The ghost town of Bayhorse is now open to the public. Visitors stroll through the restored silver mining town and experience first hand the rich history of the old west.
To visit Bayhorse, one of Idaho’s most picturesque ghost towns, is to take a journey back to the adventurous days of the old west.
Bayhorse is Incorporated Into the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park
For years the ghost town was privately owned and inaccessible to visitors. After a recent EPA cleanup and restoration of the area, Bayhorse was opened to the public in the summer of 2009 as a new addition to the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park, which is located near Challis, Idaho, in the Challis National Forest.
The History of Bayhorse
According to the Idaho Historical Society, several good mining spots were discovered there in 1864 by a man leading two bay horses along a stream. Prospectors who tried to describe the area couldn’t remember the man’s name, only that he had bay horses, and that is how the fledgling town came to be known as “Bayhorse.”
Discoveries of rich veins of silver followed, and a significant rush occurred in 1878. At its peak Bayhorse included boarding houses, saloons, banks, a post office, and a population of approximately 300 people.
A Five Ton Smelter and Mill are Built in Bayhorse
A water-powered mill and five ton smelter were built in 1882. The wooden structure still stretches up the hillside, bent with age, a reminder of more prosperous times. In the old days the mill processed mostly silver ore, as well as copper, zinc, and lead. Six stone charcoal kilns were built downstream from the town, providing the large quantities of charcoal that were needed by the smelter to process the ore.
Bayhorse Mining District
According to the United States Forest Service, a large scale mining trade thrived in Bayhorse from 1882 to 1897, and again from 1917 to 1925. Silver was mined in Bayhorse as recently as 1968, making the Bayhorse Mining District one of the longest running silver mining districts in Idaho.
Today visitors to will find weathered buildings standing within a narrow canyon surrounded by sagebrush-covered hills, their dark silhouettes outlined against a stark blue sky. A stone building with a metal door and its own mine shaft is believed to be what is left of a bank. Farther down the dirt pathway is a two story, wooden building that once housed miners on the top floor. The bottom floor was used as a chow-house.
Trails, Parking, and Amenities
There is a trailhead at Bayhorse for bicycles and hikers, as well as 200 miles of trail for motorbikes and ATVs. A large parking area is available for vehicles and trailers. Amenities include a restroom and picnic table.
Camping Near Bayhorse
US Forest Service camping areas can be found 14 miles away at Big Bayhorse Lake, as well as a hike-in campground at Little Bayhorse Lake. In addition, the Bureau of Land Management operates Bayhorse Campground along Idaho Highway 75.
The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation provides maps, directions, and more information about the ghost town of Bayhorse and the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park.
Experience the Old West Firsthand
Now that Bayhorse is open to the public, visitors can walk the same pathways as miners of old, looking into the same worn buildings in which they worked and lived, imagining what it must have been like to be a part of the old west.