Haunting Beauty: 10 Ghost Towns of Route 66

Updated August 20, 2023

Route 66, upon its completion, offered families a transcontinental travel route, marking the first interstate road. This led to the emergence of various small towns and businesses along its course. However, the advent of the modern interstate highway system resulted in the bypassing of many of these towns, causing businesses to shut down and transforming these once-thriving communities into deserted ghost towns.

These hauntingly beautiful towns represent a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era characterized by family vacations, locally-owned businesses, and Route 66's significance as a major American highway. In this blog post, we'll take you on a swift tour of some of the most captivating ghost towns along Route 66, from the heartland of Illinois to the deserts of California.

1. Funks Grove, Illinois: A Sweet Surprise

In its heyday, Funks Grove thrived as a vibrant hub along the legendary highway, with a steady flow of travelers and trade. The origins of this enclave trace back to the 19th century when the diligent Funks family initiated the practice of tapping sugar maple trees, meticulously honing their expertise and transforming it into a renowned maple syrup venture. Along Route 66, Funks Grove became a favored stop for travelers seeking their famous maple syrup.

The family's dedication to maintaining traditional methods has led to the continued operation of Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup, where visitors can experience rustic charm while purchasing handcrafted maple products. The archaic spelling "sirup" adds a touch of nostalgia. This hidden gem symbolizes the preservation of traditions and local heritage, making Funks Grove a unique and sweet detour along the historic Route 66.

Though the old town lies deserted, visitors can still see the old general store and train depot, overgrown with weeds and vines. While no longer a ghost town in the traditional sense, it offers a unique charm with its historic maple sirup operation. The town's dedication to preserving its history and traditions is a sweet reminder of the enduring allure of Route 66.

2. Arlington, Missouri: A Glimpse into the Past

Arlington, Missouri, was once a thriving farming community that bustled with activity in the early 20th century. Situated near the Meramec River, Arlington thrived in the early 20th century as a hub of trade and commerce, fueled by its advantageous location. However, as the economy shifted and the river's role diminished, Arlington gradually faded into obscurity. Today, the town's remnants stand as a poignant reminder of a bygone era.

A prominent highlight in Arlington was the Stony Dell Resort. This riverside retreat held a special allure for both Route 66 travelers and servicemen stationed at Fort Leonard Wood. Encompassing cozy cabins, a well-equipped service station, a dining establishment, tennis courts, and a refreshing spring-fed pool, the resort enjoyed popularity.

Regrettably, the remnants of the resort now stand as vacant remnants, gradually succumbing to the passage of time. Presently, only a small cluster of permanent residents inhabit the former township of Arlington and the final business shuttered its doors in 2008.

While Arlington has effectively become integrated into Newburg, Missouri, an opportunity to catch a glimpse of this ghost town still remains for the curious and intrigued.

3. Foss, Oklahoma: Echoes of History

Foss was once a bustling center of agriculture and commerce but as Route 66 lost its prominence and the interstate system emerged, it slowly faded away, leaving behind echoes of the past.

The ghost town of Foss features several abandoned structures, including weathered buildings that once served as shops and homes. Within its confines, you'll also discover the remnants of the vintage Kobel's Place Service Station, alongside an authentic old Western steel "Jail Cell". You'd never know it now but in 1912 the town of Foss had an electric plant, two hotels, and an opera house! As for the remainder of the town, only a handful of residences and foundations remain as vestiges of the once-thriving businesses.

Despite its ghostly quietness, Foss is a poignant reminder of the transient nature of time and the communities that once thrived along the iconic Route 66.

4. Texola, Oklahoma: A Tale of Abandonment

Texola once thrived as a bustling trading post on the Oklahoma-Texas border.

Texola has many interesting abandoned structures, most notably the Magnolia Service Station, a relic from the 1930s that has earned its place on the esteemed National Register of Historic Places.

Despite their ghostly quietness, Foss and Texola are a poignant reminder of the transient nature of time, a reminder of the communities that once thrived along the iconic Route 66.

