Washington state, rich in its lush forests and snow-capped mountains, has a history as deep and nuanced as its landscape. Alongside the vibrant cities and breathtaking natural beauty, there’s a captivating, less-visited world: the realm of the abandoned. Abandoned places in Washington provide a unique window into the state’s past, with their dilapidated structures, eerily silent landscapes, and remnants of lives once lived. These places, imbued with a mix of history, melancholy, and mystery, have a lot to offer urban explorers.
Note: Many of these locations are in an extremely delicate state. Specifics on locations, such as coordinates or maps, are not given. This is done so purposefully as a barrier to entry to those who may mean harm to these spots. I want to ensure that these abandoned places in Washington are known about, but stay as vandalism and destruction free as possible. Remember: Take only photos, leave only footprints.
Breakdown: The Top 10 and More
If you have a specific location from the list below that you would like to immediately get more information about, click the links in the list to snap straight to that abandoned places in Washington location.
- Northern State Hospital (Sedro-Woolley)
- Fort Worden Battery Russell (Port Townsend)
- Iron Goat Trail (Skykomish)
- Lester Ghost Town (Lester)
- Satsop Nuclear Power Plant (Elma)
- Town of Govan (Govan)
- Vance Creek Bridge (Shelton)
- Wellington Avalanche Site (Skykomish)
- Bodie Ghost Town (Bodie)
- Monohon Ghost Town (Monohon)
Broaden Your Horizons Beyond Washington
Are you interested in venturing outside the state of Washington? Maybe you live close to the state line, or maybe you’re just looking for adventures outside your home state. Whatever the case may be, here are some guides to bordering states that may be helpful in effective urban exploration:
Don’t Forget About Trespassing Laws
It is important when considering abandoned places in Washington to know the basics of Washington trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to Washington, please click here.
Without any further ado, let’s hop into the list of abandoned places!
The Best Abandoned Places in Washington
Northern State Hospital (Sedro-Woolley)
Northern State Hospital in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, is a haunting edifice that resonates with echoes from its past. This former mental health facility was once a bustling institution, a self-sustaining entity complete with its own farm, dairy, and other support buildings. Today, however, it stands as an eerie testament to an era of mental health treatment that has since faded into obscurity.
Constructed in the early 20th century, Northern State Hospital was designed on the premise of therapeutic work and self-sufficiency. Its expansive grounds, covering several hundred acres, encompassed not just patient wards but also a wide range of support facilities that enabled the hospital to function as an autonomous community. Patients worked in the hospital’s dairy, butcher shop, farm, and gardens as part of their therapy.
The architecture of the hospital complex, with its red-brick buildings, terracotta roofs, and tree-lined paths, offers a stark contrast to the chilling history that permeates its walls. Inside, vast hallways now sit in silence, their white walls devoid of the bustling activity that once echoed through these spaces.
Unseen behind the hospital’s facade, treatment rooms, and wards that once bustled with activity are now still, echoing with the whispers of a bygone era.
How Things Look Today
As mental health treatment philosophies evolved over the decades, the hospital was eventually closed and the once thriving community was left to the ravages of time. Today, the once immaculately manicured grounds are overgrown, and the grand buildings stand empty and decaying, their former grandeur diminished but not entirely erased.
Despite its abandoned state, Northern State Hospital is a place of striking beauty. The passage of time and the encroachment of nature have lent an air of haunting serenity to the site. The once-cultivated fields are now meadows, and the buildings, though weathered and worn, still exhibit a solemn dignity.
Visitors to Northern State Hospital today will find a location imbued with a profound sense of history. The dilapidated buildings and the overgrown landscape speak volumes about the ever-evolving attitudes towards mental health. The quiet serenity that now reigns over the site stands in stark contrast to the hospital’s bustling past, offering a poignant reminder of the passage of time and the relentless march of progress.
Fort Worden Battery Russell (Port Townsend)
Nestled in the scenic coastal town of Port Townsend in Washington State, Fort Worden Battery Russell is an imposing reminder of the nation’s military history. This abandoned fortification, part of the larger Fort Worden State Park, harks back to a time when fears of maritime invasions led to a flurry of coastal defense construction along the nation’s western shoreline.
Battery Russell, named after Brigadier General David Allen Russell, is a silent testament to early 20th-century military engineering. The battery was part of the larger Harbor Defense of Puget Sound system, strategically designed to protect key naval and industrial areas from potential invaders.
