Fort Worden Historical State Park
Like Pages from a Story Book
Constructed between 1898 and 1917, Fort Worden was one of three posts collectively known as “The Triangle of Fire”. This triangle was strategically located to protect the Puget Sound and its surrounding cities from attacks by sea. The post never saw action and the state purchased the property in 1955 to turn it into Fort Worden Historical State Park. Hiking trails, historic lodging, a lighthouse, old batteries, and even a castle all make up the interesting parts of this 433-acre park. The location was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
Point Wilson Lighthouse
Overlooking the entrance to Admiralty Inlet is the Point Wilson Lighthouse. Now owned by the U.S. Coast Guard, this is actually the 2nd lighthouse to occupy this spot. The first, built in 1879 succumbed to weather and land erosion, was replaced in 1914 by the lighthouse still in use there today. This 46 foot, octagonal tower houses a Fresnel lens (from the original lighthouse), with the beacon at a height of 51 feet. The Point Wilson Lighthouse was automated in 1976 and still stands as an important aid to navigation. While visitors are no longer allowed inside of the tower there are trails that lead all the way around the exterior that offer great photo vantage points.
Built in the early 1880's by Reverend John Alexander is what is now known as Alexander's Castle. Located atop a small hill, this brick tower sticks out like a sore thumb. Amid the large number of wooden Victorian homes and buildings, concrete bunkers and artillery sites, this "castle" seems out of place. As the story goes, Rev. Alexander purchased some 10 acres of land and set about to build a castle for his bride to be, back home in Scotland. It is said that he fashioned the construction of the building after that of other castles in Scotland. Upon completing this labor of love, John returned to Scotland to retrieve his bride and bring her to her new home. He arrived in Scotland only to learn his beloved had married another. John returned home alone and occupied his castle for a time before moving on.
Today, Alexander's Castle is available as rental lodging. Featuring a full kitchen, dining room, small living room, upstairs master bedroom and 1 1/2 baths, fitted with antique and replica furnishings, it provides a quaint setting. From the inside of the dwelling, you'd be hard pressed to describe this as a castle. The interior is like a somewhat oddly laid out old home, only from the exterior can this be described as a castle. Granted, the interior has been remodeled over the years and perhaps the "castle" aspects were eliminated in favor of function. There is a floor that is inaccessible to guests. A boarded up and padlocked ladder that leads to an attic door sort of opening is above the master bedroom level. While our stay was cozy and uneventful, we couldn't help but be a bit disappointed with the lack of castley experience. Our imaginings cling to the hope that behind those upper padlocks is still the Castle that John built so long ago.
The trail to Artillery Hill leads you first to Memory’s Vault. This interesting piece of artwork stands as a sculptural interpretation of the area. It is a unique, contemplative work worthy of a stop. Constructed between 1898 and 1917, Fort Worden once stood as a formidable defense against attack by sea. What remains now are old bunker and batteries. Dark, damp and eerie, these dilapidated structures are at your disposal for exploration. Do use caution and bring a light source, the innermost areas are pitch black and the flooring can be uneven. Rusted steel doors, crumbling concrete, darkness and the echo-y way sound travels in these spaces are absolute draws to the chilly thrill seeker. From atop the bunkers, the view of Puget Sound is serene and peaceful. Rumors abound of the haunted nature of this place, but we’ll let you be the judge of that.
Even More to See
There are plenty of places and activities to keep you busy on a visit to Fort Worden Historical State Park. There are conference rooms and classes for more formal visits, a cafe and restaurant, ample lodging, camping, 8.3 miles of bike trail, 11.2 miles of hiking trail, 2.6 miles of ADA hiking opportunities, water activities and endless exploration.
We completely enjoyed our stay at Fort Worden Historical State Park. Great hiking trails, a lighthouse, old bunkers and excellent viewpoints really set this place apart. The historic significance of the Fort and the more personal stories of some of its structures only add to the intrigue. Whether a day trip or to stay for a few days, make your way out to Port Townsend and soak up some history.
Breakfast Suggestion: The Cup
Coordinates: 48°08'06.2"N 122°46'02.5"W
Trails: 11.2 miles (2.6 ADA; 8.3 biking)
Trail Difficulty: Easy
Pass Required: Discover Pass
Campsites: 80 (50 full service)
Wildlife Seen: Bald eagles, deer, song birds, squirrels, ladybugs
- Fort Worden - Washington State Parks
- Fort Worden - Fort Worden Public Development Authority (for overnight lodging)
- Fort Worden - Wikipedia
- Enjoy Port Townsend - Official Tourism Site for Port Townsend