Utah is home to a rich and diverse history, with a legacy that spans from the early Native American civilizations to the pioneering spirit of the American West. From mining towns to military installations, there are so many abandoned places in Utah that offer a glimpse into the past and the stories of the people who once called these places home.

While the pioneers originally settled in Salt Lake City, they soon spread from Salt Lake City to establish neighboring towns and communities. Many of these early communities are now abandoned and are on our list of abandoned places in Utah.

Exploring these abandoned places in Utah can be a thrilling adventure, as visitors uncover the hidden secrets and forgotten histories of these mysterious locations. From the eerie remains of ghost towns to the awe-inspiring landscapes of abandoned military bases, there are countless abandoned places in Utah waiting to be discovered.

In this article, we will delve into the stories of some of the most visited and fascinating abandoned places in Utah, from the Kennecott Copper Mine to the Thistle Ghost Town. So, join us as we embark on a journey of discovery, exploring the unknown and uncovering the secrets of Utah’s past through some of the abandoned places in Utah.

The Abandoned Hideaways of Utah

Utah is home to a variety of abandoned places, each with its own unique history and character. Some of the most well-known abandoned hideaways in Utah include:

  1. Tintic Standard Reduction Mill
  2. Kennecott Copper Mine
  3. Topaz Internment Camp
  4. Grafton Ghost Town
  5. Thistle Ghost Town
  6. Dugway Proving Grounds
  7. Cisco Ghost Town
  8. Iosepa Ghost Town
  9. Intermountain Indian School
  10. Cottonwood Paper Mill

Let’s breakdown each location and why it made it on our list of top abandoned places in Utah.

Tintic Standard Reduction Mill

Located in Juab County, the Tintic Standard Reduction Mill was once the largest concentration of metal mining in Utah. The mill processed ore from mines in the Tintic Mining District, which was known for its rich deposits of gold, silver, lead, and other metals. 

The mill operated from 1921 until 1957, and during its peak, it processed over 500 tons of ore per day. It featured state-of-the-art equipment and processes that allowed for efficient and effective extraction of metals from the ore. 

The mill used a complex system of crushers, mills, classifiers, and flotation tanks to separate the valuable metals from the waste rock. The process was highly mechanized and required a large workforce to operate.

Today, the Tintic Mill is a popular destination for visitors interested in Utah’s mining history. The mill’s buildings and structures still stand and offer a glimpse into the past. 

Visitors can see the remains of the mill’s machinery and equipment and learn about the complex process of extracting metals from ore. The site is also home to a museum that showcases the history of the Tintic Mining District and the role that the mill played in the development of the area.

Kennecott Copper Mine

Located in Bingham Canyon, the Kennecott Copper Mine is one of the largest copper mines in the world. The mine has been in operation since 1903 and has produced over 19 million tons of copper, along with significant amounts of gold, silver, and molybdenum.

The Kennecott Copper Mine is an open-pit mine, meaning that the ore is extracted from the surface of the earth rather than from underground tunnels. The mine is over 2.5 miles wide and 0.75 miles deep, making it one of the largest man-made excavations in the world. The mine is so large that it can be seen from space and is often referred to as the “Bingham Canyon Mine” or simply “the pit”.

Today, the Kennecott Copper Mine is no longer active, but the site is still an important destination for visitors interested in Utah’s mining history. Visitors can take tours of the mine and learn about the history of the site and the mining process. You can even visit a mining town or two during your visit.

The tours include visits to the overlook, where visitors can see the enormity of the pit, and to the visitor center, where exhibits showcase the history and significance of the mine.

Topaz Internment Camp

During World War II, the Topaz Internment Camp was a prison camp for Japanese Americans who were forcibly relocated from their homes on the West Coast. The camp was located near Delta, Utah, and was in operation from 1942 until 1945. Over 11,000 people were held at the camp, making it one of the largest internment camps in the country.

The decision to relocate Japanese Americans to internment camps was made by the US government in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The government believed that Japanese Americans posed a security risk and that their loyalty to the US was suspect. As a result, over 120,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in internment camps throughout the country.

The conditions at the Topaz Internment Camp were harsh and difficult. The camp was located in a remote and arid area of Utah, and the internees were housed in barracks that were poorly insulated and lacked adequate heating and cooling. The internees were also subjected to strict rules and regulations, including restrictions on their movement and activities.

Today, the site of the Topaz Internment Camp is a National Historic Landmark and a reminder of the injustices that were inflicted on Japanese Americans during World War II. Visitors can learn about the history of the internment camps and the experiences of those who were held at Topaz. 

The site features a museum and interpretive center that showcases the stories and artifacts of the internees and provides a glimpse into the daily life of those who were held at the camp.

Grafton Ghost Town

Founded in 1859 by Mormon pioneers, the Grafton Ghost Town is an abandoned town located near Zion National Park. The town was founded by a group of settlers who were looking to establish a new community in southern Utah. They named the town after their hometown of Grafton, Massachusetts.