Constructed in the early 1900s, the battery was built into the hillside, a design feature that minimized its visibility from the sea, enhancing its defensive capabilities. The battery housed massive guns, whose positions can still be seen in the gun pits today. These pits are now empty, the weapons long since removed, but the imposing concrete structures provide a stark reminder of their former purpose.
Walking through Battery Russell today is akin to stepping back in time. The formidable concrete edifice, now adorned with the telltale signs of time and weather, has an eerie silence that amplifies the sense of history permeating its aging structure. The rooms, once bustling with military personnel, now stand empty and silent, housing only echoes of the past.
How Things Look Today
The fortification’s tunnel-like corridors and subterranean rooms convey a sense of the fort’s once-crucial military significance. Dark, damp, and mysteriously captivating, these spaces evoke an otherworldly sense of unease and fascination, a testament to the realities faced by the soldiers who once occupied them.
Surrounding Battery Russell, the beauty of the Pacific Northwest is in full display. Sweeping views of the Salish Sea, towering evergreens, and an abundance of wildlife create a striking juxtaposition to the stark, concrete reality of the fortification.
Battery Russell at Fort Worden, with its formidable military architecture now standing silent against the elements, offers a powerful exploration into a significant period of America’s past. A visit here invites a contemplative journey through the shadows of history, where the tranquility of the present belies the echoes of a more turbulent time.
Iron Goat Trail (Skykomish)
Tucked away in the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest near Skykomish, Washington, lies a unique historical site known as the Iron Goat Trail. Named for the mascot of the Great Northern Railway, this trail invites explorers on a journey through a forgotten chapter of American railroad history.
The Iron Goat Trail, with its network of paths winding through Washington’s stunning wilderness, follows the original route of the Great Northern Railway. This railway, completed in 1893, was a remarkable feat of engineering for its time, designed to traverse the formidable topography of the Cascade Range.
How Things Look Today
Today, the trains no longer thunder along these tracks, replaced instead by the quiet rustle of leaves and the murmur of nearby mountain streams. Nature is gradually reclaiming the land, with moss, ferns, and towering trees creeping over the remnants of the old railway line. Yet the echoes of the past remain, carved into the landscape in the form of tunnels, trestles, and rock sheds designed to protect the tracks from the region’s infamous snowfall.
Strolling along the Iron Goat Trail, visitors can still find the grand old snow sheds and tunnels, though they are now in various stages of decay. The most prominent among them is the infamous Wellington Snow Shed, near the site of one of the worst avalanche disasters in American history. Though now a silent and brooding presence in the forest, the Wellington area serves as a poignant reminder of the past.
The trail itself is enveloped in the verdant beauty of the Cascades. Hikers are treated to spectacular views of towering peaks, lush alpine meadows, and sparkling streams. Wildlife is abundant, and it’s not uncommon to spot deer, elk, and countless bird species along the trail.
Iron Goat Trail also hosts interpretive signs along its length, providing historical context and telling the story of the Great Northern Railway. The trail gives visitors a unique window into a time when steam engines roared through these mountains, connecting the country’s coasts.
Hiking the Iron Goat Trail is not just a journey through breathtaking natural beauty, but also a step back in time. This abandoned railway line provides a tangible connection to the past, a look into the challenges faced by those who dared to build a railway through these rugged mountains, and a testament to the power of nature to reclaim its own.
Lester Ghost Town (Lester)
Nestled in the Cascade Mountains near the western edge of Washington State, the ghost town of Lester offers a poignant glimpse into the region’s bygone era. Founded in the 1890s during the boom of the railroad era, this abandoned settlement remains a testament to the life and history of railway towns.
At the height of its glory, Lester was a bustling community. Situated along the Northern Pacific Railway’s Stampede Pass, the town served a crucial role as a refueling and water stop for the steam locomotives crossing the formidable Cascade Range. The town was filled with the buzz of activity, with railway workers and their families creating a lively, close-knit community. Lester had a school, a post office, and houses dotting the lush, green landscape.
However, as steam locomotives gave way to diesel engines that required less maintenance and fewer stops, the town’s significance began to wane. The railway facilities closed, and gradually, Lester began its transformation into a ghost town. The last remaining residents departed in the late 20th century, leaving behind the bones of a once vibrant community.
How Things Look Today
Today, Lester is eerily quiet, a stark contrast to its lively past. The remaining structures— a few houses, remnants of the railroad, and the town’s old schoolhouse— stand in various states of decay, bearing silent witness to the passage of time. The paint on the buildings is chipped and weathered, and what was once the center of town is now overgrown with the relentless advance of nature.
