Visited: May 2016

Bodie is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the West. Its more than 170 remaining buildings are kept in a state of “arrested decay” in the Bodie California State Historic Park.

After a mine cave-in in 1875 revealed vast quantities of gold ore, people from all over the world rushed to the high desert town. More than 10,000 tons of ore was extracted from the mine before it went bust; making Bodie one of the richest gold strikes in California.

After the closing of the mine, the town suffered from a series of misfortunes that drove the residents out until we were left with the ghost town of today. Bodie became a State park in 1962.

What We Saw:

“Arrested” Decay

The ghost town of Bodie itself has no permanent residences, except for the park employees. The remaining buildings only represent about 10% of the original town. The building have been left abandoned as they were left, with furniture and stocked shelves.


Park services keep the buildings un-restored with only structural repairs -no improvements. The exterior of the original structures are left alone to admire. It gives the town a real “ghost town” feel. The park is in a state of “arrested decay.” They know the buildings are in ruins, but they prevent them from getting worse, preserving the authentic feel of the original Bodie.

It’s a delicate balance – one that is challenging when you consider the heavy snow and remote location. Even current services are limited (see things to know below). But it’s what keeps Bodie feeling like a step back in time.

The Town

Today there are about 200 buildings still standing. There are: hotels, bowling alleys, a jail, the Miners Union Hall, hotels, churches, saloons, the Stamp Mill, outhouses, general stores, and several houses of high standing residents.

There are several ways that you can tour Bodie.

  • You can tour on your own, using the map to identify the buildings and their history.
  • You can join one of the free history talks.
  • You can arrange for a Private Tour.
  • Take a Virtual Tour

Using a map provided of the town, we walked down the streets peering inside the buildings. There are tours daily through the Standard Stamp Mill, teaching visitors how gold was extracted and turned into bars. Maybe your tour guide will be this fine cowboy again…

There is also a museum and visitor center.

The Cemetery

Make sure to pay your respects at the Bodie cemetery. Especially to Rosa May.

Rosa May was the town’s most famous prostitute. She moved to Bodie, but her reputation and old habits followed her. She opened up her own brothel in the red district of the town. Even though she spent her final days caring for sick miners during a pneumonia outbreak; her simple wooden headstone is placed outside the cemetery grounds as to not be buried with the “proper” community.

“Rosa May”
Born Jan. 1855
Died in Bodie, in the winter of 1911-1912.
Sacrificed herself for Bodie miners.

The town must have had some love for poor Rosa, her red light is carefully kept in the museum.

Curses and Ghosts

As with all natural or historical parks, they don’t want you to steal or leave with anything. Bodie is exceptionally hard, because park services ask all visitors to no move or touch any nails, tin cans or “trash” as it is part of the town. Every piece you see is there as it was left. They don’t play around with the authenticity of small details.

Stories have it that if you go to Bodie and remove ANYTHING from the town, even as small as a rusty nail from the streets you will be cursed with bad luck and unexplained accidents! Take nothing but photos in Bodie, just to be safe.


Because I love old doors.

Park Cost: Adults: $8/ Children: $5 per child (ages 3 to 17)/  Children ages 3 and under are free

Stamp Mill tour Cost: $6 a person.

Things to Know:

  • The last 3 miles to Bodie is a dirt road. It can be rough but all cars can travel safely.
  • Only cash or checks are accepted at the Park Entrance Station.
  • Stamp Mill tour tickets are sold in the Museum.
  • To preserve the ghost town atmosphere, there are no commercial facilities such as food or gas so be prepared. I highly suggest you bring a picnic and eat on the hill overlooking the town.

Total Time Spent: 4 hours

View all the places we visited on our Sierra Road trip

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