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Exploring Shaniko Ghost Town in Oregon

Have you heard of Shaniko Ghost Town? Or the famous Shaniko Hotel? For us, it is one of the best Oregon ghost towns, worth visiting during an Oregon road trip. The Shaniko ghost town has a unique atmosphere and stories. Furthermore, it is a perfect place for stylized photo sessions. So, check out our detailed guide and tips, which will help you plan the journey through time in fabulous Shaniko, Oregon.

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Agnes Stabinska, the author and co-owner of the Van Escape blog, wears cowboy hat in Shaniko Ghost Town.  She is next to old car and with old wooden buildlings in the backdrop.

Where is Shaniko Ghost Town?

Most travelers aim for the beautiful Oregon coast. However, inland Oregon has terrific hidden gems like Shaniko, The Wool Capital of the World. If you are planning a road trip around Oregon, it is worth adding Shaniko to your must-see list.

Below, we describe the fascinating history of this abandoned town. It is undoubtedly one of the best-preserved and most interesting Oregon ghost towns. So, Shaniko Ghost Town is a perfect one-day trip from Portland, Mt Hood National Forest, or the Bend/Sisters area.

Shaniko Ghost Town is a city in Wasco County in north-central Oregon. It’s at the intersection of U.S. Route 97 and Oregon Route 218. It’s about 8 miles (13 km) north of Antelope, 69 miles (111 km) north of Redmond, and 131 miles (211 km) east of Portland.

Our Experiences

My partner Chris and I love abandoned cities and their unusual stories, which is why we often add them to our road trip itineraries. Shaniko absolutely delighted us. We spent two days in this area and shared our personal observations, tips, and photos.

Speaking of photos, Shaniko is a perfect place for interesting photo sessions stylized as stories about the Wild West. I wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots because they perfectly matched the wooden buildings and the Wild West scenery. If you plan a trip there, pack some interesting clothes to take great photos.

A big old barn with a red roof and an inscription on the roof: Shaniko, in front of it is an old rusty truck.
Old blue wooden building with a flying American flag and a sign on the building: Gold Nuget Saloon and The Raven Nest.

How to get to Shaniko, Oregon?

  • The distance from Portland to Shaniko is approximately 131 miles via US-26 W. The drive will take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes [check out our Portland itinerary].
  • The route to Shaniko takes just 1 hour and 40 minutes from the Mount Hood area, where the Timberline Lodge is located. It’s about 85 miles via US-26 E, OR-216, and Bakeoven Rd.
  • From Sisters to Shaniko via US-97N, it’s 84 miles. This scenic route will take you approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.
  • From Bend, it is only 80 miles via US-97 N, and it will take you 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive.

If you plan to stay overnight in one of the places mentioned above, it is worth booking your stay in advance.

old rusty car in Shaniko Ghost Town.
Agnes Stabinska, the author, is wearing brown and blue cowboy boots, a denim skirt, a brown blouse and a large brown cowboy hat. She sits on a wooden bench in Shaniko Ghost Town.
Agnes Stabinska, author and co-owner of the Van Escape blog, is wearing brown and blue cowboy boots, a denim skirt, a brown blouse and a large brown cowboy hat. She stands on a wooden sidewalk and leans against the brick wall of the building, above it there is a large inscription: Shaniko Cafe.

When to visit Shaniko Ghost Town?

You can visit Shaniko year-round. However, the town is essentially abandoned in the winter. A small coffee and souvenir shop and museums are open from April to September. There is also an ice cream shop, post office, gas station, and small art gallery to check out.

There is ample parking all around town. So, the best idea is to walk around the town. However, do not trespass if a building is posted as private.

wooden old buildling of Shaniko Bank.
wooden old buildlings in Shaniko and old rusty cars along the road.

A Short Story of Shaniko

The origins of the Shaniko

Most Old West towns spring into existence from a massive gold strike, but not Shaniko, Oregon. For the Shaniko, wool was its lifeblood. The land around Shaniko was not good farmland, but it was adequate as a sheep and cattle country.

The town of Shaniko was no accident. It was planned before it was born. A group of bankers and businessmen in The Dalles wanted to expedite the shipment of wool. The Dalles was the only outlet for these thousands of bales of wool fleece. Therefore they made efforts to run the railway in this area. So, Shaniko was built as a terminal.

