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Jerome, Arizona: Spend a Day in America’s Largest Ghost Town

Jerome, Arizona on a sunny day
Jerome, Arizona

A dream destination for history buffs, patrons of the arts, aspiring sommeliers, paranormal enthusiasts and curious travelers, there’s a little something for everyone in the hidden gem of Jerome, Arizona. And with a small footprint (and a population of only 467), you can see much of what Jerome has to offer in a day or quick overnight trip.


America’s Largest Ghost Town

The term “ghost town” tends to conjure images of ghosts of cowboys past engaged in dramatic shootouts against a backdrop of creaky saloon doors and miles of dusty desert. Jerome, however, provides a different snapshot of this historical narrative, not only unique in its location (perched rather precariously on the side of Cleopatra Hill in the Black Hills of Arizona) but in the community that keeps it alive and the incomparable vibe you feel when you get there.


While it may not be the most popular of Arizona ghost towns (thanks to the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday) it is arguably the quirkiest. Historically there were, no doubt, a number of gunfights and saloons in Jerome (it was, after all, known as the Wickedest Town in the West), but you won’t find any Wild West reenactments in front of wooden façade gift shops selling variations on the same dozen tchotchkes. Rather it is both haunted ghost town and artistic hamlet—Diagon Alley meets Victorian hilltop village—with a reformed Wild West red-light district and oodles of spooky charm.


Ghost towns in Arizona became such because their once booming communities faced a depletion of the natural resource that brought them there in the first place, and in this case, it was copper. At its height, almost 15,000 people lived in Jerome during the copper boom of the early 1900s, and it was home to some 30 nationalities. However, effects of the Great Depression, post World War II decline in demand for copper, and depletion of high-grade ores left less than 100 residents by the 1950s. Those few stalwarts fought to save the town from demolition by forming the Historical Society, which has preserved Jerome and made it a home for a unique community of artists and history enthusiasts.


Let’s walk you through a potential day spent in America’s Largest Ghost Town.


Learn the History

View of Verde Valley and Sedona red rocks from Jerome, Arizona parking lot

View of the Verde Valley and Sedona Red Rocks from Jerome State Historic Park

A great place to start is at the Jerome State Historic Park. It’s worth a visit for the views alone, but it’s also the perfect place to acquaint yourself with the history of the town before you wander the streets. The park’s exhibits paint a vivid picture of life in a booming copper town to inform your exploration of Jerome’s historic establishments.


Looking down into a mine shaft through a plexiglass floor
Audrey Headframe Park Mine Shaft

As you leave, swing by the Audrey Headframe Park where you can see parts of the mining operation up close and even look down one of the shafts.


Explore Downtown Jerome

The history lesson continues as you head downtown. Walking tours of Jerome are offered through several outfits or you can take your own tour and read the various informative plaques displayed at noteworthy locations. Also located downtown, The Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum tells the story of the town’s original mining operations as well as the diverse group of people who called Jerome home.


Don’t forget to stop by the famous Sliding Jail, a historic landmark that made a break for it, so to speak. Once a bustling establishment (what with all the brawling and other questionable activities typical in a Wild West town), the jailhouse began sliding down the hill as the landscape changed due to mine blasting. It’s now over 200 feet from where it originally stood.


Find the Perfect Souvenir

Downtown Jerome is an excellent shopping scene selling everything from copper creations and jewelry to gourmet foodstuffs and home décor. You’ll find one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs at places like Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes, The Miner’s Pick Rock Shop or Copper Canyon Christmas. And for the foodies in your life, salsa from Jerome Ghost Pepper Company, a specialty oil or vinegar from Jerome Olive Oil Traders, or a sweet treat from OJ’s Copper Country Fudge are all home runs. Whether you’re looking for something particular or hoping to be surprised, the variety and quality of wares won’t disappoint.


Visit an Art Gallery

As a haven for and community of artistic and creative thinkers, Jerome is home to stunning galleries offering a wide variety of original pieces. Head to Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery located in the old Hotel Jerome to see the work of some 35 local artists who all work shifts and keep the place running. At La Victoria Studio you’ll find gorgeous blown glass creations by artist Tracy Weisel. And Raku Gallery showcases a fine arts collection across a wide spectrum of media, history and culture.


Grab a Bite

Let’s face it: for many of us, traveling is really about the food. Jerome dishes up a satisfying variety with its healthy serving of history. Canary Coffee Roasters is a great place to kick off your day, as is The Flatiron Café. They only have a few tables, but they’re known for their coffee, breakfast and lunch. And sitting in their corner establishment right on Main Street puts you right in the action as loop traffic climbs or descends on either side.

