyone home?

What I find intriguing and eerie is once the gold had been mined completely, the people of Bodie literally left and moved on.

They left their belongings and items as if they were just going on a trip and would be back. The stores, saloons, and school look untouched as if the townspeople will be back shortly.

Granted everything is old and dusty but they are still there in an arrested state of decay. So, are there ghosts in Bodie?

That is for you to see for yourself but there have been many sightings and not surprisingly as there were countless murders and lawlessness in the town of Bodie…

Where To Stay Near Bodie

There are no hotels, camping or places to stay in or close to Bodie as the hotel in Bodie has been shut down for quite some time… The best places to stay as a base for exploring the Sierra Nevada are in Mammoth Lakes, June Loop or Yosemite.

I personally would choose Mammoth Lakes or June Loop as they are a shorter drive to Bodie than from the valley of Yosemite. Here are a few places to stay in Mammoth Lakes and June Lake.

The Village Lodge – this is an excellent choice especially if you are staying in the winter as you can catch lifts right next to it at the Mountain Center.

The Westin Monache Resort – next to both the Village Lodge and Mountain Center in the Village.

Juniper Springs Resort – located in Mammoth Lakes and a short distance to lifts, lakes and hiking.

Camping Options

If camping is more your thing, the spring through fall months are great for that. There are many camping options in the area but a few of my favorites that all have great campsites, fishing and hiking are:

Lake Mary – sits above the town of Mammoth Lakes next to Lake George and Lake Maimie and is one of many lakes in the Lake Basin.

Convict Lake – of all these camping options, Convict Lake might be the prettiest although they are all breathtaking!

June Lake – part of June Loop and next to June Village

Silver Lake – the third lake along the June Loop

How Much Does It Cost To Visit?

When you arrive at Bodie Ghost Town, you will pay $8.00 per adult and $5.00 for children. They only take cash and I highly recommend having exact change.

It costs $8 per adult to visit Bodie State Historic Park
It costs $8 per adult to visit Bodie (cash only)

When I went, I put my money in an envelope at the gate as there wasn’t an attendant. I had to scrounge my wallet and car to have the exact change! The historic ghost town is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Tips On Visiting The Ghost Town Of Bodie

  • Carry a physical map of the area with you as you will likely not have cell service.
  • Have cash with you to pay the entrance fee
  • Bring your own lunch or snacks as there isn’t anywhere to get food for a good distance from here.
  • Have plenty of water with you in a reusable bottle.
  • Bring a jacket as it can get cold and windy!
  • Wear closed-toe shoes as the paths are all dirt or grass, so no heels please…
  • Have a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen as there isn’t any shade unless you are in one of the few buildings you can enter.
  • Yes, there are restrooms by the parking area.
  • There is a picnic area if you want to bring your lunch and make a day of it. Keep food and drinks cool in this travel cooler!
  • Expect to give yourself between 2 – 3 hours to see the entire park.
  • Dogs are ok but do need to be on a leash at all times.

Are There Tours Available?

Yes, the Bodie State Historic Park offers tours but not on a regular basis, so check ahead of time to make sure one is being offered when you visit.

You don’t need to take a tour but if you want more information about the history then, by all means, take one!

Even in a state of decay, these red bricks are beautiful
Even in a state of decay, these red bricks are beautiful

Keep in mind that the tours offered are on select days in the summer months and ones that are only in the evening hours are the Star Stories, Ghost Walk, Cemetery Tour, and Ghost Mill Tour.

During the day, there are History Talks and the Stamp Mill Tour available depending on the day and staffing.

Visit the official website to find out when one of these tours are available.

What To See In Bodie Ghost Town?

As I already mentioned, the ghost town of Bodie was a real town that has pretty much the same things as any other town of its time. But maybe more bars or saloons than average…

You can spend all day walking around if you really want to or see the highlight structures and areas in 2 -3 hours.

The old Dolan House is the first building on your path
The old Dolan House is the first building on your path

Here are some of the top buildings to see with the majority of the sights on Green Street and Main Street. You will enter from the parking lot and start out on Green Street.

