Have You Stepped Into A Ghost Town? Here Are Calico’s Abandoned Silver Mines And Wild West Town!

Welcome To California’s Legendary Ghost Town!

If you’ve been following me you know that I love ghost towns! There are so many scattered around the American West, but there is one just 90 minutes from Los Angeles!

Time to go for a drive into our past!

The fastest way to Calico from Los Angeles is the 15 freeway, but that’s the crazy busy way to Las Vegas as well, so I went a quieter route: highway 14 out of LA then onto the 58 – a much more serene drive – even with those threatening low clouds!

You also drive past an airplane graveyard….dozens of planes grounded due to the pandemic, parked out in the desert where the weather is good…

It’s impossible to miss the entrance off the highway, as signs point you part of the way until this old miner greets you:

Calico has been around since 1881 – it was an active mining town because of silver in the hills…but was abandoned in the mid-1890s after silver lost its value. 

What reminds is a fun, abandoned mining town that you can wander through and see lots of signs of its past.

As you can see, the town has a lot of their abandoned equipment still there – giving it a cool retro vibe…and that includes these remains of an original stone building:

Speaking of history, here’s a bit of just that about Calico, California:

In 1881, John McBryde and Lowery Silver discovered silver ore in the dusty mountains near Wall Street Canyon. Calcium borate (borax) was found shortly after. More than 500 mines were soon in operation, producing the biggest silver load in California history. The mines had pithy names like the Bismark, the Burning Moscow, and the Waterloo. Soon, the new settlement of Calico in Wall Street Canyon sprang up, filled with young adventurers from places as disparate as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and China. 

And of course, the reason that Calico even exists – the silver mines!

The $$$ “Glory Hole!”

Yes, an inquisitive schooled in 1882 led to a town that was soon swarming with miners – all seeking their own “glory hole!”

Five thousand men swarmed up the canyons and gulches from their stone huts each morning to grab with picks and blast with powder for rich silver ore. 

Imagine waking up in this:

According to legend, the gaudy colors in the mineral-stained mountains above the town reminded someone of a piece of calico. So that’s what they named the place…

I walked to the top of the hill and here’s what I found:

By the 1890s, silver lost much of its value as more mines were discovered, and by the mid-1930s, only four residents were left in Calico…no real need for a jail any longer…

In the 1950s, the town had an unlikely savior – it was reinvented by Walter Knott, the man who created the wild west-themed amusement park in Southern Calfornia known as Knotts Berry Farm.

Knott restored all but the five original buildings to look as they did in the 1880’s. Calico received State Historical Landmark 782 and in 2005 was proclaimed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town.

And if you really want to see some cool ghost towns in the wild Wild West, how about Pioneertown?

My wife Alex and I explored here – then ate a great burger at a place with my name!

Click here for more history and exploration of abandoned ghost towns:

Welcome To Tombstone!

Yes, this is the REAL town of Tombstone – where the “Gunfight At The OK Corral” took place!

Click here to see the town up close and a reenactment of the actual OK Corral gunfight!

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Leave a comment and if you like this story, feel free to share on social media – and let me know if you’ve seen a real Wild West ghost town up close!

Categories: Art, Exotic Travel, Los Angeles, Memoirs, nature, Pop Culture, Real Estate, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir

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11 replies

  1. I love ghost towns.Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love ghost towns and this looks like a fun one to visit! We made it to Bodie up north but missed Calico. Hopefully we’ll make it on a future trip to California!


  3. just think of all that happened in any ghost town, so much history and mayhem. it would have been a really hard life to be a miner/prospector. the only one I’ve visited was tombstone, which was pretty cool

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love ghost towns! Thank goodness for people like Walter Knott. Preservation keeps history alive.


  5. I’m fascinated by ghost towns too. Great post, John!


  6. I love ghost towns and this one looks awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Looks a fascinating place to visit and glad that they have not tried to over-renovate!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always enjoy your ghost town trips, John. They are something we don’t have in the UK.
    Best wishes, Pete.


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