Bodie Ghost Town: Everything to Know About Visiting California’s Most Famous Ghost Town

bodie state park

TL;DR: We loved visiting Bodie Ghost Town to learn about gold rush history in an eerie, old, “cursed” town. This abandoned mining town of over 200 preserved buildings in Mono County is situated along an unpaved road that sometimes closes in winter. You’ll pay a small entrance fee and then be able to explore the photogenic western town and listen to free history talks.

Bodie State Historic Park is one of California’s best preserved ghost towns. 

Situated on the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, this Old West town encapsulates California gold rush history in a state of “arrested decay.” 

Below, I’ve created a complete guide to everything you need to know about visiting California’s most famous ghost town

From Bodie State Park facts to road conditions, tour options, and the *curse of Bodie* (insert scary music), you’ll be prepped for the best Bodie experience possible after reading this article.

bodie state park

Bodie State Park Practical Info

bodie state park practical info
  • Address: Bodie State Historic Park, CA-270, Bridgeport, CA 93517
  • Year established: 1859
  • Entrance fee: $8/adults and $5/kids (kids three and under are free). You can pay with a credit card at the kiosk, but if no one is there, you can place cash in the self-pay envelope in the parking lot.
  • Hours: 9am-6pm (May 15-Oct 31), 9am-4pm (Nov 1-May 14)
  • Amenities: Picnic area, flush toilets, museum (with bookstore). There are no commercial facilities (i.e., food and gas) at Bodie to preserve the ghost town atmosphere. 
  • Park website

Where is Bodie State Park in California?

where is bodie state park in california

Bodie State Historic Park is located east of Highway 395 on the east side of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. It lies between Bridgeport and Lee Vining in Mono County.

For a broader context, Mono County is north of Death Valley, northeast of Yosemite National Park, and south of Lake Tahoe.

How to Get to Bodie State Historic Park

how to get to bodie state historic park

Bodie ghost town is 13 miles down state route CA-270, off Highway 395. All but the last three miles are paved roads. 

Note that these last three miles can be difficult at times, especially after rain or snow. It can even become unpassable in winter and may close down.

That said, it’s perfectly fine for any type of car during most of the summer. 

From San Francisco: Take I-580 E to CA-120 E to CA 108E. Go south on US-395 before taking CA-270 E to Bodie.

From Sacramento: Take CA-99 S to US-50E and then to CA-89 S before getting onto US-395 and then CA-270 E to Bodie. 

From Yosemite National Park: Take US-120 E to Lee Vining and turn north on US-395 before turning east onto CA-270 E to Bodie. 

From Death Valley: Take CA-190 W to CA-136 N towards Lone Pine. Take US-395 N past Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining and turn east onto CA-270 E to Bodie. 

Things to See and Do in Bodie State Historic Park

Methodist Church

methodist church

In my opinion, the Methodist church in Bodie ghost town is one of the better-preserved buildings.

Built in 1882, the Methodist church survived several fires that consumed the Catholic church. 

While you’re there, ask a ranger about the two clergymen who lived in Bodie ghost town: Reverend Hinkle and Father Cassin. 

J.S. Cain House

j.s. cain house

James S. Cain was a prominent businessman in Bodie. His abandoned house sits at the corner of Park and Green Streets and is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a Chinese maid. 

Park rangers still live in the house (that would be a big no thanks from me), and they report that while the ghost doesn’t like adults, she loves children. 

Swazey Hotel

swazey hotel

The Swazey Hotel is so picturesque because it’s slanted. Miners constructed these buildings in a hurry, after all.

There are some wooden supports on one side to keep it propped up. Over the years, this building has housed a clothing store, casino, and the Swazey.

General Store

general store

One of my favorite buildings to look inside is the general store because the goods still line the shelves! 

You can see wooden buckets of sweets, canned goods, and the old cash register ready for business. 

Dechambeau Hotel and I.O.O.F.

dechambeau hotel and i.o.o.f

On your walk through this California ghost town, you’re bound to notice the pink brick building next to a wooden structure standing by itself. 

The brick building was the Dechambeau Hotel, which featured the Bodie Cafe–one of the last businesses in operation before the town closed. Note: some sources list the pink brick building as the old post office as well. 

To the right of the brick building is the I.O.O.F. Building, which stands for Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

If you squint, you can still see those letters etched above the windows. This building served as a gym and meeting hall. 

Firefighting Station

firefighting station

You can still see the old, horse-drawn firefighting wagons displayed in Bodie.

The town used to host an annual “Firefighter’s Ball” at the Union hall to raise money for uniforms and equipment for the firefighters.

Bodie Morgue

bodie morgue

You haven’t really visited Bodie until you’ve checked out the morgue.