1. Methodist Church

The Methodist Church is a Catholic church that was built in 1882 and the only church that still exists in Bodie State Historic Park.

It is the first big attraction that you will see as you walk into this old and dusty mining town. Due to its relatively good condition, it is photographed a lot.

The Methodist Church is the last church standing
The Methodist Church is the last church standing

2. J. S. Cain House

This home was owned by J.S. Cain who came to Bodie at the young age of 29 in 1879 and who was ambitious in his entrepreneurship.

He started out in the lumber business then banker for the town of Bodie and eventually owning a good percentage of the properties in Bodie.

The home of J.S. Cain
The home of J.S. Cain
The many windows allowed for watching the action on Green Street!
The many windows allowed for watching the action on Green Street I imagine!

Cain ended up being the richest man in town and building himself an empire.

3. Miners’ Union Hall (Museum)

In 1878, the Miners’ Union Hall called this building home and served as a place for union members to congregate. It was also the place where parties and holiday celebrations took place over the years.

The old Miners' Union Hall is now the museum for Bodie
The old Miners’ Union Hall is now the museum for Bodie

Today, the old Miners’ Union Hall is a museum with several items and artifacts left behind by the residents of Bodie. They also sell books and tickets for available tours you can take.

4. DeChambeau Hotel

The two buildings you see in the photo is the DeChambeau Hotel and I.O.O.F. (Independent Order of Odd Fellows). The I.O.O.F. was a gathering place to meet and later became a makeshift fitness center.

The DeChambeau Hotel and IOOF building side by side
The DeChambeau Hotel and IOOF building side by side

The I.O.O.F. building is the wooden structure on the right and the DeChambeau Hotel is the red brick structure. Later, the hotel became the Bodie Café and was one of the last businesses to operate in Bodie.

5. Swasey Hotel

This might be my favorite building in Bodie as it has so much character and really gives the feel that you are in an old ghost town. Owned by Horace Swasey, the 1894 two-story hotel also had a casino in it at one time.

I think the Swasey Hotel is the coolest building in Bodie
I think the Swasey Hotel is the coolest building in Bodie

What used to be the Swasey Hotel stands or sways but is kept somewhat upright with the assistance of a piece of lumber. If houses could be a ghost, I feel like this old decayed hotel is winking at me. One eye closed and one open, the windows that is…

6. Boone Store & Warehouse

The Boone Store & Warehouse was a general store built in 1879 and owned by Harvey Boone. You could purchase most things you would need like household items, food, and gas. When you look through the window, you can still see several of the items still on the shelves!

The old gas station and car left in place all these years
Filler up!

It is as if the store owner closed the shop and will be back at any moment. Well maybe not exactly but it is incredible to see the store locked in time to that era. And you might notice some big brand items that we still use today.

The old Boone store still has items and supplies stocked!
The old Boone store still has items and supplies stocked!

7. Lottie and Eli Johl House

The Johl couple moved to Bodie in 1883 and soon became successful business owners. They involved and invested themselves in mining, owning other properties, and many saloons in town.

Later on, in 1932, the Post Office was moved into what was their home and the picture you see here.

The Johl House later became the Post Office
The Johl House later became the Post Office

8. Firehouse

Unfortunately, since almost all structures in Bodie were made of wood, fires were common and required a need for multiple firehouses. At the time of Bodie’s heyday, there were four firehouses.

The firehouse is distinct with its bell on top
The firehouse is distinct from its bell on top

The one you see in the picture is the only one standing today and re-built in the early 1930s. The biggest fires were in the summers of 1892 and 1932. If one structure went up in flames, it wasn’t long before surrounding buildings burned too.

You can see the Standard Mill up behind the firehouse
You can see the Standard Mill up behind the firehouse

9. Bodie Store

Originally known as the Wheaton & Luhrs Store, but after Luhrs passed away, it became known as the Bodie Store. The store was built in the early 1880s and you can still see today the stores sign on the inside.

The Bodie Store
The Bodie Store

In the late 1800s, the building became a U.S. Land Office and then later in the early 1900s it became a hotel and boarding house.