Yet, the serene wilderness surrounding Lester adds a certain beauty to the melancholy. Forests of towering evergreens encroach on the abandoned structures, while the nearby Green River gurgles through the valley, indifferent to the ghost town’s faded glory. Wildlife have made a home amidst the ruins, reclaiming what was once theirs.
Visiting Lester is a journey into the past. It’s a silent and forgotten place that echoes with the whispers of history, each dilapidated building a testament to the transient nature of boomtowns. Walking through the town, one can almost hear the distant whistle of a train or the laughter of children playing, ghostly reminders of a community that once thrived in this remote mountain valley.
However, access to Lester is currently restricted, with the land privately owned and off-limits to the general public. The town is visible from a distance via a nearby trail, but trespassing is not allowed. Even from afar, though, the sight of this abandoned ghost town nestled amidst the Cascade Mountains is an evocative image, a poignant reminder of the relentless passage of time.
Satsop Nuclear Power Plant (Elma)
Situated in Elma, Washington, the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant is an emblem of an ambitious energy project that was never realized. Started in the 1970s as part of Washington Public Power Supply System’s plan to meet the region’s burgeoning energy needs, the construction of the nuclear power plant was abruptly halted in the 1980s due to financial troubles, leaving behind a remarkable monument to industrial abandonment.
Visitors approaching the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant are greeted by the iconic sight of its colossal cooling towers. These twin concrete behemoths stand approximately 480 feet tall, their gray surfaces weathered by time and elements, and their gaping circular mouths open to the sky. These cooling towers, though never operational, dominate the landscape and provide a stark and surreal contrast to the surrounding lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest.
The interiors of the cooling towers are no less impressive, the circular walls curving upward to create an awe-inspiring echo chamber. Rainwater collects at the base, forming shallow pools that reflect the towering walls above. The towers’ skeletal remains, with their exposed reinforcing rods and rough concrete, bear a stark, eerie beauty.
Beyond the cooling towers, the power plant comprises a sprawling complex of unfinished buildings, control rooms, and industrial structures. Piping systems and electrical equipment, now rusted and silent, are scattered throughout. The site is a labyrinth of half-completed dreams, each corner and corridor echoing with the unfulfilled promise of a future that never materialized.
How Things Look Today
Today, the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant site has found a new lease on life as the Satsop Business Park, where the unused structures provide unique settings for industries, businesses, and even film productions. Nevertheless, the site’s nuclear past is evident everywhere, from the imposing cooling towers to the abandoned infrastructure.
Visiting Satsop is like stepping into a paradoxical realm where nature slowly reclaims industrial decay. It serves as a humbling reminder of the hubris of human endeavor and the resilience of nature. As a monument to an energy crisis and a stalled technological future, Satsop Nuclear Power Plant presents a fascinating exploration of ambition, failure, and adaptation.
Town of Govan (Govan)
The town of Govan, located in Lincoln County, Washington, is an intriguing example of the countless ghost towns that speckle America’s expansive west. Established in the early 20th century as a farming and railway community, the town, like many of its kind, experienced a swift decline as modernity outpaced its quaint rural life. Now, Govan stands as an eerie but captivating testament to a bygone era.
Govan’s most striking and haunting feature is its abandoned schoolhouse. This now dilapidated structure was once a beacon of education and progress. The schoolhouse, a white, wooden structure now weather-worn to a ghostly gray, has empty window frames that stare out across the sagebrush like vacant eyes.
Inside, one can find remnants of a past era: chalkboards worn and faded by time, a few desolate wooden desks, and the scattered detritus of long-gone schoolchildren.
In addition to the schoolhouse, there are a handful of other structures that add to Govan’s spectral allure. A handful of homes, now little more than skeletal frames, lie scattered across the sparse landscape. Tattered curtains billow in broken windows, and open doorways lead into rooms filled with nothing but dust and shadows. The wooden structures, bleached by the sun and gnarled by age, are a stark contrast to the surrounding desolate landscape.
The town is also home to an old post office and general store, which once served as a communal hub for the local farmers. Now, this structure too sits vacant, its windows blank and unseeing, the store’s shelves bare and the post office boxes empty.
How Things Look Today
Not far from these ghostly structures, one can find the Govan cemetery. This small plot of land, home to a few dozen gravestones, serves as the final resting place for the town’s past inhabitants. The gravestones, some simple and unadorned, others more elaborate, bear testament to the lives that once animated this now quiet town.
