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Bodie, California

Visiting Bodie, a California Ghost Town


bodie california street

Bodie, California Street

© Betsy Malloy 2000

What is Bodie and Why Is it Interesting?

Perhaps one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the western United States, Bodie, California, was once home to more than 10,000 gold-seekers, a wild, wide-open gold mining town that some thought even God had forsaken.

Today, with almost 200 structures still standing, it's preserved in a state of "arrested decay," which means nothing is repaired, but nothing is allowed to fall down, either.

Bodie appeals to most everyone who shows up there, but especially to those who enjoy stories of the Gold Rush and Old West.

Scenes from Bodie

Enjoy some of our best shots in this Bodie Photo Tour

Bodie, California Review

Bodie ghost town became a California state park in 1962. You may have heard that Bodie was (or is) on the list of California state parks which might be closed due to budget constraints, but according to a member of the Friends of Bodie with whom we spoke in late 2011, their organization has pitched in to keep it open. We applaud their initiative and if you do, too, you can donate at their website.

So much of old Bodie remains that it's easy to imagine the rest, with houses and businesses lining the streets. The church, a residence and a few other buildings are usually open to the public, as is the museum. Free tours can take you inside the old stamp mill where ore was processed, or around town to learn more about its history.

We've been in bunches of ghost towns all over the west and Bodie is - by a large margin - the most fun. They may not have fake gunfights on the main street or musical shows in the saloon, but this is the place where you can get the best idea of what a gold rush town might have looked like, and within limits, you're free to wander around, looking at all of it.

If you're a photographer, bring plenty of media and plan to stay a long time.

Be Prepared for Bodie, California

You can buy bottled water at the museum, but no food is available in Bodie, California, and you'll likely end up spending more time here than you expected. Bring something to eat and plenty of water.

Bodie is at 8,375 feet elevation. Because of its altitude and desert location, the air in Bodie, California is especially dry and risk of sunburn is high. Find out what you should do before you go to the mountains to stay comfortable.

Details About Bodie

  • Hours: Open daily, but hours vary by season and Bodie is accessible only by over-snow vehicles in winter
  • Reservations: If you want to take a tour, head for the museum right away when you arrive to sign up
  • Cost: Per-person entrance fee charged, which covers all tours, too
  • Location: 13 miles east of US 395 near Mono Lake. See driving directions and cautions below
  • How Long: Allow several hours to all day, depending on whether you take any guided tours
  • Best Time to Visit: During summer, Bodie is open longer hours and a variety of tours are offered, but it can get hot at mid-day. For the best photographs, stick around as late as you can.

Getting to Bodie, California

Bodie State Historic Park
Bridgeport, California
Bodie, California Website

Don't pay too much attention to the official address. Bodie, California, is actually located 13 miles east of US 395 between Lee Vining and Bridgeport. The first 10 miles of road is paved and take about 15 minutes to drive. The last 3 miles of dirt road seem to be perpetually washboarded and can take 10 minutes or more to cross.

The drive to Bodie, California is not recommended for anyone with severe back or neck problems or any other condition that could be aggravated by the bumps.

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