Abandoned, but not forgotten: Northern State Hospital

Last year, I saw something pop up on my Facebook feed about six ghost towns in Western Washington you could visit. Today, I marked one of the easiest-to-access off my list.

Northern State Hospital, in Sedro-Wooley, WA, was once a mental hospital and working farm, tended to by the residents. It closed in the early 1970s and is now called Northern State Recreation Area, complete with a frisbee golf course weaving in and out of the decaying buildings.


The main housing unit of the hospital was demolished, but the dairy farms, kitchen buildings and a few other outbuildings remain, left to live out their days in the elements without care.

The campus is sprawling: the Washington Trails Association says that it’s about a five-mile round trip, but it felt like I walked a lot less. Ever the equestrian, I think that it would make a GREAT cross-country course, complete with truly ‘spooky’ obstacles! Fortunately, I’m not the only one as I saw a whole bunch of hoof-prints in the ground!

The ground is flat and well-maintained, in part thanks to the frisbee golf course, so it’s a great walk for people who want to feel like going for a short, easy trail hike. However, due to the somewhat-inappropriate graffiti, I wouldn’t recommend the hike for families with young children.

I don’t have much to say about the buildings, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I didn’t do as much research into the history, and while I took pictures of the informational signs, I don’t remember much.

WARNING: slide show may contain graffiti with offensive language.

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After a morning exploration, I needed to find some ice-cream and postcards, so I headed to the nearby town of Sedro-Wooley. I’ve driven through before, but not in the old town. Unfortunately, this is where my phone decided I had enough of picture-taking, so I can’t share with you the beautiful murals and intricate woodcarvings around the town. I did stop at Wooley’s to see about postcards (it’s a cafe/grocery store), but ended up buying one at the town’s community building. A local photographer took pictures of scenes from Skagit County towns and both Wooley’s and the community building sell them. Unfortunately, I didn’t see one from Sedro-Wooley!


I stopped, per recommendation from the Sedro-Wooley clerk, at Hal’s Drive In for ice cream. I ended up with a root beer milkshake — delicious!

Still a little early, I drove past Clear Lake, near Big Lake, and to the top of Little Mountain (there’s a trail head there I’ll need to explore if I can remember it!), reminding me just how beautiful Skagit Country truly is. I got a little lost, but somehow made it back to the highway to head on home.





One thought on “Abandoned, but not forgotten: Northern State Hospital

  1. Loved your description of this area. Sounds a bit like the remains of the old Sampson Air Force Base in Sampson State Park on Seneca Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes area. Thank you for giving me some insight into the State of Washington.

    Liked by 1 person

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