The Bodie Store was also a hotel at one point
The Bodie Store was also a hotel at one point

10. Schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse is one of the buildings in Bodie that is in a little better condition than most in town. The building started out as a boarding house prior to becoming a school. At one point a little boy was sent home after getting into trouble by his teacher.

Apparently, the little boy didn’t go home and instead decided to show his teacher what he thought of the punishment.

Instead, he started a brush fire outside that completely burned the school down to the ground. I can only imagine what kind of punishment he got after that!

11. Standard Mill

As you walk through the old abandoned town of Bodie, you will notice a mill up on the hill known as the Standard Mill.

You can easily spot it for its light blue colored buildings. Because the area of the mill is not safe to explore, that area is closed off to visitors.

The Standard Mill up on the hill
The Standard Mill up on the hill

The only way to see the mill area is on the Stamp Mill Tour where you are guided through the mill section. They used iron rods also known as “stamps” to break up the earth to reach the gold and silver.

You can only visit the mill on the Stamp Mill Tour
You can only visit the mill on the Stamp Mill Tour

A fun fact is that Theodore Hoover (brother of the U.S. President Herbert Hoover) lived next to the mill in Bodie. He was the head of operations for the mill until 1906.

Tip: If you really want to go on this tour, head over to the Museum and book your spot right when you arrive.

When Is The Best Time To Visit To Bodie Ghost Town?

You can visit Bodie State Historic Park any time of the year but unless you are a die-hard photographer and want to capture it covered in snow, I’d advise avoiding the winter.

Since the park is at a high elevation, it can be cold and windy during every season but even more so obviously in the winter!

The best time to visit is in the summer and fall months
The best time to visit is in the summer and fall months

Plus, unless you have a snowmobile, you will likely get stuck out there for good… For the best weather and for other things to see nearby, I would visit in the late spring through the fall months. So, the end of May through mid-November is ideal.

Because of crowds and potential strong heat in the summer, I would plan to get there when the park opens or a few hours before closing.

Is Bodie State Historic Park Worth Visiting?

Yes! Who doesn’t like wandering in a cool and spooky ghost town? Plus, it has a ton of fascinating history that puts a perspective of what this area of California was like in the rowdy late 1800s.

I have been here a few times, the first when I was a child and thought it was so awesome. Fast forward to today and I still think it is!

No matter your age, Bodie Ghost Town is an awesome place to visit!
No matter your age, Bodie Ghost Town is an awesome place to visit!

What Else Is There To Do Nearby?

When you are at the ghost town of Bodie and are looking around you might be thinking is there anything else out here? And yes, there is but within a few hour’s drive. There is Mammoth Lakes, Yosemite, June Loop, and Mono Lake to name a few.

Take a peek at my posts 17 Best Things To Do In Mammoth Lakes and The Best Ways To See Yosemite In The Fall.

Oh and if you like finding natural hot springs don’t miss out on reading 7 Amazing Hot Springs Near Mammoth Lakes!

Bonus Tip: Within a 30-minute drive is one of these super gorgeous hot springs!

There is so much to see nearby such as Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite
There is so much to see nearby such as Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite

 

Have a fun time exploring the spooky and cool ghost town of Bodie!

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Always wanted to visit a real ghost town? In California’s Sierra Nevada mountains is Bodie Ghost Town that was an old gold mining town with quite the rowdy past. Explore the best things to do when visiting the Bodie State Historic Park and its fascinating history!
Always wanted to visit a real ghost town? In California’s Sierra Nevada mountains is Bodie Ghost Town that was an old gold mining town with quite the rowdy past. Explore the best things to do when visiting the Bodie State Historic Park and its fascinating history!

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62 Comments

  1. It’s on my bucket list to visit a ghost town and this one might be the one. I need to spend a lot of time in California – can you believe I’ve never been?!! (other than layovers but that doesn’t count).

    1. There is so much to see in California! Yes, you do need to visit and adding Bodie to the list is a must. If you ever make it to San Diego, let me know! I need to get over to Spain once we are allowed to. Lol. 🙂

  2. What an interesting town. The wooden buildings are beautiful and amazing considering how old they are. We have a gold mining town here too with a similar history. I’d definitely visit if in the area.