German immigrant August Scherneckau arrived in this area in 1874. The Indians called him “Mr. Shaniko.” In 1879, the settlement was moved a bit further north, and the first post office under the name “Shaniko” was established in 1900. Before, the place’s name was Cross Hollows.

The arrival of the first train in 1900 was a milestone for the development of Shaniko.

Agnes Stabinska, the author, is wearing brown and blue cowboy boots, a denim skirt, a brown blouse and a large brown cowboy hat. She is standing on the old wooden porch in Shaniko, Oregon.
old wooden piano in Shaniko.

Shaniko Ghost Town – the Wool Capital of the World

The reason for the town was the enormous production of wool, Central Oregon being one huge sheep ranch in the 1900s. From 1901 Shaniko used to ship millions of pounds of wool and livestock to market each year. In the early 1900s, Shaniko served as a transit hub for the Columbia Southern Railway.

From 1903, Shaniko gained the nickname “Wool Capital of the World.” That year, the town shipped over 1 million bushels of wheat and over 2,000 tons of wool. In 1904, over five million dollars worth of wool was sold. The Shaniko Warehouse was the largest wool and wheat warehouse in the state.

Incoming supplies included farm equipment, building materials, fence posts, and coal and wood fuel. In 1901, it was one of the largest shipping centers in the world.

Shaniko Wagon Yard and old wooden buildlings.
Shaniko hotel made from red bricks, which is open again for tourist from August 2023.

The Columbia Southern Railroad was one of the most productive short lines in the nation. The boom lasted ten years. Unfortunately 1911, the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company opened a rival rail route linking Portland to Bend through the Deschutes River canyon.

The new line diverted traffic from the Columbia Southern, and Shaniko began its decline. Furthermore, two fires destroyed the business district in 1910 and 1911. In 1910 population was at a peak level with 600 people. The Interstate Commerce Commission stopped rail service to Shaniko in 1943. By 1959, Shaniko was declared a ghost town. The population was only 36 in 2010.

You can read more about Shaniko’s history in the article on the Oregon Encyclopedia website.

Shaniko Historic District

The Shaniko Historic District was designated in 1982. The historic buildings are the Shaniko Hotel, the Sage Museum, the Shaniko School, the City Hall and Jail, the Wedding Chapel, and the Wool Warehouse.

Shaniko Hotel

One constant in Shaniko since 1900 has been the Columbia Southern Hotel, now known as the Shaniko Hotel. It was built in the Italianate style, with 18-inch-thick walls and handmade brick. In 1979, the Shaniko Hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the town’s heyday, it was a hotel, bank, saloon, dance hall, and general gathering place. It was definitely the most imposing building in Shaniko. You can still admire its construction and details.

The Hotel has been restored. Pictures of historic families are on the walls. As you wander its empty rooms, you can go back in time.

The good news is that the hotel is open to tourists again, and you can book your stay there! The Shaniko Hotel, having been closed for almost two decades, will welcome guests once again in August 2023. This historic establishment is located in the elevated desert town of Shaniko, providing a unique experience steeped in history.

The hotel features 18 rooms, each boasting stunning views of Shaniko, Mount Hood, and the expansive landscape of Central Oregon. Book your stay directly on their website. During our visit it was closed, so we added to our bucket list staying there for a night.

Shaniko Water Tower & School

Also built-in 1900 was the 10,000-gallon wooden water tower. The water, pumped from nearby Cross Hollow Canyon, was piped through a wooden pipe system and stored in two large wooden tanks.

The three-room Shaniko School was built in 1901.

Shaniko Hotel made from red bricks with white ornaments in the front.
old wooden Shaniko Wedding Chapel.
Shaniko cafe in Shaniko hotel.

Shaniko Ghost Town Today

The Owners

Oregon businessman Robert B. Pamplin, Jr. purchased the Shaniko Hotel and a few businesses in 2000. He planned to renovate historic buildings and develop new properties. He set up an RV park.

But in 2008, there was a dispute related to access to the water, so he closed those businesses. He wanted to sell the property, and the asking price was $3.1 million. As of 2016, the Pamplin property is not for sale.

The Buildings

Now, you can only imagine what the energy was like when Shaniko town was thriving. Shaniko’s wooden sidewalks lead to empty buildings, so you can take pictures of the old warehouses, water tower, schoolhouse, and the Shaniko Hotel.

