Spending a Night in the Abandoned Ghost Town of Cisco, Utah

Just west of the Colorado border lies the incredible ghost town of Cisco, Utah. Cisco is a fairly large ghost town with many abandoned structures, some from the early 1900s, and some from recent years. It is totally accessible and has no signs forbidding trespassing. I liked Cisco so much, I spent the night there. And I took a ton of pictures, which I hope you will enjoy.

Cisco Utah ghost town
Abandoned Cisco Landing Store

The drive from the abandoned sugar mill in Loveland, Colorado to Cisco, Utah ghost town took up most of the remaining daylight hours. By the time I arrived, the sun had already touched the horizon. I explored as much as I could in the waning light before it became pitch dark outside. Without another soul for miles in any direction, I decided the Utah ghost town would be a perfect place to spend the night.

I snapped a few pictures by the inadequate illumination of my flashlight before I decided it would be best to wait for the light of morning.

Many of the buildings were in an advanced state of decay.

Cisco, Utah ghost town

Cisco Utah ghost town

Some appeared incredibly old and were constructed entirely of wood.

Cisco, Utah ghost town

Cisco Utah ghost town

Miscellaneous car parts and mattress springs were a common sight in the abandoned houses.

Cisco, Utah ghost town

Quite a few rusting vehicles had made Cisco, Utah their final resting place, including an abandoned bus,

Cisco Utah ghost town

quite a few abandoned cars,

Cisco, Utah ghost town

Cisco Utah ghost town

and several RVs.

Cisco, Utah ghost town

Cisco Utah ghost town

After the sun disappeared, the only source of light as far as the eye could see were three light posts near the railroad tracks. Occasionally a train passed by, its three bright headlights slicing through the darkness, and once in a great while, a car sped past on the lonely stretch of highway along Cisco's northern border.

With virtually no light pollution I had an incredible view of the stars. I gazed up at the sky for a while, a bittersweet thought churning in my brain: the epic road trip was nearing its end. In two short days I would be back home in Los Angeles.

I was shocked to realize that, despite the fact that I was in an abandoned town, my phone had perfect reception. I called a few people at home and gushed about the amazing places I'd seen over the last few days. I talked to my better half for nearly an hour. I missed him like crazy; it was the longest we'd ever been apart. Finally I wrapped myself up in a cozy nest of blankets and fell fast asleep.

The next morning, I woke with the sun and immediately set out to finish exploring the abandoned buildings of Cisco, Utah.

Abandoned Buildings in Cisco, Utah ghost town
A cluster of old shacks in Cisco, Utah ghost town

A gas station appeared to have been abandoned long ago, judging by the severity of its decay.

Abandoned Gas Station in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Gas Station in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned Gas Station in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Gas Station in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Houses spread out over the large swath of land were slumped in various states of ruin.

Abandoned Buildings in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Buildings in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned Buildings in Cisco Utah ghost town

Cisco, Utah ghost town

Some still contained artifacts left by their former inhabitants.

Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Home in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Home in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned House in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned House in Cisco, Utah ghost town

I spotted what looked like mine entrances, which turned out to be very old cellars that were still fairly intact. 

Abandoned Cellar in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Cellar in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned Cellar in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Cellar in Cisco, Utah ghost town

A little house with a satellite dish looked as though it was very recently inhabited.

Abandoned House in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned House in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned House in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned House in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned House in Cisco Utah ghost town

Without thinking, I opened the refrigerator and a horrible moldy odor instantly infused the air. I held my breath and got the hell out of there.

Abandoned House in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Only one house had any indication that someone might still be living there. It was quite large with several additions. The porch light was on; I hadn't noticed it the previous night because it was set away from most of the ghost town's crumbling abandoned homes. I kept a respectful distance.

Abandoned Home in Cisco Utah ghost town

Several modern trailer homes stood nearby. One of them was being used for storage, and contained shelves full of mysterious unmarked bottles.

Bottle Stash in Cisco Utah ghost town

The other looked like it had housed a small family somewhat recently.

Abandoned Home in Cisco, Utah ghost town

The appliances and cabinetry were still intact.

Abandoned Home in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Home in Cisco, Utah ghost town

It even had a Jacuzzi.

Abandoned Home in Cisco Utah ghost town

An emergency fire plan was tacked up beside the front door.

Abandoned Home in Cisco, Utah ghost town

And one corner of the place was badly scorched by a fire that might have driven the residents out.

Abandoned Home in Cisco Utah ghost town

One of Cisco's most notable landmarks is the tiny post office. It is incredibly small and contains only a desk and a chair.

