One Of The Absolute Best Ghost Towns In The West Is This Well-Preserved California Gem

When traveling around the Western United States, it's almost impossible not to envision long gone eras. As you travel through the rugged natural landscapes of expansive states like California, you'll be immersed in the iconic landscapes of the Wild West. From the expansive deserts of Joshua Tree and Death Valley, to the majestic Santa Ana Mountains, California offers plenty of awe-inspiring beauty to enjoy during your travels. The natural landscapes, beaches, vineyards, and culture-rich cities are certainly a highlight of modern-day California, but travelers who wish to feel as though they've been transported back in time should head straight to Cerro Gordo.

Located near the enchanting small-town of Lone Pine, Cerro Gordo is a mountainous California gem which deserves a spot on your small town bucket list. Cerro Gordo is one of many ghost towns scattered all across the United States that serve as remnants of the days when cowboys roamed the land on horseback, and hopeful minors migrated west with visions of striking gold. But then t was abandoned for decades. Boomtowns seemed to spring up out of nowhere, and they were often lawless places full of debauchery. As quickly as they arrived, the inhabitants disappeared, moving on to greener pastures, leaving the once lively towns like Cerro Gordo to slowly succumb to the elements.

In 2018, Cerro Gordo was purchased by Brent Underwood, who has since worked to restore the historical town to its former glory. Visitors can explore the fascinating property via a by-donation tour.

A relic from the Wild West

A trip to Cerro Gordo is a dream come true for history lovers who are fascinated by the Gold Rush era in America. Cerro Gordo, which translates to "fat hill", was originally founded in the mid 1800's when silver was discovered. It's located deep in the desert near the Inyo Mountain range. Soon, thousands of people flocked to the town, and it became known as a lawless place. Apparently, at one point, there was at least one murder per week within the town. The remaining buildings are still speckled with bullet holes, making it quite an unnerving scene.

By 1938, the mines shut down, and like so many other Boomtowns, Cerro Gordo was quickly vacated and abandoned. For years, it slowly fell into disrepair, until Brent Underwood came along. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he decided to move to the town from Austin, Texas to take a break from city life, and he ended up getting snowed in at the property for some time. 

The ghost town is far away from civilization, and Underwood has expressed that there were some bone-chilling experiences during his time living on the property. He describes things like lights turning on and off, even when the doors to rooms remained locked. He claims that items were moved around as well. In 2019, there was even a paranormal investigation.

Experiencing Cerro Gordo

Whether you're interested in exploring the paranormal or historical side of Cerro Gordo, it's well worth a visit. The property is managed by Brent Underwood himself, and the only way to tour the buildings is with one of the caretakers guiding you. Tragically, one of the property's most iconic buildings, the American Hotel, burned to the ground in 2020, but it is currently being rebuilt to its former glory, so tourists will be able to stay overnight.

His original goal was to restore the property, which consists of around 22 structures on over 300 acres. Underwood is still slowly exploring and restoring the property and posting about it on social media, where he has gained an immense and loyal following. His YouTube channel has over 1.6 million followers, and you can read all about his experiences in his bestselling book "Ghost Town Living."

You can visit Cerro Gordo, but keep in mind that it is private property. All visitors are required to check-in and it is prudent to confirm your visit ahead of time. To get there, you'll ascend a winding and precarious gravel road, and it's best to have an all-wheel drive vehicle.But once there, you'll also find a small gift shop after you're done with the tour.

While you're in the area, check out other highlights like the town of Lone Pine, which has served as a filming location for many movies and TV shows. California's tallest mountain, Mount Whitney, is also nearby. Of course, no visit to the region is complete without exploring Death Valley National Park. The one-way scenic drive through the park is an absolute must-see.