The town grew quickly and at its peak had over 150 residents. However, the town was located in a flood-prone area and was subjected to frequent flooding and other natural disasters. In 1862, the town was almost completely destroyed by a flood, and many of the residents decided to move elsewhere. The town was abandoned by the early 1900s.

Today, many of the original structures in Grafton still stand, including a schoolhouse, a church, and several homes. The buildings have been preserved and are open to visitors who are interested in Utah’s pioneer history. Visitors to Zion National Park can travel to Grafton and explore the town and learn about the challenges and triumphs of the early settlers who built the community.

One of the most famous buildings in Grafton is the schoolhouse, which was built in 1886. The schoolhouse was used for both secular and religious education, and it is said that the church and schoolhouse were used as a dance hall and social gathering place as well. Today, the schoolhouse is open to visitors who can see the original desks and chalkboards that were used by the students.

Thistle Ghost Town

Located in Spanish Fork Canyon, the Thistle Ghost Town was once a thriving railroad and mining town. The town was founded in the late 1800s and was a hub for the mining and railroad industries. 

The town’s location at the confluence of several major rivers made it an important transportation hub, and the town’s population grew quickly as a result.

However, in 1983, a massive landslide destroyed much of the town and forced its evacuation. The landslide was caused by heavy rains and snowmelt that saturated the soil and caused a massive rock and mudslide to cascade down the mountainside. 

The landslide covered much of the town, including the main street and the railroad tracks, and created a natural dam that flooded much of the surrounding area.

Today, visitors to the Thistle Ghost Town can see the ruins of the town and the remains of the railway tracks that once ran through it. The town’s buildings and structures have been left to the elements and are in a state of disrepair, with many of them collapsed or partially destroyed. 

However, the ruins of the town still offer a fascinating glimpse into the town’s past and the impact of the natural disaster that destroyed it.

Dugway Proving Grounds

The Dugway Proving Grounds located close to the nearby town of Dugway is a US Army facility located in western Utah. The facility was established in 1942 and is used for testing and evaluation of military weapons, equipment, and technology. The facility covers over 800,000 acres and is one of the largest military installations in the country.

The Dugway Proving Grounds is known for its strict security measures and its role in testing some of the most advanced and classified military technologies in the world. The facility is used to test everything from small arms to chemical and biological weapons and is an important part of the US military’s research and development efforts.

Visitors to the Dugway Proving Grounds can take guided tours of the facility and learn about its history, operations, and research and development efforts. The tours include visits to the testing sites and facilities, as well as the geode beds and rock art sites.

Cisco Ghost Town

Located in eastern Utah, the Cisco Ghost Town was once a bustling railroad and mining town. The town was founded in the late 1800s and quickly became a hub for the region’s mining and railroad industries. The town’s location at the confluence of several major rivers made it an important transportation hub, and the town’s population grew quickly as a result.

Today, the Cisco Ghost Town is a popular destination for visitors interested in Utah’s mining and railroad history. The town’s buildings and structures have been preserved and are open to visitors who want to explore the town’s past. Visitors can see the remains of the town’s saloons, general stores, and other businesses, as well as the remains of the railroad tracks and bridges that once ran through the town.

These abandoned places are popular among visitors because they offer a glimpse into Utah’s rich history and showcase the state’s unique landscapes and cultures. 

Visitors can learn about the people and industries that once thrived in these places and see the effects of time and nature on these abandoned sites.

Visitors should also be aware of the potential dangers and respect the historical integrity of these locations by not damaging or removing any items from the site.

Iosepa Ghost Town

Photos: Iosepa Ghost Town in Utah's Desert Built for Hawaiian Settlers

Iosepa, pronounced was a town located in Skull Valley in Tooele Conty. Its history is tied to a group of Hawaiian immigrants known as the “Iosepa Pioneers.”

In the late 19th century, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands. As a result, many Hawaiians converted to the LDS faith and joined the Mormon community. In the early 20th century, a group of Hawaiian LDS converts decided to relocate to the mainland United States in order to be closer to the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City.

In 1889, a small group of these Hawaiian Mormons, under the leadership of George Q. Cannon, established the town of Iosepa in Skull Valley, Utah. The town was named after Joseph F. Smith, who was the president of the LDS Church at the time. The settlers hoped to create a Hawaiian utopia where they could live according to their faith and cultural values.

Life in Iosepa was challenging due to the harsh desert climate and limited resources in Skull Valley. The Hawaiians faced difficulties adapting to the colder climate and cultivating the arid land. Despite these challenges, they worked hard to create a community and sustain their way of life.

By 1917-1918, most of the residents had left Iosepa for various reasons, including economic hardship, military service, and the changing dynamics of the community. The town was essentially abandoned and became a ghost town.

Although Iosepa itself disappeared, the legacy of the Iosepa Pioneers and their unique story continues to be remembered. Descendants of the original settlers, both in Hawaii and Utah, maintain a strong connection to their cultural and religious heritage. In recent years, efforts have been made to commemorate the history of Iosepa through events, historical markers, and the sharing of stories.

The history of Iosepa reflects the challenges and aspirations of a group of Hawaiian immigrants who sought to create a new life in an unfamiliar land. It stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of community and the importance of preserving cultural identity. 