You will also find rusty old cars and agricultural tools in the town. You can see Mount Hood from the Shaniko ghost town if the weather is good.

Several Shaniko buildings are maintained in an Old West theme, complete with authentic boardwalks. The old water tower, the City Hall, complete with an old jail, the school, the post office, and the Shaniko Hotel remind old good times of prosperity. It’s worth visiting Shaniko’s ghost town.

What is open for visitors in Shaniko Ghost Town?

A toy and game museum is open in the schoolhouse on weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The town also hosts Shaniko Days, the first weekend of August, which features live music, food, gunfights, games, a quilt show, auctions, and antique sales. A general store, museum, gift shop, and restaurant are open randomly from April through September.

If you’re planning a trip to Oregon, please check out some of the other great places we describe in related posts:

Shaniko Museum with old wooden buildlings.
old cars.
barn among grass with the inscription: Shaniko on the roof.


  1. Shaniko sounds like an interesting place. Loved the old world charm that shows in your amazing pictures. From being the wool capital of the world and a terminal to a ghost town. It sure has come a long way. 

  2. I LOVE GHOST TOWNS AND SHANIKO OREGON looks amazing. Your pictures really tell the story of the
    town. I love the piano sitting on the boardwalk. The town looks very well

  3. omg I love it so much! I have not heard about Shaniko ghost town or hotel before but i am planning a big road trip in Oregon and i definitely adding this place to my list! It looks like time stopped there or its fake made for a movie ( which we know its not ) . So amazing! Love the history of the town and I cant wait to visit it as soon as I can. Love all your photos 

  4. I had not heard of Shaniko Ghost Town before.  Good to add to our list for our next visit to Oregon.  I love the buildings with such an authentic look.  Cool to walk down the old boardwalk.  The rotted out piano is fascinating.  I can see why this presented so many great photo settings.  Glad that this part of the town is still being maintained.

  5. Wow I love visiting towns like these where the whole town gives a vibe of 1940s or 50s. Absolutely in love with the rugged looks of the trucks and buildings. I have added Shaniko to my list of places to visit for sure. We have the outback in Australia that gives similar vibes and I love to visit the towns there.

  6. I really have not heard about Shaniko ghost town and even Shaniko hotel but it really looks interesting place to visit. Ghost town sometimes sound scary but I want to feel that scare too. Apart from ghost town, it is good to know that Shaniko is wool capital of the world too. This city has really antique vibes with all those old style of buildings and old model cars.

  7. First time I heard about Shaniko ghost town, and I’m sold. I’ll make sure we’ll make a stop here during our road trip to PNW. It’s interesting because the city built because of wool industry, not the gold rush. I wonder if the town completely deserted during the winter.

  8. It’s interesting how Shaniko emerged from the status of Wool capital to that of a ghost town! Gripping read, particularly in terms of how it was originally meant to be a terminal. Thanks for this informative post, Shaniko hotel too seems to host dated stories of the past! How intriguing!

  9. So many cool things to see in Shaniko. It’s like a scene right out of a country and western movie.  It reminds me a lot of places in Alaska and it would be so fun to explore!

  10. I had never heard of Shaniko before, but from your description and amazing photos, I want to go see this for myself! It’s remarkable how well-preserved it is, and I’m glad that some of the buildings, like the hotel, have been restored. I actually showed your post to my other half (he never reads travel blogs because I do all the planning), and he now wants to explore the town during Shaniko Days next year. Thanks for sharing this gem of a place!

  11. Very intruiging! Such a detailed note on a lesser known place. Honestly, haven’t heard about Shaniko before. There’s a lot to do here as well.
    The best part is that the place still retains a Retro charm!

  12. I am always hesitant and little bit afraid to visit spooky places, but somehow like visiting abandoned towns.  This looks like a nice place to visit any time of the year! 

  13. I had no idea this place existed! I love Oregon, it’s a great place to visit from Vancouver since it’s so close. I’ll definitely add this to my list once borders open up again. Love you outfit too btw, it really adds to the authenticity of and vibe of the city 😉 

  14. Breaking Shaniko News: The Shaniko Hotel is back open for business, taking reservations at to open on August 1, 2023! Designed and furnished to take guests on a journey back to the early 1900’s, the Shaniko Hotel is a destination in and of itself.

    The photos featured in this blog post are spot-on and are certainly accurate in the town depiction. Thanks for the lovely Shaniko feature, Agnes!

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