During the last day of our recent Sedona trip, we decided we wanted to check out Jerome, a ghost town in Arizona before heading to the airport. Jerome’s ghost town used to be a booming copper mining town in the early 1900’s. I’d never been to a ghost town before, so I was intrigued!
Jerome sits on a hilltop overlooking Verde Valley, and in its heyday was home to more than 10,000 people in the 1920’s. At that time Jerome was dubbed “The Wickedest Town in the West,” which makes me picture all of the West World vibes. At its lowest point following the Great Depression only ~100 people lived in Jerome, and now that it’s become a little bit more of a tourist destination, about 400 people live there.
The production and copper mining in Jerome was booming during World War I, thanks to the United Verde Copper Company setting up shop once word had spread there was ore in the hills. At one point Jerome was the largest copper mine in Arizona, producing 3 million tons of copper per month. After WWI, production fluctuated, until it finally petered out during the Great Depression and as the ore deposits ran out. The mines closed and the population dwindled, but the residents turned their town into a retail and tourism site. Jerome is a historical landmark, officially named so in 1967, and now you can find art galleries, coffee shops, museums, restaurants, hotels, and a state park there.
Getting to Jerome:
Jerome is about 25 miles southwest of Sedona, and it takes 45 minutes to drive there. For us, it was the perfect detour on the way to the airport. It’s not really “on the way” to PHX, and will add 45 minutes to your route from Sedona to the airport, but we had time to kill and it was fun to check out on our last day. Or if you’re in Phoenix, Jerome is a two-hour drive and could be a fun day trip.
Do be prepared for parking to be tough. There are limited parking lots and street parking available. The streets are also very narrow and can get backed up with traffic quickly. The main street of Jerome kinda curves up and to the left, and we couldn’t find any parking in the first couple main lots so we had to continue up the hill. Once you start to go up the incline, there’s another parking area up there where we were able to find parking. If you go up too far, the parking becomes reserved for residents only.
Should I stay in Jerome?
Jerome does have a couple hotels and B&B’s, if you wanted to stay there. Unless you’re really into ghost towns and that kind of United States history, I would say you probably don’t need to stay in Jerome, and just make a day trip out of it. Or if you’re heading to Northern Arizona from Phoenix and want to make a pitstop and break the trip up a bit, staying in Jerome could be a fun option. And if you really want to stay there just because you’re into ghost towns, don’t let me burst your bubble! The Connor Hotel looked pretty cool and historic and would be my pick if we were staying in Jerome.
Being that Jerome is a ghost town, pretty much all the top things to do in Jerome are centered around history. Strolling through the town feels like you’ve gone back in time, and checking out the different museums and historical sites will give you more context about this interesting and once booming little city. I’d never been to a ghost town before, so I found it really interesting. Plus, there are plenty of fun photo opps, if you’re looking for something different for your Instagram feed.
So let’s dive in! Here are nine things to do in Jerome, ghost town and former wickedest town in the west.
Jerome: Ghost Town
Jerome State Historic Park: This state park features the Douglas Mansion, which was built in 1916 by a family of mining entrepreneurs in Jerome. At the time, the Douglas Mansion was originally designed as a hotel for mining officlas and investors. Inside Douglas Mansion, you’ll find a museum dedicated to the history of Jerome, as well as the Douglas family.
The museum has photographs, mining artifacts, minerals, models of what the town and its underground mines used to look like, and video presentations. Outside of the house there’s a scenic viewpoint where you can have a picnic or just enjoy the views of the Verde Valley.
Gold King Mine and Ghost Town: Gold King Mine and Ghost Town is a historic mine that offers a trip back in time. It’s definitely a funky place to check out, with dilapidated buildings, an old mine, blacksmith shop, and antique trucks and mining equipment. There are a few different activities you can do, like panning for gold and feeding the animals (yes, there are randomly animals).
Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum: This is an interesting little museum with more artifacts and history about Jerome and the people who built the town. The museum shows a peek into pieces of Jerome’s history like native pueblos, fires, police, mining, and gambling at the saloons. Again, very West World vibes!
Jerome’s Sliding Jail: Since Jerome is built into a hill, it was subject to landslides. This jail now stands 200 feet away from where it was originally built. Given that Jerome was dubbed the “wickedest town in the west,” this jail got put to good use due to all the gambling, prostituting, drinking, and gunfights.
Ghost Tour: If you’re into ghost towns, you’re probably into ghosts. Freak yourself out a bit and go on a ghost hunting night tour! You’ll learn about the town’s spooky history, and get EVP equipment to read all the paranormal activity. OoOoOoOohhh! I kid, but I would probably be shaking in my boots. Read the reviews and you’ll see people have a lot of spooky fun on this tour.
Historical Walking Tour: Go on a historical walking tour through the town of Jerome and learn all about its history. During this one-hour tour, your guide will take you around Jerome and share stories about its former residents, miners, and gamblers. You’ll stop by an old mine entrance and learn about its secret passageways. Hear stories of Jerome’s Red Light District that was functioning until 1918.
Tuzigoot National Monument: Tuzigoot (can we just take a beat to appreciate how funny the name is??) is a national monument that has ruins from a village from 1100 AD. Situated on top of the hill in a really beautiful area, the pueblo that was once here had 110 rooms. There’s a small little museum and rangers/volunteers there who can share more with you about the history of this site. Walk through the ruins and get up close and personal with them while learning some local history.
Take the Verde Canyon Train: Taking the historic Verde Canyon Train would be a fun option to get to and from Jerome. This railroad has been in service for over 100 years, and it started in Jerome, Arizona, giving miners access to this city built into the steep mountain cliffs.
Grab Lunch with a View: Since Jerome is built into a mountain, it has some pretty great views. We had lunch at Haunted Hamburger and sat outside on their patio. Their burgers were good and the views were great.
This list should keep you busy for a day or two of checking out Jerome, America’s largest ghost town! It’s definitely a unique town to visit, and holds some interesting pieces of United States history. Is it super funky? Sure. But that’s what makes it interesting.
By the way, if you’re heading to Sedona (which I certainly hope you are if you’ll be in Jerome—it’s far too beautiful of an area to be only 45 mintes away from and not get to see!), be sure to check out my other Sedona travel guides!