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Stevens Pass

Rising toward the summit, US 2 follows the narrow valley of Nason Creek, flanked by extremely mountainous country, abounding in large and small game and many varieties of upland trees and wildflowers. Stevens Pass was named for John F. Stevens, the Great Northern Railroad construction engineer. The summit marks the boundary between the Snoqualmie and Wenatchee national forests. The forest is predominately Pacific silver fir, mountain hemlock, and sub-alpine fir. Averaging 450 feet of snowfall each year, covering 1,125 acres of skiable terrain, Stevens Pass is now a very popular ski resort operated under a permit granted by the USDA Forest Service. In the summer, good fishing is found at 20 small lakes within a 10-mile radius, and huckleberries are plentiful in August and September. At the summit is a junction with the Cascade Crest, or Skyline Trail.

The Forest Service still maintains cabins and weather observation equipment at the base.


Main highway east of Stevens Pass.

Source: Washington State Archives

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Stevens Pass Guard Station

The Stevens Pass Guard Station was built in 1941 as a Civilian Conservation Corps work project and thus signifies the aid to the local community provided by the emergency work-relief program established by the federal government in response to the Great Depression. Historically guard stations served a variety of subsidiary functions, but their principal purpose was for resource protection, particularly against fire, and prevention of timber trespass. Located strategically at important trailheads or junctions, guard stations extended the agency’s presence into areas with limited accessibility and provided a vital contact points for regulating the use of remote backcountry and its resources. The Stevens Pass Guard Station distinctively illustrates the architectural design concepts adopted by the USDA, Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest Region during the Depression. Like the rustic style developed by the National Park Service, its design philosophy was underlain by an ethic non-intrusiveness: it had an intimate relationship with the landscape and was sympathetic to the natural environment.

Stevens Pass Historic District

The Stevens Pass Historic District extends over 20 miles from the Martin Creek Tunnel to the eastern portal of the present Cascade Tunnel. The region is unpopulated except for a Forest Service guard station, small businesses associated with highway traffic, and the skiing area at the summit. The ruggedly mountainous area is significant for its association with the completion of the Great Northern Railroad which greatly encouraged the settlement and development of the Puget Sound in the 1890s and early twentieth century. The building of the Great Northern from the Minnesota lake country, across the Great Plains, and through the Rocky Mountains was primarily undertaken in the 1880s and reached Spokane in 1892. The greatest challenge, however, was building a route through the rugged Cascade Mountains. Although engineer John F. Stevens surveyed a route in 1890–1891, which opened in 1893, a truly safe and dependable road was not developed until 1929, when the second Cascade Tunnel was built. When the 7.79-mile tunnel opened, it was a nationwide event with several million Americans listening to the dedication ceremonies via radio. The 40-year struggle of the Great Northern to conquer the difficult terrain of Stevens Pass illuminates the importance of the railroad to the development and settlement of the Puget Sound.