Govan is more than a collection of abandoned buildings, it’s a frozen moment in time, a living testament to the fleeting nature of prosperity. Visitors to Govan find themselves transported back in time, surrounded by the spectral remnants of a past age. It’s an eerie and haunting experience, one that underscores the inexorable passage of time and the ultimate impermanence of human endeavors.
Vance Creek Bridge (Shelton)
The Vance Creek Bridge, sometimes referred to as the “Vance Creek Viaduct,” is located near Shelton in Washington state. It’s an abandoned railroad bridge that now serves as a popular destination for adventurous explorers and Instagram photographers, due to its stunning height and panoramic views.
Constructed in the 1920s, the Vance Creek Bridge was part of a railway system owned by the Simpson Logging Company. The bridge was used for transporting timber from the surrounding forests to various locations across the state. It is the second highest railway arch bridge in the United States, reaching an impressive 347 feet (106 meters) in height and spanning an expanse of 422 feet (129 meters).
This towering structure is composed of a series of concrete arches that stretch across the vast chasm of Vance Creek, a tributary of the Skokomish River. The once polished steel tracks now lie rusty and silent, long devoid of the rumbling timber trains that they once supported.
The edges of the bridge are lined with weather-beaten wooden planks, many of which have warped and cracked with age. In some places, entire sections of these planks have been lost to time, creating perilous gaps that provide vertigo-inducing views of the forest floor below.
How Things Look Today
Walking across the Vance Creek Bridge is an exercise in courage and balance. There are no safety rails or barriers, only the open air and the yawning expanse of the valley below. Beneath the bridge, the land unfolds in a breathtaking panorama of green, as the verdant canopy of the forest stretches out in all directions.
On a clear day, sunlight filters through the trees and illuminates the rushing waters of Vance Creek, adding an extra layer of beauty to this already captivating view.
For many visitors, the bridge’s appeal lies not just in its height and the thrilling walk across it, but also in the serene, almost mystical quality of its surroundings. The area around the Vance Creek Bridge is densely wooded, filled with towering conifers and thick underbrush, which lends the site a sense of peaceful isolation.
The only sounds that punctuate the silence are the rustle of leaves, the distant murmur of the creek, and the occasional call of a bird.
The Vance Creek Bridge is a beautiful monument to the past, an architectural relic that marries human ingenuity with the breathtaking beauty of nature. It stands as a testament to the region’s history, an era when timber was king, and expansive railroads like these were the lifeblood of the industry. Today, it serves as a striking contrast between the industrial age and the enduring majesty of the natural world.
Wellington Avalanche Site (Skykomish)
Located near the town of Skykomish, in Washington state, the Wellington Avalanche Site is a sobering monument to one of the worst railroad disasters in U.S. history. The area offers a haunting reminder of nature’s unpredictability and power, now standing in eerie silence amidst the rugged beauty of the Cascade Mountains.
The disaster took place in the small town of Wellington, which no longer exists. At the time, Wellington served as a stopover point for the Great Northern Railway, as it traversed the formidable terrain of the Cascades. The town was located at the western portal of the old Cascade Tunnel, a key transit point on the railroad’s route.
In late February of 1910, a Pacific coast storm hit Wellington, causing heavy snowfall. Two trains, one passenger and one mail train, were trapped in the town by the snow. They remained stationary for six days, waiting for the weather to clear up. However, in the early hours of March 1, a massive avalanche, triggered by thunder and lightning, swept down the mountainside, crashing into the town and the stranded trains.
The avalanche was a horrifying event, killing 96 people. The town itself was swept away, leaving only a stark, snow-covered landscape in its wake. Following this tragedy, the Great Northern Railway rerouted the tracks to a lower elevation and constructed a new, safer tunnel through the mountains. The town of Wellington was eventually abandoned and was officially erased from maps in 1929.
How Things Look Today
Today, the Wellington Avalanche Site is part of the Iron Goat Trail, a popular hiking route in the Cascades. The trail offers glimpses into the past with interpretive signs marking the location of the disaster and providing a historical context. Yet, nature has largely reclaimed this area. Over a century of growth has covered the traces of the town, and only a few remnants of the disaster remain visible to the keen observer.
Trees and undergrowth now dominate the landscape, where once lay the wreckage of trains and a devastated town. The mountains stand tall and serene, their dangerous potential only hinted at by their sheer slopes and towering peaks. Hikers can spot remnants of the old railroad grade, scattered pieces of rusted metal, and even a concrete snow shed built after the avalanche to protect the new tracks.
