This Ghost Town Road Trip in Oregon is The Perfect Adventure

Did you know there are more ghost towns in Oregon than anywhere in the United States? Ghost towns have always been fascinating to me, and this particular road trip I plan on doing myself this summer. I recently picked up at new camera as I have taken up photography this year! I’ll be hitting the road hopefully around July, and can’t wait to venture into these incredible ghost towns and take some great photos myself.

If you are looking for a fun adventure to take with loved ones, you’ll definitely love this road trip that we have made, which focuses on ghost towns primarily in Eastern Oregon. You can check out the map here which we have made on Google maps, and also see the map which we have embedded below. We recommend you plan well, as this trip is a few hundred miles depending on where you are starting. You can of course change this trip to whatever accommodates your adventure best!

 

Shaniko

 

shaniko oregon
Danielle Denham / thepdxphotographer

The town of Shaniko was no accident. Danielle (thepdxphotographer) took one of my favorite photos in this article, shown above in Shaniko. The town was planned before it was born. It was the brainchild of a group of bankers and businessmen in The Dalles, and by 1900 Shaniko offered hotel, a combination City Hall, Fire Hall and jail and other structures some of which still stand.

The reason for the town was the enormous production of wool, Central Oregon being one huge sheep ranch in the 1900s. The only outlet for these thousands of bales of fleece was the The Dalles. In 1898, in order to expedite the shipment of wool, a railroad was brought in from Biggs Junction on the Columbia River. Since a railroad could not be useful without a terminal, Shaniko was built for that express purpose.

The hotel here has been beautifully restored, and there are several antiuq stores said to be open in the spring, summer, and fall.

 

Condon

condon2
Image via Condon Chamber of Commerce

Condon is technically not a ghost town, but you will come across this great little town in route on our ghost town road trip. Condon, a Norman Rockwell-esque community, is situated less than 30 miles southeast from the park.
You will certainly be hungry along the way, and we recommend stopping in at the Round-Up Grill for a juicy burger and a cold brew. There’s also an old-fashioned soda fountain and a branch of the famous Powell’s Bookstore next door at Country Flowers, as well as some other wonderful shops and eateries (Sandi’s Soups, for example) along Condon’s beautifully restored historic Main Street.

Famous geologist Thomas Condon founded the town in 1893, and helped work with the John Fossil Beds. It was also where Linus Pauling grew up (Nobel Prize winning physicist). 

Lonerock

Lonerock oregon
blogspot

According to the United States Census Bureau, Lonerock, which was founded in 1881 has a total area of 1.01 square miles all of it land. Lonerock was started as a service center for the surrounding ranches.

One thing you’ll notice here is an unusual, 35-foot high lone rock which still stands in the town near the old Methodist church, hence the city name Lonerock. The city’s population grew from 68 in 1900 to 70 in 1910, 73 in 1920 and then to a high of 82 in 1930. By 1940 Lonerock’s population dwindled to 46, and continued to drop to 38 in 1950, 31 in 1960, and then bottomed out to 12 residents in 1970. The city grew to 26 citizens in 1980, before falling to 11 in the 1990 census. As of the census of 2010, there were 21 people, 12 households, and 5 families residing in the city.

Check out this shed size jail that still stands, courtesy of Lynne Hammonds who ventured through Lonerock.

Lone Rock oregon
blogspot

Hardman

hardman
Danielle Denham / thepdxphotographer

Located on SH 207, just nine miles south of Ruggs and 20 miles south of Heppner, you will find Hardman. This ghost town is a travel center and agricultural ghost on Oregon’s eastern grasslands. This fascinating place was founded in the 1870s, and the post office was established in 1881. Hotels stores, and other businesses soon followed. When automobile and trucks came into their own, the town faded.

