Washington has had a long, fascinating history. Over the years, we’ve had several military forts built to help protect our cities surrounding Puget Sound, many of which are now preserved as public parks. We’re also home to many abandoned towns where you can still find old relics, and even a few hiking trails that follow along old railways. Here are 10 of the many lesser-known places around our state where you can get a closer, first-hand look into the past.
1. Fort Ebey State Park, Whidbey Island
This park on the western side of Whidbey Island marks the former site of a coastal-defense fort from World War II. It still features old concrete bunkers you can explore, as well as hiking and biking trails, camping sites and a beach filled with driftwood.
2. Monte Cristo
Monte Cristo is an abandoned town in the mountains, on the east side of Snohomish County. In the 1890s, it had been a booming mining community, but eventually the mines came to a close and the area was totally abandoned by the 1920s.
You can still take a trail through the area to see the few relics that still remain. The path actually just re-opened on June 3, after it had been closed to clean up contaminated soil left from their old mining days.
3. Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend
This park overlooking Admiralty Inlet was originally built as a US Army installation to protect Puget Sound and nearby cities in the early 1900s. It served as an army base through 1953, but was later converted into a public park by 1973. Several historic buildings still remain, some of which
you can even rent
to stay in overnight - like Alexander's Castle (pictured here).
4. Iron Goat Trail
For about six miles, this historic path follows up and down parts of the old Great Northern railroad grade, which had been built over the Cascades in 1893. You can still see several railroad artifacts lying around, including bits of old sheet metal and cables (though, to preserve the history, you'll want to leave them as they are).
5. Fort Flagler State Park, Marrowstone Island
Established in 1897, this park sits on the site of an old army fort on the northern end of Marrowstone Island. The area now features miles of trails for hiking and biking, campsites, abandoned bunkers to explore, and four
that can be rented overnight.
6. Fort Columbia State Park, Chinook
This park in the very southwestern corner of Washington preserves the old site of Fort Columbia. It still features many of the historic army structures, including three artillery batteries and two coastal artillery guns. You can also find plenty of great spots to sit down for a picnic, or take a hike up Scarborough Hill to enjoy expansive views of the Columbia River.
7. San Juan Island Historical Park
This historic park on San Juan Island marks the site of British and U.S. Army Camps from the Pig War in 1859. It had been divided into two parts, and remained occupied for over ten years until a treaty was later signed. The area was later established as a park in 1966, and now features miles of hiking trails for all skill levels, ranging from a strenuous hike up Young Hill to an easy loop along the bay.
8. Fort Word Park, Bainbridge Island
On the southwestern side of Bainbridge Island, this marine park used to serve as a former coastal fort and Navy installation. It now just offers a quiet place to relax with plenty of local history. You can either walk along a paved beachfront trail, or explore the remaining historic structures - including two old concrete batteries. Pictured is Battery Vinton, which used to house two 3' model 1897 guns.
9. Fort Casey State Park, Whidbey Island
Fort Casey is the third fort by Admiralty Inlet (along with Flagler and Worden). In the 1890s, this area had been considered to be strategic location for defending Puget Sound, so they created this "Triangle of Fire." The marine park now features plenty of places to camp and hike, a coastal artillery post with two guns on display, and a historic lighthouse that dates back to 1903.
10. Columbia Hills State Park
You can take a tour around this park by the Columbia River Gorge to find these ancient pictographs and petroglyphs hidden on a cliffside perch. Pictured is one of the most well-known features, known as Tsagaglalal (or "She Who Watches") - a combination of a rock etching and painting that had been created over 300 years ago.
Have you been to any of these historic sites before? What are some of your favorite places in Washington that hold a lot of history?