Abandoned Post Office in Cisco, Utah ghost town

There are plenty of other interesting artifacts lying around too.

Abandoned Artifacts in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Artifacts in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned Fuses in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Wonderbread Truck in Cisco, Utah ghost town
Abandoned Wonder Bread Truck in Cisco, Utah

Cisco, Utah has a robust history that dates back to the late 1800s. The town was first established as a watering stop for steam engines operated by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. The station became an important shipping depot for the cattle ranchers and sheep herders from the nearby Book Cliffs.

Railway Depot in Cisco Utah ghost town

An increasing number of work crews and travelers passed through town and restaurants, stores, bars and hotels were built to meet the growing demand.

Abandoned Buildings in Cisco, Utah ghost town

The town's economy was spurred on by the discovery of oil and natural gas in 1924. It became such a thriving industry that Cisco was, for a time, Utah's largest producer of oil and natural gas.

Oil Well in Cisco Utah ghost town

The switch from coal-powered steam locomotives to diesel engines in the 1950s spelled trouble for Cisco because it meant that trains would no longer need to stop to replenish water supplies.

Fortunately the mid-1900s saw an increase in car ownership in the US, reinforcing Cisco's role as a stopping point for travelers crossing the harsh desert.

Abandoned Truckin Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned Dump Truck in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Truck in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Another boon to the local economy occurred when uranium and vanadium were discovered nearby, drawing thousands of prospectors.

Abandoned Artifacts in Cisco Utah ghost town

It wasn't long before the period of ore discovery died down and much of the population moved away. The final blow to Cisco's declining economy occurred with the construction of the Interstate system. In a fate similar to many of the abandoned towns I've visited, I-70 completely bypassed Cisco, depriving local businesses of the traffic that had been essential to their existence.

Abandoned Buildings in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned Buildings in Cisco Utah ghost town

Scenes from several movies were filmed in Cisco, including Vanishing Point (1971), Thelma and Louise (1991), and Don't Come Knocking (2005).

Abandoned House in Cisco, Utah ghost town

According to http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ut-cisco.html, one of the last businesses in Cisco was a gas station/restaurant, whose owner went to jail for shooting a man who drove off without paying for his gas. The gas station owner's wife took over the business and ran it poorly, allegedly keeping the door locked and only serving customers when she felt like it. She had a large bad-tempered dog that frequently bit customers. It is said that if the customer got upset or kicked the dog, she turned them away, but if they kept a cool head, she would serve them.

Cisco Utah ghost town sign

Abandoned Store in Cisco, Utah ghost town

Abandoned Store in Cisco Utah ghost town

Abandoned Store in Cisco, Utah ghost town

I left Cisco and continued homeward, stopping to admire the beauty of Utah's landscapes and to check out a few more abandoned places on the way. Be sure to come back next week for more!

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44 comments :

  1. And is there some reason your "better half" couldn't come with you? Work??
    I hope you two get to travel TOGETHER at some point. I wouldn't sit here worrying like a mother that you are out there ALONE and possibly in danger. Sheesh!

    :D

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    1. He couldn't come along because he had to work. Also abandoned places really freak him out, so it wasn't ever really an option. I had just been laid off from my job and decided to cross a few things off of my bucket list. A road trip across the US to explore abandoned places was #1 on the list.

      We get to travel together pretty often. We recently went to Hawaii and are going to San Francisco next weekend. He and my mom were both worried about me, especially when I took a trip to explore abandoned places in Detroit. I found a way to continuously share my GPS coordinates with them so they could keep track of me.

      Delete
  2. Those wierd little glass bulbs and hydrogen generator control panel caught my eye. Old tech almost fascinates me as much as abandoned towns. Great blog, thanks.

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    1. Thank you! I love old tech too. The style is so much different from the technology of today. There sure is a lot of it lying around in Cisco.

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  3. 'Several modern trailer homes stood nearby. One of them was being used for storage, and contained shelves full of mysterious unmarked bottles.' Meth labs?

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    1. I don't think so. I've heard meth labs give off terrible chemical smells. There was none of that in Cisco. I figured it was probably someone's homemade alcohol

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  4. Hey asshole I live in cisco along with a handful of others. You were lucky not to get your head blown off for tresspassing.

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    1. Did you move there recently? Your profile says you live in Chicago.

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    2. Please share your experiences living there, fishbelly kashube, if you're serious.

      I was also just recently in Cisco and boy, whatta place.

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    3. Going into a public town is NOT reason to blow off someone's head. You're lucky you aren't being tried for attempted murder if that is how you behave.

