California/Nevada – Rhyolite Ghost Town


House made of beer bottles, Rhyolite Ghost Town, Nevada near Death Valley National Park

Rhyolite is a ghost town about 45 minutes outside of Death Valley National Park. It was nice change of scenery after being 282 feet below sea level and exploring golden canyons. I am not sure if it was the overcast day,  the location, or knowing it was a deserted town, but Rhyolite ghost town sent a shiver down my spine. I am glad to say we made it out alive.

Arriving to Rhyolite Ghost Town

Rhyolite ghost town is about 45 minutes to 1 hour from Furnace Creek, where we had lunch at our campground and a small siesta. You will make your way over daylight pass and picturesque views in many directions. As you head toward Beatty, you cross barren landscape. You will see a few signs before the turnoff to Rhyolite ghost town.

The town sprang up in 1905 as a mining settlement. It boomed around 1908, but went bust in 1911. By 1920, almost no one lived there. Estimates say that in its peak, there were about 3,500 people living in Rhyolite. During this time, Rhyolite had water pipes, telephones, electricity, newspapers, a hospital, a school, a bank, and a train station.  It’s crazy to think that in only about 6 years, they built the town’s entire infrastructure. Some of the building still “stand” today.

At a Glance:

  • Rating: 3 (out of 4) stars, would do it again if I were in the area.
  • Intensity: Flats and a cute sweater.
  • Location:  Northeast of Death Valley National Park
  • Restrooms: There are some restrooms at a bus turnaround area.

Highlights:

  • Creepy, middle-of nowhere, “Hills Have Eyes” Vibe
  • Interesting outdoor art to photograph.
  • Rundown buildings are in very much intact, interesting to see.

Lowlights:

  • Creepy, middle-of nowhere, “Hills Have Eyes” Vibe
  • Potential of insane wind!

Outdoor Art Sculptures

Part of the charm of Rhyolite ghost town is the delightful outdoor art sculptures at the Goldwell Open Air Museum. The Museum is open 24/7, so you can see the art  whenever you like. Some of the pieces are so large they are hard to miss. One of the sculptures play on the idea of a “ghost town” with sheet-like figures painting or getting on a bike. 12 sheet ghost figures stand on a platform and mimic the silhouettes as seen in Da Vinci’s Last Supper. I’ll let you read the layers of meaning in this one. The wind picked up, while we were visiting, but I still enjoyed the mosaic bench.

I am unclear about the nature of the Bottle House. Is it from 1905? Or an art piece? It is probably a little of both. The Bottle House is a small home with bottles built into the walls. It is a sight to see! There were even more bottles in the garden, but the wind became so intense that we jumped back into into Chrissy Boy, our rental camper van.

Rundown Buildings

Upon leaving the Goldwell Open Air Museum and driving deeper into Rhyolite, you will begin passing run down shacks and buildings. The buildings are in various states of disrepair, but you will see the signs for the school, bank, and train station/casino. The train station/casino is the most intact building and fenced off from the public. I can only image how rickety it is inside. Nearby, there is a train caboose that once served as a gas station.

Upon leaving, we saw a sign pointing to “Rhyolite Cemetery”. Although we followed it to a private residence, the cemetery was not immediately visible, so we decided to give up. It was not until we were almost back in Death Valley that I mentioned to Rebecca how much our visit was like The Hills Have Eyes. Very creepy. I am happy to report that we made it out safely, without any car issues!

Have you been to a ghost town? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Travels,

Hanna




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