The Wellington Avalanche Site serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of human endeavor in the face of nature’s might. As hikers traverse the quiet paths and stand by the memorial plaques, it’s hard not to feel a profound sense of respect for the natural world and a somber reverence for the lives lost in this stunning yet unforgiving landscape.
Bodie Ghost Town (Bodie)
Bodie, located in Okanogan County, Washington, stands as a ghostly echo of a once-thriving gold mining town. It was named after William S. Bodie, who discovered small gold deposits in the hills in the late 1800s. The discovery sparked a rush of miners and prospectors to the area, and the town quickly grew, reaching its peak in the early 1900s.
The town, like many gold rush towns, boomed quickly and then just as rapidly declined. Bodie had a short-lived glory period where it boasted about 65 buildings, including saloons, a post office, a butcher shop, and a school. The population reached as many as 250 people, all hoping to make their fortunes in the promising mines.
However, by the 1910s, the quality and quantity of gold started to dwindle, and the mining operations were no longer profitable. The once bustling town started to lose its residents as they moved in search of better opportunities. By the 1930s, Bodie had become a ghost town, its once-busy streets now silent and its buildings slowly succumbing to the harsh elements.
How Things Look Today
Today, Bodie stands as a testament to the boom-and-bust cycles that characterized the era of the gold rush. While the town is mostly abandoned, a few structures continue to stand against time, weathered by the elements but remarkably intact. This includes the schoolhouse, which still holds a blackboard and desks, hinting at a time when children’s laughter would echo through its halls.
The town’s mines, long since exhausted, sit as empty tunnels and shafts on the hills, while the stamp mill, used to crush ore, remains as a rusting monument to the town’s golden past. The skeleton frames of buildings and a few dilapidated structures punctuate the landscape, their wooden planks groaning under the weight of history.
Visitors to Bodie can walk through the deserted streets, peeking into the interiors of surviving structures, and imagine the life and times of this vanished community. The silent beauty of the landscape, with its rolling hills and expansive skies, provides a stark contrast to the rusting relics of human ambition and endeavor.
Bodie Ghost Town remains a poignant reminder of the transitory nature of wealth, the harsh reality of frontier life, and the relentless march of time. It’s a place where history stands still, etched into the weathered wood and rusted metal, whispering stories of dreams, hardships, and the relentless pursuit of gold.
Monohon Ghost Town (Monohon)
Monohon, once a thriving lumber town nestled on the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish in King County, Washington, is now a ghost town, only remembered through a few historical markers and oral traditions. The town was named after Martin Monohon, an Irish immigrant who settled in the area in the 1870s.
The establishment of the Allen and Nelson Mill Company in 1901 marked the start of Monohon’s boom period. The company, recognizing the rich timber resources surrounding Lake Sammamish, built a sawmill which soon became one of the most successful and productive in the state.
With the mill came a surge of workers and their families, leading to the establishment of a full-fledged town complete with schools, a post office, shops, and homes.
At its peak, Monohon was a bustling community of about 300 people. The town was entirely company-owned; houses were built and rented out by the company, and the economic life of the town revolved around the mill. Logs from the abundant forests were floated down the lake to the mill, then transformed into lumber and shipped to markets around the world.
Monohon’s prosperity was not to last, however. The town met an abrupt and tragic end in 1925 when a massive fire, originating from the sawdust burner of the mill, swept through the community. The blaze, fanned by strong winds, consumed the entire town, including the mill, houses, school, and other structures. Miraculously, no lives were lost, but the town was utterly destroyed and was not rebuilt.
How Things Look Today
Today, very little remains of Monohon. The site of the once thriving lumber town is now covered with residential developments and public parks. A few interpretive signs along a local trail provide the only visible clues to the town’s existence. While nature has reclaimed the land, the legacy of Monohon lives on in the memories and historical records of the region.
Visitors walking along the lake’s edge might find it hard to imagine that this quiet spot was once a bustling town echoing with the sound of saws, the chatter of workers, and the daily rhythms of a close-knit community. Monohon, like many ghost towns, serves as a potent reminder of the cycles of growth, destruction, and renewal that shape human history.
Our Final Thoughts on Abandoned Places in Washington
Those who are into urban exploration in the Washington area should get comfortable with Washington trespassing laws. Luckily, we have developed a massive guide to trespassing laws in all 50 states. For laws that specifically relate to Washington, please click here.
For more about obtaining permission to explore abandoned places, check out our guide Explore Abandoned Buildings: How To Get Permission. Finally, if you are wanting to find more abandoned places in Washington, check out my resource How To Find Abandoned Places With Google Maps.
- John Bourscheid, Killer Urbex