    1. Thanks Wendy! I’m glad you agree, I think they are beautiful too but thought that might seem odd to some people. It is a classic, timeless beauty with a bit of spooky. Now I have another thing I need to see when I make it to Australia one day! 🙂

  3. Wow, just imagine what some of those lawless residents of Bodie would have thought about their town becoming a ghost town museum all these years later. Such an interesting place.

    1. I agree it is pretty amazing to think about what life would have been back then. I’m glad you enjoyed reading about Bodie! 🙂

  4. I’ve never even heard of this place, and live in California! Love your description above of “a bit of spooky.” Ghost towns sound like a great social distancing idea in this moment!

    1. Haha yes, with everything in decay and the stories I heard it is definitely a bit spooky! It is a great road trip with tons of excellent hiking and camping in Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite nearby. 🙂

  5. I have never heard of Bodie but it looks extremely interesting. I have actually never been to a ghost town, however, Bodie seems like a good place to go. Love your photos as well 🙂

    1. Visiting a ghost town is definitely a bucket list thing to do! Plus with all of its cool history, I hope you get to visit Bodie one day. 🙂

  6. Bodie has always been on my bucket list…somehow I just haven’t made it there yet! But your post makes me feel as though I have! Thank you for giving me a virtual tour of Bodie through your fabulous photos and descriptions. I like the look of all the buildings, with the old-style construction and brown coloring–the Lottie and Eli Johl House is one of my favorites.

    It may very well be a while until I get there in person (I promise, I will, eventually!); Until then, your post is the next-best-thing to being there. Thanks again.

    1. There is so much to see in California but Bodie is great to add on to a road trip with either Mammoth Lakes or Yosemite. I’m the same, there are several places fairly close by that I overlook and wonder why it took me so long to see. Too many awesome places in the world! I think you will enjoy Bodie when you make it there one day! 🙂

    1. It does look like a Western movie set, I hadn’t thought of that before but so true. Glad you enjoyed learning about Bodie and its history! 🙂

  7. Bodie seems to be so interesting! I would love to visit one day and walk around. I need to add it on my list when planning my California trip.

    1. Bodie is a great road trip stop when in Northern California. I hope you have a great time when you do go! 🙂

  8. So cool!! I’d love to visit a ghost town. It’s super cheap too! I think this sounds like a really fun day trip.

    1. Ghost towns have so much great history and stories that make for a fun day for sure! 🙂

    1. Haha, yes there are still ghost towns! There a few others that are popular in the West part of the U.S. too but they are a unique place to find. 🙂

  9. Towns like this alwaya fascinate me! I’d never heard of Bodie but would love to visit, abandoned places with so much history are so interesting. Thank you for sharing

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed learning about Bodie! I find towns like this so cool too as they have such intriguing histories and fun to photograph. 🙂

  10. Love the Western atmosphere. It totally feels like you’re in a set of a movie. I will have to check it out when I’m in the area!

    1. It does look like the set of an old western movie. 🙂 There were enough gunfights, murders and rowdiness back then that would make for a good movie I bet! 🙂

    1. You’re welcome Katy, I’m so happy that you liked reading about Bodie! Yes, the Swasey house is pretty cool! 🙂

    1. Thank you! Hopefully, you can visit Bodie too one day. I might have to check out the one in Tuolumne now, thanks for the heads up! 🙂

  11. Love your pics! I lived in So Cal for 18 years but never made it to Bodie. I love the character in these buildings. I can see how photographers would have a blast too. I didn’t realize that it was cold enough to snow there. I think I’d like to see shots of it covered in snow. Thanks for all your great tips!

    1. It would be very neat to see the town covered in snow but it gets brutally cold there. Lol. Now you have a great reason to come back to California for a visit and see Bodie! 🙂

  12. The place does look deserted and spooky, and certainly looks like a film set! But at the times like this, where social distancing is playing a key role, places like this are the best bet to go.

