A Day at Goldfield Ghost Town

April 15, 2021
Goldfield Ghost Town from the train.

Goldfield Ghost Town is a theme park recreating the old mining town. Established in 1892, Goldfield was a gold-rush boomtown overnight. Although it closed and reopened multiple times with different owners, Goldfield saw $167,00 worth of gold hauled from its shafts (which is a lot in modern equivalency). In its peak days, Goldfield saw as many as 4,000 fortune hunters. The original town burned down 70 years ago, but the gold ran out (mostly) long before that when the vein hit a fault line. The miners dug too deep looking for the vein and struck the water table, which flooded the mine and put it to rest.

As they say, when the post office packs up, your town no longer exists. The property sat vacant for several decades before a business man thought to bring Goldfield back to life as a tourist trap. Today’s town very much resembles the original town. Some of the current buildings are built on the old foundations. The look and feel of the town is authentic.

We found Goldfield Ghost Town to be a terrific place to take the kids. There is no entrance fee and there’s lots to do. For your entertainment they have restaurants, gift shops, an ice cream shop, a shooting gallery, museums (including the old bordello; Goldfield had some wicked ladies), and several tours. They even have a zipline (lower-case yay), and perform gunfights in the streets. For about $20 per person you can take a train ride around the town, enjoy a tour of the mine, and investigate the “mystery shack”, the three most popular tours. We mostly did it for the train ride (more on that later).

Below are what we found to be the six best things to do in town.

1. The Mystery Shack

The Mystery Shack at Goldfield Ghost Town.

This is one of the weirdest, most amazing things we have ever done, a one-of-a-kind experience that we won’t forget anytime soon. Imagine a funhouse that actually succeeds in confusing your mind.

The Mystery Shack is set at such an angle that when inside your body cannot find equilibrium. Just walking into the first room made me feel like I had vertigo. Amazingly, you never get used to it. Walking downhill feels like uphill and vice-verse. The woman pictured above is standing level — the rest of us are cooked as hell, holding on for dear life. It is the damndest thing.

The tour group spent 30 minutes laughing at our predicament. It is amazing that although we can consciously think through our situation, we cannot instruct our body and brain to adjust for the circumstances. If you come to Goldfield Ghost Town, don’t miss the Mystery Shack.

2. Goldfield Ghost Town Mine Tour

The mine tour at Goldfield Ghost Town.

A guided, underground tour of Goldfield Ghost Town that last about 30 minutes. While in the old shaft you’ll learn about the history of the mine, the equipment they used, the process of extracting the ore, the process of entering and exiting the mine, etc. Apparently the two highest paid guys at the mine were the guy working the elevator and the guy who lit the fuses (because he had the furtherest to run to safety).

The kids enjoyed the experience of being in the mine. The stories border on fascinating — like the dwarves in Moria, they dug too deep. The process by which they tunnel and mine the ore is interesting. The guide was well versed in the history and had that vintage “shee-oot” twang. As you exit the mine you will cross over a five foot bridge that allows you to see down into the 1,000′ old mining shaft (at least that’s what they say — it’s hard to tell).

3. Goldfield Ghost Town Shooting Gallery

The Shooting Gallery at Goldfield Ghost Town.

Most folks who’ve been to a fun park over the years have seen a light-gun shooting gallery. The guns shoot a beam of light aimed at small bullseyes around a room of objects. When the target senses the light, the object (whether a pop can, piano player, or cuckoo clock), will move in some manner — a small payoff for your accuracy.

This shooting gallery is superlative for two reasons. 1. It’s only $2 to play. 2. Instead of a limited number of shots for your two bucks, these machines have a function that allows you unlimited shots for one minute. All the bullseyes have a point value, and you get a free game if you score over 8,000 points. The lady working the register said she’d never seen anyone get a free game.

Compete with your friends or dazzle the room with your crack-shot. It is impressive to watch someone make every bell ring and strange object dance for a minute.

4. Shop the Streets of Goldfield Ghost Town

The town of Goldfield.

Goldfield has a nice, authentic feel to it. The buildings might be recreations of the originals, but they look real. There are plenty of touches around the town — the bird cage, the broke down tractor — to give it a whimsical feel and provide photo ops.

Some of the stores include: A general store with candy, t-shirts, and schmucky items for our enjoyment; a hot sauce store; an ice cream shop; an old church; several museums with tours running multiple times per hour; an old-timey photo place; the gallows and the jail; and other interesting fare.

We took out a loan to buy a couple ice cream cones, but that’s all. Window shopping with family was pleasant in the unusual atmosphere.

5. Narrow Gauge Railway Tour

The train ride at Goldfield Ghost Town.

The train circles the town on a 1.5 mile track. While chugging along the conductor tells stories about the city of Goldfield, the Superstition Mountains, and the desert area in general. If you’re lucky (unlucky?) he’ll yowl some Lady GaGa for you.

The best view of the town is halfway around the track when the Superstitions backdrop the city. The train also passes by some of the old mining machinery and an assortment of cacti. Along the way you will suffer bad jokes and bad grammar. Of the $20 three-pack of attractions, the train ride was the least interesting. Regardless, the three tours combine for a good value and give you most of the historical information.

6. Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park near Goldfield Ghost Town.

We want to tell you a secret… this is the best thing to do in Goldfield Ghost Town. Trouble is, the Superstition Mountains aren’t in Goldfield, they are basically across the street. Lost Dutchman State Park costs $10 to enter, but that is a small fee for access to the best hikes in the Phoenix area.

The Siphon Draw Trail is spectacular, perhaps the single best hike you’ll find in the region. In the above photo, on the far right side you’ll see you can hike around the large mountain face that dominates the landscape. If you push far enough you can make it to the top of the “Flatiron”, which is the highest peak you can see in the upper-right corner.

The mountain is so massive and interesting that it is hard to take your eyes off of it. Beware of loose rocks — it’s easy to stumble along while admiring the scenery.

Conclusion

Goldfield Ghost Town makes for a fantastic, half-day, family escape. We would recommend buying the three-attraction package because it is a good value. Don’t miss the mine tour and the Mystery Shack. Arrive early enough to beat the formidable crowds. Also, be sure to eat before you come. There’s not much in the area to douse your hunger, which puts you at the mercy of Pappy’s extortionist prices.

Directions From Phoenix

Take US-60 East (Superstition Freeway)

Drive east to exit 196 Idaho Road/AZ-88 East

Turn left on Idaho Road /AZ-88 East | 2.3 miles

Turn right at N. Apache Trail / AZ-88 East | 4.0 miles

Turn left at Goldfield Ghost Town

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