Ghost Towns

Every ghost town has a story to tell. They are often reminders of long forgotten dreams, hopes, struggles, and gradual decline. Sometimes left behind are abandoned homes and buildings. Other times, there's just a hole in the ground and a few scattered boards. But every one of these dusty towns pays homage to the memories of those who lived and died there.

The majority of Utah's counties have several to numerous ghost towns, most of which can be found online with detailed accounts of their history. There are also excellent books on Utah ghost towns available, complete with maps and historical detailed accounts of the origin and demise of each site.

Silver Reef and Grafton are popular ghost towns you can incorporate in your road trip to southwest Utah's Zion National Park, Snow Canyon State Park, Red Cliffs and other outdoor adventure destinations.

Travel to Silver Reef and Grafton

Many small towns of the Wild West found themselves booming with the promise of riches to be had. Gold, silver, and copper were reported, and savvy businessmen and blue collar workers alike traveled westward to seek out treasure and their slice of the American pie. However, many mining spots turned out to be a bust or ran dry quickly, and the towns essentially disappeared. What they left for travelers today are crumbling relics to another era, part heritage, part mystery, part simple curiosity amid an outdoor adventure in a red rock landscape.

Even though the name Ghost Towns might imply spooky and scary scenarios, these places aren’t haunted, they are actually sites that are just shells of their former selves — a perfect destination for history buffs and lovers of forgotten places.

Silver Reef, named for the geographic reef of the area, and the miles of silver mine tunnels therein, is located north of St. George, close to Leeds. During the height of the town’s silver boom during the late 1870s and early 1880s, Silver Reef was the most populous place in Southern Utah. A town supported the mining, and the area was unique because it was the first sandstone location to house silver.

Today, visiting Silver Reef is a walk through time. Little remains of the once-bustling mining town, but you can spot some foundation remnants, the old Wells Fargo building, and the graveyard (where many miners lay, purportedly the outcome of settling their disputes the Western way). A nearby building has some replicas and historical information about Silver Reef.

The ghost town of Grafton, located south of Zion National Park, is unique because it was established for less than a decade before settlers were forced out due to tensions with Native Americans. The graveyard remains here, as does the renovated schoolhouse. Unlike Silver Reef, Grafton was settled by Mormon pioneers who answered the calling of their prophet and church president Brigham Young to establish towns throughout Utah.

While you can’t go into the schoolhouse, it does make for a great picture opportunity, and is one of the most pristine abandoned buildings left in all of Utah’s ghost towns. Some say that Grafton is the most photographed ghost town in the West, and it was, in fact, the filming location for parts of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, among other Hollywood movies.

Both ghost towns are ideal as a respite from other nearby activities, including miles of hiking and adventuring. These ghost towns in Utah are perfect for historic exploration, taking pictures and will still keep you active and outdoors.

GPS Coordinates:

Silver Reef: 37.253065, -113.367642

Grafton: 37.167375, -113.080028