The Bodie morgue was built in 1910 and purportedly was originally a photography studio, hence the bright interior paint and fancy wallpaper. 

Today, you’ll see dilapidated coffins strewn throughout the building. 

Henry Ward was the undertaker and the cabinet maker in town. A park ranger at Bodie made this video inside the morgue–it starts to get good around 2:50.

Standard Mine and Mill

standard mine and mill

No trip to a gold mining town in California is complete without a stop at the gold mine and mill that made the town, right?

Today, you can take a tour of the mill  (only available between May and October.)

Take a Tour

take a tour

The Bodie Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to preserving Bodie, offers many fun tours.

Free History Talks

These are held most days at 10 am and 4 pm. Double-check at the entrance kiosk when you arrive.

Stamp Mill Tour

$6/person, most days at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. 

Private Town Tours

These are pricey. It’s a minimum of $200 for groups from 1-4, and $50 for each additional person. The tour is two hours long. 

Twilight Tours

From 5-7 pm May through September, you can get an after-hours tour of this far west town. 

Ghost Walks

You can take a nighttime Bodie Ghost Walk tour for three nights only. The tickets go quickly, and the pre-sale begins in March (I’m totes going to be looking out for these next year!). 

There’s an astronomy program, too, once the ghost walking is over.  

Practice Photography

practice photography

Ghost towns provide a natural backdrop for photography. Check out Bodie Foundation’s workshops if you’re gung-ho about Bodie photography.

Photography Workshops

These workshops allow you to access the interior of some buildings (with an escort, of course). The proceeds from these workshops directly help Bodie preservation projects.

Where to Stay Near Bodie Ghost Town

where to stay near bodie ghost town

There isn’t a campground in Bodie State Park ghost town, but there are many camping options or hotels near Bodie. 

Mammoth Lakes Condo (1 hr 15 mins): Mammoth Lakes is a charming little mountain town south of Bodie ghost town on Highway 395. Mammoth Lakes is close to June Lake, another popular tourist destination. 

Virginia Creek Settlement (33 mins): Virginia Creek Settlement in Bridgeport, CA offers rustic accommodations and an Italian restaurant on-site, all within 30 minutes of the ghost town of Bodie.

Lundy Canyon Campground (42 mins): Lundy Canyon Campground, north of Lee Vining, CA, off Highway 395, offers the best camping near Bodie State Park.

History of Bodie State Park

history of bodie state park

The land currently known as Bodie State Historic Park was the traditional homeland of the Western Mono, Washoe, and Northern Paiute tribes. 

Today, people visit to walk the deserted streets of this abandoned California mining town known as Bodie. 

Waterman S. Body discovered gold in the hills north of Lee Vining in 1859. Although he died before he could earn a fortune from it, the location of the gold didn’t remain a secret. 

In the 1870s, the nearby Bunker Hill Mine hit pay dirt and was profitable for the next 25 years. 

By 1879, the small town had boomed to a population of 10,000. Like many Wild West towns in the gold rush era, Bodie developed a reputation for lawlessness.

At its peak, Bodie had over 60 saloons, gambling halls, opium dens, three breweries, and a red light district–like an Old West version of Las Vegas.

Streetfights and murders were, apparently, an almost daily occurrence here. Despite the danger, several tamer businesses also existed, including a post office, two churches, and a school.

The gold and silver couldn’t last forever, however. By 1882, the town’s population had declined significantly. 

By 1886, only 1,500 residents remained and a massive fire in 1892 pretty well ended Bodie’s productive history. 

By 1942, the last residents left this Old West town for good. 

In 1962, Bodie ghost town was designated a state historic park and a National Historic Landmark.

Park managers have chosen to leave this national historic site in a “state of arrested decay,” which means they’re allowing Bodie to remain as is without any major renovations.

Bodie State Park Weather & Best Time to Visit

bodie state park weather best time to visit

The best time to visit Bodie State Park is in the late spring, summer, and early fall.

Bodie State Park’s elevation is relatively high (8,375 ft), so the winter can be snowy with an impassible dirt road.

Tips for Visiting Bodie State Historic Park

tips for visiting bodie state historic park

Check Road Conditions in Winter

If you’re visiting in winter, check the Bodie State Historic Park website and the Caltrans Road Information website (for SR 270), or call the Mono County Information Office at 800-845-7922.

State Route 270 closes in winter when there’s enough snow accumulation.

Don’t Take ANYTHING

Theft has been a problem at Bodie for decades. Bodie ghost town is a historic site, so please don’t collect any informal souvenirs while walking the grounds. 

Not only does this diminish the park’s historical value, but you will be cursed. 

