Spectacular and Spooky Abandoned Roads Around the World

Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland


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Dark Hedges, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

The Roads That Were

Roads have been a hallmark of civilization since antiquity, but even the best streets, avenues, highways, and boulevards eventually outlive their usefulness — and like all infrastructure, roads aren't exactly easy to remove. Most commonly, they're paved over with newer, wider, better surfaces, but sometimes they're simply abandoned altogether. These roads that got left behind stand out for their places in history, their eerie beauty, or their cult followings.

Related: 20 Heart-Stopping Roads to Drive Around the World

Goffs Ghostown

Route 66

Goffs, California
Route 66 is the most famous and romanticized highway in America, but for the stretch in California that links Needles to Ludlow, the arrival of Interstate Interstate 40 was an onslaught no amount of nostalgia could withstand. Goffs was a desert mining and railroad outpost at the turn of the 20th century. The introduction of I-40, however, turned that stretch of the Mother Road into a ghost highway, and already tiny and isolated towns such as Goffs — the desert tortoise capital of the world — dried up. Its abandoned roads and ramshackle structures remain.

Related: Route 66: Then and Now

Foreshore Freeway Bridge
Foreshore Freeway Bridge by Paul Mannix (CC BY)

Foreshore Freeway Bridge

Cape Town, South Africa
In the late 1960s, the bustling city of Cape Town kicked off a massive infrastructure project to manage its ever-growing traffic and congestion. Work began on the Foreshore Freeway Bridge  in the early '70s, but stopped without explanation in 1977. The structure's been known as the "Unfinished Bridge" ever since. Although efforts to finish it have never stopped — a contract was most recently proposed in 2018 — it remains abandoned and, of course, unfinished.

Related: America's Most Iconic Buildings and Monuments

The Sidewalk Highway
The Sidewalk Highway by Abraham Ezekowitz (CC BY-SA)

The Sidewalk Highway

Ottawa County, Oklahoma
In 1921, Oklahoma had less than 15 years of statehood under its belt when work began on Ribbon Road, a badly needed and well-built 15-mile stretch of asphalt that connected two critical population centers. The young state was hardly flush with cash; to save costs, the road was built only 9 feet wide — the same width as a common sidewalk. When Route 66 came to Ottawa County in 1926, what was by then known as the Sidewalk Highway was absorbed into the Mother Road. In 1937, Route 66 was realigned and the old Ribbon Road/Sidewalk Highway was abandoned. Some of it remains.

Related: The One Thing You Must Do in Every State

Abandoned village, Belgium

The Roads of Doel

Doel is not far from the Belgian port of Antwerp, which gobbled up many similar small towns as it expanded over the decades. More than a thousand people lived there at one point, but now, the abandoned roads of Doel are empty, despite the dozen or so people still clinging to life in the eerily quiet and empty town.

Highway in Hawaii, which was destroyed by a lava flow

Kilauea Lava Roads

Pahoa, Hawaii
In March 2011, the Kamoamoa fissure eruption on the East Rift Zone of Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, a land birthed by volcanoes, poured molten lava from the bowels of the earth onto the world above. Even much smaller volcanic events can and do cause unstoppable lava flows that eat whatever they touch until they're no longer hungry — including roads. Hawaii's many lava roads are sometimes repairable, sometimes scarred beyond recognition or use, and other times buried altogether under layers of the solid black rock that remains once the lava cools.

Related: 19 Spooky Ghost Towns Across America

The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike
Wikimedia Commons

The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike

Bedford and Fulton counties, Pennsylvania
America's first superhighway opened to the public in 1940. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was built nearly 20 years before the National Highway System and set a standard for how highways should be designed and constructed — but that doesn't mean the marvel of engineering and construction was without growing pains. A 13-mile stretch in the south of the state on the border of Maryland and West Virginia funneled just two lanes through a series of choking mountain-pass tunnels that created enormous traffic jams. In the 1960s, that section was rerouted and abandoned, left to those who continue to bike, jog, and spray paint on its decaying asphalt to this day.

Related: 20 Spectacular Trails That Used to Be Railroads

The Jug Bridge and Ghost Roads
Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)

The Jug Bridge and Ghost Roads

Frederick, Maryland
The ruins of the Jug Bridge and its abandoned connecting roads are all that's left of what was a beautiful and historic work of U.S. infrastructure. The three-arch bridge, which spans the roaring Monocacy River 70 feet below, was the site of a terrible bus accident — one of the worst road disasters in the state's history — that led to its closing in 1985. It's been abandoned ever since and now gives off a Roman ruins vibe.

