Saturday, December 9, 2023


Rhyolite, Nevada—An easy ghost town for RVers to visit

Rhyolite, Nevada, is this month’s featured Ghost Town Trails stop. I chose Rhyolite as it is an easy stop just off Hwy 95 for snowbirds heading south from the Pacific Northwest. A paved road leads you directly into the “downtown” business district, for those who just want to stop by with their RV for the day. RV parks and boondocking opportunities abound nearby, for those who want to rest a spell on their way south.

History of Rhyolite

“The town began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills. During an ensuing gold rush, thousands of gold-seekers, developers, miners and service providers flocked to the Bullfrog Mining District. Many settled in Rhyolite, which lay in a sheltered desert basin near the region’s biggest producer, the Montgomery Shoshone Mine.

“Industrialist Charles M. Schwab bought the Montgomery Shoshone Mine in 1906 and invested heavily in infrastructure, including piped water, electric lines and railroad transportation, that served the town as well as the mine. By 1907, Rhyolite had electric lights, water mains, telephones, newspapers, a hospital, a school, an opera house, and a stock exchange. Published estimates of the town’s peak population vary widely, but scholarly sources generally place it in a range between 3,500 and 5,000 in 1907–08.

“Rhyolite declined almost as rapidly as it rose.

After the richest ore was exhausted, production fell. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the financial panic of 1907 made it more difficult to raise development capital. In 1908, investors in the Montgomery Shoshone Mine, concerned that it was overvalued, ordered an independent study. When the study’s findings proved unfavorable, the company’s stock value crashed, further restricting funding. By the end of 1910, the mine was operating at a loss, and it closed in 1911. By this time, many out-of-work miners had moved elsewhere, and Rhyolite’s population dropped well below 1,000, and by 1920, it was close to zero.

“After 1920, Rhyolite and its ruins became a tourist attraction and a setting for motion pictures. Most of its buildings crumbled, were salvaged for building materials, or were moved to nearby Beatty or other towns, although the railway depot and a house made chiefly of empty bottles were repaired and preserved.”

Thank you to the folks at Wikipedia for the short and concise history of Rhyolite.

The bottle house

Our visits

If my memory serves me correctly, my wife and I have been to Rhyolite at least three times. Once on a summer RV trip before we had children in an un-airconditioned trailer where it was too hot, and we drove way too many miles each day. The 3/300 rule hadn’t been coined yet. The second time I believe we were with our teenage son in our RV on the way to visit my parents in Arizona.

Cook Building Rhyolite
Cook Bank Building

The last time was just my wife and me in the early fall, when we boondocked near Rhyolite on the way to points south on Hwy 95. Since we were so close to Rhyolite, we decided to take an evening ride via our ATV and dual sport motorcycle to the townsite for something to do. Rather than go the conventional way, as we had during our past two visits, we opted to travel down one of the abandoned railroad beds that led into the old town. (Three railroads served Rhyolite in its heyday.)

The visit was memorable

This visit was memorable for two reasons: 1) The old railroad right-of-way enters the remains of Rhyolite at the old train depot from the opposite side of town from where most tourists enter. As we rode up over a ridge, we surprised several Harley Davidson riders taking a break admiring the train depot. The looks on their faces were priceless, as a grandmother of seven emerged, riding an ATV, from the desert dust trailing behind her. I think they were surprised to have their free-spirited biker persona being one-upped by a woman senior citizen!

2) We arrived late in the day as golden hour approached. It added a ghostly touch to the crumbling buildings, and provided better photo opportunities than our previous visits. We visited the schoolhouse, mercantile, jail, the Cook Bank Building, bottle house, and the Porter store. We finished our visit at the ghostly figures and other art installations of the Goldwell Open Air Museum located south of Rhyolite.

Goldwell Open Air Museum

Since most of the ruins are constructed of durable materials like rock and concrete, it doesn’t feel like much has changed since our first visit more than 40 years ago. While I am certain a bit more of the town crumbles back to the earth every year, I am hopeful the remains will outlast me, allowing my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to visit this special place. Who knows what kind of RVs they will be traveling in when they visit.

Rhyolite Jail
The jail should last for another 100 years or more

Getting there:

Rhyolite lays about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas, about 4 air miles due west of Beatty, Nevada.

Take Highway 374 southwest from Beatty approximately 4 miles and turn right onto paved Rhyolite Road. Head north on Rhyolite Road, arriving in Rhyolite in about 1.5 miles. There is plenty of room to park, along with options to turn your RV around.


RV parks: There are two RV parks in Beatty used by in-transit RVers. Death Valley RV Park and Space Station RV Park both offer full-hookup RV spaces at reasonable rates.

Trailer near Rhyolite
Our boondock site

Boondocking: Boondocking on BLM land is plentiful outside of Beatty. The place where my wife and I stayed on our last visit (pictured) is located at N36° 54.413 W116° 47.552  For those of you who bring your off-road toys with you and want to uniquely experience Rhyolite arriving via the old rail line, as visitors would have done 120 years ago, you will find the old rail bed leaving the above boondocking site at N36° 54.244 W116° 47.441. Head southwest and you will find yourself at the Rhyolite train depot in about 2.5 miles.

My wife after she impressed the bikers

If you prefer to boondock with others, check out Bombo’s Pond just south of Beatty—a well-known BLM boondocking location.

Note: Overnight camping is prohibited in Rhyolite.

Past installments of Ghost Town Trails you may enjoy:


Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.



5 4 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

George Isaac (@guest_257087)
1 month ago

My first visit of 3 total, could not get in because of the filming of “The Island”. (A must watch for Rhyolite fans!!! Evan MacGregor & Charlotte Johansson & Steve Buschemi. Great footage!)
Could only barely see the bank from afar.
But at sunset some dark clouds formed and an alternative eerie spooky sky show entertained me, I would not have noticed if it were all the way open.
Pool at the Stagecoach Casino is open year round, in Beatty.
And available to Motel 6 customers.
Nevadas largest candy store , nextdoor!
Denny’s had $1.99 pancakes.
Do not miss the ghost town of Carrera just south of Beatty, on the left. Very pretty!!

Tommy Molnar (@guest_256854)
1 month ago

We have visited Rhyolite several times in our north-south travels on 95. It’s a great place to have lunch off the highway. We’ve never stayed at the Death Valley RV Park but did stay once at the Space Station RV Park. It was very cramped, even for our 25′ TT that we had at the time.

Donny (@guest_256909)
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

We have visited Rhyolite a couple of different times. If someone likes ghost towns, it is definitely worth visiting. Plenty of room to park and maneuver a 40′ motorhome around also.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.