The Smallest Town in Every State
Think you live in a small town? These places give a whole new meaning to the concept.
Small Town, USA
Small towns have a special place in the collective memory of Americans. They remind us of the places we grew up, or the places we wish we had grown up: flags waving from lemonade porches, mom-and-pop shops lining Main Street, kids riding bikes along tranquil lanes. In our minds, they tend to look a lot like these charming small towns across the country. But when it comes to the true smallest towns in America, those places may only have a few people living there—and might not even seem like a “town” at all.
Before we dive in, here’s how we came up with this list. You probably participated in the 2020 U.S. Census, which is completed every decade. The results aren’t out yet, but yearly estimates are completed annually, so we used the official 2019 Census info for each state. It gets even more complicated, though, when you consider what the definition of a “town” is in the first place. An incorporated town has legal municipal boundaries, a charter from the state, and local laws and government, but the Census also recognizes areas it calls Census Designated Places, town-like areas that aren’t incorporated. Even beyond that, the Census says that “not everyone resides in a place,” which seems nonsensical. But the Census notes that some people live “outside of any place, either in small settlements, in the open countryside, or in the densely settled fringe of large cities in areas that were built up, but not identifiable as places.” If that sounds complicated, that’s because it is. So for this list, we’re sticking with incorporated towns (with a few exceptions that we’ll get to later).
Now that we’ve got that sorted, it’s time to start exploring these tiny towns on our virtual road trip. If this inspires you to take a real road trip, check out these 55 great options around the U.S. and the best RV parks in every state.
With a population of only nine people, McMullen ranks close to the smallest town in America. This tiny municipality is in Pickens County in western Alabama, near the Mississippi border. Outside the larger town of Aliceville, it consists of just a few streets and small homes. The population dropped from 10 in 2014. Check out these 12 small towns with beautiful architecture.
This tiny town has just 12 residents, but what it lacks in human population, it makes up for in stunning scenery. Located on the Koyukuk River, this gold rush town is close to both Gates of the Arctic National Park and Kobuk National Preserve—it even has a park visitor center and a tiny airport with small planes that take travelers over Gates of the Arctic. The National Park System notes that Bettles is “off the road system” for most of the year and only accessible by plane, although an “ice road” is sometimes built for access in the winter. While you’re probably not heading to Alaska anytime soon, you can satisfy your wanderlust with these 35 tours of national parks that you can take online right now.
With 351 residents, Winkelman is far from the smallest town in America—but it is the smallest incorporated place in the state of Arizona. Although the town itself is sleepy, Winkelman boasts a riverfront park on the lovely Gila River for campers and RVers. Nearby, the permit-required Aravaipa Wilderness Preserve is also a top destination for those looking to explore the gorgeous desert beauty of the area. On the lookout for hidden spots? These are the coolest secret locations in every state.
This tiny town in the Ozarks has many ties to history—railroad ties, that is. Once a thriving railroad hub and repair center, Gilbert is home to just 26 people today. But the Gilbert General Store, built in 1901, is still going strong and now operates a camping and canoe outfitter for visitors to explore the lovely Buffalo National River on the town’s shores. Here are the best day trips in every state.
The Golden State has many adorable small towns to spend an afternoon wandering around—unfortunately, the smallest municipality by population (110 residents) is not one of them. The town of Vernon outside of Los Angeles has been called an “industrial wasteland,” has been linked to corruption and pollution, and was even reportedly the inspiration for a season of HBO’s True Detective. But in the late 19th century, Vernon was actually an area of beauty, filled with citrus trees and roses. These are the quirkiest cities in every state.
This ghost town is the smallest town in America—with a population of zero. How can that be? The historic mining site features only a handful of old cabins on a beautiful stretch of countryside in the mountains near Glenwood Springs and the White River National Forest. In 2014, property owners voted to have Carbonate continue as an incorporated town, hoping eventually to restore interest in the area. You may be able to own your own piece of Carbonate, as lots there are currently listed on a real estate website. Thinking of moving? These 25 small towns are about to become more popular.
