Oatman, Arizona is a dusty mining town that will transport you straight back to the 19th century. In another era, Oatman was the sight of a lucrative gold mine, but the town’s fortunes waned, and by the 1960s, it was all but abandoned.
Oatman turned into a ghost town, but visit today, and you’ll find that it’s actually quite busy.
No one really lives here, except for a few shop owners and the famed Oatman donkeys, but hundreds of thousands of tourists stop by each year, most of them driving the old Route 66.
The town has gone from mining town to ghost town to tourist town. Given the heritage, the history, the drama, and the wild-west style buildings, it’s one of the best days out you could have in Arizona!
To inspire your trip, here’s our guide to visiting Oatman, Arizona!
Oatman, Arizona Ghost Town Planner
How to Visit Oatman, Arizona on Route 66
Oatman, Arizona is located in western Arizona, not far from the tri-state border with Nevada and California.
The largest major city near the town is Las Vegas, which is just a two-hour drive north. Los Angeles is a long four-hour drive out to the west of Oatman.
Oatman is located on what was Route 66, the classic cross country highway that connected east and west.
The route is no longer officially in operation, as it has been superseded by modern highways and a more extensive road network. But drive along the section of road into Oatman, and you’ll see Route 66 signs and stickers everywhere!
For that reason, the town is a popular stop-off for travelers retracing Route 66, so the windy roads into the town can get busy in peak season.
Unless you’re joining an organized tour from Las Vegas or are part of a multiday southwest tour group, the only way into Oatman is to drive. There’s no public transport available to the ghost town.
That’s all part of the fun, though. The road trip here is full of spectacular views and vistas. Once you’re in Oatman itself, you can walk around on foot – it’s not a big town.
Want to visit Oatman from Las Vegas? Check out this day trip: Arizona Ghost Towns and Wild-West Day Trip from Las Vegas
Can You Stay in Oatman, Arizona?
Oatman is a small town, and for the most part, it’s still abandoned. The only hotel is the Oatman Hotel, which dates back to 1902. Unfortunately, the hotel is no longer taking overnight guests, although you can call in for food and drinks.
Most travelers will choose to take a day trip from Las Vegas or stay in nearby Kingman or Lake Havasu City, where there are many more accommodation options.
You can also find plenty of beautiful camping grounds in the nearby nature preserves, making for a great place to overnight!
Best Time To Visit the Oatman Ghost Town
You can visit Oatman all through the year because, given the southern location, the town experiences hot or warm weather, whatever the season.
The summer months can be scorching hot, however, and are often quite busy given the dry climate and proximity to California and Las Vegas. Try to avoid June, July, and August, when it’s hot and crowded.
Winter is cool, with average temperatures only hitting 57 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s still warm during the day. It’s an excellent time for hiking in the surrounding area.
The best time to visit Oatman will be spring or fall, when the weather is nice and warm (but not too hot) and the crowds are much thinner than summer or winter.
Want to visit Oatman from Las Vegas on a private tour? Check out this day trip: Private Arizona and Nevada Ghost Town Tour From Las Vegas
A Brief History of Oatman
Today, Oatman is a quirky tourist attraction promoting itself as an authentic wild-west ghost town. It really is like taking a step back in time, because little has changed here since the 1900s.
Oatman was named after Olivia Oatman, the survivor of a pioneering family who was killed by local Indians as they made their way west in 1851.
Olivia Oatman was enslaved but released four years later, and her ordeal was popularised by the US press.
The town was founded in the 1860s when prospectors hit gold in the surrounding mountains. A huge gold rush ensured that Oatman and many of the surrounding mountain towns were soon bustling, as they experienced a massive economic boom.
The boom went on until the 1920s when fortunes began to fade. At its peak, Oatman was one of the largest gold producing towns in the west.
In 1921, a fire ravaged the town, which really marked the beginning of the end. The only building to survive was the Oatman Hotel, which still stands today.
Mining was phased out, but the town briefly found a new lease of life as a pitstop on Route 66. When Route 66 was also phased out, Oatman became all but abandoned.
A few townspeople persevered and have been successful in turning Oatman into a tourist attraction. While few people now live here, it’s estimated that the town receives up to 500,000 visitors every year.