    1. Yes, since almost everything is outside, it is a great way to explore with no issues of being close. 🙂

  13. I recently heard about Bodie. A little too far for a day trip from the Bay Area, but I’d love to get out there! My kids would love it 🙂

    1. Bodie is something your kids would love! I went as a kid and thought it was the coolest thing ever. It is a fun place to explore for everyone and I hope you get to see it one day! 🙂

  14. This town sounds fascinating. I have been to some ghost towns but nothing as complete and unaltered as Bodie. It amazes me just how quickly these towns spring up and then shut down without a trace of the former inhabitants.

    1. I agree, it is so strange that once there was no more gold they literally picked up and left. I guess when there isn’t any more work they had to move on. I’m glad you enjoyed reading, thank you!

  15. This looks soooo cool! I love the fact it’s just an abandoned town in the desert. And how fascinating so much was left behind.. So eerie. I’d love to go to Bodie I find the whole gold mining era so fascinating!

    1. These old ghost towns have so much incredible history and when you combine it with gold, lots of bars and ghosts it can’t help but be interesting! 🙂

  16. I’m all about history, off-the-beaten-path gems and cemeteries So would love to visit. I could wander around this ghost town for hours. Pinning for later!

    1. Thanks Karen, I’m glad you enjoy old historic towns too! It is fun to wonder what life was like back then. 🙂

  17. What a cool place! This is literally what I picture in my mind a ghost town in the Wild West lol! Also, lol at the story about the burnt schoolhouse. Definitely quite fitting for the vibe of the town haha!

    1. Haha, I loved that story too. Fires were so easy to start with everything mostly wood! 🙂

  18. Wow! I’ve never been to a ghost town but this has me wanting to go so bad! It sounds so interesting, I’d love to go and learn even more! Looks like there are so many amazing places to take incredible pictures too!

    1. Yes, it is an awesome place for photographers. I’ve seen incredible shots at sunset, at night with the stars and even covered in snow. It is a fascinating place to explore for sure. 🙂

  19. Bodie looks super creepy but I love it! I bet it feels like you’ve stepped back in time haha. Definitely adding this to the bucket list!

    1. It definitely has that mysterious and creepy vibe yet at the same time I find it so beautiful! It is a fun and unique place to visit and I hope you get the chance to one day. 🙂

  20. This ghost town is really neat. I love how most of the buildings are made from wood and they really go look abandoned. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Devin! Yes, the abandoned look is what seems to be so appealing about it and makes for a fun day to explore. 🙂

  21. This is so cool! I’d love to do the nighttime ghost tour in Bodie. Thanks for sharing the great tips on bringing your own food and cash!

    1. I’m glad you found those tips helpful. That would be neat to go back for the night tours and something I’d like to do when visiting in the summertime! 🙂

  22. I love the history you have unveiled in this very eerie place. Your photography really captures not only the beauty of the place but also the, uh hum, spirit of the place.

    1. Thank you Karen! You summed it up perfectly, Bodie is an eerie yet beautiful place with its vibrant history. 🙂

  23. Very cool trip. I’ve been looking at ghost towns recently when I travel as it’s incredible finding out how many there actually are. This one looks like it has some well preserved buildings.

    1. That is a great idea of finding ghost towns in an area that you visit! I would like to visit others but from what I have heard, Bodie is in excellent conditon compared to many others.

  24. Fab post!! I was really hoping to get to Bodie while we were in Yosemite, although I didn’t realise just how far away from Yosemite it is! We wouldn’t have had time anyway sadly, but it’s one regret I had from that trip. We did go to a different one instead, Calico, and I was really disappointed. It was actually pretty cool in a lot of ways but they had it all set up for Halloween and it felt so fake which was a shame, and it felt really commercialised which I’m hoping Bodie doesn’t? It looks so much cooler, anyway!

    1. Ah thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about Bodie! I’ve been to Calico but I was a kid and barely remember it. I plan to go back but from what I do remember Bodie Ghost Town is way more authentic and not super touristy. Not commercialized at all. The town looks like it did about 100 years ago untouched which makes it so cool. You will definitely have to visit the next time you are in the area as it is one of the coolest ghost towns in the U.S.!

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