At A Glance

TRAIL LENGTH: 5 miles, round-trip




POPULARITY: Lightly used

GOOD FOR: kids, beginner hikers, leashed dogs 

WATCH FOR: unsafe structures, no trespassing on hospital grounds 


NEAREST RANGER: North Cascades Park and Forest Information Center


COORDINATES: 48° 31.953'N 122° 11.665'W

LOCATION: In Skagit County, a few miles north of the Skagit River, owned by Skagit County Parks.

HIGHLIGHTS: stream, fields, and abandoned buildings

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE: Designed by the famous Olmstead Brothers, Northern State Hospital was established in 1909. It treated people considered to have mental disorders. It was the largest hospital in the state, housing more than 2,000 patients, nurses, doctors, and other employees at any given time.  The hospital provided all of its own food through a farm onsite. The farm was closed by legislative order in the 1960's. The hospital officially closed in 1973, but is still in use for drug and alcohol treatment and by the US Jobs Corps.


Driving Directions

FROM Highway 20:

  • Turn north on Helmick Road
  • Drive about .3 miles
  • Turn left into Northern State Recreation Area parking lot.

Trail Directions


  • From the parking lot, walk about .15 miles north across the field.
  • Turn right and walk about 130 feet.
  • Turn left up the hill toward the buildings.
  • After about 158 feet you will come to a clearing of the barn and milking complex.
  • View the buildings, then walk back down the hill.
  • Turn right onto the gravel road, walk about 1,000 feet.
  • You will see a crumbling brick building on the right. 
  • Turn right onto a footpath towards the building. View the structures.
  • Find the trail on the west side of the buildings. Follow it through a mix of woods and fields.
  • After about .35 miles, cross creek.
  • Walk along gravel road about .28 miles. On the left there is a barn.
  • From the barn, walk about .32 miles, to a junction. 
  • At the junction, go right. 
  • Walk to the end of the path, about .3 miles, to see the wellhouse.
  • Follow the path back to creek crossing. Turn left on the gravel road.
  • Walk about .36 miles to the slaughterhouse.
  • Walk northeast across the field to reach a barn.
  • Walk back down the trail from the barn and south to the barn and milking complex.
  • Find the gravel road, follow it northeast.
  • On the left will be the cemetery.
  • Go back along the gravel road, through the barn and milking complex to reach the path back toward the parking area. 


  1. Barn & Milking Complex
  2. Cannery & Root Barns
  3. Barn
  4. Wellhouse 
  5. Slaughterhouse
  6. Barn
  7. Cemetery 


Researching primary materials is just as exciting as finding the actual places where the history took place, but it's a slow and challenging process.  Exploring History in Your Hiking Boots will be including gems below as we find them.