This picturesque seaside village, once the home of Hollywood screen star Katharine Hepburn’s family, today has just 45 residents in its historic shingled houses and sprawling Victorian cottages. Jutting out from the Connecticut River into the Long Island Sound, the Fenwick peninsula is also home to two lighthouses. “Fenwick is and always has been my other paradise,” Hepburn wrote in her autobiography. Find out about these other East Coast towns locals want to keep secret.
This small town outside of Dover has just 76 residents, but a very large sense of community. They’re proud of their colonial history, as the town dates from 1734. Hartly’s 250th-anniversary celebration in 1984 was a huge event, with local historians even putting together a detailed history of the town for the occasion, which you can find on the town’s website. Hartly also hosts a lively holiday celebration every year. These are 10 of the best small-town festivals in America.
Florida has several small towns with double digits of residents, but the current smallest is Marineland, with 11 people living there. But this coastal town south of St. Augustine likely has many more residents—of the aquatic kind, that is, because the town’s boundaries extend three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Many of the townspeople (including the mayor who served from 2013 to 2020) are marine biologists or researchers; the University of Florida’s Whitney Lab is located here, as are Marineland Dolphin Adventure, kayak and eco-tours, and several marine reserves. Fun fact: 1954’s Creature From the Black Lagoon was filmed in Marineland. Read on for the 50 American small towns known for the weirdest things.
Edge Hill, Georgia
With just 23 residents, this rural town west of Augusta has the biggest “small town” feel you can get, complete with a strong sense of community to match its Southern charm. Featuring fields of sunflowers, Edge Hill was named by one of the town’s first residents, a 19th-century teacher who ran her school out of a log cabin. But the town also has a sense of humor: In a June 2020 Facebook post, a photo of a lone motorcyclist stopping to take a picture of the Edge Hill sign is captioned, “We love getting tourists!”
Remember how we said we would only include incorporated towns on this list? Well, it turns out Hawaii doesn’t have any! It’s the only state without them; the U.S. Census calls population areas here “census designated places” (CDPs). The smallest inhabited island in Hawaii is Lanaii, which has just two CDPs, including Manele, with only 24 permanent residents. But the area may still be bustling because of the number of tourists who visit: Manele encompasses the Four Seasons resort, along with other beautiful beach locales. While you’re in paradise, don’t miss these other amazing Hawaiian beaches.
Warm River, Idaho
Located in southeastern Idaho, close to the Wyoming border, Warm River is home to just three residents. But many people visit this tiny town to go camping in the gorgeous Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Visitors can hike or ride a horse to nearby waterfalls and scope out old railroad lines. It’s also a popular spot for water sports like tubing and fishing. Think Warm River is a quirky name for a city? Wait until you see these 50 funny town names.
You don’t have to “ask” us twice about why we chose this small town on the Mississippi River and the border of Missouri as the smallest town in Illinois. It’s tied with Valley City as the smallest by population—both with 13 residents as of 2019—but we’re giving the edge to the smaller by size, which is Kaskaskia at just 67 acres. The village, made an island as the course of the great river cut it off from the rest of the state, also has an interesting history: Occasionally destroyed by flooding over the past 200 years, Kaskaskia has been rebuilt each time, and it was even briefly the capital of Illinois in the early 19th century. Today, it’s still plagued by flooding, but its few and proud residents will not abandon their small town.
River Forest, Indiana
With just 22 people living here, this “town” is really more of a neighborhood, with the tree-lined, dead-end road of River Forest Street winding past well-tended houses to the White River. Close to the bigger town of Anderson, River Forest is about 40 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Not a bad suburb to live in! There’s not a lot to see here, though, so hit up the strangest roadside attraction in Indiana if you’re visiting.
Le Roy, Iowa
We have another fight for smallest town in a state in Iowa, with the dueling villages of Le Roy and Beaconsfield battling it out over the years. As of the 2019 estimate, they are tied at 13 residents each, but we’ll give the title to Le Roy because it’s about half the size of Beaconsfield, at 210 acres. Located in Decatur County in southern Iowa, the town is just a few gravel streets, with a tiny City Hall that’s basically a little cabin with a hand-painted sign. In the town’s favor, though, green space and chirping birds abound.
