Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie – A Visit to California Ghost Town

Bodie, California

The only church standing in Bodie, California

Bodie is a gold mining ghost town nestled between the hills of the Eastern Sierras. At its heyday during California’s gold rush in 1800’s Bodie had a population of 10.000 and quite an unsavory reputation. Killings happened on a daily basis. Robberies, stage hold ups, and street fights made life exciting for Bodie residences.

A visitor in 1881 wrote that Bodie was “a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion”. “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie”, a little girl wrote the phrase in her diary as her family was taking her to this remote town.

Of course now, it’s hard to tell that all of this wickedness happened.

Bodie, California IMG_7829

Jack and I arrived in Bodie slightly ahead of the impending afternoon storm.

As we approached the entrance, we suddenly realized that we didn’t have enough cash to pay the $7/person entrance fee. I begged, cajoled, and finally after I tried to hand over a $20 Canadian bill (left over from my Quebec roadtrip), the ranger waved us on and told us to pay at the museum where they do have a credit card machine.

Phew, that was a relief. I didn’t think he would seriously not let us through. Seriously, this town was in the middle of nowhere and I felt like we’d driven forever from our campground in Yosemite.

The sceneries we passed was impressive: sage dotted rolling hills with snow-capped peaks of the Sierras in the background. There was not much of nothing else. It was a barren and a forbidding land.

Bodie under an impending storm clouds

I’d wanted to visit Bodie for as long as I’d known of its existence. It didn’t disappoint. Even though only 5% of the buildings remained, there was still plenty to see. The buildings in Bodie just begged to be photographed. Each one is unique in character, the red of its wood construction stands in contrast against green grass and blue sky.

Bodie ghost town, California An abandoned outhouse in Bodie An abandoned car in Bodie Sky reflection on the windows

There’s a self-guided tour pamphlet that tells you about the previous occupants of each building on the site. You can even go inside some of the houses and catch a glimpse of life in gold rush era. Some of the furniture and paraphernalia are remarkably well preserved.

Nowadays, Bodie isn’t abandoned anymore. The historical park receives 200.000 annual visitors. Hardcore ghost town aficionados might be disappointed in Bodie’s seemingly sterile situation: areas that are deemed dangerous to visitors have been cordoned off and on weekends the site can appear overrun by visitors.

I’m not hardcore enough to be disappointed. I was having a blast exploring the town, peeking into windows, trying every doorknob, and imagining the shenanigans that have taken place right here in Bodie.

Would you visit a ghost town? Here’s a ghost town in Chile that’s also worth a visit.

Bodie Ghost Town

bodie map

Admission fee: $7
Self-guided tour map: $2
Guided tours: See here for prices and schedules
Driving time: 7 hours drive from San Francisco. The last 3 miles is unpaved but 2 wheel drive should be fine.
No food or water.

What’s really cool is that Bodie is even open to visitors in winter, during which time it’s only accessible by skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles.

NOTE: Even if you’re not a ghost town fan, the drive up and down Highway 395 is so scenic it’s worth doing if you’re ever in California. Highly recommended.

Valuable Resources

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, for those who love anything weird and offbeat.
  • Resource Toolbox: How I find cheap flights, accommodations, and other travel hacks.

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18 Replies to “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie – A Visit to California Ghost Town”

  1. We went to Bodie last September. Isn't it photogenic? I remember standing in wonder in the main street thinking of gun battles taking place there in the wild wild west. It was eerie. Thanks for bringing back memories! The grass was a little browner last year, but I have lots of similar photos. An amazing place.

  2. I've always wanted to visit a ghost town!! We drove the Turquoise Trail from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and passed through some old mining towns, but they had been rehabbed into artist villages. This place looks super cool and your photos are gorgeous!

  3. Wow, I've never been to this place, it's quite exceptional, I love all the run down buildings and nature. Your pictures are beautiful!

    Please come and join us for Travel Photo Mondays, its a photo carnival that runs all week starting on Mondays, hope you can join?

  4. That's very interesting! And the photography is just amazing! Thank you for sharing this post!

  5. Ghost towns are the greatest things ever. I remember visiting a former Greek town in Turkey that was evacuated as part of a population exchange, and it was pretty interesting to walk around in a frozen time capsule. I also think ghost towns would make great places for reclusive, eccentric authors, Salinger-style.

  6. OMG that town is incredible! Now I'm going to be obsessed with going there. And your photos are amazing!

  7. Wow! That sky and those buildings compliment each other in a surreal yet picturesque way.
    I have noticed a definitely change in your photographs as of late – very impressive and gorgeous!
    I would love to visit Bodie. It sounds familiar, maybe I've heard it mentioned in a western film (Tombstone? Wyatt Earp?).


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