Magnolia Service Station, Texola (Credit)

5. Conway, Texas: Relics of the Old West

In its heyday, the town of Conway buzzed with activity, serving as a vital rest stop on the iconic highway.

Following the completion of Route 66 through the area, Conway was swift in introducing a range of amenities catering to travelers. These offerings encompassed tourist courts, dining establishments, and service stations. In 1930, a modern brick school was also erected within the town, signifying its commitment to advancing its infrastructure.

However, the shifting tides of time and transportation led to its decline. As the interstate system emerged, Route 66 lost its prominence, and Conway slowly faded into obscurity.

Today, its silent streets and dilapidated structures stand as echoes of the past, preserving the spirit of the past.

Conway, Texas (Credit)

6. Glenrio, New Mexico: A Cross-Border Relic

Nestled on the border of New Mexico and Texas, Glenrio is a unique ghost town that straddles two states. In the 20th century, it thrived as a rest stop, catering to travelers exploring the iconic road. By the mid-20th century, however, its vibrancy waned as interstates diverted traffic away.

In the early 2000s, Glenrio stood largely abandoned, its structures weathered by time and neglect. The town's vintage gas stations, motels, and rusted signs offered haunting echoes of a bygone era. Exploring Glenrio is like stepping back in time, with its derelict buildings frozen in a melancholic stillness.

Presently, Glenrio boasts the Glenrio Historic District, designated a National Register of Historic Places site in 2007. Encompassing the original Route 66 roadbed and 17 abandoned structures, this district stands as a testament to the town's historical significance.

Evidences of the past endure, including remnants of a former motel, cafe, service station, the post office, and a scattering of other edifices. These echoes of bygone days, coupled with the preserved old Route 66 roadbed, allow visitors a glimpse into the town's rich history and the era when it thrived as a vital pit stop along the iconic highway.

7. Two Guns, Arizona: Legends and Mysteries

Two Guns, Arizona, is a ghost town steeped in legends and mysteries. The town's remnants, including an abandoned zoo and curio shop, are shrouded in stories of intrigue and the supernatural.

The history of Two Guns is steeped in tales of the Wild West - Two Guns was the site of a mass murder of Apaches by their Navajo enemies in 1878. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area served as a stopover for settlers, cowboys, and outlaws traversing the untamed landscapes of Arizona.

In the 1920s, as Route 66 began to take shape, Two Guns saw an opportunity to capitalize on the burgeoning interest in travel and tourism. A trading post, gas station, and zoo were established, drawing in travelers with the promise of exotic animals, curiosities, and a glimpse into the Native American cultures of the region. This era of prosperity, however, was short-lived.

Two Guns' fortunes took a dark turn in the 1930s when a dispute between the owners of the tourist attractions culminated in violence. The trading post and zoo were abandoned, and the site was left to decay. Over the years, the structures were further ravaged by time, weather, and vandalism, creating an eerie landscape of half-ruined buildings and abandoned cages.

With its history of violence and abandonment, Two Guns has earned a reputation as a haunted location. Stories of paranormal encounters and strange occurrences have only added to its mystique. These legends, along with the tangible remnants of the past, contribute to the eerie ambiance that envelops the ghost town.

Although much of Two Guns lies in ruins, its allure continues to draw travelers who seek to uncover its mysteries. Visitors can explore the remnants of the curio shop, the abandoned zoo cages, and the bridge, all of which paint a vivid picture of the town's bygone era. The nearby Diablo Canyon offers stunning geological formations and adds to the area's unique appeal (plus, it's alleged that in 1889 four train robbers buried their fortune here)!

Two Guns, Arizona (Credit)

8. Hackberry, Arizona: A Route 66 Relic

Hackberry was once a bustling stop for travelers journeying along Route 66. However, once bypassed by the Interstates, Hackberry's prominence gradually faded, leaving it to the mercy of time.