The state’s former smallest city, Freeport, population 4, sadly voted to un-incorporate in 2017. So, the title now belongs to Waldron, with 10 residents. Unlike fictional Kansas resident Dorothy, visitors would surely realize they are in Kansas here. With gravel and dirt roads, flat ground, and lots of farmland, this rural town epitomizes what we think of the state. Some old photos from Wichita State Library and the Kansas Historical Society, though, show a more bustling frontier life in Waldron days of yore. These are the most historic landmarks in every state.
South Park View, Kentucky
This tiny town, which now consists of unkempt roads off a major street filled with large business and manufacturing buildings, used to have many more than its current seven residents—until an expansion of the runways at Louisville International Airport (now Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport) caused the relocation of nearly 5,000 residents from South View Park and nearby communities. Unfortunately, the noise exposure levels were just too much to take.
This tiny town in northeastern Louisiana, which is a mile or so from the Mississippi River, has just 16 residents—and most of them are family. Founded a century ago, its residents worked in farming or at the saw mill, but as production became mechanized and the mill shut down, people trickled away. But Mound, unimaginatively named after a Native American mound in the town, retains its lovely Southern ambiance. “It’s very peaceful,” Mayor Margaret Yerger told a local news station. Here are more of the nicest small towns to visit in America.
Frye Island, Maine
As is the case for much of New England, all incorporated places in the state of Maine are cities, and towns fall under “minor civil divisions.” The smallest organized town is Frye Island, a summer vacation spot with just 13 year-round residents. About an hour north of Portland, Frye Island lies in Sebago Lake. The ferry to the island doesn’t run in the winter, leaving it isolated, so most of the people who own vacation homes here are only seasonal residents. It’s a lovely place to visit in the summer, though.
Port Tobacco, Maryland
Once the Charles County seat and an important port on the Potomac River for exporting its namesake crop centuries ago, the tiny village of Port Tobacco has just 15 residents today. Historic buildings in the town, though, have been preserved as important links to Maryland’s colonial history. Particularly impressive is the reconstruction of the Port Tobacco Courthouse, which was destroyed by fire in the late 19th century. Travel back in time to the most historic hotel in every state.
Like Maine, Massachussetts’ towns are called “minor civil divisions,” the smallest of which is Gosnold, with 75 year-round residents. Gosnold actually consists of the Elizabeth Islands, which extend from southwestern Cape Cod, just north of Martha’s Vineyard. Several of the islands are privately owned by the Forbes family. Cuttyhunk Island is a popular spot for summer vacationing, but most people are only there for the season.
With a population of 102, Turner is far from the smallest incorporated town on our list, but driving down Main Street, one might think it was a ghost town. Many buildings and homes are abandoned and boarded up in the center of town, and the roads are not well-maintained. Lovely Lake Huron, though, is just 10 miles to the east through some picturesque countryside. For a fascinating look into the past, check out these 14 historic places that are now abandoned.
Welcome to Funkley town! In this municipality where only eight people reside, a locally famous establishment called Funkley Bar used to be the one and only joint up and running. The bar owner and mayor, Emil Erickson, would hand out Funkley Bucks (dollar bills with his face on them) to first-time guests. The bar was a favorite watering hole for hunters and bikers, but it has sadly gone bottoms up recently. The party animals might be gone from Funkley, but here’s the strangest animal in Minnesota—and every other state.
The Yazoo River once made this a thriving town, but today it’s just a sleepy little village that features its 50 residents’ well-tended homes. The town does have one claim to fame, though: The Sataria Bridge is said to be haunted, and it’s had its share of paranormal investigators over the years. Legend explains the weird noises and bubbling water below the bridge as the spirits of Native Americans defeated by the French, or alternately, as the souls of Civil War sailors whose boats sunk during battle. Ghost lovers will want to read on for the most haunted spots in America.
This rural, generically named town about an hour northwest of St. Louis has just five residents. Located on the Cuivre River, it’s only a few minutes from Cuivre River State Park, which offers swimming, hiking, camping, fishing, and many other outdoor activities. Although much of the surrounding area is agricultural, the park has an Ozark-like feel with bluffs, caves, and interesting topography for those who live nearby to explore. Check out the best hiking trails in every state.
