The leaves are falling, and the dreary days are multiplying. But there is no need to lose your wanderlust. The Pacific Northwest is full of spooky, beautiful, and downright unusual accommodations — and it’s time to plan your adventure.
Between historical spooks, haunted hikes, and wacky rentals, there’s something for the whole family. And with new accommodations popping up every day on websites like VRBO, AirBnB, and Glamping Hub, it’s clear that traveling in the Northwest isn’t just about where you’re staying, but where you’re going.
“Travelers are going more toward purchasing an experience,” explains Katie Stearns, marketing manager at Glamping Hub. “Staying somewhere is becoming more about the things you get to do, and your surroundings, than where you’re sleeping.”
Live Like a Lighthouse Keeper
If you’re searching for a dark and stormy night, look no farther than Washington state lighthouses. From Point Robinson to Browns Point in Northeast Tacoma, there are lighthouses ready for guests to stay in. Volunteer-run, the lighthouses are a labor of love, showing the wonderful history of the state. And if you’re planning on staying at one, be ready to get into character. “The lighthouse isn’t just a motel,” explains Jim Harnish with the Browns Point lighthouse. “Our guests are honorary lighthouse keepers. We want history buffs and lighthouse nuts.”
Unwind in an Old Rail Car
Over the mountains at Iron Horse Inn in Cle Elum, guests are encouraged to experience Washington’s rich railroad history. Each room at the bed and breakfast is a train car, decked out with historic decorations and artifacts perfect for any history buff, or train aficionado. Owner Mary Pitts is an incredible resource for regional and railroad history alike, but she’s just as happy to sit back and let her guests do the talking. “I love the discussions in the breakfast room,” Pitts said. “Strangers sit down at the table, and after a bit, the connections are amazing — the sixth-degree theory really comes out at the table.” Who knows who you’ll meet?
If you don’t like rustic, scary, or uncomfortable, but want to unwind with nature abound, try glamping — that’s a made-up word that means glamorous camping. There’s a business behind it now called Glamping Hub, a website that offers rentals all over the world. Each listing features nature, a unique structure, and stunning surroundings. Find your perfect treehouse, raised tent, and more.
Tell Ghost Stories Around a Fire
Rain. Whatever. Washington State Parks offers a variety of rental options from yurts to cabins, to historic forts and outlooks. These accommodations offer all the fun of camping — sitting around the campfire (maybe), enjoying the beautiful scenery — with a little more comfort (not to mention electricity and heating for some options).
“We … love providing these opportunities for people to connect with one another and destress from the busy lives we all lead,” Virginia Painter from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission said. With historic sites like fire lookouts and old-school military forts, there’s nothing to stop you from getting outside.
Dream in a Floating Orb
At Free Spirit Spheres on Vancouver Island, guests stay in giant orbs high in the forest. The spheres are open to guests 16 and older and offer an out-of-this-world adventure.
Sleep in Teepees on Vashon Island
Across the water from the Browns Point lighthouse is another stay sure to take you back in time. AYH Ranch on Vashon Island lets guests experience the Northwest in an authentic way. With historic teepees and cabins, the ranch is about experiencing the history of the beautiful region. Owner Judy Mulhair encourages visitors to get in the spirit of her ranch, and never stop daydreaming. If you’re lucky you can even see how she makes the teepees!
For something a little more down to earth, check out the Rolling Huts in the Methow Valley. These strange wooden structures seem to pop up out of nowhere, and give the comfort of luxury accommodations, with the tiny house feel.
Stay in a Storage Crate
Just across the Snoqualmie River, Tolt MacDonald Park & Campground has upcycled shipping containers ready for families of four to spend the weekend. Like the yurts and rustic cabins, the containers offer the fun of camping, with a little extra comfort — and weirdness.
Sasquatch in the Hoh?
The Hoh in Olympic National Park is beautiful, but it has its fair share of haunts. If the magical scenery isn’t enough to get you in the spirit, you can study up on the Sasquatch sightings that have taken place along its 35 miles. Bonus: Bella from Twilight hangs out here, so there must be vampires and werewolves afoot.
The Snoqualmie Tunnel
The Iron Horse Trail tunnel is a dark, damp creepy 5-mile round-trip adventure. And when we say it is dark, we mean really dark. Bring a strong flashlight (and a backup), or a headlamp, or both. Wear reflective clothing so people on bikes can see you.
Visit a Ghost Town
Gertrude Murphy was one of a handful of people left living in Lester, a tiny town near Stampede Pass just south of Snoqualmie Pass that came to be in the late 1800s with the westward expansion of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
In its heyday in the 1900s, Lester boasted a population of about 250. Through the years as logging and railroad jobs moved, the people moved — but not Murphy. The schoolteacher tried to save the town, and worked to get it recognized on the state’s historic registry. In 1993, when Murphy’s home burned, she moved about a mile away and died in 2002 — the last remaining Lester resident. The only way to Lester now is via foot — there isn’t much to see, but so much to imagine.
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Illustrations by Alex Schloer