John F. Royse and his brother, the first settlers in the area, started a school in 1879 which was known as Dairyville. Locals referred to this place as Rawdog. At the same time, David N. Hardman, who arrived in the county in 1878, started a settlement a mile to the southeast. In 1881 a post office was established, and was known as Hardman.  A mile to the northwest of Dairyville was the community of Adamsville, known to the locals as Yallerdog. In 1882, the Hardman post office was moved to Dairyville but retained the Hardman name. Adamsville post office was established in 1884 and closed in 1885, and thereafter, all activity centered on what is now Hardman, where the post office ran intermittently until 1968. Locals called the place “Dogtown” after its two predecessors. Why the locals named these communities after dogs is unknown.

 

Galena

Galena is a former gold mining camp settled in 1865, also considered a ghost town about 20 miles from Austin Junction in the Blue Mountains. Galena is on the Middle Fork John Day River in the Malheur national forest.

The town was named Susanville after one of the earliest inhabitants, Susan Ward. Galena post office was established in 1901 when a group of miners were able to get the Susanville post office moved from the current site of Galena two miles up Elk Creek to their mine. The new post office was named for a body of galena ore in the area, and the town was renamed as well. The mines were worked extensively in the 1860s and were still active in 1940.

Rick / pnwphotoblog.com
Rick / pnwphotoblog.com

These great photos are courtesy of Rick at pnwphotoblog.com, where you can find even more information on this awesome little town (HERE).

Galena-House-1024x768
Rick / pnwphotoblog.com
Galena Oregon
Rick / pnwphotoblog.com

 

Greenhorn

Greenhorn in 1913 / wikipedia.org
Greenhorn in 1913 / wikipedia.org

As of 2010, Greenhorn has been completely abandoned with a total population of 0. There are reportedly 7 homes which still stand here. This town was first populated in 1860s as miners prospected for gold in the area. It was platted in 1904, though it lost two-thirds of its population between 1900 and 1910.

The mining district was composed first of placer mines, but soon many lode gold mines developed. The city was incorporated in 1903. It continued as a viable community until 1942 when gold mining was made illegal by Federal Public Law 208 during World War II.

In later years, the old Greenhorn Jail (dating to 1910) was removed to Canyon City under suspicious circumstances. A court case ensued for its return, but because the city straddles the Blue Mountain ridge, the district attorneys of Baker County and Grant County could not even agree in which court house it should be held. The case was eventually heard by the Circuit Court for Grant County in Canyon City. The jail remains in Canyon City.

 

Granite

Granite 1955 / pnwphotoblog.com
Granite 1955 / pnwphotoblog.com

Granite was another late 1800s gold mining town, booming with 5000 people. You will find this town just 15 miles northwest of Sumpter, in the northeastern corner of the county about 45 miles out of Baker City.

Granite Drug Store
Granite Drug Store / pnwphotoblog.com

Back on July 4, 1862 the first gold was found here. By 1900 Granite had a drug store, two hotels, livery stable, a post office, five saloons and three stores. When the gold was gone the town faded, and today Granite has around a dozen or so citizens. If you’d like to read more about Granite, we’d definitely recommend checking out pnwphotoblog.com with more very detailed information on many ghost towns in Oregon.

 

Sumpter

sumpter
Nicholas D / Flickr

Tucked away in the trees and nestled in Oregon’s Elkhorn Mountain Range, lies the historic gold mining town of Sumpter. Three Carolinans settled here in the 1960s and started farming. They called their homestead Fort Sumter, but when gold was found and the valley was overrun with Northern sympathizer miners, the name was changed to Sumpter.

Incredible shot of the dredge in Sumpter from Danielle Denham:

Danielle Denham / thepdxphotographer
Danielle Denham / thepdxphotographer

Sumpter is on the Elkhorn Scenic Byway and is surrounded by incredible landscapes. Mountains, rivers, streams, and lakes and offer great fishing, swimming, nearby boating, gold panning, camping, gold panning, hunting, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, 4-wheeling, ATV’ing, hiking and exploring the gorgeous area.

