Small town road trips #2 – Shaniko, OR

Discovering and exploring ghost towns and sweet little small towns is one of my favorite things to do. I wrote a small town post a couple weeks back about a tiny dot on the map. I think it’s safe to say that we found the mother of all ghost towns (at least that I’ve been to so far) this past weekend.

The town is called Shaniko and it’s my new favorite place on Earth.  


Follow along the Dalles-California highway and over some beautiful rolling hills you’ll see this bright red roof. I love that it has the town name painted on it.

You can see it down in this little valley from the top of the highway. It made my heart skip a beat. I could tell it was going to be worth the hour and half drive! 

This town was established in 1901. It currently has 26 residents, “18 in the winter” according to the sweet-hearted woman I met who also happens to be the fire marshall. She was really informative about the town. I asked a million questions and she was pleased to answer them all. She was so proud of her little town, and I can see why!

This is the hotel you see as you first pull in. How amazing are those windows?! The detail and craftsmanship of old buildings is just something you don’t find anymore. I wish I had a better picture of the inside lobby of this hotel because it looked like what you see in a western movie. A huge round padded bend around a support beam, a long wood desk and an old piano.

They have hitching posts everywhere in this town, naturally. We parked our car in the exact spot where people tied up their horse and buggy! I looked it up on google to see how much the hotel has changed since 1901 and honestly it’s pretty similar still. The picture I saw was a shot of the front of the hotel where we parked. It was so cool to walk along the original wood sidewalks that cowboys and gunslingers did back then.

This post office is across the street from the hotel and it’s still functioning. Unfortunately, you can’t see the inside, but it has this antique wall full of old glass plates p.o boxes.

The sidewalks in town are pretty much all wood like this. To the left inside the adorable picket fence was a house. The little building you see at the end was empty but there was a sign out front that read “mercantile”. These windows are from the mercantile building. Don’t you just love single pane windows? Me too.

These cars were parked next to that little house. My 4 year old thought they were the coolest thing ever.

Around the corner from the mercantile building is this huge red barn FULL of old cars. And I mean old. They had a fire engine from 1918, Chevrolet’s, stage coaches, you name it. If you ever watch American Picker’s you can imagine how excited they’d be to find that barn!

This fire truck is in a field between the red barn and the next street of town (if you can call it that), where the jail, saloon and blacksmith shop are located. The colors of how things in the town aged are amazing.

We couldn’t have picked better weather to visit Shaniko in. It was grey and rainy, but I feel like it made things look more spooky and antique. I just loved it.

Next door to the blacksmith shop you have the saloon. It wasn’t open like all the other buildings. I know, total bummer. I loved the hitching posts out front. And look at that door! Old crackled paint makes my heart happy. I should have gotten a close up of that amazing door knob and key hole. Next time! I think this is one of my favorite pictures and finds from that day. This old piano was so cool to see and touch. The metal piece on the top said “1903”. I pictured being in the saloon while someone played this. How cool would that have been?! Considering I suck at poker, I’d probably just stick to drinking whiskey.

This next part was without a doubt my 4 year old’s favorite part. The jail.

This wagon was actually parked next to the fire station but the jail is directly behind the bell tower. Yes, a bell tower. And yes, it’s as adorable as it sounds. On the inside of the cells they have some props set up and Cason keeps talking about the “skelegans” (aka skeletons). He thinks the people went to jail because “they said a bad word”. Remember that, kid. This building was so cool. They had old wanted posters all over the place. This one you can see on the left was a $1000 reward for the capture of “the yellow belly brothers” who were wanted for robbery and lewd acts”, among other things.

The houses in the neighborhood were so cool. Since 26 people still live there, some homes are newer but still older. I love how the roofs were sagging. It was raining pretty hard while we were there, I can only imagine the storms these buildings have seen. I’m not sure what this building was used for but I thought it was beautiful. It was next door to the house above.

This is the old water tower. It’s across the way from the neighborhood. The woman I spoke to told me that once it had a huge reservoir ontop but a big wind storm blew it off.

This precious little wedding chapel is on the corner. I wish I could’ve seen a wedding there. It had pews on each side of the aisle and a super cute altar set up. The windows were all draped with vintage lace curtains.  I’m just obsessed with those windows. 

Last but certainly not least, we have the Shaniko school house. I definitely want to go back soon because they actually open it up to the public. We missed the opening by a couple weeks. There was a sign that said “beware of rattle snakes” therefore, I will not being going near that tiny door to the right, thank you very much.

My husband got a lot more pictures (and better ones!) than I did and you can see them all on his Instagram: JakeHelmPhotography.

Now that sunny weather is on the way and summer is almost here, I’m already planning our next roadtrip back.

The people I met in Shaniko were some of the most genuine people. I have been dying to go back since we left. I felt like my soul was completely satisfied there. In a town of 26 people.

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