How To Visit California’s Calico Ghost Town

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Discover Calico Ghost Town in Yermo, California. A desert ghost town that once was home to over 1200 silver mining families for 12 years before it was abandoned. How to get to Calico, what to do, eat and see.

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Calico Ghost Town Tips.

On the way back from our Las Vegas long weekend in April to celebrate Maddie’s birthday, we took a break to stretch our feet in the Mojave Desert at one of our favorite road trip stops, Calico Ghost Town in Yermo, San Bernardino County. The once-bustling town of Calico has a very haunted history, although we didn’t see any spirits during our time here.

The ghosts we have been told about are the last Marshal to work here, Tumbleweed Harris, and the general store owner, Lucy Lane. If you want to get a chance of encountering these friendly ghosts, Marshal Harris is said to roam the town keeping peace and order, while Lucy is often seen tending to her shop on Main Street and maybe sharing the current price of silver? We have also heard that there are other ghosts of past boarders that roam the many boarding houses.

The Calico Ghost Town was once a flurry of commerce during the silver mining rush as a west mining town.

In 1881 the largest silver strike in California happened and the City of Calico was formed with over 500 miles of mines making it a true silver rush ghost town! During the next 12 years, there was over $20 million produced in silver ore mined there. Unfortunately, around 1890 silver lost its value and almost all of the townspeople left Calico for better opportunities.

For the next 60 years, Calico was a true United States ghost town.

We’ve visited Calico in the heat of the summer and the cooler April days, and many other times, and one thing you need to remember is that when it is hot- it is REALLY hot, and when it is cold, it is pretty cold. There is a likelihood of cold gusts of wind too. So plan ahead. Bring a hat and take your time in the heat and for sure bring a sweater or coat during the winter.

To get to Calico Ghost Town, just follow the signs off the freeway. There is a large parking lot and benches for picnics.

The town of Calico itself isn’t huge.

A good two or so hours is plenty of time, although you could totally spend upwards of 4+ hours if you really want to spend extra time in each building and also take the mining tours and activities, like gold panning in Calico. Not all are open for tours, but with 500 miles of mines, they do have some safe areas to see.

They also host special events so keep a lookout for those too.

As for food and restrooms in Calico, there are both.

For the food, think theme park snacks and treats. We always get popcorn and Sarsaparilla to drink. We’ve also seen pizza and hot dogs available. Restrooms are located towards the beginning of town and there is also another set 3/4 of the ways up. Both are on the right side with signs pointing the way!

The shops and the little museums in Calico are all brimming with history, which we love.

When you walk into them, you really feel like you are walking back into history. I would be sure to explore shops and museums in Calico alike because the buildings themselves are recreated to as close to original as possible and are a great glimpse into a working town in the wild west!

If your children or teens are misbehaving, don’t worry… Calico has a place to keep them! Just kidding!

The schoolhouse in Calico is a great history lesson that brings the past to life!

We have visited Calico when the schoolhouse was open and when it was closed. Either way, you can take a look (through the window if necessary) to see what an old town school looked like. We had Emmy walk across the bridge and imagine that she was headed to school for the day. We talked about how when there was planting or harvesting or even high waters under the bridge that the school would be closed. We also told her how getting an education was a privilege that the townspeople all worked together to provide to the children.

Not all the shops are always open in Calico, but we love when we find the Fossil and Mineral one welcoming visitors because they have some very unique items to see.

If you look closely at the sides of the buildings, there are also other little artifacts scattered to see.

For meals beyond a grab and go, there is the Old Miners Cafe in Calico.

Be sure to get a table on the patio closest to the railing so you can sit back and imagine the town many years ago while you enjoy your meal.

The girls thought they had seen a ghost when we were visiting Calico, but it was just Pete jumping out from behind a building!

Calico Ghost Town is a great rest stop just about 10 minutes off the freeway in Southern California. It is a perfect place to stretch your legs on the long drive to Las Vegas or as a destination in its own right.

Recent Calico History.

In the 1950s, Walter Knott from Knott’s Berry Farm purchased Calico and restored the original buildings still standing and added to them to recreate the historic ghost town. In 1966, Walter gifted the town of Calico to the County of San Bernardino where it became a regional park.

In 2005, Calico was proclaimed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a California historical landmark and as such will be protected for many years to come so future generations can enjoy it.

During the Fall, Calico Days are held in Calico Ghost Town. With fun for the whole family featuring campouts, train rides through the mines, burro races, recreations of gunfights, historical music, and much more in this old mine town of Calico.

We love stopping at Calico to look for ghosts and to get a snack and plan to continue doing so for many more years to come!

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Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog, It's a Lovely Life®! For the past decade, she has vacationed over 150 days a year with her family. She is a vegan, and loves being by the water, spending time with her children, husband, 2 Shih Tzus and Cat.