Goldfield is an old mining town in central Nevada that is a bit of a rarity because it is part ghost town and part county seat. It helps explain things by knowing it is the county seat of Esmeralda County, one of the least populous counties in the United States.
Having it be part ghost town and part active town makes it an interesting visit. It is located about three hours northwest of Las Vegas off Highway 95. Coming from the east, it is about 30 minutes from Tonopah, the county seat for Nye County.
Goldfield was established in 1902 in response to the gold rush that happened after gold was found in the area. Goldfield lived up to its name, producing a huge amount of gold quickly after it was established. There are still some small mining operations in the area, but most of the mines were tapped out long ago.
Following a big new discovery in 1904 and the resulting gold rush, Goldfield became the largest city in Nevada, boasting over 30,000 residents.
The rich mines yielded approximately $86 million in gold with many people becoming rich and attracting famous people, such as the Earp brothers. Even the United States army came in to keep people from making off with gold stolen from the mines.
The success didn’t last long and residents started abandoning the city by 1910. Most of those that stuck behind didn’t stay long, as a flood in 1913 and a large fire in 1923 destroyed much of the town. Today, Goldfield is home to about 200 residents.
Doing a Quick Day Trip to Goldfield
I ended up going to Goldfield when a friend was in town that loves ghost towns. When she said she wanted to visit the ghost town at Goldfield, I thought she was talking about Goldfield, Arizona, which is a tourist ghost town we visited as a family and reviewed in this post.
However, she was talking about Goldfield, Nevada, which I only knew as a small, but functional town out in the middle of nowhere. She assured me it was a ghost town and we headed out.
We started the day by trying to visit the visitor’s center to get a better understanding of the town’s history, but that was unfortunately closed on a Friday morning.
From there we just explored around the town and looked at some old cars and abandoned buildings.
The main attraction in the middle of town off the highway is the Goldfield Hotel. The Goldfield Hotel was once considered the most luxurious hotel between San Francisco and Chicago. Built in 1908, the hotel showed off the riches of what Goldfield was at the time.
But what really makes the Goldfield Hotel famous is its long history of being haunted.
Many visitors have claimed to see ghosts in the hotel. One of the famous ghosts allegedly seen by different people at different times is a ghost referred to as “the stabber” because he runs at people holding a knife.
Another legendary ghost of the hotel is its former owner George Wingfield, who is said to leave fresh cigar ashes that cause cigar smoke/smell to spread through the hotel.
Other alleged ghosts include Wingfield’s mistress and illegitimate child and guests that committed suicide within the hotel.
Given its history, the hotel has passed through many different owners, all of which have tried to remodel and reopen it, but have ultimately determined it was haunted and sold it off to the next owner.
When we visited, interior construction was underway and the vehicles parked in front ruined our good photo opportunities, but I had fun getting the drone out and playing a little bit.
Esmeralda County Courthouse
The Courthouse isn’t really part of the ghost town since it is still operational. In fact, it has been in continuous operation since it was built in 1908.
Even if it is not abandoned, anyone can still enjoy the historic building, which was built during Goldfield’s prime and shows off Goldfield’s rich history with detailed intricacies and original Tiffany lamps.
Goldfield Motel and Santa Fe Saloon
If you get off the highway and travel in almost any direction, you are going to run into ghost town in the form of abandoned buildings, vehicles and even mines.
My friend took me down her favorite street, which leads to the Goldfield Motel, which is not to be confused with the Goldfield Hotel, although it is rumored to have a haunted room.
Near to the motel is the old Santa Fe Saloon, which is a great building to photograph and is also still in operation, serving pizza to visitors.
In fact, it is considered by many to be the oldest operating saloon in Nevada.
Across the street from the motel and saloon is a really cool part of the ghost town with a handful of abandoned buildings, some in really good shape and some barely standing.
There are also a lot of old cars and other interesting things to explore.
The Old School House
Not far from this area back toward the highway, we also explored some old buildings and trailers before reaching the old high school.
The high school burned down, but is in some stage of restoration. I was really impressed by the high school as it was just cool to look at.
The International Car Forest
We ended our day visiting The International Car Forest on the eastern outskirts of town.
To get there, take Crystal Avenue east off Highway 95 and follow until you go over a hill and see all the cars. The road is pretty rough, but we made it no problem in my Kia Optima.
The Car Forest wasn’t as impressive as I was expecting, but it was still really cool to visit.
It was a good combination of interesting cars placed in all different positions with lots of graffiti.
I was mostly underwhelmed with the quality of the artwork as it was quite pedestrian, but I would definitely recommend spending an hour exploring the Car Forest for anyone visiting Goldfield or even driving through.
Where to Eat
We enjoyed lunch at one of the few local restaurants, Dinky Diner. This had an old time diner feel, the prices were very reasonable and the food was pretty good, all freshly made. I would definitely be happy going back to Dinky Diner if I am back in Goldfield.
If you are interested in ghost towns, Nevada History, mining history or just want a unique and interesting afternoon trip, Goldfield is a fun place to visit for a half day or so. If you are coming from Las Vegas, it is a pretty easy 3 hour drive with some pretty desert landscapes and lots of wild burros to keep the drive interesting.