There are many old west towns in Arizona if you want to travel back in time to the days of the old Wild West when the Arizona Territory was home to some of the most feared outlaws, among homesteaders and cowboys.
From Arizona’s small towns packed with rich history and legends to quirky cities and villages that are no longer inhabited, there are a lot of fascinating things waiting to be discovered.
Do you know? Today there are about 130 known ghost town sites in Arizona. While some are completely abandoned some are among the most visited destinations in the Grand Canyon State.
These old west towns in Arizona give us glimpses of the “wicked” past through the historic old towns lined with
saloons, hotels, quaint shops, and interesting museums.
These Arizona old west towns are also perfect to plan an offbeat trip without crowds. Read on to learn about planning a trip to old west towns in AZ.
If you are game for spooky experiences of haunted hotels and streets, check out my guide to the best ghost towns in Arizona for a thrilling trip.
BEST OLD WEST TOWNS IN ARIZONA
Bisbee, located near the Mexican border only about 30 minutes from Tombstone, is one of the unique old western towns in Arizona that has gained popularity in recent years.
Located southeast of Tucson Bisbee in Cochise County, nestled in the rolling mountains, does not exude the typical charm of any Arizona ghost town, as the town is home to over 4000 residents.
But the rich past of Bisbee and its excellent location and all-year-round pleasant weather make it one of my favourite Arizona mining towns.
Bisbee was accidentally discovered in 1877 by a group of US Army scouts and cavalrymen who stumbled upon significant amounts of lead, copper, and silver.
The word soon spread resulting in a large influx of migrants looking to make the most of these minerals.
In a few years, Bisbee became known as the “Queen of the Copper Camps,” with a mining settlement for over 20,000 miners, prospectors, and their families.
Bisbee became one of the richest mineral sites in the world, producing gold, copper, silver, and zinc, producing almost a quarter of the world’s copper.
It was the largest town in the Southwest between St. Louis and San Francisco.
After a century of a prosperous run, the mines gave away as the mineral reserves depleted, with the last mine being shut forever in 1975.
Today, most of the rich historic past of Bisbee is well-preserved, thanks to the efforts of the residents, offering its visitors plenty of attractions and activities to give peeks into the golden past of Brisbee.
Walking through the old-fashioned downtown lined with whimsical art galleries, bustling shops, unique museums, cute cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Tour the museums of Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, and Bisbee Restoration Museum to get an in-depth look into the lives of miners and settlers back in the day.
Or better, join the world-famous Queen Mine Tour, which takes you 1,500 feet underground to explore one of the abandoned mines.
Here you will get your hands dirty wearing mining hats and slickers and riding the train deep underground to search for precious metals.
Stop at Central School, and Lavender Pit, and for some spooky experiences, you can visit the Bisbee Seance Room, a Victoria parlour for the paranormal.
Join the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour strolling amidst ancient buildings and listening to the gory tales sending a chill down your spine.
Or spend overnight at the historic Copper Queen Hotel, dating back to 1902, which is rumoured to be haunted as well.
Halloween is one of the most popular times to visit Bisbee as the whole town comes alive with many themed parties, haunted tours, and markets.
Located south of Flagstaff and in the dense Black Hills mountains within the Verde Valley at over 5000 feet, Jerome is one of the top old west towns in Arizona.
Nicknamed the most vertical city, Jerome is also the largest ghost town in the United States.
If you want to be introduced to the culture of Arizona ghost towns, Jerome is the best place to be as it is one of the best mining towns symbolising the Old Wild West.
Founded in 1876 with the discovery of gold and copper deposits in the area, Jerome attracted large numbers of migrants from everywhere, mainly miners, gamblers, and old-west bad boys.
This large-scale migration brought a wide boom, leading to the construction of many saloons and brothels.
The mines near Jerome were rich in copper rather than silver, with the mines producing 3 million pounds of copper per month, and during its peak time, the town inhabited over 15000 people.
Jerome got rightly nicknamed ‘The Billion Dollar Copper Camp’. It grew into one of the richest cities in the US at this time, and over 70 years, these copper mines in Jerome generated over a billion dollars worth of precious metal.
Eventually, in the 1950s, the mines began drying up. As expected, the town’s population dwindled to less than a hundred, Jerome was designated a National Historic District in 1967, and artists began to flock to the town in the 60s and 70s.
Today, Jerome is home to 450 residents, making it the largest populated ghost town.
It is a vibrant community with old buildings of the 1800s renovated into art galleries, museums, coffee shops, antique shops, craft stores, gift and curios shops, and wine bars.
Join one of the guided tours to cover the highlights of Jerome, where you will also hear many eerie and interesting tales of this mining town and its past inhabitants.
Do you know? Jerome is also one of the most haunted towns in Arizona. There are many popular ghost tours, and if you are here for the first time, I recommend you join one.
Some of the most haunted places with bizarre and sad histories include the Ghost City Inn, Mile High Grill & Inn, a former brothel, and the Conner Hotel.
