Just to the east of Yosemite National park and north of Mono Lake is a town that time forgot. Bodie was a booming gold mining town before the mines played out. When the miners left they often just abandoned their houses and today Bodie is a California State Park that preserves what is left of the town in a state of “arrested decay”. Welcome to the ghost town of Bodie, California.
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Gold was discovered in California in 1849 near Sacramento but 10 years later most of the gold in that region had been mined so prospectors started searching elsewhere in California. In 1859, William S. Bodey discovered gold nearby Bodie which is on the other side of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains from Sacramento. The town of Bodie bears his name, sort of, but he never lived there because he died in the winter of 1859 in a blizzard. It is not clear why the spelling of Bodey got changed to Bodie.Â Some blame a bad sign painter.
It was two years later that the Bunker Hill Mine started. Bodie grew slowly. It started with 20 miners but grew to over 5,000 by 1878. Mining continued in Bodie until well after WW I although much of the town (95%) was destroyed by a fire in 1932. By the 1950s Bodie was a ghost town. It became a state park in 1962.
Getting to Bodie
The most common way to get to Bodie is through Yosemite National Park using California 120 / Tioga Road through Tuolumne Meadows and over the Tioga Pass. Tioga pass does close in the winter when Bodie has to be accessed via US 395 which runs from north to south just east of the Sierras.
Bodie is on Bodie Road which is labeled California 270 but don’t be confused to think this is a highway. The road is 13 miles of bumpy road that turns into a dirt road 3 miles before it gets to the park.
It is 2 hours and 45 minutes from the Yosemite Valley Floor to Bodie so it is a bit long for a day trip. It is better to plan to spend at least a night in the area. You can combine a visit to Bodie with a visit to nearby Mono Lake, Devils Postpile National Monument, or Mammoth Lakes.
There are no services in Bodie except restrooms.
What You Will See in Bodie
It took a while for Bodie to have success with mining. Gold was discovered there around the same time as the Comstock lode was discovered in Virginia City and silver was discovered in Aurora, both of which are nearby in Nevada.
The first two mines went bankrupt but the Standard Company finally found a profitable vein of gold in 1879. Eventually, there were as many as 20 different mines in Bodie.
There is still mine equipment scattered throughout the town. For an extra $6 per person, you can take a 50-minute tour of the Stamp Mill. Get your tickets at the museum. A stamp mill pounds rocks into much smaller rocks with very large industrial hammers. Tours are offered Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekendÂ 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 3:00 pm as staffing permits.
I said that the town was held in a state of “arrested decay”. What that means is that the state park service will keep the buildings from falling down but they will not fix the place up and they certainly won’t do any dusting. You can peek into private homes where the table was left set for dinner but there is now a layer of dust covering every surface.
Since the homes in Bodie were abandoned in the 1930s or 1940s you can get an idea of what life was like in that era. Can you imagine using this fancy washing machine?
There is still at least one saloon in town that you can look into but in its heyday, Bodie was a wild mining town. By 1880 Bodie had 2,000 different buildings and 65 of those were saloons. That was half the buildings on its main street. It also had 3 breweries at the time. That doesn’t count all the gambling halls, all the opium dens, or all the houses of ill repute.
I love to peek into old stores and there are a few in Bodie that are still stocked with dry goods. See how many brands you actually recognize, like Folgers Coffee.
As the get rich quick single minors moved on from Bodie moved on in the early 1880s the town became less violent and more family-friendly. Bodie got its first church, the Methodist Church, in 1882 and it still stands.
You can peak into the schoolhouse and see the lessons ready to be taught under a thick layer of dust.
Around the town, there are a number of abandoned cars in various states of disrepair and one truck that looks like it is ready to be refueled and ready to go.
…although let’s hope you are not driving away in this horse-drawn herse that was left in town.
Visit Bodie, California with this episode of the Amateur Traveler video podcast. This video shows the old gold mining ghost town of Bodie. Bodie was founded in 1861 and largely abandoned by 1932. The town is kept in a state of arrested decay. It is not restored nor is it allowed to continue to disintegrate.
When to go to Bodie
Bodie is open year-round. It is easier to get to Bodie in late spring, summer and fall. The roads will be mud in rainy weather and chains and 4 wheel drive are recommended for a winter visit. I have visited in late Spring and early Fall and recommend both. Bodie receives 200,000 visitors a year, most of which come in the summer.
I like to get to Bodie first thing in the morning when the light is particularly beautiful because of its deep blue skies. Bodie’s skies are notable because of its elevation at 8379 feet.
What to bring to Bodie
Because of its altitude always pack a hat, jacket, and sunscreen. Bodie will be cold, at least in the morning, as the temperature drops below freezing at night over 300 days a year.
Pack food if you will be at the park through lunchtime as there is no place to get food at the park. Also, bring a water bottle.
Make sure you have gas before you drive to Bodies as no gas is sold in the park.
Most importantly, bring a camera. Bodie is a photographer’s paradise. If you are attracted by the lure of cool old stuff this is your place. see More Bodie State Park Photos
Other Things to Know about Bodie
Bodie State Park prohibited the use of drones.
Bodie has ghost tours or night tours a few nights a year. Check the state park webpage for availability.
Dogs are permitted in the park but must be on a leash at all times. Dogs are not allowed on the Stamp Mill tour or in the Museum.
Restrooms are available with flush toilets by the parking lot and in the picnic area
Where to Stay
The nearest hotels to Bodie are in Bridgeport. Bodie is also not that far from Mammoth Lakes and can be a good day trip from there.