California’s Calico Ghost Town: Where History Meets Adventure

Travel back in time to the late 1800s at this easy-to-access historical landmark in southern California! Boasting a wealth of history, outdoor activities, shopping, and can’t-miss events for the whole family, this old Western mining town offers something for everyone.
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History buffs, adventure seekers, and artisan goods aficionados rejoice: whether you have one day or a full weekend to spend here, this regional park has countless offerings and activities to fit any itinerary.

This story was created in partnership with San Bernardino County Regional Parks Department. All photos courtesy of San Bernardino County Regional Parks.

A Quintessential Old West Mining Town

Old West signs in Calico State Park

Calico boasts a history just as rich as its residents once were: in 1881, this classic old West mining town was a booming hot spot for silver, attracting over 1,200 silver-searching residents and acting as the center of over 500 nearby mines. Calico was nearly abandoned when silver lost its value in the mid-1890s until it was purchased and restored in the 1950s by Walter Knott, the founder of Knott’s Berry Farm. After restoring the town, Knott donated it to San Bernardino County in 1966. In 2005, Calico received its State Historical Landmark status and is now operated and maintained by the Regional Parks Department. 

Now, the very same buildings that made up the bustling 1880s town are home to numerous can’t-miss shops and exhibits. Stock up on a variety of unique products at the shops, which offer items ranging from one-of-a-kind handcrafted Navajo jewelry to indulgent handmade bath products, Native American decor and leather goods, gorgeous local artwork, mouth-watering sweets, and so much more. While strolling the shops on main street, make sure to also pay a visit to the old schoolhouse, the cemetery, and the house of Lucy Lane, Calico’s longest living resident. 

A Wealth of History & Things to Do

Inside a shop in Calico State Park

After you’ve perused the shops and exhibits in Calico’s historic buildings, learn more about the fascinating history of the town through a wide selection of tours, events, and festivals. 

Partake in one of three haunting ghost tours, on which you’ll spend an evening on a guided tour exploring either the town, the mine, or the schoolhouse, all the while learning about true stories that are sure to enthrall you. Prefer a daytime tour? No problem —take a self-guided tour through the Maggie Mine, or hop on the Calico Odessa Train for a narrated ride through the area. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can book an off-road tour to visit the Silver King Mine (for reservations, call 760-254-3050).

In addition to catching a tour, make sure to explore the mystery shack—a fascinating house of optical illusions—and experience onsite gold panning, just how the miners did it. 

If your schedule permits, it’s well worth coordinating your visit of Calico Ghost Town with one of the lively events or festivals that take place here during the year. If you’re a history buff, don’t miss Calico Days in September or California Days in February. If you’re traveling over a holiday break, partake in the spirit of Christmas at Holiday Fest, wear your best costume at the Halloween Ghost Haunt, or test your egg hunting skills at the Easter Celebration. And if bluegrass is your jam, get ready for a knee-slapping good time at the annual bluegrass festival in May.

Hiking, Biking, and ATVing—Where History Meets Adventure

Images of ATV and mountain biker in Calico State Park

Just as much as Calico is a gold (er, silver) mine of history, it’s also a hidden gem for outdoor adventures. The area’s trails offer year-round opportunities for hiking and mountain biking, and there is a network of trail systems for ATVing and off-roading. Bring your own bike or ATV, or simply rent from a local outdoor shop on your way there!

For outdoor enthusiasts, the Calico area makes for an excellent destination especially in the fall, early winter, and late spring. During these seasons, highs range between 60 and 80 degrees fahrenheit (15-26 degrees celsius), with lows typically between 40 and 60 degrees fahrenheit (4-15 degrees celsius), making it ideal weather for outdoor recreation. Note that February and March can bring rain, and the summer months can reach temperatures between 90 and 100 degrees fahrenheit (32-37 degrees celsius), so make sure to plan accordingly.

Getting There and Where to Stay

Cabins at Calico State Park

No matter where you’re traveling from, Calico makes for a no-hassle destination as it’s easily accessible from several airports including Ontario, San Bernardino, LAX, Las Vegas, and Palm Springs —and offers a variety of lodging options. 

The ideal way to make the most of your time here is to spend a night or two in one of the onsite cabins or bunkhouses, all of which have heating and A/C. The park also has a campground that’s suited for both tent and RV camping, and even offers RV rentals. The general store sells camping supplies and limited groceries, and an onsite restaurant, saloon, and cafe offer a variety of dining options. As an added bonus, events are free for campers, and during the summer months, a movie-in-the-park is shown on select evenings in the campground area. 

For those seeking alternate accommodation options, hotels and additional restaurants can be found in the nearby city of Barstow. 

As it’s open year-round (excluding Christmas Day), Calico Ghost Town makes for the ideal destination for history buffs, outdoor adventurers, shopping enthusiasts, and families alike – there’s truly something for everyone! Get a taste of the park by learning more about the unique Calico concessionaires, and then plan your visit and check out upcoming events by checking out the park’s website.

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