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  5. My Grandpa, Dan Vanover, was Mayor of Cisco in the 1970's. We would visit him often and I would love to move there and get the town up and running again :) Thank you for this!

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    1. That's must have been a really neat experience! I bet he had some interesting stories, being the mayor of a small town like that. I'd love to see Cisco rejuvenated. I hope it happens some day.

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  6. You got some balls staying there over night. Well done and thanks for the photos, i was there last week and saw what could have been someone living there...freaked out and left town :)

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    1. Haha, thanks! I don't think anyone was home when I was there. I guess I was lucky. I'm glad I kept my distance from the one house that looked like it might have still been inhabited.

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  7. Heidi from coloradoOctober 30, 2016 at 1:46 PM

    UPDATE OF CISCO UTAH: I travel to utah from colorado all the time, maybe 3-4 a year. The last time I went to cisco, utah there are signs up everywhere saying to be ware of owner, not the dog. It is not even worth the stop in there anymore. I wonder if maybe they are trying to clean up the place. You also used to be able to go into the post office, and it is dead bolted now. I have tons of photos of the place if anyone wants to see them, or I could even give them to you Jim for your website also.

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    1. It's a shame they don't want anyone stopping there. It's such a neat place. I hope they preserve it. It would be such a shame if the buildings got demolished.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. I've been through Cisco a bunch of times, and I barely get out of my car. It's a really spooky place, like right out of David Lynch film. You are very brave, indeed, to go poking around, particularly by yourself.

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    1. Thank you :) I found it to be really peaceful since there was no one else around.

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  9. I asked the county what plans were for Cisco and they said they had none at this time.

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  10. I just drove through cisco today. got out to take some photos and noticed some creepy stuff. took a photo of a voodoo doll and a missing persons wall with creepy messages written in red sharpie over the photos like "found dead". Anyone else seen this? Im worried there is something weird going on. is there a way i can post a photo?

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    Replies
    1. Interesting. I hadn't seen any of that while I was there. Feel free to send me your photo via Facebook or my other social media.

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  11. That's too bad- rotten people always ruin good things :(

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  12. hello world I'm 12 years old I like exploring

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  13. we were just in Cisco today when a friendly lady came out of the house across from the post office and she said she had lived there for 3 years and had fixed up the post office she also said be free to look around although she was caring a holstered sidearm and asking for cigarettes that scared us a little.

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    Replies
    1. That sounds like an interesting encounter. It's nice that she's taking care of the place. I wish I'd met her when I was in town. I can't say I blame her for carrying a sidearm since she's all alone in the middle of nowhere and probably deals with strangers stopping to check out the ghost town pretty often.

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    2. She is my cousin, owns most of the town now, fixing up what she can, and YES she carries a sidearm for protection. She is an awesome person, nothing to be scared of unless you mess with her.

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  14. I'm sitting in the post office right now waiting for the sunrise to get some more pictures. I came here to meet the owner and her dog and to cross this place off a couple of my lists. She told me that her dog got run over and some other things both sad and glad.
    Don't confuse the territory with the map. Awesome person.

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    1. So cool that you got to stay in the post office! I hope you had a great time. It's sad to hear that her dog got run over. I hope she's doing all right. I'd like to make another trip out there to meet her one day.

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    2. Since I left, I've been searching out the place to flesh out my experience.
      Pretty interesting stuff.
      The fact that a good deal of Vanishing Point was shot there makes my visit
      I was a big fan of Vanishing Point ('71 not that cheesy retread of 97) when it came out and after viewing it again agree it's up there with Easy Rider in the Drug/Hippiesploitation genre.
      Seeing those then and now (now and then?)mashup videos online has been a great treat. Tracing this town's history as a railroad stop, oil and gas producer and uranium prospecting mecca makes me hungry for more.
      I'm already planning another trip.

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  15. I'm curious how she "owns most of the town"? My Grandpa was Mayor of Cisco for decades until he passed in 1986. When I contacted the county they said no properties were for sale and the county had no plans for the town whatsoever. Very curious as Grandpa's home and land was never sold either. Mom is nearby in GJ and was wanting to visit but was leary as she is older now.

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  16. My brother in law lived in Cisco at the falling down building that has the scene painted on it and at the old conveince store at the north end of town and other places around there. I never thought of it as spooky except for maybe the coyotes. I also remember stopping there on one of our many trips to grand jct and having a soda at the old motel before they knocked it down, i was about 5 years old. A pot of history in Cisco. It was a bigger town than Moab at its height in the 40s and it was a mainstay for a lot of ranchers back in the day too.