Related: 12 Dangerous Roads You Should Never Drive in an RV

Mam Tor Abandoned A625 Road - Peak District
Neil Sidebottom/istockphoto

Abandoned Mam Tor Road (A625)

Derbyshire, England
Known as Turnpike Road, A625 was first built in the early 1800s. One stretch in Derbyshire passes by the foot of a small mountain or big hill called Mam Tor — sometimes called Shivering Mountain or the Mother Hill. No matter what you call it, it has always been prone to landslides, which doesn't bode well for road traffic below. In 1979, Derbyshire's Mam Tor stretch of A625 was finally abandoned and closed for good.

Related: The Deadliest Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters in the U.S.

Anne Beadell Highway
Wikimedia Commons

Anne Beadell Highway

Laverton to Coober Pedy, Australia
Remote, isolated, and epic even by the standards of the Australian Outback, the Anne Beadell Highway isn't exactly abandoned. But that doesn't mean you'd want to break down there. Stretching more than 800 miles, those who dare to drive it will cruise through an alien landscape of red dunes, salt lakes, and clay pans. Australia's Golden Outback warns that it "should only be attempted by confident drivers," and only those driving capable four-wheel-drive vehicles with high ground clearance. If you do attempt to cross this vast expanse of the world's most rugged wilderness, bring plenty of supplies. If something goes wrong, help is not on the way.

Related: 25 Epic Off-Road Adventures Across the U.S. and Canada

The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges of Bregagh Road

County Antrim, Northern Ireland
If the Dark Hedges of Bregagh Road look like a scene out of a fantasy series, that's because they are. HBO filmed scenes from "Game of Thrones" there — and it's not hard to understand why. Arguably the spookiest road on Earth, Bregagh Road has eerie aesthetics created by design. An 18th century clan known as the Stuarts planted the haunting birch trees to impress visitors to Gracehill House, their Georgian mansion. The road's signature trees still haunt.

Related: 26 Stunning "Game of Thrones" Filming Locations Worth Visiting

U.S. Highway 93
U.S. Highway 93 by Aantich (CC BY-SA)

U.S. Highway 93

Santa Claus and Nothing, Arizona
U.S Highway 93 is one of the last vestiges of the country's original highway system. It served as a main north-south artery for generations and still serves as the main link between Las Vegas and Phoenix, the last two major U.S. cities not connected by an interstate — a situation that's changing. The new Interstate 11 is in the process of gobbling up or running alongside most of Highway 93, which was built when there were fewer than 700,000 people living in not only Vegas and Phoenix, but also Reno and Tucson combined. Today the population has grown to more than 8 million. Just like Route 66, the roadsides of Highway 93 hosted a carnival of bizarre attractions, curiosities, and remote, tiny, and uniquely Southwestern towns. They're quickly disappearing. Highway 93 ghost towns such as Nothing and Santa Claus have already been abandoned.

 Related: 15 Desert Vacation Spots

MP-203 Highway
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty

MP-203 Highway

Spain dumped about 70 million euros — or $85 million — into a superhighway project between 2005-2007, the exact time a smothering recession forced the project to crawl to a stop. Designed to ease congestion on the Barcelona Highway, MP-203 was begun without buy-in from officials running a vital rail line or toll road who didn't want to give up its tolls. Now it's a weed-ravaged orphan road traveled only by sheep, goats, stray dogs, and the occasional cyclist.

Related: 19 Biggest Wastes of Tax Dollars

Chernobyl Exclusion Zone,

Abandoned Roads of Pripyat

Pripyat, Ukraine
If there had to be a creepiest place on earth, the ghost town of Pripyat would be a front-runner. Beautiful and modern by the standards of Soviet Ukraine, it was home to the families of the privileged scientists who ran the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant. In 1986, the worst nuclear disaster in history emptied and poisoned the town and the surrounding wilderness — but that has never been able to stop brave, but misguided thrill-seekers and curious explorers from visiting the abandoned roads of Pripyat.

Related: Once Popular Tourist Hotspots That Are Now Totally Abandoned