Calico Ghost Town, located in the Mojave Desert near Yermo, CA, is on the site of the actual Calico mining town. Its 500 mines produced over $20 million in silver ore over the 12 years they were in active production. The town was abandoned when silver values plummeted in the 1890s, but it was reopened as a historical site in the 1950s and the rest is history.
Calico Ghost Town itself is home to a plethora of attractions from museums to an authentic mine, and even a Mystery Shack Tour through a house of illusions. The rugged terrain attracts mountain bikers and ATV enthusiasts from the local region. Stop by the original Del Taco on your way in (now a burger joint called Tita’s) and stay late on Saturday for the ghost tour. The surrounding towns of Yermo and Barstow offer plenty to keep you occupied for a kitschy, kicked-back weekend in the desert.
The route from San Francisco to Calico Ghost Town near Yermo will take you through central California. It’s a six-hour drive that lacks diverse scenery, so make a custom playlist that will get you in the mood to step back in time. Merge onto I-80 E toward Oakland and keep left toward Berkley/Sacramento/I-580 W/San Rafael. Merge onto I-580 E via exit 8B toward CA-24/Hayward-Stockton. Follow this road for about 63 miles until I-580 E becomes I-5 S.
This is the longest portion of your road trip and it’s a straight shot down the 5 for almost 190 miles until you exit 257 for CA-58 toward Bakersfield. Make a quick left onto CA-58 and look out for the right onto Enos Ln/CA-43/CA-58. Follow the roadway signs to stay on CA-58 W for a few more hours. You’ll merge onto I-15 N/Barstow Fwy N via the exit on the left toward I-40 E/Las Vegas. Resist the urge to hit Vegas, that’s another road trip! Keep left to stay on I-15N and 7 miles later, you’ll hit exit 191 for Ghost Town Road in Yermo.
From the neon signs dotting the exterior to the 24-hour reception area that’s chock-full of Route 66 memorabilia and signage, you’ll love the retro feel from the moment you see it. Located on historic Route 66 and just a short 20-minute drive from Calico Ghost Town, this value property has colorful, air-conditioned rooms with free wi-fi, comfy beds, and sparkling clean private bathrooms. The parking lot is dotted with vintage cars to add to the appeal. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to share tidbits of Route 66 history.
There are very few options for accommodations in Yermo, so this is the place to be if you want to stay close to the main attraction. This hotel, conveniently located just off the interstate yet surprisingly quiet, features clean rooms, free wi-fi, a fitness center, and a year-round outdoor pool. The best part, however, are the coupons for the free breakfast at the restaurant next door. This property is pet-friendly and centrally located to Calico Ghost Town.
The Ayres Hotel in Barstow is conveniently located near the Barstow Outlet Center and an easy drive to Calico Ghost Town. The spacious rooms feature comfortable beds and are well-appointed with flat screen TVs, microwaves refrigerators, and toiletries. The property has an indoor pool and hot tub, fitness center, and on-site business facilities. Dry cleaning and laundry are available for an additional charge. You’ll love the continental breakfast and designated spots to charge your electric car.
Located just off the 15 in Barstow, Frosty’s makes for a quick stop for a delicious breakfast to fuel up before heading out to Calico Ghost Town. The buttermilk bar is a delight, the apple fritters are huge, and the maple old-fashioned is simply perfection. This joint serves up fresh, delicious donuts Tuesday through Sunday and opens as early as 4:30 am during the week. Don’t worry – the coffee’s good, too (you’ll need it at that hour). It’s easy to see why this family-owned business has been open for over 50 years. The sugar rush is addictive!
Los Domingos is easy to miss. It’s actually located inside the Quality Inn Hotel. Ignore your preconceptions about a little Mexican spot in a chain hotel. They’re wrong. Every single item on the menu is a hit, from the green chile tacos to the shrimp in spicy jalapeno sauce to the salsa that will knock your socks off. The restaurant is clean and reasonably priced, and your waiter will serve up huge portions with a friendly smile. Great spot for kids and groups.
Don’t be fooled by the run-down roadside shack in the middle of nowhere. This little gem was the home of the original Del Taco, but in-the-know residents flock here for the killer burgers and fries. They also serve Mexican fare, sandwiches, hot dogs, and delicious ice cream. A family of four can easily dine for less than $20 and you won’t walk away hungry! The owner is friendly, accommodating, and takes pride in serving great food at amazing prices to passersby on this lonely stretch of highway.
There’s no shortage of museums paying tribute to the iconic Route 66, but the one in Barstow is a gem. It’s packed full of artifacts and memorabilia related to Route 66, car culture, and Mojave Desert communities in the region. You’ll learn about the development of the cross-country thoroughfare from its early days as a pioneer trail through its reputation as one of the most popular road trips in America. Kitschy Americana at its best. Open Friday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
Located just northwest of Barstow, Rainbow Basin is a bit of a drive from Calico Ghost Town but not far from the Barstow-area hotels that host many Ghost Town visitors. Tourists have called it one of the most mysterious and beautiful locations in the Mojave because of the unusual rock formations that have been sculpted by the elements. The terrain is other-wordly and surreal; it’s been described as visually similar to the surface of the Moon. The entire Rainbow Basin Trail loop only takes about 2-3 hours to hike, so it’s a great place to take in a bit of the desert without dedicating an entire day to a strenuous expedition.
The Tanger Outlet Center at Barstow is worth a stop for bargain shoppers. Featuring shops by national name brands like Ralph Lauren, Nike, Calvin Klein, Rockport, Loft, Tumi, and Ugg, bargains abound at this shopping destination. You may have to fight the crowds from tour buses early on, so an evening visit may be best if you’re already in town for an entire weekend. It’s a smaller center and easy to navigate, with prices marked well below retail. Open 9-8 daily.
The Western America Railroad Museum is small but worth a visit, especially since it sits in the same complex as Harvey House and the Route 66 Mother Road Museum. Its mission is to preserve the history of the railroading industry in the Pacific Southwest. It’s a great complement to the Calico Odessa Railroad tour at Calico Ghost Town. This museum is free, though donations are appreciated, and it’s open Friday through Sunday from 11 am – 4 pm. Railroad enthusiasts will appreciate the collection of memorabilia and the entire family will love checking out the engines, cars, and equipment from an era long gone.
Calico Ghost Town is part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system. Located in the old silver mining town, it features multiple attractions, shops, and restaurants. Visit the Lucy Lane Museum to check out artifacts from the early days and then head to the heart of Maggie Mine for a lesson on the silver-mining industry of the late 1800s. You can pan for gold just like the miners did, take a historical tour on the Calico Odessa Railroad, and even take a ghost tour after dark on Saturday nights (if you dare). Extended tours of Level #6 of the Calico Silver King Mine and a 20 Mule Team Off-Road Adventure Tour are available upon request. Open daily. Each attraction in the town has a separate entrance fee.