Calico Ghost Town
Visiting Calico Ghost Town in San Bernardino County, Southern California, is an excellent idea for a family trip. Kids will be thrilled by the activities offered in this well-preserved ghost town. Check our tips and photos from this fabulous Wild West town.This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.
What is Calico Ghost Town?
Brief History of Calico
Calico is a ghost town near Barstow in the Mojave Desert in Southern California. It was founded in 1881 and gained notoriety for a silver mine. After the discovery of silver in the area, Calico became one of the most prosperous mining districts in the state. In 1886, the town’s population peaked at 1,200 people. Miners and their families were doing very well here. Calico had a variety of businesses, hotels, a jail, saloons, a Chinatown, and, like any town, a red-light district. It was abandoned in the mid-1890s after silver lost its value. As of 1907, it was completely abandoned and became a ghost town. What’s impressive with its 500 mines, Calico produced over $20 million in silver ore over 12 years. Beginning in 1942, it became known again due to controversial discoveries at the Calico Early Man Site archaeological site.
Walter Knott bought Calico in the 1950s and restored many buildings to look as they did in the 1880s. Calico was designated a State Historical Landmark. In addition, Calico was declared California’s Silver Rush Ghost Town by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005.
Today, Calico is part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system. Calico is utterly different from California’s Bodie Ghost Town or Shaniko Ghost Town in Oregon, where there are no tourists, gift shops guided tours. This old mining town became a tourist attraction and is a bit over-commercialized. But it still is worth visiting, especially if traveling with kids, as they can see and learn about the Old West.
Where is Calico Ghost Town?
Calico Ghost Town is located in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, Southern California. The closest town is Barstow. It lies 3 miles from Barstow and 3 miles from Yermo. Calico Ghost Town Regional Park manages it. It’s on the way between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, close to the main old Route 66 attractions.
Because of its location on the busy I-15 highway between Las Vegas and Barstow, Calico is now a popular tourist attraction. There’s a museum, gift stores, a campground, and exhibits on traditional costumes and Wild West customs.
Pro Tip: More about history and ghosts of Calico, you can read on Legends of America.
How to get to Calico Ghost Town?
- From Las Vegas is 149 miles via I-15 S. Driving time is approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes.
- If you are driving from Los Angeles, take I-15 N. It’s 126 miles and 2 hours of driving.
- Visiting Calico Ghost Town is also a great idea if you are in Death Valley National Park. It’s only 169 miles from the park to Calico via CA-127 S and I-15 S. Driving time is around 3 hours.
- Make sure to add two fabulous places to your itinerary – iconic stops on old Route 66: Roy’s Motel & Cafe in Amboy and Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs. To Roy’s Motel in Amboy, take I-40 E and National Trails Hwy. It’s 79 miles. On the way, you will also find Bagdad Cafe. From Calico to Bagdad Cafe, drive 20 miles via Minneola Rd and National Trails Hwy.
Is Calico Ghost Town open?
Calico Ghost Town is open daily: 9 AM to 5 PM. It’s closed on Christmas Day. However, to be sure, check the official Facebook website before your visit.
Is Ghost Town of Calico worth visiting?
Yes, in our opinion, Calico is worth visiting. It’s one of the most beautiful ghost towns in California and one of the best preserved. Moreover, this place offers a great variety of attractions. Therefore, it’s an excellent idea for an active family vacation. If you travel with kids, they’ll be thrilled. On the town’s official website, you can find various programs and attractions for children.
The Calico is very popular because it’s located on the route between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Therefore, there will always be other tourists here. It’s not a wild place where you’re alone and feels like you’re in a real ghost town. But it’s real. It’s a slightly different character, an educational and relaxing one. Perfect place for families with kids.
Moreover, this town is perfect for stylized photos. So wear cowboy hats, cowboy boots, leather jackets, or plaid flannel shirts for yourself and your kids for awesome pictures.
The town offers many attractions and events. You can visit Calico Ghost Town on your own (entrance fee applies) or with a guide. One among the more exciting attractions popular with visitors is Calico Ghost Tours. It is worth booking in advance, especially if you are planning a visit in the high season. Details and prices you can find on the official website.
Also, you can check Calico’s attractions on this detailed map.
Calico Ghost Town Regional Park offers and organizes a lot of events. So, checking their program before your visit is a great idea.
- Every year in May, Calico Ghost Town organizes Calico Bluegrass Festival. They bring Bluegrass bands for visitors to enjoy music while exploring the town.
- Halloween is also celebrated exuberantly in Calico Ghost Town. This annual event features trick-or-treating, costume contests, pumpkin carving, a children’s carnival tent, stage shows with live entertainment, haunted attractions, and more. For details, check out the official website.
- In February, they celebrate California Days. It’s the historical timeline of the early settlements when California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850. The event is combined with National California Day, which recognizes the Golden State every year on February 22.
- Do you like fishing? In March, you can participate in Trout Derby.
Top sights to see in the Ghost Town of Calico
Calico Odessa Railroad
Odessa Railroad is a small, working railroad that was installed in Calico Ghost Town in 1958 and has been in operation ever since. The train ride takes you around the hill and takes about 10 minutes. Along the way, you can see some of the old mining equipment and many of Calico’s historic sites.
Mystery Shack Tour
Want to see water flow uphill? If you take a guided tour of Mystery Shack, you’ll see it and learn more about Harry Dover, the shack’s inventor. Kids will be delighted.
Maggie’s Mine Tour
In the 1880s, a silver mine operated here. A guided tour will give you an idea of what Calico’s mines were like. An exhibit shows some of the minerals found here.
Lane House and Museum
If you want to learn about the former Calico Mining District, visit the Lane House and Museum. The museum building is one of five original adobe buildings from the late 1880s that have stood the test of time. You can still see some of the old features, such as transom windows, electrical wiring from the 1930s, and furnishings that belonged to the Lane family, who lived here from the 1920s to the 1960s.
Old School House
At the top of town, you’ll see the Old School House building when you reach the end of the street. It’s a replica, but it looks fabulous in the background of the mountains. Perfect spot for pictures.
Shops & Restaurants
There are also a few souvenir shops, handicraft shops, and wild west-style clothing in the town. Moreover, you can have lunch or drink a coffee at one of several places in the park. One of the best is Calico House which offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner and Old Miner’s Café with good selections of American lunch.
How much does it cost to visit Calico Ghost Town?
The town offers so many different attractions that we suggest you check the prices on the official website.
Daily Admission for Calico Ghost Town is Adults: $8, and Youth (4-11): $5. With this fee, you can explore the town on your own.
But, especially if you travel with children, it is worth buying extras that allow you to take advantage of attractions such as Maggie Mine Tour, Mystery Shack Tour, Calico Odessa Railroad tour, or Gold Panning Adventure. Details and prices you can find here.
Is Ghost Town of Calico pet friendly?
You can take your dog with you, but the dog must always be on a leash. A symbolic fee for entering the town with a dog is $ 1.
RV Park in Calico
It is good to know that a beautifully situated campground is next to the town. You can come here for a few days with your caravan or RV. Especially that, apart from the ghost town, there are several interesting hiking trails in the area or can fishing. It will also be an excellent base for exploring Southern California. But, unfortunately, due to the great popularity and attractiveness – it is worth booking the Calico Ghost Town RV Park in advance. The prices start from $30 per night.
What’s more, there are 10 cabins available for rental at Calico Ghost Town. Each cabin sleeps 4 and is heated and air-conditioned. Also, the Mini-Bunkhouse sleeps six, is heated/air conditioned, and has a private bathroom/shower and kitchenette.
You can make your reservation online.
This Ghost town seems like a really interesting place to visit. It must be specially fun during the “Bluegrass” festival. The “Mystery shack tour” and seeing water flow uphill looks specially interesting to me. Visiting this ghost town must feel like being immersed in a cow boy movie. This seems a place worth a visit.
Very useful guide to Calico. This was the first ghost town I ever visited. I remember I was in awe with it because it made me feel like I was on a movie set. Since then I visited many other ghost towns, but I still love the joyful and populated Calico, which is anything but ghostly. We like stopping there once in a while, when we go to Las Vegas.
This looks like such a cool place to visit, I would love to visit here on the way to Roy’s Motel & Cafe. It’s great that something built in the 1800’s has been preserved and restored so that we can see how life was when the town was thriving. I would love to go when the Bluegrass festival is happening and feel like I am transported back 150 years!! It’s certainly getting added to my list for the next time I am in the US.
I would love to visit Calico at some point. It reminds me of one of those old Western movies and I could easily imagine it being a filming set. It’s incredible that the houses are so well preserved, even if nobody has been living here for so long. I feel that a visit here is a proper trip back into history, especially if there’s an event going on as well.
First of all, the name is very intriguing. Calico reminds me of the cloth that was manufactured in India (in the town of Calicut, hence the name) and taken to England and then the rest of Europe, during colonization. I’m wondering if there’s any connection between the 2 Calico!
That said, I’m a fan of all Ghost towns. There’s quite a history, a thrill and quite a photo op in these towns. I’ve been to quite a few abandoned coal mines in Europe and I wouldn’t miss this when I visit California. Interesting that it is somewhere between a true ghost town and a commercialized tourist spot.
I get to LA at least once a year to visit my daughter, so it looks like a trip to Calico Ghost Town is in order! It would be really fun to take a ride on the Odessa Railroad to see the mines and get a look at the whole site. I also love the idea of staying in one of the cabins at the RV stop. It’s funny, you always hear about the gold rush and mines, not so much about silver. This was very interesting for me to learn! I can almost envision what life might have been like here (I’m thinking dusty and hot!) for the hardworking folk that made Calico their home. I never really thought about children, but the schoolhouse reminds that they would have been here. Totally appreciate the tip to wear stylized outfits for photo opps, too!
I always find the history of ghost towns fascinating. Why, when, and how they become one. Calico definitely is stepping back in time and gives you a real sense of what life would have been for this mining town. Love that it’s now a great photo op, along with learning about its past.
I love the idea of visiting a ghost town. So will have to seek out Calico in Southern California. These old mining towns are always so steeped in history. And a wander through the town brings it all back. Love that they have done a good job at preserving the town. Might be fun to visit during the Bluegrass Festival. A great family stop for sure.
oh my gosh this is so fun! I attended an event at a place like this in Arizona, but might have to make the visit here since it’s not too far from my family. My boys would find this so fun!
I have never been to a ghost town before and Calico looks and sounds amazing! I would love to take one of the ghost tours.
Calico Ghost Town looks like a fun trip! I have never visited such a Ghost town. It would be very interesting to learn more about the history, so I would definitely book the Mining Tour.
I have wanted to visit a ghost town ever since watching that old Brady Bunch episode as a kid. This looks like so much fun. I will have to keep this place in mind if I get out west.
Sounds very interesting with lots of instagrammable spots! Plus other worthy nostalgic stops nearby!
When I read the driving distance from LA or LV, I thought it was far. But when I scroll down, I found that it’s on the route between LA and LV. So, yeah, it’s worth a stop. I can imagine little ones will like riding a train here.