The craziest deserted places in California right now

If you’ve ever watched I am Legend or 28 days later They know that 1) there is something incredibly fascinating about previously inhabited things abandoned placesand 2) Zombies are assholes.

Here are the 13 creepiest abandoned places in California, some of which are prohibited by law, but some of which you can visit.

Be sure to bring a chainsaw … you know, ONLY in case.


In the spring of 1905, the Colorado River flooded an old dry lakeshore and filled it with water. This created a brand new lake called the Salton Sea. In the 1950s, the Salton Riviera became an incredibly popular getaway (more popular than Yosemite) where people went swimming and fishing. Only problem? This fortuitous lake had no drain, which meant no natural stabilization system, which meant that it eventually became saltier than sea water, which meant almost all of the fish died, and then, separately, the water receded and pretty much everyone fled the scene . Now the beaches that surround it are home to fish carcasses, connected motels, and abandoned buildings. If you want to know what it will be like after the apocalypse this is the only place you need to visit.

Newberry Springs

Californians love to ignore the fact that a desert is, by definition, a place where there is a lack of water. So no one should be surprised that someone built a private water park for their family in the middle of the Mojave Desert in the 1950s. It opened to the public in the 1960s, but dwindling crowds forced it to close in 1990. That wasn’t the end of the water park where there is very little water. It reopened in 1998 after spending millions of dollars adding tons of new features. However, when one employee became paraplegic for shutting down one of the slides and suing millions, it was shut down for good. Now it’s utterly deserted … save for an insane amount of enormous cockroaches calling it home.

Malakoff Diggins Historic State Park

North Bloomfield was originally called “Humbug City” because miners who settled there in 1951 did not strike gold. A few years later, however, hydraulic methods helped a second wave of miners find enough gold to warrant settlement. Then the Post said the name of the city needed to be changed because there were just too many other cities with the name “Humbug”. The townspeople went to Bloomfield next, but that was ALSO taken. So they threw a north in front of it. It turned out that miners weren’t particularly creative when it came to naming places, but that’s fine because they were (hopefully) rich. Hydraulic mining eventually ended thanks to legal proceedings in 1884, and Humbug City Bloomfield North Bloomfield became an abandoned ghost town soon after. Today, the church, school, barber shop, fire department, and tons of other buildings remain, making this abandoned place feel like a place where zombies will (which is still the case) pop up in the cemetery there ) anytime.

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

There are many mysteries surrounding the Chemung Mine’s filthy past. What We Know: 1) It served the town of Masonic (basically as far east as possible from the Bay Area before reaching Nevada) from 1909 to 1938, 2) its owner was allegedly dumped in a mine shaft for having it cheated on employees, and 3) his mind is not particularly happy about it, although he seems to save his anger for Saturday nights. It’s also easily accessible if you enjoy visiting abandoned mines (you can even crawl through some tunnels). However, be careful not to fall into open manholes.


In 1923, a really friendly psychiatric nurse, who didn’t like the way mentally ill patients were treated in state institutions, decided to build her own sanatorium for women with mild mental and nervous disorders. Over the years, the sanatorium has been a haven for residents like the actress who played Glinda the Good Witch and Marilyn Monroe’s mother. It later became a home for older women with dementia. However, in 2006 it was closed and sold to developers looking to build condominiums. Fortunately, the community said “No way” and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and although it could eventually be converted into a public park, the 15 buildings and garden shrines are completely empty for the time being.