Intermountain Indian School

Uncovering the Mysteries of the Intermountain Indian School | Folklife  Magazine

The Intermountain Indian School, also known as the Intermountain Inter Tribal School was located in Brigham City and was a federally operated boarding school that played a significant role in the education and assimilation policies directed toward Native American children in the United States during the 20th century.

It was established in 1949 by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) as part of a broader effort to assimilate Native American children into mainstream American culture. The Intermountain Indian School was one of several boarding schools across the country that aimed to provide education, vocational training, and cultural assimilation to Native American youth.

The primary mission of the Intermountain Indian School was to “civilize” Native American children by eradicating their cultural practices, languages, and traditions in favor of Western education and values. This approach was influenced by the prevailing assimilationist policies of the time, which aimed to integrate Native Americans into mainstream American society.

Students at the school were subjected to strict rules and regulations that aimed to suppress their native languages, clothing, and traditions. The curriculum primarily focused on English language education, vocational training, and religious teachings that aligned with Christian beliefs.

The Intermountain Indian School, like many other boarding schools of its kind, faced numerous challenges and controversies. Many students experienced cultural alienation, homesickness, and a loss of their native identity. The harsh discipline and assimilationist practices employed by the school had lasting negative effects on many students’ psychological and emotional well-being.

In the latter half of the 20th century, there was a growing recognition of the detrimental impact of such assimilation policies on Native American communities. The emergence of the American Indian civil rights movement and efforts to reclaim cultural identity led to increased criticism of boarding schools like the Intermountain Indian School.

As attitudes towards cultural diversity evolved and a greater understanding of the harmful effects of assimilationist policies emerged, many boarding schools, including the Intermountain Indian School, faced declining enrollments and increased opposition. The school eventually closed its doors in 1984.

Today, the Intermountain Indian School’s legacy stands as a stark reminder of the damaging consequences of forced assimilation policies on Native American communities. It is often discussed within the broader context of historical trauma experienced by Indigenous peoples in the United States and serves as a testament to the resilience and strength of Native American cultures in the face of adversity.

Cottonwood Paper Mill

Cottonwood Paper Mill - Wikipedia

The Cottonwood Paper Mill, also known as the Granite Paper Mill, is located in Cottonwood Heights near Big Cottonwood Canyon was one of the earliest paper mills in the western United States and played a significant role in the region’s industrial history.

The Cottonwood Paper Mill was established in 1883 by the Deseret News, a newspaper owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The mill was strategically located near Big Cottonwood Creek, which provided a reliable source of water power for the mill’s operations.

The primary purpose of the Cottonwood Paper Mill was to produce newsprint and other types of paper for the Deseret News and other LDS Church publications. The mill’s operations included processing wood pulp, manufacturing paper, and printing. It was a significant contributor to the local economy and provided employment opportunities in the area.

The mill continued to operate until the 1970s. As the demand for newsprint and the paper industry changed, the mill’s operations became less viable. Eventually, it was closed down.

In recognition of its historical significance, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Efforts were made to preserve the mill’s remaining structures and machinery as a testament to Utah’s industrial heritage.

Today, the remnants of the Cottonwood Paper Mill stand as a historical site and a reminder of Utah’s early industrial development. Visitors can explore the mill’s surviving buildings, including the papermaking machinery and equipment that have been preserved for educational and historical purposes. The site provides insights into the processes and technologies used in paper production during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Tips for Exploring Abandoned Places Safely

  • Always research the site before visiting to ensure that it is legal and safe to do so.
  • Bring appropriate gear and equipment, including sturdy shoes and a flashlight.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and watch for hazards such as unstable structures, sharp objects, and wildlife.
  • Do not touch or remove any items from the site, as this can damage the historical integrity of the location and may also be illegal.
  • Respect any signs or barriers that indicate that an area is off-limits.
  • Leave the site as you found it and do not leave any trash or other items behind.

Potential Dangers of Exploring Abandoned Places

  • Abandoned sites may be structurally unstable and can collapse or fall apart without warning.
  • Many abandoned sites contain hazardous materials such as asbestos, lead paint, and mold, which can pose a health risk to visitors.
  • Wildlife may have taken up residence in abandoned sites, and visitors should be aware of potential encounters with animals such as snakes, rodents, and insects.

How to Be Respectful When Exploring Abandoned Places

  • Do not disturb any items or structures at the site, as this can damage the historical integrity of the location.
  • Avoid vandalizing or graffiti-ing any structures or surfaces at the site.
  • Be mindful of the environment and avoid trampling on any plants or disturbing any natural features.
  • Take only photographs and leave only footprints.

Wrap Up

Exploring abandoned places in Utah can be an exciting and fascinating experience, but it is important to do so safely and legally.

The abandoned places in Utah offer a glimpse into the past and are full of mystery and intrigue, but visitors should be aware of the potential dangers and respect the historical integrity of these locations. 

Many of these communities were once thriving towns until the residents abandoned their homes. 

With careful planning and preparation, visitors can safely explore the many abandoned places in Utah and learn about the history and culture of the state.