Dust off your cowboy boots and check out this little hidden gem from the olden days of the Wild West. A few miles off of Interstate 15 in California, nestled in the Mohave Desert mountains is Calico Ghost Town, an old mining town in Yermo. With mine tours and railroad rides, there is plenty to do and see for all ages.
On our family road trip to Zion, Utah, this summer, my hubby and I decided to make it an “old-school” style of vacation for our kids with plenty of stops on the way and goodie bags with activities and snacks to open every hour of our trek.
As I began to research entertaining things to do while we were on the road, I came across information on “Calico Ghost Town”, an old, abandoned mining town in Yermo, California, located in San Bernardino County.
Never heard of Calico?… well, I hadn’t either!
Here’s a brief recap of the history of Calico from their website…
Calico is an Old West mining town that has been around since 1881 during the most significant silver strike in California.
With its 500 mines, Calico produced over $20 million in silver ore over a 12-year span. When silver lost its value in the mid-1890s, Calico lost its population. The miners packed up, loaded their mules, and moved away, abandoning the town that once gave them a good living. It became a “ghost town.”
Sounds like an intriguing place, right??
So we decide, we had to add it to our list of pit stops.
From our home in North San Diego County, it was about a 3-hour drive, but the good news was that it was basically located on our route (3 miles off the interstate) so it was a great place to break up our trip.
Although we were there for only about an hour (there is plenty to do to last a few hours), there are some things that would be helpful to know ahead of time, so I’m going to break down the Top 5 Things to Know About Calico Ghost Town.
1. “Some Like it Hot” (but Most Don’t)
When we arrived at Calico Ghost Town, it was about 10 AM in late July 2020 (during the Covid-19 pandemic) so there definitely were fewer crowds than normal, but we were eager to get out, stretch our legs, and explore a bit!
It was already pretty stinkin’ warm that day, so I‘d advise if you are visiting in the summer to go earlier in the day or plan your visit during a cooler time of year!
Calico is located in the mountains of the Mojave Desert so it gets to be darn toasty during the summer months!
If you are a weather wimp (like my family), be sure to take the time of day and time of year into account in your planning!
2. Fun Ain’t Free
Unlike many road trip pit stops, Calico is NOT a free attraction.
Calico is operated by San Bernardino Regional Parks and the entrance fee when we visited (in July of 2020) was:
- $8 for adults
- $5 for youth (4-11)
- Free for children 3 & under
*If you have a large family or plan to visit frequently, you can also buy an Annual Family Pass for $50 (Valid for 12 months from date of purchase)
So for our family of 5, it was a grand total of $40 just to enter the Calico Park.
AND like your favorite infomercial will tell you…”But That’s Not All”…
Once you’ve paid your entry fee, that does not cover all that Calico has to offer.
There are some extra expenses in their attractions!
To enjoy Maggie’s Mine Tour, the Gold Panning Adventure, the Mystery Shack, and the Calico Odessa Railroad Ride, you will need to pay an extra fee.
The prices for the Maggie Mine Tour, Mystery Shack, or Gold Panning Adventure are each:
11 and over $3.50
5 to 10 years old $2.00
4 and under* Free
Package tickets are available for purchase at any of the 3 attractions. Packages include one tour through the Maggie Mine, Gold Panning Adventure, and Mystery Shack tour with the pricing of:
11 and over $8.50
5 to 10 years old $5.00
4 and under* Free
The Calico Odessa Railroad tickets are currently sold separately and are not included in the package.
11 and over $5.00
5 to 10 year old $2.50
4 and under* Free
So, if you are planning to participate in extra activities, be sure to add those into your budget!
Since we were there during the Covid pandemic, these attractions were not open, which saved us some moolah, but we were a bit bummed that all of the attractions were closed.
Other added costs you will want to take into consideration would be any food, drink, or souvenirs you might purchase that are available throughout the park at various shops and restaurants!
When I was researching online prior to our trip, there were many reviews saying it wasn’t worth the entry fee, but for our family, we really enjoyed our time in Calico Ghost Town, and we were in “vacation mode” so it seemed reasonably priced.
We were glad we stopped to look around and would definitely do it again!
3. Too Legit, Too Legit to Quit (Not!)
Although we loved our little pit stop at Calico, many reviews I read were disappointed that the town didn’t feel “authentic” enough.
The mining town does have a bit of an “amusement park” feel, but that is because it was purchased by the Knott’s Family (as in Knott’s Berry Farm) in 1951 and restored to be a historical attraction.
There are only 5 buildings that are original from the mining days (Lil’s Saloon, Calico Park Office, Lucy Lane’s House, Zenda Mining Company, and Lane’s General Store).
Unless you are a ghost town purist/expert you will probably have difficulty differentiating which buildings are legit and which ones are replicas. (well, besides the glass bottle house, clearly that one is NOT original!)
4. These Boots Were Made for Walking
Calico Ghost Town is a pretty expansive park with lots of areas to walk around!
With it being located in the mountains, the terrain can be steep in parts, so you will want to wear some good “walkers”.
I had flip flops on the day that we visited, and that is a decision I regretted pretty quickly once I started walking around the dirt streets of the town.
We stayed and explored for about an hour, and we definitely logged some distance, so I wish I had worn close-toed sneakers/athletic shoes.
5. Get Smart
One of the best things about visiting Calico Ghost Town is that it made history a hands-on experience for our kids.
When we arrived, we were given a little pamphlet filled with interesting facts and a sheet with geological information about the area.
As we toured the town, we got a first-hand feel what living during the mining boom might have been like (minus the brothels and red-light district – yes, it had both plus 22 saloons!)
All in all, Calico was the perfect place to stop for a spell and enjoy a swig of morning moonshine (just kidding…think I might be getting into the gold rush vibe a little too much!).
In all seriousness, I’m not sure I would classify Calico as a must-see “destination”, but I would definitely recommend it as a pitstop if you are traveling nearby!
Until next time, sarsaparilla cheers to you, partner!