RVing Through Stevens Pass

Editor's Note - This is the first of a three-part series about travel through the Cascade Mountain Passes. The other articles are Blewitt Pass and Snoqualmie Pass.

This is the third and final installment of a three-part series on all the things to see and do while enjoying a loop RV trip over Washington State’s Snoqualmie, Blewett and Stevens Pass. In the first installment we looked at Snoqualmie Pass and in the second installment we visited Blewett Pass. In this installment, we will journey over Stevens Pass camping and exploring along the way. Linking the three together into a loop will provide an extended RVing vacation for an active outdoor Northwest Family.

Following is a list of things to see and do while traveling from east to west on Stevens Pass Hwy 2.

Tumwater Canyon is the first point of interest you will encounter as you leave the tourist town of Leavenworth. This scenic canyon was carved by the Wenatchee River which continues to rage through it today. The canyon has served as a major transportation route for years, first by the Great Northern Railroad and once abandoned by the railroad, the old rail bed was widened into the highway RVers enjoy today. There are several remnants of the railroads’ operation worth a stop today. In the past, electricity was used by locomotives pulling trains through the Cascade Tunnel at the top of the pass. The electricity was generated by a hydroelectric plant in Tumwater Canyon. The brick powerhouse which housed three 2,000 kilowatt generators was located at: N47° 35.206 W120° 42.393.

Historic Photo of Powerhouse

The location contains an interpretive panel telling the story of the powerhouse and serves as a trailhead for hikers today. If you will look closely at the bridge hikers used to cross the Wenatchee River at this location, you will see that it once supported the penstock that fed water to the generating plant. An easy hike from this location is to cross the bridge and follow the old penstock grade along the scenic Wenatchee River to an abandoned tunnel that the penstock ran through. As you peer into the tunnel you might think you are looking at the ribs of a dragon slayed in his lair years ago, but what you are actually viewing are the huge steel bands that once compressed the wood staves on the penstock.

Remains of Penstock in Tunnel

As you proceed up the canyon, the next point of interest is the Tumwater Dam N47° 37.034 W120° 43.378 which was used to divert water into the penstock that ran downstream to the powerhouse. An interpretive panel at the site helps tell the story of the railroad and dam. Click here to learn more about the Tumwater Canyon hydroelectric plant.

- Nason Creek Rest Area: If you have already spent a number of days exploring Snoqualmie and Blewett passes, the holding tanks in your RV will probably need to be dumped and the freshwater replenished. If so, both are available at the Nason Creek Rest Area at: N47° 45.930 W120° 47.516

- Stevens Pass Ski Area will be your next stop. What does a ski area have to offer an active RVer in summer you ask? Plenty! First off, they offer overnight RV spaces with 20- and 30-amp electrical service for a reasonable $25 per night. Next are the activities offered during the summer season which include some serious downhill mountain bike trails, scenic chairlift rides and a disc golf course. If you time your visit correctly, your children ages 6-14 can participate in the Adventure Games Friday, August 24, 2018 - Sunday, August 26, 2018. The games feature a kid size adventure race where teams of two navigate a one of a kind ‘natural terrain’ inspired obstacle course including mountain biking, hiking, zip-lines, a rope swing, giant Slip-n-Slide, cargo nets, climbing wall and much more.  

- Iron Goat Trail: History buffs and those looking for an easy hike will want to spend a day exploring the Iron Goat Trail which follows a portion of the abandoned historic Great Northern Railroad. You can peer into the depths of the original 2.6 mile long Cascade Tunnel which the Tumwater Dam supplied power to, visit the Wellington disaster site where 96 people lost their lives via an avalanche in 1910 (worst disaster in Washington’s history) and marvel at the engineering feats encountered all along the trail. Interpretive panels located the length of the trail help tell the story.

Tunnel Entrance

Wellington Disaster Site Interpretative Panel

Hikers Pondering Tunnel

Iron Goat - Section of the Trail

Trail Through Old Snow Shed

- Deception Falls: Waterfall lovers and those that just enjoy a walk through stunning scenery won’t want to bypass Deception Falls Picnic Area. A half-mile trail with numerous foot bridges guide you past numerous waterfalls, hidden pools, tumbling cascades and interpretive panels. Be sure to explore some of the side trails that lead to hidden gems along the way. This is a great place to stretch your legs and is suitable for all members of the family including your four-legged traveling companions on a leash.

Deception Falls - One of Many Hidden Pools

Foot Bridge with Highway Bridge in Distance

Enjoying the View

- The Great Northern & Cascade Railway (GN&C Railway) in Skykomish offers fun for everyone in the RV. The GN&C Railway offers free unlimited train rides on 1/8 scale trains via 2,700 feet of track. There is also a museum and railroad education program. The Railroad operates every weekend May through October and most summer holidays. The railroad is staffed by volunteers and donations are accepted. Visit the website for more information and dates/times of operation.

When You Go:

Iron Goat Trailheads: As mentioned there are three areas to access the trail.

Scenic Trailhead just off Hwy 2: Easy RV access N47° 42.680 W121° 09.790
Martin Creek Trailhead - several miles on a gravel road to reach, use your tow vehicle or dinghy N47° 43.764 W121° 12.409
Wellington Trailhead - rough asphalt to get there N47° 44.834 W121° 07.655

A great option for enjoying the whole trail is dropping your RV at the Scenic Trailhead and taking your tow vehicle or dinghy to the Wellington Trailhead and starting your hike there which results in a one-way downhill hike.

The Great Northern & Cascade Railway depot is located at 101 N 5th St. Skykomish, WA 98288


Public Forest Service Camping options:

- Beckler River Campground

- Money Creek Campground

- Dispersed Camping (aka boondocking):  Permitted throughout the forest, a convenient location on the west side of the pass can be found at: N47° 43.196 W121° 07.270

- Privately Operated: Stevens Pass Ski Area as noted above.

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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