 

Bourne

Bourne Oregon 1921 / westernmininghistory.com
Bourne Oregon 1921 / westernmininghistory.com

Just 7 miles north of Sumpter, along Cracker Creek you will find Bourne. Sumpter is on SH 7, 20 miles northwest of Salisbury and West of Baker City in the Blue Mountains. Back in the 1870s, this placer mining camp was bustling with saloons and other businesses, along main street. A post office here operated from 1895 to 1927. Some mines are still producing, and a few buildings remain.

 

Cornucopia

Cornucopia_Jailhouse_1_-_Cornucopia_Oregon
Old Cornucopia jailhouse / wikimedia.org

Some 20 million dollars in gold came from this wild and wooly gold mining town full of shootings, saloons and “sporting” ladies. Shortly after the gold was found in 1885, 1000 miners flocked to the town. In 1898 the town relocated a quarter mile to a new location, and it grew quickly. The mines faded, the town died, and by the 1970s only empty buildings remained. The town is in the Wallowa National Forest, 12 miles northwest of Halfway. Some summer cabins have been built in recent years. Here’s a really good article to read more about the history of Cornucopia. (READ HERE)

Have you been to any of these towns or plan on going soon? Would you like to share more about other ghost towns in Oregon? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear! Make sure and like Danielle Denham’s thepdxphotographer Facebook page also to see more awesome photography in Oregon!

 

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  • Rick Dancer

    I’ve been to seven of them.
    https://youtu.be/ElCoFojGXK0

    • Tyler James

      We should share this soon! great video.

      • Laverne Swanson

        I went to You Tube so I could watch in full screen. And shared it.

  • Rick Dancer

    here’s one of my favorite not on the list. Located near Wolf Creek Tavern south of Roseburg.

    https://youtu.be/xXIXNSP8PMo

    • mikemixer

      Used to live about half a mile from Golden, at Lichen. My ex’s grandparents lived there for ages. The school house was on another property opposite where I lived. It wasn’t open for tours at the time though.

    • Tyler James

      Thanks for this great video @rick_dancer:disqus!

    • Julie Prentice

      Wolf Creek does not seem a ghost town at all, post office school and people! I love the place.

      • Danielle Ring

        It’s outside of wolf creek, called golden

    • Laverne Swanson

      I love this! Thank you.

    • Darren Wilkens

      I’m in Junction City. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing!

  • Austin Galusha

    what about sydney and Valsetz?

    • Julie Prentice

      Mom graduated Valsetz high school 1949- 50?? Yeah no town there at all.

    • Those are both in western Oregon, although Valsetz was burned to the ground by the lumber company so there is nothing left of it.

  • Nic Oliver

    I have ridden this route and it is a great one!! Hope to ride it again soon. Also, ABATE of Oregon’s largest Run, The Fossil Run, covers one area of this route and I have been on it more times than I care to count. Make the Fossil Run on Memorial Day weekend and finish the route the next week!!

    • MercWithaMouth

      Ridden as in motorcycle? I am considering riding it…

  • ljdrew

    I’m surprised there aren’t more mill towns. I know we have a few around here. Old company towns. Wendling, Oregon I think? I used to know a guy who tracked down abandoned railroad equipment. It seems our forests have quite a bit from when a railroad would run from a mill out or something like that. It’s pretty cool to see!

    • Judy Brown

      The mill towns are more in western Oregon, or the southern park of central Oregon.

    • Most of the Mill Towns in Eastern Oregon were dedicated to serving several towns. The Sumpter Railroad area is a great example, logs from Tipton and Austin were shipped to Wendling to be made into lumber. From there they were sent to Granite, Sumpter, Bourne, and a few other towns including as far as Baker and LaGrande.

  • Douglas McKenzie

    Excellent Article

    • Tyler James

      Thank you Douglas, glad you enjoyed it.

  • Elizabeth

    I used to live in the Condon, Heppner and Hardman area as a little girl. My grandma used to cook at The Round Up back in the early 80’s….

