Bodie State Park…A time capsule unearthed

Bodie State Park is a well-preserved ghost town that dates back to the mid-1800s. By 1880, Bodie, California was a booming town with a population near 10,000, and some estimate that it was the 2nd or 3rd largest city in the state.  By 1917, after the railroad shut down and the tracks used for scrap, Bodie began its irrecoverable declension. After years of decline, the last known residents left Bodie in the 1940s and forever encapsulated the town.

If it were not for a thoughtful guest at the Chalet View Lodge (the resort I was staying) who overheard the direction I was traveling, I probably would not have discovered Bodie State Park. I’m always grateful for destination suggestions from experienced travelers…I’ve been to some wonderful places due in no small part to the experience of others.


As Bodie turned into a literal ghost town for some 20+ years, it was rediscovered in the early 60s and eventually preserved by the California State Park system in 1962.  In its heyday, Bodie had some 2000 buildings…today just 170 remain, although many still in good condition.  The odd thing about Bodie is that many of the buildings retain the furniture, belongings and artifacts…as if there was some sort of exodus prompted by the last remaining residents.

With so many buildings still in-tacked, containing period garb, it’s a true treasure for tourists to experience.  For example, the general store still has shelves full of canned food, the hotel casino has chips near the roulette wheel, and a dining room table is set in one of the homes—with 60 years worth of dust casting a patina on the belongings of a once thriving community.

Whether you’re into history, photography or perhaps painting, you’ll enjoy spending hours exploring Bodie State Park.  From sunrise to sunset, the day provides varying compositional light and shadows to cast a plethora of creative angles for the artistic to capture.

As I wandered the dirt streets taking some photos, there was a stillness in the air, then a moment later a light gust of wind…just at that moment I witnessed a tumble weed blow through town…it was one of those quintessential “ghost town” moments you see in the movies.  Speaking of movies, Bodie will make you feel like you’ve been transformed to an old western studio set…you can just imagine seeing John Wayne coming out of the saloon with guns-a-blazin’.

If you’ve been to the Bodie Ghost Town before, leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what you like best.  Click the following link to see more of my pictures of Bodie State Park. If you enjoyed this post and video, please click the “like” button below and share with your friends and family.

Bodie State Park Information:

Location: The park is northeast of Yosemite and 13 miles east of Highway 395 on Bodie Road (Hwy 270)  Note: The last three miles is a rough dirt road.
Map: Google Map – Latitude/Longitude: 38.2122 / -119.0111Park Phone: 760-647-6445
Hours: Open year around 9 am to 6 pm in summer (May 15th – October 31st) – 9 am to 3 pm in winter (Nov 1st – May 14th). Note: The park is closed during periods of inclement weather.
Prices: $7 for adults 17 and up  – $5 for children ages 6 to 16. Only cash or personal checks are accepted.  You will pay at the Parking lot using a dropbox system.
Weather: Click here for area weather

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15 Comments

  1. Cheryl
    January 17, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    The cemetery is a good place to visit to realize just how hard life was. Many baby graves, young children graves and young women who most likely died in childbirth.
    Our daughter got married in the church about 6 years ago which was a very special moment for all of us. Going through the mill is a really informative tour to take if you have time.

  2. Mike's Road Trip
    January 18, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Hi Cheryl, thanks so much for stopping by and posting your feedback…I’m sure readers will appreciate your suggestions. Cheers, Mike

  3. Hank Fox
    January 20, 2012 at 5:13 am

    As to Bodie, I’ve been there a few times. Unless they’ve graded the road, I’d advise potential visitors that the dirt road into town is DAMNED rough, so much so that you should either have a 4WD or a high-clearance pickup to make it. It’s not something you want to try in anything less.

    Mike, if you’re still in that area, I lived in the Eastern Sierra for many years, and there are a couple of places I know you’d love.