The tour guides will tell unbelievable stories and grim events in these spots.
If you are daring, stay overnight at the Jerome Grand Hotel, also rumoured to be haunted by the spirits of patients, dead miners, and staff.
Even if you’re not into the paranormal, there are many attractions worth visiting in Jerome.
Start from downtown Jerome, home to some galleries, restaurants and tasting rooms — and the famous “Haunted Hamburger” restaurant, worth stopping for lunch or dinner.
Visit the Jerome State Historic Park, home to Douglas Mansion, built in 1916 by a mining magnate.
Check out the unique Sliding Jail, a historic building and a museum constructed in the 1920s. Over the years, the building has slid down the hill about 200 feet to where it rests now.
The mining museum contains many excellent artefacts, photographs, and ancient equipment belonging to the miners, giving glimpses of the past of the mining town.
If you are with kids, head to the nearby Audrey Head frame Park to admire stunning views of the mountainous landscapes from the glass viewing platform over a 1918 mine shaft.
Nestled in the mountains 100 miles north of Phoenix, Prescott may be larger than the other old-west towns in Arizona, but there are plenty of places to experience the small-town charm and the old-west history.
Among the popular attractions to reminisce about the old west past is Whiskey Row.
Believed to be one of the haunted spots in Arizona, this comprises a series of buildings housing the oldest business in Arizona, many large historic saloons, the Palace Restaurant and Saloon.
There are many tours to explore Whiskey Row and if you have time to visit only one historic spot to experience the old west history in Prescott, I would say this should be the one.
There are many fantastic things to do in Prescott no matter when you visit, so I recommend spending at least a week in this charming town.
The many pretty Prescott Lakes are the best respite from the heat, especially Watson Lake known for its spectacular views.
It is a fantastic stop for a day trip to enjoy paddle board, kayak, or canoeing to explore hidden coves.
One of the popular wide old west towns in Arizona, Tombstone is a pretty town close to Bisbee in Cochise County and shares a common past of the Wild West and origins, with Tombstone also being discovered in the 1880s.
Tombstone, famously nicknamed the “town too tough to die,” was one of the leading silver mines during the era.
Within two years of establishment, Tombstone became one of the primarily populated towns and was home to more than a hundred saloons, over a dozen gambling halls, a bowling alley, many brothels, four churches, theatres, and large public office buildings.
Tombstone was a haven for lawless gunslingers, smugglers, cowboys, miners, and immigrants. It was abandoned in 1892 when the mines dried up.
Today, Tombstone is one of the most popular ghost towns in Arizona, receiving 400,000 tourists visiting each year.
Another thing that made Tombstone attract tourists happened after being the filming venue showcasing the infamous gunfight at O.K. Corral in the 1993 movie Tombstone.
You can experience the old west architecture in Tombstone on one of the excellent guided tours. Or hop on a horse-drawn wagon or stagecoach.
Admire the old-time saloons, restaurants, and shops lining the old town area, especially around East Allen Street, lined with boutique gift shops and eateries.
Theatre enthusiasts should visit Schieffelin Hall. You can also attend one of the underground mining tours. Join mysterious tours to feel spooky at Boothill Cemetery.
Check out the iconic Bird Cage Theatre on Allen Street, a raucous saloon littered with bullet holes thanks to the infamous fight, where they regularly reenact the gunfight.
If you plan to stay overnight, I highly recommend staying at Tombstone Monument Ranch.
If you want to return to the days of gold mining, head to Wickenburg on the Colorado River on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert.
Established in 1863 as a mining town following the discovery of gold nearby, Wickenburg today is a small tourist town and one of the best places to experience the old Wild West culture and heritage.
Stroll the historic Pioneer Street checking out the many saloons, historic buildings, bars, restaurants, and boutique shops amidst the old preserved buildings.
Explore the area of Hassayampa River, known for its mining history, lined with heritage buildings today surrounded by the flowing river amidst several hiking trails available for outdoor lovers.
Do you know? the Hassayampa River Preserve is known for its abundant landscapes that attract wildlife, especially unique desert animals, and is a fantastic spot for birdwatching.
Located 40 miles east of Phoenix, Goldfield is a beautiful hamlet and the gateway to the Superstition Mountains in the legendary Valley of the Sun.
Only a short drive from Mesa and Apache Junction, Goldfield is one of the best old west towns in Arizona known for its well-preserved mining history, apart from its beautiful location.
Unlike some Arizona ghost towns, you will see that Goldfield is not abandoned but is well-preserved.
The Goldfield Ghost Town & Mine is one of the best day trips from Scottsdale you can plan, as it is only about 10 miles away.
Goldfield was founded in 1893 when gold was first discovered in the Superstition Mountains after prospectors struck gold here.
At the time of the founding of Goldfield, miners discovered massive amounts of gold worth at least three million dollars leading to a sudden frenzy and building of the town in a short span.
Goldfield colourfully expanded to include many saloons, brothels, offices, a hotel, a theatre, a general store, a schoolhouse, and a brewery.
