Every fall for the past eight years, my dad, brother and I have taken road trips up and down the Owens Valley along California’s Highway 395, discovering all of the history the region has to offer. One of the many stops during our travels is Bodie, about 13 miles east of Hwy. 395, just south of Bridgeport. Once the paved and windy road of Highway 270 ends, you encounter a gravel road for the final few miles before you reach the historic town, hidden in a valley between rolling green hills with a nice breeze blowing.
The low temperature at night usually clocks in as the lowest in the continental U.S. during the snowy winters. Fortunately, the lowest temperature I’ve experienced there is around 45 degrees. There are park rangers who give tours of the adjacent mine and of the town itself. They also happen to live there without any cell phone service!
Once you park, you’ll walk down the main street of a town that saw its boom in the late 1870s. Many of the buildings remain, but not nearly as many as originally existed, since there was a devastating fire—accidentally set by a child!—that wiped out most of the town. Each building there has a story that is described by the tour guide. Many of the furnishings are still intact, making this ghost town legit. A gift store also serves as a mini-museum, with many original artifacts and possessions from former Bodie residents on display. There is also a cemetery that sits atop a hill overlooking Bodie. You can take a walking tour of it with a map provided by the park. We’ve had different park rangers give tours each time we’ve been, and each has cool stories to share of the deep history of the town. And Bodie’s rich mining history makes the mine tour a must.
More than one trip to Bodie is needed to truly take in all of the history. We’ve learned something new about the town’s story each time we visited. Apart from its rich history, Bodie features great scenery—no SoCal smog or traffic. For lodging, the town of Bridgeport offers good motels and restaurants where you can stay and dine. And for folks who like to rough it, many campsites dot Hwy. 395, where one can fish and hike to their delight.
I recommend traveling in an SUV or a vehicle with high clearance for the bumpy gravel part of the road leading to Bodie. Also, bring a good pair of walking or hiking shoes to navigate the hilly terrain. I also suggest taking food, as there are no restaurants in town. Admission to the park and ghost town is $5, and I highly recommend visiting during the early fall, since Bodie closes down for the winter.