A mournful whistle. Boarded up windows. Tumbleweed. Wind. Ghost towns follow a fairly standard formula in the movies. But have you ever actually been to one to confirm that these tropes are true? In Utah, you have multiple options to choose from.
With such an extensive history of pilgrimage coupled with its huge, expansive area, the Beehive State is a perfect landscape for abandoned settlements.
There are nearly 150 Utah ghost towns for you to visit. However, as may be expected, some of them aren’t as accessible as others. Some, on the other hand, you can basically see from the I-15. Perhaps you’ve even caught a glimpse of the fringes of one while taking the St. George Express. If you are looking for a good ghost town time (try saying that five times fast), these will be less out of your way.
Here are seven Utah ghost towns that are right off the I-15.
Old Iron Town
Resting in Iron County 15-20 miles west of Cedar City, Old Iron Town is not much of one anymore. With a few furnaces and a kiln remaining from its heyday as an iron operation, the town was settled by Mormon pioneers in 1868 and was abandoned by 1877. Why? The nationwide financial panic of 1874 plus a lack of viable northbound transportation sucked out its utility. Access is fairly easy in any size car, and you should be good going at any time of the year.
Twenty-four miles north of Beaver, and just northeast of where I-15 and I-70 intersect, lies historic Cove Fort. One of the few forts from this time period still standing, this owes much to its construction. The fort is built of volcanic rock and limestone and acted as a way station for settlers, as well as a pickup/delivery for the Pony Express. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leased the fort out in 1890, eventually selling it. In 1989, the Hinckley family bought it back and donated it to the Church. It is now a historic site with free guided tours.
You’ll want to visit this one before the snow comes! Mills, also known as Wellington while active, was a railroad town in Juab County. After being abandoned at some point in the mid-1800’s, there are reportedly a few homes there currently, as well as being semi-active for Union Pacific trains.
Located at the Point of the Mountain in Bluffdale, these days there isn’t much left of this brewery-turned-waystation. Orrin Porter Rockwell, a colorful character in Mormon history, took over the property and it became a station for the Overland Stage and the Pony Express.
While Mormon settlers were busy populating both future ghost towns and booming metropoles like Salt Lake and St. George, there were a few dissidents. The settlers of Corinne built the town on the Bear River in 1868 as a pointed escape from Mormon influence; members of the Church were not allowed to settle there. Founder Mark Gilmore and those that settled with him also wanted to create a railroad and steamboat center. Though the town flourished for many years, by 1903 the main road was rerouted around Corinne and the town began to dissipate. Today, there is still a lot to see in this once great ghost town.
This town in Washington County, like Corinne, enjoyed a fairly long and celebrated duration. Formerly established as a town in 1876, it grew to be home to over 2,000 citizens, two newspapers, and several stores, hotels, saloons, restaurants, and dance halls. While the ore mines sustained the town, the people there enjoyed moderate success. However, the last mine closed down in 1891, and over the next several years the ore was shipped out of the area and with it, the people and life of the town. Now, there are gift shops and some historic restoration for the curious tourist.
This Utah ghost town at one time showed much promise. Constructed a short jog up from the village of Harmony, Fort Harmony was founded in 1854 by settler John D. Lee. As the only white settlement for miles, it was named county seat and headquarters for the Indian Mission, to provide benefits to neighboring Native Americans. It was even lauded by Mormon leader Brigham Young as “the best fort in the territory.” Its fame could not last, however, when a storm of historic and Biblical proportions tore through the area for 44 days in 1861-62. It brought rain, snow, more rain, and finally a hard wind that destroyed part of the fort and took some lives. Instead of rebuilding the fort, the settlers moved on to establish New Harmony, leaving Fort Harmony a ghost town. You can read more about its history here.