  • 13f

    Condon is not really a ghost town…. plenty of people still live there. Same with Shaniko.

    • Julie Prentice

      My family settled Condon in 1848, before Mr. Condon ever arrived. Check the graveyard. Downer’s.

  • Chris Gattman

    It’s a vast landscape with a lot of really cool secrets. Travel prepared!

    • Tyler James

      Great photo Chris! Thanks for sharing.

  • Trevor Myers

    Is this route Motorhome friendly? Would really like to do this with the family in our rv trip

  • Becky Schnarr

    I too would like to know if it can be traveled in a motorhome

    • Julie Prentice

      yes, all paved last I drove to Condon and Fossil.

      • Becky Schnarr

        Thanks Julie!

  • Robert Thomas

    I like the article a lot. I am also wondering about the roads to some of those. I believe the road into Lone Rock is gravel. It’s best access I also believe is from Oregon 206 between Heppner and Condon, which in itself is super scenic, I like to ride a loop from Hermiston to Heppner, to Condon, then if I have time, on to Wasco and Biggs Junction, on across to Highway 14 in Washington and on up the river to comeback across at Umatilla. Those that are on gravel might be difficult for those of us in or on street vehicles like motorhomes, street bikes, and cars with low clearance. Two other semi-ghost towns in NE Oregon are Troy and Flora. Those are way out in nowhere in the Blue Mountains, but very scenic areas. Flora is accessible from Highway 3 north of Enterprise, again, another scenic road that goes into some amazing mountain areas in SE Washington, eventually coming out on the Snake River at Asotin. Troy as I recall, from when I was a kid, is accessible from a graveled road out of Flora though I think Redmond Grade. You can go out and end up at Jubilee Lake and then Highway 204 between Elgin and Weston too, but you need a good map because it’s a long drive on gravel roads and there are a bunch of forest roads to watch, though I seem to recall it was fairly well signed. However I was pretty young, so it may have changed. I would also suggest carrying a firearm out in the remote areas at least. We have predators out there, like wolves, cougars, and bears, and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared if you have a breakdown.

  • Deb Pierce

    My uncle lived in Richland, and ran cattle on government land near Halfway and another ghost town named Sparta. I was only 12 and don’t remember exactly where Sparta was. There were lots of rattlesnakes, I remember that! My Uncle Kenny also packed elk hunters into the Wallows from Cornicopia for years. One of my fondest childhood memories (50 years ago now!) was a pack trip I took with my dad, my uncle and his daughter for 2 weeks leaving out of Cornicopia and camping up near the Imnaha River. There used to be huge stacks of “Fools Gold”(iron pyrite) at Cornicopia, and I was fooled by my uncle that it was real gold, so filled my pockets 🙂 I still have a few of those bright shiny nuggets.

  • DiscoveringRanchLife

    This is a great post! Makes me wanna go on another road trip in OR!

  • Carol H Bond

    When I was a youngster, my family, extended family lived near a town named John Day. My Dad, Uncles, Brothers, cousins, all went out looking for gold everyday. Never came home with anything substantial that I can remember. My grandmother, mother and my sister and me all stayed at the “campsite” (a tent with a wood floor, big tent) and did the women things. It was in the mountains and in the winter it was darn cold. My problem is: my older sibs and parents have passed on and I do not know where John Day is or what mountain range we were in. It was very exciting as a child, we found arrowheads, beautiful polished stones in the creek beds and saw all kinds of wild life, but never any gold. Could you help me with the location. It was a great time in beautiful Oregon. Oh, by the way, we are originally from Wisconsin, but moved back to Oregon in the 60’s and I graduated from North Salem High School. I now live on the East coast and am trying to fill my grand kids in on my life in the West. If you can help, Thanks in advance.

