Do you love ghost towns? I do. Grafton ghost town is located near Zion National Park in Utah. It's a must for history-loving families.
Grafton is one of the rare ghost towns that looks better than it did 20 years ago. A school house, several homes and a cemetery have been restored and preserved. It's an easy side trip on a Zion National Park vacation.
Here's what you can expect on a trip to Grafton ghost town, plus tips for a successful visit.
Grafton was one of many settlements established by the Mormon Pioneers throughout Utah and neighboring states in the mid-1800's. Ten families established the town in 1859, with the goal 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.
A canal was built in 1906 that moved most of Grafton's irrigation water to Hurricane. Many residents left Grafton soon afterward.
Lack of land and irrigation water pushed Grafton's youth to more prosperous places and prevented new families from moving in. The population dwindled in the early 1900's, and Grafton was abandoned by 1945. The land is still privately owned.
Grafton has been used as a movie set. The most famous movie filmed here was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Grafton's school house and the house next to it are easy to spot.
Related: Where to Stay at Zion National Park
What you'll see
Grafton has a standing school house with a half-dozen houses nearby. These buildings looked better than the last time I visited, about 15 years earlier.
The Grafton Heritage Partnership Project has improved the structures and put up a couple of interpretive signs for visitors. My kids liked the sturdy swing that had been installed across from the school house.
We were able to wander through some of the houses, but not others. The school house was locked, but a platform and stairs have been built to make it easy to look inside through the window.
A small cemetery is located a short distance from the town. Look for it on your way in. We stopped to look at the historic headstones at the end of our visit.
There is no food, water, fuel or bathrooms at Grafton. There are no services at all.
I have visited Grafton several times and recommend about 30-60 minutes for most families, plus drive time.
Related: Top Stops for Families in Zion Canyon
Grafton is a 1-2 hour side trip on your way to/from the main entrance of Zion National Park in Springdale, Utah.
From SR-9, turn right (south) on Bridge Road, just past Rockville town center. Cross the bridge and turn right at the intersection. 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.
The road to Grafton is mostly unpaved, but maintained. Our 2WD minivan handled it without any trouble. Weather may affect the condition of the road, so travel with care. Some travelers may feel more comfortable with a high-clearance vehicle designed for this type of road.
Related: 10 Fun Things to Do in St. George, Utah
When to visit
Grafton is open year-round. Our last visit was in mid-February. Trees were bare, but temperatures were sunny and pleasant.
Spring and fall are generally the most pleasant time to visit. Summer is usually very hot. Winter snow and rain are possible, but not frequent in this part of Utah.
Avoid Grafton during or soon after a rainstorm. Most of the road to Grafton is unpaved and it will be impassable in heavy rain.
Grafton pairs well with a trip to Zion National Park. Zion Canyon tends to be very crowded, while Grafton is not crowded. I recommend that you visit Grafton at the end of the day and use your morning to get into the park – the earlier the better.
Related: What to Expect on a Zion Helicopter Tour
Does it cost anything?
No. There is no charge to visit Grafton ghost town.
A donation to help maintain and restore Grafton would be gratefully accepted by the Grafton Heritage Partnership Project. Learn more and donate at https://graftonheritage.org/support-us/.
Related: Tips for Visiting Bannack Ghost Town in Montana
My parents and grandparents were raised in this part of Utah, and my grandmother was given paintings of Grafton by a local artist decades ago. One of these paintings now hangs in my mother's home, so I kind of feel like Grafton is part of my heritage.
I enjoyed visiting Grafton with my family as part of a Zion National Park trip, and I hope that your family will enjoy it too.
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