Looking for more of a historical tour on Route 66? Check out this tour that includes Oatman Arizona: Private Nostalgic Route 66 Tour – Option 1 or Private Nostalgic Route 66 Tour – Option 2
The Best Things to do in Oatman, Arizona
1. See the Wild Burros
When you drive into Oatman, the first thing you’ll notice – aside from the historic-looking buildings – will be the huge number of wild donkeys that have free reign across the town.
The ‘Burros’ (that’s Spanish for donkey) were initially encouraged into Oatman by local shop owners, who tempted them with carrots.
The Burros had too good a life to leave, and now they head into town every day in search of snacks.
Although the ethics of this relationship are somewhat debatable, the Burros have become a semi-permanent fixture of Oatman; they will often block traffic on the main street as they hunt down their daily carrot fix.
2. Visit the Oatman Hotel Restaurant and Saloon
First constructed in 1902, the Oatman Hotel Restaurant and Saloon is the oldest building in town. The old hotel survived the 1921 fire unscathed and became a favorite stopover for travelers driving Route 66 in later years.
It’s not a hotel as such anymore, but houses a bar, restaurant, and an intriguing museum. Hollywood stars Gable and Lombard spent part of their honeymoon here in the 1930s, while many lodgers often say the hotel is haunted.
A unique tradition that continues today sees visitors signing dollar bills and pinning them to the walls and ceilings in the bar.
3. Witness the Main Street Shootout
Oatman is still full of drama, and one of the highlights of a visit to the ghost town is catching the midday shootout on main street (sometimes it’s in the afternoon, as well).
Traffic is halted, and gunslinging locals in full wild-west regalia head out onto the main street to have a mock gunfight.
It’s theatrical, but it’s fun, and you’ll get a taste of what life might have been like for residents of Oatman during the unpredictable gold rush years of boom and bust!
4. Collect Oatman Route 66 Souvenirs
The main street is also teeming with historic Route 66 memorabilia and souvenirs for sale.
It’s a little tacky at times, but it’s also a whole lot of fun, so don’t leave town without having your photo snapped next to a Route 66 sign!
5. Take the Gold Road Mines Tour
Oatman was founded during the gold rush, so to really explore the local history, you need to go on a tour of an old mine shaft.
Gold Road Mines Inc is the most famous mine shaft you can visit on a guided tour. Head underground and see firsthand the conditions the miners had to endure in search of riches.
Experience Oatman more than the normal tourist by joining this tour from Kingman: Oatman Village Western Mining Town/Route 66 Experience
6. Conquer the Oatman Jailbreak Escape Room
You can visit the old Oatman Jail to take another step back in time to the wild-west era. The Oatman Jailbreak is also an escape room game that takes place in the jail itself.
You can sign up as a team, get locked in the prison, and follow the clues to solve the puzzles and find your way out!
Best Places to Visit Near Oatman
The nearby city of Kingman was also a famous stop on the historic Route 66 and is well worth a visit when you’re driving through the area. Kingman is very different from Oatman – for starters, it’s not a ghost town.
There’s a lot to see here, including the excellent Route 66 Museum, where you’ll find classic cars and memorabilia from the driving route. There’s also the Desert Diamond Distillery and the Mohave Museum of History and Arts.
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
If you’re looking for a scenic place to visit, look no further than Lake Havasu City. This lakeside city is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors and is often called Arizona’s playground.
Enjoy watersports on the lake or head into the nearby nature reserves to tackle the excellent hiking and biking trails in the area.
If you are looking for a Las Vegas feel but with fewer tourists and a quarter of the prices you need to stay a few nights in Laughlin, Nevada.
It is also one of the best places to base yourself if you are looking to explore the historic town of Oatman, Arizona.
Laughlin is a fun city that offers a unique culture, endless nightlife, raging river, vast desert, Lake Mohave, and hiking trails. There are so many things to do in Laughlin that you’ll wonder why this amazing town in Nevada doesn’t get highlighted more.
We strongly suggest skipping Vegas if you’ve done it before and flying right into Laughlin since they are serviced by a great airport with many of the major airlines.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Of course, once you’ve seen all the quirky sights of Oatman, you can always head back to the glittering, glimmering lights of Las Vegas, which is just up the road from this old mining town.
Hit the strip, relax at a resort, or get your adventure on! We strongly suggest when you are in Vegas to go scuba dive with sharks, take a helicopter flight into the Grand Canyon, catch a show in the evening, or spend the rest of your cash in the casinos!
There are truly endless things to do in and around the Las Vegas area.
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