Seriously, the curse of Bodie says that if you take anything, you’ll bring misfortune upon yourself. 

Don’t take my word for it. Read through the hundreds of remorseful letters and packages sent back to Bodie over the years. 

“You can have these godforsaken rocks back. I’ve never had so much rotten luck in my life. Please forgive me for ever testing the curse of Bodie.”

–2004 Letter to Bodie

Sadly, even if you mail your stolen item back, park staff can’t just “put it back.” 

They have no idea where you took it from, so that item will sit in a closet from then on, and no one will be able to enjoy seeing it in context.

Check the Entrance Hours

Unlike many California state parks, which are usually open 24/7, you can’t visit Bodie ghost town at night. 

The reason is for both the park and public protection. The summer hours (May 14-October 31) are 9 am-6 pm, and the winter hours (Nov 1-May 14) are 9 am-4 pm.

Fun Facts About Bodie State Park

fun facts about bodie state park
  • The town of Bodie mined more than 38 million dollars in gold and silver.
  • There are almost 200 abandoned buildings in Bodie ghost town. 
  • Many Chinese immigrants worked in Bodie at its peak.
  • Several buildings on Main Street were moved there from other parts after the July 1892 fire.
  • A two-year-old boy playing with matches started the 1932 fire. This fire destroyed 95% of the buildings in Bodie.
  • Bodie’s building interiors remain intact, with shelves still stacked with goods and furniture.

FAQs About Bodie State Historic Park

faqs about bodie state historic park

Why is Bodie State Park so cold?

Bodie State Park is so cold because of its high elevation. In Northern California, at an elevation of more than 8,300 feet, it can get very chilly. So, bring a jacket when you visit.

Is Bodie worth visiting?

Absolutely! The small town of Bodie, California is the best-preserved ghost town of the California Gold Rush

With nearly 200 abandoned buildings still standing in a state of arrested decay, you’ll get a vivid sense of what the gold rush in California was like.

Is the road to Bodie paved or do you need a 4WD?

Bodie ghost town is 13 miles down State Route 270, east of US-395. All but the last three miles are paved roads, and you usually don’t need 4WD. 

With that said during the winter season and the days after rainstorms can be difficult to drive the road to Bodie. Always stay on designated roads.

What is the curse of Bodie?

This gold mining ghost town is one of the only California state parks that comes with a curse.

As it goes, anyone who takes anything–even a rock–from the far west town of Bodie will experience bad luck, illness, and mysterious accidents. 

About once a week, Bodie State Park receives a remorseful letter from a “cursed” person who foolishly takes something from the site.

Who founded Bodie?

Bodie, CA was founded by Waterman S. Body in 1859 after discovering gold in the hills north of Mono Lake. The town, Bodie, is a slight misspelling of Mr. Body’s actual name.

Why did Bodie, California become abandoned?

why did bodie california become abandoned

Bodie, California became abandoned due to a combination of factors. The primary reason is that the gold and silver in the Bodie Hills dried up. 

Second, two massive fires damaged significant parts of the town in 1892 and 1932.

When did Bodie, California become a ghost town?

Bodie, California became a ghost town in 1942 when the last residents left the Old West town for good.

Is Bodie, California haunted?

The Wild West ghost town of Bodie is definitely haunted. I mean, if you believe in that kind of thing. 

In its heyday, street fights and murders were almost daily, so it’s not lacking angry spirit material. There have been numerous ghost sightings in many of Bodie’s buildings.

Is Bodie Ghost Town open?

Bodie ghost town is open all year. However, in the winter months, the road to Bodie may close.

In winter, you can access Bodie State Historic Park via snowshoe or snowmobile.

How much time do you recommend visiting Bodie Ghost Town?

There’s a lot to see in this small town! Plan to spend at least half a day exploring Bodie.

What’s there to do near Bodie, California?

The Old West town of Bodie is just east of Yosemite National Park, south of Lake Tahoe, and north of Mammoth Lakes, so there is *plenty* to do around Bodie ghost town.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author bio - Meredith Dennis

Meredith Dennis

Meredith is a biologist and writer based in California’s Sierra Nevada. She has lived in 6 states as a biologist, so her intel on hiking and camping is *chef’s kiss* next level. One of her earliest camping memories was being too scared to find a bathroom at night on a family camping trip. Thankfully, she’s come a long way since then and she can help you get there too!


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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.

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2 thoughts on “Bodie Ghost Town: Everything to Know About Visiting California’s Most Famous Ghost Town”

  1. Very well written and informative. Thank you. My friend is coming to visit from Florida in August and I wanted/will plan a day trip from Reno, Nevada for us. It sounds like a terrific place for us to visit. Mom wants to come along as well😃

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