As happens when traveling around the country in an RV, I noticed a small reference in a camping RV brochure about visiting Cerro Gordo, a ghost mining town outside of Lone Pine, CA. Mining there took place between 1866 and 1957. Cerro Gordo means “fat hill” in Spanish. Miners pilled their precious metal from the smelters down the hill on 20-mule teams. Steamboats carried the ore and silver across Owens Lake via steamboats on to Los Angeles. Many died during these years by violence, mine collapse, severe weather, and Indian raids. The town was bought by a TikTok influencer, Brent Underwood. He and his partner bought the entire town in 2018 for $1.4 million, including 336 acres and 22 buildings.
After asking the receptionist at the Camp RV check-in, who endorsed it as a fun experience, we took off, excited to experience a visit to a ghost mine and the period buildings. A ghost mining town sounded interesting to explore and the picturesque mountains beckoned. The paved road to the turnoff seemed to be what we would expect, however, WHAT???, we were faced with a dirt road and No Trespassing signs we pressed ahead. Afterall, why would it be advertised in the RV Site brochure if it was private?
We immediately found ourselves on a dirt, rock filled road with deep ruts. This winding path, known as Yellow Grade Road, consists mainly of switch backs, cutting through juts of rock and sand. The snowy Inyo Mountains rises over Owens Lake, impressive and regal!
The elevation along the narrow dirt/rock road rose from 3500 feet to 8000 feet by the end. Driving required slow speeds and pulling in the side mirrors to fit through the side mountains.
The drive along the narrow, unimproved path to the abandoned mine, did end up being into a privately owned ghost mine and town with posted No Trespassing Signs.
While it all appeared interesting, we were not able to explore the buildings but could see the remnants of an old town and some mining.
I am not sure we would have been able to locate the owner who apparently lives there to ask permission to explore, so we immediately turned around to head down the mountain.
The trip down the narrow trail was even more fraught with bumps, overhangs, and frightening drop offs. Before our eyes the road would disappear, rocks would shift, and pot holes threathened sudden slips and shifts onto the outer edges of the narrow path.
At the bottom, all we could breath out was WHEW!