This town of 19 residents had its 15 minutes of fame in 1993, when a Kansas City radio station called, looking for a small town in Montana to change its name to “Joe” after then–Kansas City Chiefs football quarterback Joe Montana. The town obliged, and in a brilliant PR move, sold T-shirts and other memorabilia to fund repairs to its fire truck. When national media including Sports Illustrated got hold of the story, the town became a sensation, with nearly the entire population flown to KC to meet their town’s namesake. The residents made enough money for not only their fire truck but a community center and fire hall as well. Since then, the town’s name has reverted to Ismay.
Elsie Eiler may be the only person living in Monowi—the sole incorporated town in the United States with one resident—but she rarely feels alone. Travelers go out of their way to visit the 86-year-old’s town and the tavern she runs. She also pays taxes to herself and serves as mayor and librarian. Eiler’s story has gotten even more notice in the socially distanced world of 2020. As far away as across the pond, the BBC celebrated her as one of the year’s “inspiring individuals who have made the most of their solo time and created, cultivated, or cared for something beautiful.” Eiler is truly a fascinating lady: “I really don’t have any desire to live anywhere else,” she told the BBC. “I’m perfectly happy right where I’m at now.”
Nevada has just 19 incorporated places, and the smallest of them, Caliente, is actually quite large at 1,076 residents. With a bigger population, the well-maintained town—named for nearby hot springs—has more amenities, including dining and accommodations. Caliente’s stunning 1923 Mission revival–style train station is now a museum, local government office, and civic center, and the surrounding area is home to five incredible state parks. Don’t miss the strangest museum in every state.
Hart’s Location, New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s small towns are also called minor civil divisions. Among those, the state has many population areas that aren’t incorporated, including grants, purchases, locations, townships (which are different than towns), and one non-functioning town, the ghost town Livermore. The smallest active incorporated town (which also confusingly has the word location in its name) is Hart’s Location, with 45 residents. This tiny town in the White Mountains is known not just for its natural beauty, but for historically being one of the first towns to vote in presidential primaries and general elections. How? It starts its voting at midnight, a tradition dating back to 1948; this tradition, however, was suspended in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These mountain towns turn into storybook paradises in winter.
Tavistock, New Jersey
The founders of Tavistock, which now has a population of five, must have really wanted to work on their backswings. A group of golfers in the 1920s who lived in neighboring Haddonfield wanted to play on Sundays, but a local law prohibiting sporting activities on Sundays prevented them from doing so at the Haddon Country Club. Their solution: Buy land next to and around the country club, start a new town, and allow golf on Sundays.
Grenville, New Mexico
The plains town of Grenville in the northeastern corner of New Mexico may have only 29 residents, but its dusty landscape belies the rich history and natural wonders lurking nearby. Santa Fe Trail markers point the way the Old West settlers traveled over the prairie. Within an hour’s drive, you’ll find hidden lakes such as Clayton Lake State Park (which also features more than 500 preserved dinosaur tracks), plus Sugarite Canyon State Park and Capulin Volcano National Monument. Fun fact: Grenville was mentioned in a 1995 Saturday Night Live skit with Bob Newhart and Chris Farley about a fake book of world records. Find out the craziest world record set in every state.
Dering Harbor, New York
The municipality of Dering Harbor is technically a village, part of Shelter Island. The state’s smallest “town” is Red House in upstate New York, but because all villages are incorporated in New York State, we’re going with Dering Harbor, which has the smaller population of just 11 permanent residents. Dering Harbor sits on Shelter Island in between Long Island’s two forks, and remains an exclusive summer community, with historic mansions, upscale restaurants, and gorgeous beaches.
Fontana Dam, North Carolina
This town in the Great Smoky Mountains has been around unofficially since the 1940s when the workers who built its namesake dam moved here—but it didn’t incorporate until 2011. Today, it has just seven permanent residents, but the many more people who populate the area include the visitors and seasonal staff of the Fontana Village Resort. The dam itself, the tallest east of the Rockies at 480 feet, is a wonder, as is the surrounding area’s natural beauty. These spectacular photos of America’s national parks will leave you awestruck.
