We arrived at Bodie State Park late afternoon after driving all the way from Las Vegas through Death Valley. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it was easy to find from our drive up from Mono Lake. Highway 395 towards Bridgeport has some great views over the lake too. Don’t forget to stop off at one of the viewpoints. Cruising the rather empty road, we were at the Bodie State Park entrance.
At the entrance you follow the new smooth tarmac road onto a dirt road. Once we had arrived and parked up, we realised how cold it was compared to Death Valley! However that didn’t stop us from climbing out the car to explore. With our coats on, water in one hand and camera in the other we headed off into the historic abandoned mining town.
History of Bodie State Park
This abandoned mining location was once a thriving lively little town, home to 2,712 residents and mining workers based on the census. Established in 1876, the town was constructed mostly all from wood and iron. The population grew after the discovery of gold underground, but sharply declined after the 1900s when the mine closed.
Unfortunately Bodie State Park has been officially abandoned since 1962, caused when the mining factory was shut down. All workers lost their jobs, resulting in needing to move away to find new work elsewhere. Families followed, leaving behind their homes and having to split up the community.
Bodie State Park is registered as a California Historical Landmark
This gold rush ghost town should be on your list to visit as it’s a true wonder that it still exists, preserved for 200,000 yearly visitors. Officially stated, there were 170 buildings on record however now only 110 still standing that you can explore. Since 2012, Bodie State Park is administered by the Bodie Foundation.
One house we explored straight away was one that is open to the public to walk inside and see for yourselves how it looked to live there. Walking into the front living room you first see a fireplace followed by a seating area and table. The original wallpaper can still be seen inside and the floors, mostly worn away, still show some of the patterned tiles. From the living room it splits into a 2 persons bedroom area on the left and the dining room on the right. Back to the dining room, a simple table with 4 chairs are positioned in the center with an old painting on the wall. Lastly is the kitchen and another bedroom, with pink belongings showing it was for a girl. Based on the style of the kitchen you can see that belongings are from the 1850s.
Many shops were left as they were, leaving behind machinery, materials and storage. Looking through windows of many stores left untouched since it was abandoned was quite unreal. Passing through the main street there are stores such as a clothes store, post office, mechanical car workshop, a store with communication and radio machinery, police station with a jail and a fire station. The Methodist Church still stands here as well, whereas the Roman Catholic Church burnt down in the 1900s. Unfortunately there are not many buildings you can enter, leaving you to peek through the windows.
The local saloon had glass bottles left on the counter tops and bar stools covered in dust. We have seen photos of the beer bottles standing on the bar, how they were left. However we realised that due to multiple earthquakes in the area this had caused the bottles to fall.
The museum located here is actually within the old Miners Union Hall building, where workers would socialise for parties, dances, concerts and school recitals. Hundreds of items such as photos, artwork, workers tools, artefacts and memorabilia can be seen here.
The visit to Bodie State Park was a strange but interesting thing to visit in California. Exploring this abandoned village showed the true reality of when there is no work for people that they must go looking elsewhere to support their families. It wasn’t busy at all during our visit in September with only a small number of cars in the parking location.
This ghost town is perfect for families of all ages to explore. The main street is fairly flat and suitable for those in a wheelchair. However to really explore this abandoned city it’s most suitable by those on foot. It’s needed to walk through uneven areas and up stairs to view the houses. Furthermore bring your own food and relax at the picnic area, as there is no cafe.
Bodie State Park offers also walking tours for those wanting to explore deeper into the history of the mining town, focusing on the mining factory. This specific area cannot be explored by yourself and only open for tours. Skipping this on our short visit was fine for us but we do believe its well worth it for a better insight into the past of Bodie.
- Bring a warm jacket or coat – It’s a high altitude and the weather can change quite quickly
- Check the official website for up to date information
- Visit the museum touristic center first for a booklet to read during your visit and understand what each house was used for
- Please realise that Bodie State Park is preserved to how it used to be. No tarmac pavements or wheelchair access is in place.
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Have you visited this historic Bodie State Park before in California? We’d love to hear what you thought, let us know in the comments!
We visited Bodie State Park during our 2 week US road trip. Check out our full itinerary here!