Instead of fading into oblivion, Hackberry embraced its heritage and transformed itself into a living museum dedicated to Route 66's legacy. A key figure in this revival was Bob Waldmire, an artist and dedicated Route 66 enthusiast. His passion for the highway's history led him to Hackberry, where he restored the Hackberry General Store and filled it with a remarkable collection of memorabilia. This iconic roadside stop has become a time capsule of Route 66 nostalgia. Inside, visitors are greeted by shelves lined with vintage soda bottles, old license plates, classic car parts, and an array of other artifacts that evoke the spirit of a bygone era. The store's walls are adorned with photos, maps, and signs that harken back to the road's glory days.

Hackberry's commitment to preserving the spirit of Route 66 extends beyond the general store. The surrounding area features vintage gas pumps, classic cars, and Route 66 signs, creating a tableau that transports visitors back in time. It's a testament to the enduring allure of the highway and the determination of those who seek to keep its memory alive.

9. Amboy, California: From Oasis to Obscurity

Nestled in the vast Mojave Desert of California, Amboy is a haunting ghost town that stands as a time capsule of the iconic Route 66's golden era. With its fading neon signs, abandoned buildings, and a sense of nostalgia that hangs in the desert air, Amboy is a poignant reminder of a bygone era of American road travel.

At the heart of Amboy's legacy is Roy's Motel and Café. With its iconic neon sign and mid-century modern architecture, Roy's became synonymous with the allure of Route 66. Travelers would stop at Roy's for refreshment, a restful night's sleep, and a taste of the American road trip dream. The café and motel have become emblematic of the roadside culture that defined Route 66.

In the early 2000s, Amboy experienced a brief resurgence when Albert Okura, the founder of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain, purchased the town with the intent of restoring some of its historic buildings. While Roy's Motel and Café received some attention, the town remains a quiet ghostly landscape, with decaying buildings and remnants of its past dotting the desert expanse. It's difficult to believe that it once boasted an airport!

Amboy School, Amboy (Credit)

10. Calico, California: A Living Ghost Town

Nestled in the Mojave Desert of California, Calico Ghost Town stands as a captivating testament to the spirit of the Old West. Unlike traditional ghost towns frozen in time, Calico has been lovingly restored and transformed into a living museum, allowing visitors to step back in time and experience the rugged charm of a bygone era.

Calico's story dates back to the mid-1800s when silver was discovered in the area. This precious metal sparked a silver rush, and Calico quickly transformed from a humble mining camp into a bustling town. At its height, Calico boasted a population of over 1,200 people and was known for its productive mines, saloons, and vibrant community.

As with many mining towns of the time, Calico's fortunes were tied to the fluctuating prices of silver. The boom years gave way to decline, and by the early 1900s, the mines had become unprofitable. The town's population dwindled, and eventually, it was abandoned, leaving behind a scattering of empty buildings and a rich history.

In the 1950s, Walter Knott, the same individual behind Knott's Berry Farm, recognized the historical significance of Calico and embarked on an ambitious project to restore the town. His efforts resulted in the creation of a living ghost town that aimed to transport visitors back to the days of the Wild West. Today, Calico is owned by San Bernardino County and managed as a regional park.

Walking through Calico today, visitors are greeted by meticulously restored buildings that evoke the town's heyday. Saloons, a schoolhouse, a general store, and other structures transport guests into the rugged world of cowboys, miners, and pioneers. Costumed interpreters bring the town to life, sharing stories and anecdotes that offer insights into the challenges and triumphs of the town's inhabitants.

Calico Ghost Town

The ghost towns of Route 66 are more than just abandoned buildings and empty streets; they are windows into the past, reminders of the impermanence of human endeavors, and testaments to the ever-changing landscapes of history. As you travel along this historic highway, take a moment to explore these hauntingly beautiful places and reflect on the stories they have to tell. Route 66's ghost towns are a testament to the fleeting nature of time and the enduring spirit of exploration that drives us to seek out the mysteries of the past.

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