However, this mega success did not long last. Goldfield was one of the shortest-lived mining towns as the mines dried up, leading to people abandoning it only five years after its founding.
Note that Goldfield may not be to your liking if you are not into touristy towns, but it is worth checking out for all the many activities, historic buildings and family-friendly events.
Check out the famous museum, an old train steamer, mine tours, daily gunfight reenactments, the historic schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and old-style saloons alongside horses and wagons.
The historic town offers many old-west attractions where you can pan for gold. Try the period costume with your kids. Try zipline to take in the bird’s-eye view of Goldfield.
Cave Creek, located in Maricopa County in the Sonoran Desert, about 30 minutes northeast of Phoenix is one of the popular weekend getaways for families exploring Phoenix.
This old mining town gets its name from a cave next to the creek upon which it was built.
For the Old West experience, Cave Creek is the best town as you get transported back in time strolling amidst streets filled with Western architecture in the iconic Frontier Town.
You can easily spend a few hours exploring the many hiking trails, picnic areas, or horseback riding at Cave Creek Regional Park. Go John Trail and Slater Trail are the popular trails in this park.
With a perfect blend of history and the charms of a small town, Globe, located in the foothills between the Apache and Pinal mountains along Pinal Creek, is a unique town worth visiting.
Globe, nestling amidst the dense Tonto Forest Region, is one of the former mining towns in Gila County. Globe has a rich and dark past of the Wild West, with the townhome to robberies, Apache raids, cowboys, and outlaws.
Stroll through downtown, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since the 1980s. Stop at the Drift Inn Saloon, one of the iconic landmarks here that were a former brothel, also rumoured to be haunted.
Take a tour of the Gila County Courthouse and Jail, also home to the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts.
Visit the Gila County Historical Museum, the Old Dominion Historic Mine Park, and the Besh-Ba-Gowa Archeological Park and Museum to learn about Globe’s history dating back over 900 years.
You can combine your visit to Globe by adding a stop at Payson, also in the Tonto National Forest with many campground options if you wish to explore further.
Among the top activities enjoyed by families include driving to Salt River Canyon Scenic Drive which takes you through stunning landscapes around the town.
MORE OLD WEST TOWNS IN CHLORIDE
One of the unique old west towns in Arizona known for its glorious mining past is Chloride, located previously on Route 66.
Chloride became a prominent silver mining town in 1862 and was home to more than 75 mines and up to 5,000 residents.
Do you know? Chloride is the state’s oldest inhabited ghost town home to about 400 residents.
Thanks to the Chloride residents, who have taken great care to restore and maintain the history, you can still experience its rich past today.
Tour the abandoned mines and Native American carvings into rocks near the main town.
Check out the unique and quirky art, including metal sculptures amidst the colourful murals painted onto a huge granite wall outside town that can be accessed on a 1.3-mile-long rough dirt road by foot or a high clearance vehicle.
Created in 1966 by a prospector named Roy Purcell, this colourful canvas across 2,000 square feet of cliffside granite is a masterpiece, comprising all sorts of quirky characters ranging from a giant red snake to a fertility goddess and a pair of ostriches.
Also located in Cochise County, Douglas located in that Sulpher Springs Valley is one of the old west towns in Arizona with a dark and prosperous mining history.
Lying close to Mexico, Douglas was infamous for being home to outlaws, smugglers, burglars, and cowboys that carried out illegal activities across the borders.
The Douglas area was first settled by the Spanish in the 18th century, and gets its name from a prospector Douglas, and was initially an American smelter town, to treat the copper ores of nearby Bisbee.
Today, you can visit the mines and historic locations including the infamous Cowboys Home Saloon, and other buildings, including heritage hotels, cafes, and souvenir shops in the old west area in Douglas.
Another 1880s boom town in southern Arizona, Benson is regarded as a living museum that showcases the history of the American Southwest.
Known for its railroad history, and a rustic filming location for many old-west and ghost-themed locations, Benson is worth a quick stop for including one of the offbeat old-west towns in Arizona.
Most people pass through Benson while accessing Kartchner Caverns, the magnificent huge underground caves, a popular tourist attraction.
Still, I recommend also checking out Benson for a day as it has many things to offer.
Stop at the Benson Visitor Center for a quick introduction to the town, check out the famous Holy Trinity Monastery, walk downtown to admire the historic buildings and taste delicious beer and food at one of the many restaurants and bars there.
Rawhide may not be your typical old west town in Arizona, but it comes very close.
Rawhide is a Western-themed amusement park located south of Phoenix and is one of the fun getaways for kids to experience all things of the wild west.
There are many activities and games available, ranging from live gun shows, and gold panning, to riding horses and mechanical bulls.
Check out the iconic Rawhide Steakhouse and Saloon known for its delicious steaks, barbeque, and prime rib that go best with plenty of drinks at the saloon.
Watch old-time gunfights by The Six Gun Theatre and Rawhide Rough Riders.
To watch plenty of Western performances, head to the Spirit of the West Theatre.
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