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Hidden History: Ghost Town Hikes

Fall is the perfect time to explore low-country, historic hikes, and Washington is full of old ghost towns with rich histories. Take a walk at one of the many sites in the state, and be sure to bring along this guide, made possible thanks to our friends at exploringhistoryinyourhikingboots.com

Content and photos provided by Julie Stonefelt and Kevin Mack of Exploring History in Your Hiking Boots.

As summer passes into fall, the weather begins to change and the days begin to shorten. There is a sense of slowing down, coupled with a feeling that we are moving into a quieter, more solemn time of year. Some animals are migrating, some are preparing to hibernate, and the local deciduous trees and shrubs are putting on a final, vibrant display of life before dropping their leaves and going dormant in preparation for the coming winter.

The mood, the light, and the general feeling that fall tends to elicit make it a perfect time to visit one of Washington’s many ghost towns. Fueled primarily by dreams, these towns once burned as bright as the summer sun. They are now disappearing into the pages of history and, much like the fall foliage, they are at their most beautiful as they fade.

With a willingness to get off the beaten path combined with a little imagination you can experience once-booming towns that are now being reclaimed by nature.


Franklin Ghost Town

Location: Mount Rainier Area — Chinook Pass/Highway 410
Mileage: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Features: Cemetery, mine shaft (sealed), foundations, coal cart tracks, coal cart

Franklin Ghost TownFranklin Ghost Town. Photo courtesy of exploringhistoryinyourhikingboots.com.

Follow a gentle old railroad grade along the Green River to the ghost town of Franklin. It’s a low-key walk up to the coal cart and sealed mine shaft. Follow the narrow footpath beyond to discover the powerhouse foundation and cemetery.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Moncton Ghost Town

Location: Snoqualmie Region — North Bend Area
Mileage: 2.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 20 feet
Features: Foundations and stumps

Moncton Ghost Town
Moncton Ghost Town. Photo by EHHB.

Stroll a paved path or walk the lakeshore to find the remains of Moncton, now part of the Rattlesnake Lake Recreation Area near North Bend. Moncton was once a stop along the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road. The town became Rattlesnake Lake in 1915 when Masonry Dam was constructed on the hillside above.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Wellington Ghost Town

Location: Central Cascades - Stevens Pass-West
Mileage: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 20 feet
Features: Foundations, tunnel, snow sheds

Wellington Ghost Town
Wellington Ghost Town. Photo by EHHB

Follow a gentle path along the eastern portion of the Iron Goat Trail near Stevens Pass, once the original path of the Great Northern Railway. Visit the townsite of Wellington (later named Tye) known for the first Cascade Tunnel and as the site of one of the worst natural disasters in US history. Walk the trail east from the parking lot to see foundations of the town and the west entrance to the original Cascade Tunnel. Walk west from the parking lot to enter the snow sheds.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Northern State Ghost Town

Location: North Cascades - Highway 20
Mileage: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Features: Foundations, cemetery, buildings

Northern State Ghost Town
Northern State Ghost Town. Photo by EHHB.

Once the largest hospital for mentally-ill people in Washington State, Northern State Mental Hospital was a town unto itself. Parts of the site are still in use and off-limits, but the farm is now a recreation area. It is located just north of the Skagit River near the town of Sedro-Woolley. Stroll along the wide pastoral trails amongst the buildings and cemetery.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Copper City Ghost Town

Location: Mount Rainier Area — Chinook Pass/Hwy 410
Mileage: 0.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 27 feet
Features: Foundations and collapsed buildings

Copper City Ghost Town
Copper City. Photo courtesy of EHHB.

Once the center of mining activity in Yakima County, Copper City served 42 active mining claims from 1907 to 1942. The founders of the town hoped to boom when the railroad came through, but the tracks were never put down. Walk the old mine-to-market road into town, where only the collapsed remains of a few buildings remain.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide


Liberty Ghost Town

Location: Central Cascades - Blewett Pass
Mileage: 1 mile
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Features: Foundations, buildings

Liberty Ghost Town
Liberty Ghost Town. Photo by EHHB.

Liberty, originally named Meaghersville, is a living ghost town. It was the center of a Washington State gold rush in the 1870s and has the look and feel often association with the term ghost town. There is no formal trail through Liberty, but the open landscape makes it easy to navigate. Since it begins by the roadside, it’s a perfect exploration for all ages and abilities.

> Plan your trip using WTA's Hiking Guide