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  17. The first photographs of the decaying concrete block garage just a stone's throw away from the Cisco landing store on a side street are of (I believe to the best of my knowledge) Cowger's garage. What is significant is that place is the location of the eureka moment that Uranium King Charlie Steen realized he struck a motherlode of Uranium ore he staked out in the nearby Lisbon Valley south of Moab. After breaking a coring drill rig and on his way to Grand Junction to get repair parts, a dejected Steen showed Buddy Cowger the strange dark core sample he pulled out of the drill core. When Cowger placed his Geiger counter near the core sample (everyone had one of those back then),the Geiger counter pegged off the scale and Steen knew he stuck it rich. That is the location that forever changed the nuclear age and accelerated the nuclear arms race. Steen and his mines and reduction plant supplied the bulk of the yellowcake used in making enriched uranium for the manufacture of the the nuclear weapons during the 50's and 60's. Now this place in history is slowly dissolving mortar crack by mortar crack

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    1. How interesting! I'd never heard of Charlie Steen before. Thanks for the info!

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  18. First of all, great Web page!

    Ive been following Cisco for many years. I was originally there in 1970 as an 11 year old on a month long vacation with my family. This was during the filming of Vanishing Point! We have 6 photo's that were taken at the movie site. They are the only Behind the Scenes Photos of Vanishing Point that are known to exist.
    All lot of the newer cars, motor homes, appliances and other junk were brought in in the early 2000's by someone who needed to dump his stuff. I don't consider those to be part of the original history of Cisco.
    The owner of The Cisco Landing Store was Butch Brown. He opened the store to cater to River rafters that came up from the Colorado River near Cisco. I provided Butch with 6 8X10 photos of our Vanishing Point Behind the Scenes Photos to hang on the wall of his store for curious travellers to see. I dont believe he ever put them up. I spoke to his wife after he died. She had still lived in the trailer behind the store at that time. She used to walk around with a pet Raven that she rescued from the oil fields in the area.
    The Cisco Landing Store was also a Car Repair Shop in the movie Pontiac Moon with Ted Danson.
    The original Cisco Motel was disassembled and moved to Moab VIA the Colorado River. It then became a motel on the back streets of Moab. Still called the Cisco. in 2008 the Cisco was again moved to another location in Cisco to be used as a home for a family.

    Here is a blog that I put together several years ago regarding Cisco and other related things.

    http://utahsbest.blogspot.com/

    Thanks for your Information.

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  19. Wow. I stayed a couple summers around 84-86 with my dad, Gale O'Dell. Always wondered what happened to the town and friends I made. Dougy, Pete and Mandy. My dads friend Doug had 2 ravens he would feed every day.

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    1. Interesting! It sounds like pet ravens were relatively popular in Cisco. Such a neat little town.

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  20. I wish I would have found your blog before I went to Cisco yesturday!! Yes a laxatives in the house across the street from post office and she has done some work around the place. I only know about her because some family was out in a field getting into an old truck and she came out and yelled at them. I figured someone lived there i could feel someone watching me while I wandered. The are handmade signs everywhere stating it's private property. She has done some cool things with junk she has found! I should have talked to her, guess I have to go back!

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  21. Looking more into it apparently the owner of Cisco now? Two of her structures in AirBnb to rent out!

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  22. Jennifer, great info and photos. I haven't been to Cisco since 2014. Hoping to make it back there next year during our vacation out west.
    I'm really bothered by the fact that Cisco had become somewhat of a junkyard. There is a lot of stuff that never existed in Cisco and was hauled in over many years. I think it started after 1997. When I was in Cisco back then, most of the junk cars, motorhomes and things like that didn't exist.
    It's really ruined the character of a true Ghost Town.
    I had heard that someone still lived in Cisco. When I had talked to Butch Brown (RIP), the owner of Cisco Landing Store, he told me that a lady had many photos of several movies that were filmed in Cisco. It would have been interesting to talk to her, but I never had the guts to find out!
    Are there still hand painted signs that say Cisco Uath, instead of Cisco Utah? I think Butch painted those (incorrectly!).
    Thanks for your contribution.

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  23. I'm sleeping in the post office now. The woman across from the post office rents it out on Airbnb. It is clean and an amazing experience. Some nice touches like solar powered twinkle lights and other solar powered motion lights around. She did a great job fixing the place up.

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    1. How neat! I'd like to stay there sometime.

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  24. passed Cisco a few weeks ago on way back to Rock Island Ill from Moab/My GirL wanted to witness a ghost town! God made a call & we blew past😞In Our face👴

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  25. passed Cisco a few weeks ago on way back to Rock Island Ill from Moab/My GirL wanted to witness a ghost town! God made a call & we blew past😞In Our face👴

    ReplyDelete