Ruso, North Dakota
The smallest town in North Dakota had a rocky time of it recently. The death of Ruso’s longtime mayor Bruce Lorenz, who died at age 86 in 2018, seemed to signal the end for the tiny town: Because North Dakota requires a minimum of three residents for an incorporated town, his death brought the total to only two. “If I ever leave, I’m sure that will be the end,” Lorenz told a local newspaper months before his death. But the town’s remaining residents received a pleasant surprise when they discovered that property owner Greg Schmaltz qualified as a resident because he had a Ruso mailbox and checked up on his horses and chickens daily. Set to be the town’s next mayor, he and his wife vowed to move permanently to the town and keep it going. So, Ruso doubled in size—to four residents.
With several crumbling old buildings and a population of only 36, Rendville might not look like much anymore, but the Rendville Historic Preservation Society is aiming to change that. The smallest incorporated town in Ohio, Rendville actually played a significant part in Black history. Founded as a coal-mining town in the late 1800s, Black people and immigrants lived and worked in this diverse community. The town broke the color barrier in 1888, when Dr. Isaiah Tuppins became the first Black mayor in the state; Dr. Tuppins was also the first Black doctor to receive his medical degree in Ohio. The first Black female U.S. postmaster, Roberta Preston, also lived here, as did Black labor organizer Richard L. Davis. Here are more American landmarks that celebrate Black culture.
This township started as just a ranch: Flying G Ranch. George Campbell incorporated it in 1963 as a place where Boy Scouts and church groups could have campouts, and named the place after his daughter, Lotsee, who now runs a pecan business and tends to the ranch’s cattle and horses. Lotsee and her husband are the town’s only two residents, as listed on the most current estimate, although their children and a couple of renters have also lived there.
The Oregon ghost town of Greenhorn is inactive and therefore isn’t listed by the Census, which means the smallest incorporated town is the aptly named Lonerock. Located in north central Oregon, Lonerock has just 22 residents who hang on to the town’s pioneer spirit. It’s not hard to see where the town got its name: A giant boulder sits behind the beautiful 1898 Methodist church. A few other historic buildings round out this frontier town’s main street, but no businesses are currently open. These are the oldest tourist attractions in every state.
This has to be the strangest small town in America. A coal fire has been raging under the city for more than 50 years, after a failed plan to burn landfill waste somehow sparked a fire in the coal mines in 1962. Today, the fire has led to the town’s notoriety, with its unsafe highway covered in graffiti and urban legends of a “gateway to hell” beneath the streets. But the tourists who come to gawk don’t realize that 11 brave residents still call the town home. Despite the dangers, they were allowed to stay, but they can’t sell or pass down their houses—when they move or die, their property will belong to the state.
New Shoreham, Rhode Island
As with other New England states, Rhode Island’s towns are minor civil divisions. Curiously, although Rhode Island is the smallest state, it has one of the biggest of the smallest towns. The municipality of New Shoreham, which makes up Block Island, has a whopping 1,030 year-round residents. This quaint island community has everything you’d think of when you picture a New England coastal village: boats bobbing in the harbor, historic lighthouses, and miles of stone-walled country lanes.
Jenkinsville, South Carolina
In recent years, Jenkinsville took over from Smyrna as the smallest town in South Carolina, with 43 residents. The town, located in the center of the state, is a mix of backwoods lake living (it’s on the Monticello Reservoir) and industry, with the nearby VC Summer Nuclear Power Station. The town has been embroiled in controversy in recent years, as a planned nuclear reactor project went belly up, resulting in lawsuits—even though many in the town didn’t want the project to go forward anyway. Looking for something that’s both serene and spectacular? These are the prettiest lakes in every state.
Hillsview, South Dakota
Tied with White Rock with only three residents listed on the Census estimate, Hillsview is smaller by area, with just 410 acres. There’s not much in this northern South Dakota town except farmland, dirt roads, and wide-open spaces, but presumably, the few who make their home here don’t mind it that way. Hillsview’s three residents were all of the Imberi family—unfortunately, the next Census may reflect that one of them, Jim Imberi, passed away in 2016. Born in 1929, he lived his whole life in the tiny town. “Jim feels he was born and raised here, and he’d like to see the town survive at least as long as he’s around,” Imberi’s wife, Helen, told the Associated Press back in 2006.
Cottage Grove, Tennessee
The name “Cottage Grove” conjures images of relaxed country life, birds chirping, and flowers blooming—and that’s not far from real life in this northwestern Tennessee town of 86 residents. “I have a garden outside my house,” one resident told a local newspaper last year. “Most everyone knows everyone in the community.” Still, the residents are looking to reopen the general store, which recently closed, as a diner in order to have a retail business renew interest in the area. Here are 23 of the most beautiful gardens in America.
Los Ybanez, Texas
Everything’s bigger in Texas—except this tiny town. With just 19 residents, it’s the smallest incorporated town in the state. According to Texas Monthly, a man named Israel Ibanez bought some old houses in the west Texas community for migrant workers in 1980. He and his wife, Mary, incorporated in 1983 in order to avoid the “dry” laws of the county and instead allow liquor sales through town laws so they could set up a beer store. Today, though, many of the houses are boarded up.
Nestled among rolling green hills, the former mining town of Scofield isn’t so empty in summer, as one of its 23 residents told a local paper: There’s the “noisy-busy” of the high season, with travelers driving through to camp, fish, hike, and vacation at Scofield State Park, and then there’s the “nice-quiet” of the winter months, when temperatures can drop below zero. Still, Scofield’s population has dropped as well over the last century as the mines closed. Scofield was also the site of one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history, where 200 men died in an explosion in 1900.
The New England state of Vermont also lists incorporated places as minor civil divisions, but some of the smallest are inactive or non-functioning. The smallest incorporated active town is the isolated community of Victory in the northeastern part of the state. But although it encompasses the picturesque Victory State Forest, the town and its 63 residents have been plagued by something uglier for decades: a feud over vicious local politics. What are they fighting about? No one really knows. “Essentially, what you’ve got is the Hatfields and McCoys going at it,” Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos told a local news outlet. “It seems like all they do is file lawsuits against one another and try to make life difficult for one another. You wonder what’s next.”
The little incorporated town of Clinchport is mainly a collection of small houses and 64 residents, but the surrounding area is huge for nature and adventure lovers. Located in the southwest corner of Virginia along the Clinch River, one of the most biodiverse spots in North America, Clinchport also features a “swinging bridge,” which people can cross if they dare. Following in the footsteps of the loggers who used to ride their logs down to Tennessee, residents of this Appalachian town can also go river rafting, floating, kayaking, or fishing along the winding Clinch. Check out these iconic adventures in each of the 50 states.
This small town in central Washington state has just 52 residents, and it’s more commonly known as Marlin. Why? During World War I, the town didn’t like the German sound of the name, especially since Krupp was the name of a German munitions company. The townspeople decided on Marlin, but it was never officially changed. To this day, it’s officially called Krupp, although the Census lists it with “Marlin” in parentheses.
Thurmond, West Virginia
Around the turn of the 20th century, Thurmond was an active town that saw many successful businesses, thanks to its position on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Now, the population has dwindled to four. The National Parks Service owns most of the town because it sits on the New River Gorge National River, and the organization is actively involved in preserving the site’s historic buildings, including the restored Thurmond train depot. See the country in a whole new way on one of the most scenic train rides across America.
Swedish immigrants to this area named their settlement after the city in their home country, and today, the smallest incorporated town in Wisconsin still remembers its heritage. Now a revitalized artists’ hub, this town of just 64 residents features quirky galleries, little shops, and eateries including the Stockholm Pie and General Store. Located on Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River (fun fact: did you know rivers could have lakes?) on the border with Minnesota, Stockholm is just an hour and half from Minneapolis. Read about more American towns with a European vibe.
Lost Springs, Wyoming
Lost Springs’ previous claim to fame was that its sign said “Population 1,” although it’s since been updated to reflect the current population of 4. Still, the smallest incorporated town in Wyoming has a bit more going for it that some of the others we’ve visited on our virtual cross-country road trip. On its lone road, there’s a bar, a wagon with pots and pans hanging off it (for…decoration?), a store/post office, and even outhouses, should a weary traveler passing through need to stop.
- Census.gov: “Places”
- United States Census Bureau: “City and Town Population Totals: 2010-2019”