If you thought snow-capped mountains and photogenic national parks were Utah's biggest draws, prepare to think again. In the middle of a vast desert of nothingness lies a town that's every bit as visit-worthy as the state's best-known tourist traps. It's called Cisco and since the 1990s, it's served as Utah's creepiest destination. If you've got nerves of steel and a taste for adventure, here are 10 reasons you should visit Cisco, Utah.
10. It's got a fascinating past
As the Huff Post writes, Cisco didn’t use to be such a lonely place. Back in the 1880s, it was a vibrant pit stop for Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad trains. By the 1920s, oil and natural gas were discovered in the area, leading to further expansion over the coming decades. When car-mania gripped the nation in the 1950s, the town responded to the growing influx of road travelers with new restaurants, bars, and gas stations. When trains switched from steam to diesel, they no longer needed pit stop towns like Cisco for water. By then, it didn't matter anyway: prospectors had discovered uranium and vanadium in the area, leading to a fresh wave of interest in the town. But then the 70s hit. The I-70 went up, diverting road travelers away from Cisco and leaving its restaurants and bars empty. Residents began to leave, first in a trickle and then in a flood. By the 90s, the town was practically deserted. It's stayed the same ever since.
9. You might see a snake
In fairness, this is less of a selling point and more of a warning - Cisco is riddled with snakes. It's also a long, long way from anywhere, so if you get bit, you're on your own. Keep your eyes peeled and your wits about you at all times.
8. Johnny Cash wrote a song about it
If you're a Johnny Cash fan, you might already know the song “Cisco Clifton's Filling Station.” It was actually inspired by a man named H. Ballard Harris who pumped gas, fixed tires, and fueled up Johnny's car with $7 worth of gas one day as he was passing through. The pair got to talking, and Johnny later committed Harris' stories to tape. Years later, the gas station made headlines when the owner went to jail after shooting a customer who skipped out without paying for his gas first. The owner's wife took over operations, but only served people when she felt like it, let her giant dog bite anyone she took offense to, and kept the door locked for most of the time. It didn't stop customers turning up though, and when the town was abandoned, the gas station was one of the last businesses to shut up shop.
7. You can see where Thelma and Louise was shot
Johnny Cash isn't the only one who's found inspiration in Cisco. Over the years, the town's vast landscape and eerie buildings have served as a muse to numerous filmmakers. Among the many films that have been shot there include "Thelma & Louise," "Vanishing Point," and "Don’t Come Knocking."
6. It's great for artists
As KUTV reports, a couple of years ago, Cisco got a new resident in the form of Eileen Muza, a Wisconsin artist who decided the town's eerie but still beautiful landscape was inspiring enough to justify a move. “To me, it’s as good a place as any to live, if not better,” she's said. Since moving in, Muza has set to work rebuilding the town as part of an art installment and has refurbished one of the old buildings to serve as a residency project for other artists.
5. It's picture-perfect
If your Instagram is starting to look a bit samey, a snap-happy trip to Cisco might be just the thing to set it apart from the crowd of other lovely Utah cities. The town is rife with photo opportunities, from the crumbling buildings to the equally derelict cars and the vast, deserted landscape. Some of the houses can be entered (although as some are still classed as private property, take care where you go) and some still have paintings, toys, and other bits and bobs left behind by their previous occupants. Keep your camera on standby at all times.
4. It's the perfect place to check out some vintage motors
If you've got a passion for old cars and don't particularly care what kind of condition they're in, you're in for a treat in Cisco. The town is the final resting place for a staggering array of cars, RVs, and even buses, all of which date back to the 90s (and some of them even further). Most of them have more rust than metal at this point, but still, they're free to look at and no one's going to mind if you take a look inside either.
3. It's not far from Moab
Cisco isn't necessarily the kind of place many people will go out of their way to visit. But fortunately, you don't really have to. It's not far from Moab, a stunningly beautiful city surrounded by an ocean of dramatically shaped sandstone structures. Rock climbing, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits are all big business here, as is veering slightly further afield to the glorious Arches National Park. If you're already planning a trip to Moab, taking a slight detour to Cisco will add plenty of value to your trip without eating up too much time.
2. It's re-opening for business
Cisco has never been a true ghost town. There's always been at least one permanent resident, plus plenty of passersby who like to make use of the derelict houses for a night or two or even see out a few months in their RVs. Some of those short-term residents aren't necessarily the kind of people you'd want to meet in a dark alley, but the good news is that they (and you) have somewhere to shop now. A year or so back, a new store opened at the edge of town - the Buzzard’d Belly General Store. Selling everything from ice to camping necessities, snacks to toilet paper, it's got everything you need to make your visit to the town a little bit more comfortable than it'd otherwise be.
1. It's a great place to spend Halloween
If Halloween is your favorite holiday, start planning your trip to Cisco now. The whole town is eerie enough to send shivers down your spine, but the tiny, one-room post office might just be the creepiest place of all. And now, you get to sleep there. As deseret.com reports, back in 2019, the post office made Airbnb's haunted house list when it started offering guests the chance to stay there over Halloween. According to the listing, Charles Steen, who made and then lost his fortune after discovering uranium in the town in the 1950s, is rumored to have never left the town, but still haunts it to this day in his quest to find more uranium. If you don't mind being stuck 50 miles from anywhere with no one but a ghost to hang out with, it'll cost you $31 a night to stay here. Just be warned there's no running water and you'll need to visit the outhouse whenever nature calls.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson