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Parent Review: Hiking the Franklin Ghost Town Trail

On a dreary Friday we made the decision to go hiking on the Franklin Ghost Town Trail. Along a kid-friendly gravel and dirt trail, we explored old structures, a cemetery and a mine shaft, all through a beautiful forested landscape.

Getting there

The trail is located outside of Auburn in the small town of Black Diamond. Although All Trails stated that there was a free parking lot, we had a difficult time finding it. In our frustration we caved and paid the $5 to park at the base of the hike. You can pay the fee by cash or Cashapp. If you find yourself driving past the paid lot, there is a one-lane bridge with a view of a waterfall that leads to Franklin Springs. There, you can fill up your canteen with natural spring water for a small donation. The heavily trafficked trail was mostly empty on our Friday afternoon.

Follow the gravel path to the Franklin mine cart. Stick around a while to examine the rusty wheels.

Dad cradling his son near the Franklin mine cart while the little one naps.

Hiking Conditions

Franklin Ghost Town is an out-and-back trail spanning 2.5 miles. We found it easy enough and enjoyable enough for our two-year-old toddler to handle (despite him taking a small nap in between).

The trail was accessible. Follow the railroad grade into the town of Franklin. Don’t expect to see an actual town, but old structures and remnants of past life. The main portions of the trail are well maintained. Muddy grounds require a good pair of boots for steady footing. Some spots of the trail looked washed out and there are some fallen trees, but hikers are able to overcome these obstacles pretty easily. Although the trail is fairly flat, it is not stroller-friendly.

Explore one of many foundation buildings on the Franklin Ghost Town Trail.

One of the building foundations creep out of the ground.

Where to go and what to explore

Start the trail at the gravel entrance until it splits at the Franklin Mine Cart. Explore the cart and its old rusty wheels, then head off to the coal mine foundation.

The size of the abandoned buildings here are impressive, along with the coal mine tracks. The laborers occupying this area had some beautiful vistas. The Black Diamond Mountain range was visible and the roaring Green River echoed throughout the gorge. We stopped along the trail to wade through the smooth stones and found fragments of the life before us. Even though we only discovered porcelain bits of a coffee mug and small parts of coal machinery, we felt like archaeologists uncovering an ancient civilization. Almost 100 years ago, someone stood where we stood and lived an entire life there. How amazing!

Further ahead of us, we saw the mine shaft, well-sealed with railing surrounding the perimeter. Although I was leery to get too close, we had fun shouting into the void with our loudest voices. We walked on, towards the graveyard, to pay our respects to the 37 workers who lost their lives in a fire that ended up shutting down the whole town. At first, we did not notice the grave markers level with the ground. The century old markers showed their age, but people laid flowers and other offerings in memory of the miners.

Below the grates is a 1,000 ft drop down the mine shaft.

Walk over the grate to see the 1,000 foot drop down the mine shaft.

Other routes to other exciting places

Portions of the trail are taken over by blackberry briers, so make sure to stay on the groomed pathways. The trail has alternative unmarked routes and we decided to extend our hike by trying one out. The portion that we traversed led to a trail that had collapsed into the mountain side. We thought it was accessible, since we followed a dirt path intended for cars, but we were mistaken. Another route to take is to a waterfall, not to be mistaken for Franklin Falls, located in North Bend. But we had trouble finding the waterfall and headed back. Another route led to the river at the start of the footpath, past the Franklin Coal Mine marker. We didn’t make it down this way, but plan to come back in the fall to explore again.

Rusty old rails cling onto the grounds along the trail

Rusty old rails used to carry carts from one place to another.

Potty break

Unfortunately, there are no restrooms available at this hike. Stop in Auburn prior to pulling into Black Diamond. The town is remote and does not have many public restroom options near the trail.

Trail and town history

The area includes a 100-year-old abandoned coal mine and was developed in 1885. It served to mine the 50-million-year-old coal seam. At peak capacity, as many 1,100 people would could be found in Franklin. In 1894, the deadly fire broke in the mine. Despite the community’s efforts to revitalize it, the 1000-foot-deep mine was sealed n 1919.

Hiking the Franklin Ghost Town Trail may not be as spooky as the name suggests, but it is a looks back into the past, examining the life that the town once held.

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