    • Julie Prentice

      I replied but don’t think I was logged in. My family is from Canyon City, John Day. We camped above John Day on Strawberry Mountain, in the Wallowa Mountains. Lots of places it could have been. We also would go gold panning, especially in Canyon City, found more fossils than gold. If you come back to visit, your memories will help identify where you were. It all looks the same, pristine, beautiful. McGoon Lake my favorite crystal clear water. Dad tree thinned for forest service, and we camped up in mountains too. Also all my family is passed. Originally settled Condon, 1848. Way before Mr. Condon. Lots buried in cemetery in Condon.

    • Rolf

      Carol, it is in Grant County , Oregon between Bend, Oregon and Baker, Oregon. Lots of info on line if you enter “John Day, Oregon”

  • I’ve been to Shaniko more than once, and visited Granite and Sumter a few years back and rode the train…you can almost imagine what it was like back then.

  • Johan Mathiesen

    Having photographed almost every cemetery in the state, I’ve been to all those places and more. A lot of those place certainly aren’t ghost towns, however diminished they are from their former glory.
    My wife and I still fantasize about moving to Lone Rock. Once you see the “lone rock,” you’re hooked. Sort of.

    • Lucylu

      Seal Rock Cemetery, off Hwy 101 at the top of Cross Street?

    • Sara Sperle-Cunningham

      Lone Rock is so tiny and in the middle of no where, really charming though.

  • Sara Sperle-Cunningham

    I am planning on doing this trip this weekend from Portland. Are there any hotels/cabins that are not too far off the route?

    • DawnBirdsong

      The hotel on Condon is pictured above.

  • Ken Coen

    Lots to see in the Sumpter area.
    [img]https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8255/8872610237_659312245d_c.jpg[/img]

    I ride my street bike (was HD now Victory) almost every Memorial Day weekend out there from Springfield, Oregon out to the John Day, Sumpter area. I like it so much I’ve extended the weekend to a full week.
    [img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7425/9497044411_05be6df4f3_c.jpg[/img]

    Sumpter has a huge flee market Memorial weekend.

  • Jen G. Pywell

    interesting article but are you an affiliate for amazon?

    • Tyler James

      Yes we are affiliated with Amazon!

  • Rose Vernoy Babcock

    I have got to do this! I love ghost towns. Are there any roads that require 4WD?

    • Sara Sperle-Cunningham

      Nope, did this whole trip today in about 13 hours from Portland. Honestly most of them are so small that driving hours to see one little shack makes you feel a little short changed. Shaniko, and Sumpter were the only places to actually get out and walk around. I think for just a ghost town shaniko is wonderful. I had a fun trip but be prepared to take a map as allot of the places aren’t on most GPS systems and when I asked someone for directions to Galena they laughed at me becuase it’s literally one tiny building.

      • Rose Vernoy Babcock

        Thanks Sara! Great advice about the map.

      • 2Wheel Traveler

        You didn’t get out and walk through Lonerock or Hardman? You missed out.

  • Alex Chornuy

    can some one tell me if one day will be enough to check all places ? (from Troutdale OR) or I have to take hotel somewhere there and come back home next day, thanks

    • Hotel would be best, although I have done that trip in one day – 900 miles round trip.

  • Great roundup. I will try to add a couple of these towns when I update my guidebook “Photographing Oregon” http://www.gregvaughn.com/books.html

  • Laverne Swanson

    As I get a social security check now I could maybe go anywhere as long as I can afford rent. My check is only $700. though. I would love to live somewhere off the beaten path. My grandparents came from Missouri by wagon and settled in the Southeast corner of Oregon. Can’t remember the name of anywhere nearby. I was there when I was 9 in 1961 and the homestead at one time had a dirt floor. Grandma got married at 15, they had 5 girls, 2 boys and stayed married til grandpa died in 1969.

    • bob downe

      i’m sure you are already “off the beaten path”.

  • Jay Henlie

    Condon is a thriving town/city, what makes it a ghost town?

  • Onlooker

    Is this route motor home friendly? 38′