The Flatiron Cafe and downtown streets and buildings of Jerome Arizona

The Flatiron Café and Downtown Jerome

Bobby D’s Barbeque resides in the building formerly known as The English Kitchen, the longest continuously operated restaurant in Arizona (1899-2007). Bobby D’s has been there since 2011 casually serving delicious smokehouse BBQ. Other popular options for lunch and dinner include Haunted Hamburger, The Clinkscale, and The Bordello of Jerome (and yes, it once was what its name suggests).


Taste Some Wine

Arizona might seem like an unlikely location for vineyards, but the Verde Valley is home to fertile wine country and its products are featured in several Jerome wineries. At Caduceus Cellars guests will find plenty of local wine to sample in addition to farm-to-table food. As an added bonus for music lovers, the establishment happens to be owned by Maynard James Keenan (aka the lead singer of Tool). Passion Cellars is another popular choice for wine enthusiasts.


Check Out a Mining Camp

Old wooden buildings with rusted old equipment and a donkey
Gold King Mine Ghost Town

A short drive from downtown takes you to our number one pick for a family excursion in Jerome: Gold King Mine Ghost Town. Haynes was a mining camp, just a mile north of Jerome, where they struck gold when looking for copper. They had their own little community, some of which has been preserved for visitors at the Gold King Mine Ghost Town. Adults will enjoy the history and appreciate the old equipment, vehicles and buildings (somewhat creatively fortified so as not to fall down the hill), and kids can visit the blacksmith, pan for gold and feed chickens and other animals at the petting zoo.


Take a Ghost Tour

As precious metals were found in many an Arizona hill during western expansion, camps and mining communities were often established in the valleys at the base. Jerome, however, was built right on the side of the hill, making it prone to erosion, landslides and fire due to fault collapses and explosions. Its inhabitants were a rough and rowdy bunch prone to bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, opium use and general lawlessness. Mining accidents, love affairs gone wrong, culture and ethnicity clashes, drunken disputes and ailments of the day led to many a tragic death. Thus Jerome is a ghost town by both the abandoned and the (purportedly) haunted definitions.


Jerome Ghost Tours, Ghost Town Tours and US Ghost Adventures offer a variety of walking and shuttle experiences exploring the spooky remnants of Jerome’s past. You’ll hear ghost stories, tour historic locations where unexplained phenomena have occurred, and maybe even look for evidence of paranormal activity using investigation equipment.

View of the Jerome Grand Hotel on the hillside

The Jerome Grand Hotel

For a haunted overnight experience consider The Jerome Grand Hotel. The only full-service hotel in Jerome, the Grand used to house the town hospital from 1927-1950 where some 9,000 people died. The building sat empty for decades until it reopened as a hotel in the 90s with many original fixtures and features. Some have reported unexplained sightings, sounds and events while staying/working in the hotel.


But if the paranormal isn’t for you, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant, The Asylum, is said to have some pretty incredible crème brulée.

Tips and Tricks for Visiting Jerome

  • Parking for downtown is either metered along the narrow streets or free in a large parking lot just up Perkinsville Road that’s a short walk (or shuttle ride on weekends) to downtown.  

  • Make reservations for lunch or dinner whenever possible, especially if you’re visiting over the weekend or a holiday. It’s easy to get caught up sightseeing and face an uncomfortably long wait once you make your way to a restaurant.

  • Need a public restroom while you’re wandering downtown? There’s one on the back side of the Jerome Fire Department.

  • Though you’ll have to deal with crowds, Thanksgiving weekend can be a magical time to visit Jerome. As the town prepares for the Light Up the Mountain ceremony in the evening, you’ll pass carolers outside of shops and have the opportunity to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and attend live music events. Plus, Jerome is the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts.

  • If you don’t have time for a ghost tour but want a quick stop at an old haunt, see if you can find the Jerome Hogback Cemetery. It’s rather hidden; if you’re wandering dirt roads between houses thinking you’re lost, you’re probably almost there. It’s small and not well maintained, but the views from Hogback Ridge are beautiful and the remaining graves are the burial sites for people with causes of death ranging from mining accidents and untreated injuries to gunshot wounds and stillbirths. From 89A, take North Avenue until it becomes Cemetery Road.

  • Stop at the overlooks. There are a number of worthwhile scenic viewpoints throughout Jerome and as you head west out of town on 89A offering stunning views of the Verde Valley.

Scenic viewpoint of Verde Valley, Arizona from 89A
Scenic viewpoint west of Jerome, Arizona

Jerome, Arizona: The Wickedest Town in the West

With its colorful past as bleak as it is pioneering in spirit and perseverance, Jerome has that certain je ne sais quoi that will have you returning or, at least, recounting your time there for years to come. You are sure to be entertained, inspired and maybe even spooked by your visit to the hillside arts community of Jerome, FKA the Wickedest Town in the West.


Consider a unique glamping experience at Backland before or after your day trip to Jerome.


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