US Road Trip: Bodie & Death Valley

Welcome back to the second part of my road trip series through the Western part of the US. This post will take you to Bodie, a real-life ghost town and the famous Death Valley!

The route we took is nothing special, most tourists do the exact same trip: San Francisco, Yosemite, Death Valley, Vegas, Grand Canyon. It’s pretty much where everyone you’ll meet goes as it’s super convenient and easy to do within 2 weeks.

I would have been fine with that route but my sister was desperate to go to Bodie, it was the number 1 of her places to see, so since it was only a slight detour, I agreed. After that we continued to Death Valley and Vegas.

How to Get to Bodie

Well, since Bodie is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, it is quite a drive! If you happen to be visiting Lake Tahoe or Yosemite and plan on taking the Tioga pass (read more about this here) it is only an hour detour to get to Bodie.

The nearest city to Bodie is Sacramento from where it is a 4 hour drive to get to Bodie. Bodie is located south of Lake Tahoe and east of Yosemite.

Be aware that the road to Bodie isn’t a paved road until the end. It turns into a dust road for the last 3 miles which means you’ll have to go a lot slower and your car will be covered in dust. (Not that that mattered since we had a rental car.)

Bodie – A Ghost Town

As mentioned before I wasn’t that excited about Bodie and hadn’t really read up about it beforehand but it exceeded my expectations loads! First of all, it was not busy at all. I believe most people wouldn’t take the detour and the dust road might scare people off, but it’s also so large, that visitors spread out.

Bodie was founded in 1859 when gold was first discovered there. 20 years later, a few mines had discovered profitable amounts of gold and the town grew to 7000 inhabitants and had around 2000 buildings.

Out of those 2000 buildings, only 110 houses still stand. Most of the old structures where built of wood and became victim to fires. Today, the Bodie State Historic Park is kept in a state of arrested decay which means that the buildings are preserved but not improved and it’s tried to keep them from deteriorating  further.

Those buildings that do still stand are stunning. My favourites are the church, the old school where you can still see the old desks inside and the fire station with the old fire brigade inside.

One of the very few stone buildings was the bank and you can still see its vault today. There are so many great photo opportunities in Bodie it’s impossible not to take a million pictures (you might notice that this post is quite picture heavy).

So how did Bodie become a ghost town you might ask? Well when all of the gold was found, there was not much else to do here. You might notice on the pictures that the landscape is quite barren, so when the mines shut and people lost their jobs, they took what they could carry and moved on to more prosperous areas.

Because of this, the interior of their homes was largely left behind which is what makes most of the ghost factor for me as it does look like people left without much preparation.

Where to Stay

The nearest town to Bodie is Bridgeport which does have a few motels if you want to stay close to Bodie. However, if you do want to continue on to Death Valley and leave Bodie in the afternoon like we did, I’d advise you to stay in Bishop as it’s a much bigger town that Bridgeport. It’s about 2 hours south of Bodie and halfway to Death Valley which is another 2 hours from Bishop.

It’s got a large supermarket where you can stock up for your day at Death Valley and refill your car with petrol. Rule number 1 for Death Valley: fuel that car up and stock up on snacks as both are rare and expensive once in Death Valley!

Death Valley

After a night in Bodie, we continued to Death Valley in the morning and had our first stop at the Father Crowley Vista Point which is also know as the Star Wars Canyon since it featured in the movies.

We then continued deeper into the Valley. I hope you don’t get carsick easily since there’s quite a few serpentines that lead inside. My favourite part where the super bumpy roads where if you’d go a bit fast, your car would lift off a bit :D

I’m sure you’ve all seen roadrunner as a kid, right? Well I surely did so when we saw our first coyote I could not believe how small it was. Funnily enough it stopped right by the street and looked at us so we slowed down and I got this beautiful picure of it right out of the car window!

After a few hours we reached the most famous sight in Death Valley, the Badwater Basin which is the lowest point in the US at 855 meters below sea level.

On our way back to the main road from Badwater Basin, we took a detour through the Artist Drive where you’ll come across beautiful, natural coloured hills.

After driving through Death Valley all day, we continued to Las Vegas where we spend a few days lounging by the pool, but more about this in the next blog post!

Have you been to Bodie and the Death Valley? What were your highlights?

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