Evan Thompson / Thrillist
San Francisco
Bayshore’s brick house, built in 1910, was used for parking and servicing locomotives en route to SF. As the South Pacific Line grew, so did the Bayshore facilities – at one point there were 25 tracks out, 39 tracks in, and even a hospital for the 3,000 employees. The rise of diesel engines meant that steam systems were obsolete and the round house was abandoned in 1982. A fire in 2001 destroyed half of the remains of the roof of the round house, but the bones of the structure are still intact / look super cool. While California once had over 200 round houses, Bayshore’s is the last standing brick round house in the state.
los Angeles
The abandoned Griffith Park Zoo, which opened in 1912 and closed in 1966 with the opening of Los Angeles Zoo, is still home to the ruins of animal enclosures that doubles as a picnic area (um, that doesn’t sound scary at all) and the sometimes home of the Great Horror Campout.
Año Nuevo Island

Off the California coast between SF and Santa Cruz is still the home of the old lighthouse keeper on the 9 hectare island of Año Nuevo, which was abandoned as a light station in 1948. However, the original lighthouse was purposely overturned in the Aughts when it began to deteriorate and posed a potential threat to the hundreds of elephant seals / endangered sea lions in the north who now call the island home. Oh, and before you even think about exploring this thing in town, know that it’s closed to the public. And because there are so many seals / sea lions, great white sharks are common sightings patrolling the surrounding waters.


The SS Palo Alto was launched in 1919 (too late to be used in World War I) and retired just 10 years later. She was a concrete ship that was supposed to serve as a tanker. After mothballing, she was instead towed to Aptos, where the Seacliff Amusement was located. The corporation built a pier leading to her and outfitted her as a pleasure ship. Amenities included a dance floor, swimming pool, and coffee shop. In 1931 they went bankrupt, the ship cracked in its midsection, and she was stripped of all the funny stuff and left as the strangest fishing pier in the state. As abandoned ships do, it deteriorated over the years, but winter storms in 2016 and 2017 pushed the wreck to the starboard side, breaking open the rear half and tearing the stern off. Although people can no longer dance there, it acts as an artificial reef for marine life that goes there to hang out with friends and feed on fish and other things.

Grant Marek / Thrillist
Lake Tahoe

Fannette, the only island in Lake Tahoe, still houses the stone bowl of what was once a tea house, built in the late 1920s by Lora Knight, the clearly super-wealthy lady who owned Vikingsholm – a 38-room castle on the shores of Emerald Bay. According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, “Mrs. Knight and her guests were served the occasional tea after motorboat transport. A small fireplace in the corner and a large oak table and four oak chairs in the corner The center of the 16 by 16 foot large room gave it a very rustic look. “


In 1880, Bodie was California’s third largest city. Third people third. Today it has a population of zero – the former mining town turned ghost town was largely deserted in the 1920s due to the terrible weather (100 miles per hour wind and frost every month of the year) and completely deserted by a massive fire in 1932. One hundred buildings remain, including the old general store, the Methodist Church, a drawing room, a bank vault, and the cemetery. It’s now a National Historic Landmark and State Park, and you can pay $ 5 to explore the city that has been preserved in a state of arrested decay.

los Angeles

One of seven best secret hikes In LA you will be taken to Murphy Ranch, an abandoned Nazi compound built in the middle of the mountains by some super smart guys who thought Germany would win World War II and take over America. Fifty caretakers were arrested by local police in 1941 the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. As of 1990, it was completely abandoned so your inner Indiana Jones could rummage through engine parts, crumbled huts, and even an overturned 1940s VW bus.


This tunnel, nearly 1,700 feet long, which was the first railway line to cross the Sierra Nevada, was completed by Chinese workers in 1867, and the first train passed through it in 1868. The last train passed through in 1993 when the line was moved to a new location that looked nowhere near as cool. Today you can wander through it and see petroglyphs, the historic 75 foot high handcrafted Great Wall of China, and lots and lots of graffiti.

Login here for our daily email in San Francisco and be the first to get all the food / drink / fun SF has to offer.

Grant Marek is Thrillists Senior Cities Director and next time he’s in Tahoe, he really wants to kayak to the tea house. Follow him on Twitter to see more cool, abandoned stuff @grant_marek.
Daisy Barringer is a SF freelance writer whose dream road trip destination is Bodie, California. Follow her on Twitter @Daisy.

About Justin Howze

Check Also

Porter Wright attorneys withdraw from Trump Election Lawsuit

For the second time in a week a major law firm has left its client …