During our trip west to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, we wanted to visit an old ghost town. The Grafton Ghost Town, Utah did not disappoint. This is one of the many unique roadside attractions we have been able to stop and see on our RV travels.
Like many, we had read stories of the wild west, and the remnants of towns long lost. While doing our research we learned about Grafton, Utah, and decided to add it to our itinerary.
Grafton is a small, abandoned ghost town about a half-hour drive from Zion River RV Resort. Since we would be staying at Zion River while we visited Zion National Park this seemed like a perfect spot to visit.
History of Grafton Ghost Town, Utah
During the mid-1800s the Mormon Pioneers were creating settlements throughout Utah and the surrounding area. In 1859 ten families established the town of Grafton with plans to grow cotton.
Grafton’s recognizable adobe school house was built in 1886. The town was never large, but it flourished into the early 1900’s.
Unfortunately the settlers of Grafton were met with continuous disasters. Problems such as flooding, irrigation problems, and disagreements amongst the settlers made life difficult in Grafton.
Many residents of Grafton left soon after a canal was built in 1906 which moved Grafton’s irrigation water.
This lack of irrigation water amongst the other difficulties pushed Grafton’s youth to more prosperous places and prevented new families from moving in. The population dwindled in the early 1900s, and Grafton was ultimately abandoned by 1945.
All though abandoned Grafton has been used as a movie set for some well-known western movies. The most famous movie filmed here was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Grafton’s schoolhouse and the house next to it are easy to spot.
Grafton’s remaining buildings stand as a reminder of a time now forgotten. Well, preserved ghost towns like Graton are rare, and becoming rarer. Most of the pioneer villages were either lost their historic heart as they grew into modern towns or were washed away in flash floods.
You can learn more about Grafton and the efforts to preserve it on the Grafton Heritage Partnership Projects website.
How to Get to the Grafton Ghost Town, Utah
Grafton is a great side trip on your way to or from Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah.
The ghost town is located about a half-hour away from the Zion National Park Visitor Center in Springdale Utah.
During our time at Zion, we stayed at the Zion River RV Resort, which is 12 miles away from Grafton.
Whether you are coming from the National Park or RV resort you will need to take SR-9. From the National Park, you will head south, and from the RV Resort, you need to head north on SR-9.
You will turn onto Bridge Road as you come through the center of the small town of Rockville. Cross the bridge and turn right at the next intersection. From here it is a little more than a quarter-mile to the ghost town.
The Rockville bridge is small and takes you over the Virgin River. We were able to make it over the bridge in our RV with no problems. It is certainly a cool bridge to see and travel over.
Follow the unpaved road and turn right at every intersection for a few miles until you reach Grafton. There are signs for Grafton along the way.
You will pass the small cemetery dating back to the 1860s on your way to the town. This small cemetery has a few dozen graves with dates ranging between 1860-1910. Some of the grave inscriptions give visors insight into the harsh life in Grafton.
The road to Grafton is mostly unpaved but maintained. Our 24 foot RV handled it ok, but we certainly had to take it to slow down the dirt roads.
An important tip is that the weather may affect the condition of the road, so be prepared.
What You Will See In Grafton Ghost Town, Utah
Fortunately this historic site is has been preserved by the Grafton Heritage Partnership Project. This preservation project has helped improve the remaining structures and has provided a few interpretive signs for visitors. Other than these small changes the majority of the abandoned town stands as it did when it was finally abandoned.
Currently, five buildings remain out of the 30 original structures,.
The remains of Graton sit in a beautiful valley along the Virgin River surrounded by amazing views of the mountains and large formations that make up the Zion National Park.
During our visit, we were able to walk through a couple of the buildings that were open. Although the school building was closed you are able to see through the windows from a platform that has been set up.
It is important to remember this is an abandoned ghost town, and therefore there are no facilities on site. There are no restrooms, or food and water options.
1. Grafton School House – Built 1886
This rustic building stands in front of the massive views of Zion National Park. Grafton’s schoolhouse is arguably one of the most photographed ghost town structures of the wild west. It has been used as the setting for a number of western movies including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
The residents of Grafton used the schoolhouse as not only a school but also a community meeting place, church as well as a place for dances and plays.
The last students were taught here during the 1918-19 school year with an enrollment of nine students. The following year students were transferred to the school at Rockville.
2. The Russell Home – Built 1862
This adobe house was built around 1862 and has recently been restored. It has a large front porch where the family would socialize, sing, and listen to music. Alonzo Russell was a blacksmith by trade and supplied the town with eating utensils and farm tools in addition to repairing broken wagon parts.
Alonzo Russell lived in this house until he died in 1910 at the age of 89. His grave can be found in the Grafton Cemetery.
3. Grafton Cemetary 1862-1924
One of the most interesting sites for us during our visit to the Grafton Ghost Town, Utah was the old cemetery.
There are estimated to be 84 graves in the Grafton Cemetery, though some are missing headstones.
The desolate land of Grafton in the 1800s was difficult to survive for many. Some died from diseases, such as tuberculosis, others from accidents. The infant mortality rate was also high back then, and the graves of babies are scattered throughout the cemetery.
1866 was the worst year in Grafton, with 13 recorded deaths that year. Of the 13 deaths, the ages ranged from 6 months to 35 years.
This cemetery is a great monument that provides a unique opportunity for area visitors to learn about early pioneer settlements and Grafton’s settlers.
Other Assorted Structures and Cabins
In addition to the above structures still standing there are a few other cabins, and homes that remain in Grafton. A number of them are open to the public and offer a glimpse into how the Mormon settlers in Utah lived during the 1800s.
Visiting the Grafton Ghost Town, Utah is a quick stop but certainly worth it. We spent approximately 45 minutes to an hour visiting the town with our two children. Coming from New England we are used to historical structures, and structures still standing from the 1800s. However, this was the first time we visited an abandoned ghost town from the wild west.
If you are ever planning on visiting Zion National Park we highly recommend stopping to see Grafton.