    Near Bridgeport, CA, are two hot springs, Buckeye and Travertine. Travertine is probably easiest to get to this time of year. It’s a nice natural hot spring that you can sit and soak in. It’s “clothing-optional” if you’re out there in the evening, and it’s a sweet place to sip a beer and watch the sun go down behind the mountains.

    There are more hot springs near Mammoth Lakes, and a really beautiful place called Hot Creek just a few miles south of Mammoth. Hot Creek has active steam vents coming up in a mountain stream, and there are wooden boardwalks so you can safely approach it all.

    Mammoth Lakes itself is a corporate shithole, but the Lakes Basin, uphill from the main part of town, is beautiful. There’s a great pack station up there, Mammoth Lakes Pack Outfit, that takes people into the wilderness on horseback in the summer. I used to work there as a mule packer and horseback ride guide.

    When Mammoth gets snow, make a point of taking a dog sled ride with Mammoth Dog Teams.

    June Lake, the little town a few miles north of Mammoth, is really nice.

    A bit farther north, up in Nevada, is a tiny little town named Genoa that boasts the oldest saloon in the state.

    And of course, you’re not all that far from Lake Tahoe. There’s an interesting casino on the north shore where you can stand with a foot in two states. Straddling the line between Nevada and California, and thus being an interstate waterway, Lake Tahoe has the distinction of being the only inland lake in the U.S. which is patrolled by the U.S. Coast Guard.

  4. Mike's Road Trip
    January 21, 2012 at 3:22 am

    Hey Hank, I’m not in the area, but might be coming back in February. Thank you so much for all the suggestions…I’ve been to a couple of the spots you refer to. That area is so beautiful. Thanks again. Cheers, Mike

  5. Steve
    May 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Hi Mike,

    I’m planning on driving up to Bodie next week. I saw the video of you camping outside of Bodie. Could you send me a google map location where that was? I wanted to camp somewhere similar – in a dark sky location in complete silence.

    Thanks!

  6. Mike's Road Trip
    May 10, 2013 at 3:06 am

    Hey Steve…oh, that’s excellent, you’ll love it! Such a cool place, especially if you’re into photography. There are so many cool buildings and areas of the park to explore. I can’t recall the exact spot that I camped…I recall it was about a mile or two before you get to the gate into the park. I have created a Google Map for you on two areas it could be. I found a dirt road right off Bodie Road (south side) and drove down it a ways…there are hills and turns so that no one can see you from the main road or from the park, yet you’re right out in the open (little vegetation). Please report back, I want to hear how you enjoyed the park, and the camping. https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=202375591210663567884.0004dc54595f45d3f532a&msa=0&ll=38.198495,-119.02118&spn=0.012816,0.019548 Cheers, Mike

  7. Steve
    May 10, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Thanks for the tips and the maps, Mike! I am definitely into photography and plan on taking my tripod and shutter release button with me. That’s why finding a place that’s completely dark with no ambient light will be perfect – especially for someone who lives in Southern California and finds it hard to escape the light. I’ll definitely let you know how it went. One more question – I have a fairly small car. Will that be an issue? I’ve seen video of people driving in from 395 to 270 and it looked like I’d be able to manage, but the location you were at, I wasn’t so sure since you seemed to be surrounded by brush and were driving a truck.

  8. Mike's Road Trip
    May 10, 2013 at 11:02 am

    My pleasure Steve. You will love all the awesome photo opps! I do recall the road being a bit rugged, but should not be impassable with a small car (unless it has been raining, it can get VERY muddy). The pavement ends on Bodie Road, so there are several miles of dirt road to the park. I believe that the road is paved at the part in which you’d deviate south (to a another dirt road/path) toward a place to camp. Have fun! Oh, just make sure to check the moon phase if you’re looking for those dark skies. :-) I was in Chaco Canyon once (northwest part of N.M., one of the darkest spots in the U.S.) and it was unfortunate that while I was there it was an early moonrise. Again, enjoy and I look forward to hearing back from you. Cheers!

  9. Steve
    June 1, 2013 at 3:55 am

    Hey Mike! I figure I’d give you an update of my trip. Got to Bodie two Saturday’s ago around 1 in the afternoon. Got some great pictures of the town, walked around for a couple of hours, got some history lessons from the rangers about the town. Figured I’d need some time to find a good spot and set up camp, so around 5 I headed back on the Bodie road until I saw some tire tracks and followed them in til I got to a clearing. Set up camp with my brother and friend. We were able to hike up the hill above our camp and get a great view of our surrounding area. Only thing I was slightly concerned about was snakes, but rangers assured me that there weren’t many snakes and the ones that were in the area wouldn’t come out because it was so cold (got to about 20 degrees at night). Set up camp and waited for the sun to go down before setting up my tripod. It was a half moon and even with only half the moon you could clearly see everything in the valley – quite amazing. The moon set around 2am and that’s when the stars and milky way really came into view – quite amazing! Took lots of pictures! Only thing I was worried about was wind during the night that would have potentially moved the tripod, but fortunately by the time I really got shooting around 1am the wind had all but died down. Woke up at 5 in the morning – really cold – and started on my way back home. Great trip overall. Interestingly on a sidenote, I was in Yosemite this last week from Monday till today with family. Another amazing place! Thanks again for all the tips and advice! Here are some links to my photos from the Bodie trip:

    1. (bodie) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514110818648&l=4cb5ab7560

    2. (saloon in bodie) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514110773738&l=bd43d01532

    3. (leaning building in bodie) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514110688908&l=9411a105f0

    4. (church in bodie) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514110469348&l=e4bb35ec2c

    5. (our camp) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514110838608&l=03164bd8c1

    6. (picture on the hill above our camp) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514110968348&l=c9d06c22a1

    7. (other side of the hill above our camp) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514110833618&l=b3738f2d60

    8. (still of milky way with a little remaining moonlight to light foreground) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514095504338&l=f00ceaa442

    9. (camp with stars) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514095589168&l=6a8a21533c

    10. (star trails ~2 hours) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=514120010228&l=98043f2c62

  10. Mike's Road Trip
    June 3, 2013 at 2:34 am

    Hey Steve…awesome, thanks so much for sharing. My pleasure. Love that start trail shot! Keep in touch. Cheers, Mike

  11. Mike's Road Trip
    June 8, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Hey Steve…thanks so much for sharing! Love it when readers/followers check back in after visiting a place I’ve shared. Great shots BTW…love the star trails. Sorry I did not approve and respond to your comment earlier…I could have sworn I had.

  12. Jordan
    February 14, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Hey there! Hi there! Ho there!
    My family and I went there when I was about 1o years old, I’m 23 now and have always wanted to go back. I was so intrigued
    by how everything just looks literally like everyone stopped everything that they were doing and left.. so many tables set for dinner.. trucks and water wells left, untouched, still just right where it seemed whomever was driving it just turned it off, and walked away. Its awesome that the majority of whats left still standing, is unreal how everything is set. But it’s nice for the experience where you can visit and feel the emotion and see the lifestyle that we used to live. Yes its a ghost town, but not completely; theres still plenty of tourists and travelers through to visit, that keeps the town still, Alive :)

  13. Mike's Road Trip
    February 14, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Hey Jordan…agreed, it’s an amazing place! I too would like to go back again. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. Cheers, Mike

  14. Gavin Smith
    September 16, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    To Steve, who posted above – I know it was a while ago, but would you have a Google map location of where your camp was?

    Also, thanks to Mike for the inspiration. After spending a few days in Yosemite, I plan to drive to Bodie and enjoy it for a few hours before setting up camp under the stars. Thanks!

  15. Mike Shubic
    Mike Shubic
    September 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Awesome Gavin…let me know how you enjoy it. Cheers!

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