Leaving Leavenworth, US-2 wastes no time plunging into the winding passes in between the towering Cascade Mountains. Instead of heading west, the highway turns north for a while, seeking a way to slip through the hills. And while the scenery is beautiful, and the road is fun to drive, there isn’t much along the way that’s worth stopping for.
About 45 minutes after leaving Leavenworth, I skidded to a stop in the dirt turn-out at the Bygone Byways Interpretive Trail.
The trail is short, and makes a loop through the forest. It’s somewhat overgrown, and I ran into a few spider webs along the way. Despite the troubles, it’s interesting to get a look at the original path of the Great Northern Railway, which blazed the trail for US-2.
Along the trail, you’ll see some stonework that made up the original curbs of the old highway. It’s so overgrown now, it’s difficult to believe a car or a train could have squeezed through.
You’ll also pass near Nason Creek, where there’s a small waterfall.
After your 10-minute leg stretch, dust off the spiders and hop back in the car…
… for a drive along a road that looks very much like this, for most of the way. By the way, you’ll notice that this section of road is divided, and one-way. You can only access the turnout from the westbound lanes. If you’re headed east, drive past the turnout, and make a u-turn (at the first opportunity past the Nordic Center).
Cross over Stevens Pass (elevation 4,056 feet, 1,236 meters) and head down the other side, keeping an eye out for…
About 10 miles before you get to Skykomish, you can check out scenic Deception Falls. There’s a parking area on the right-hand side of the road (if you’re headed westbound). A short walk leads to the falls, which have a total drop of about 94 feet.
Continuing the drop from the pass, US-2 plunges deep below the surrounding peaks. The only thing that resembles a town around here is Skykomish. Drive across the bridge, and you’ll find its main street lined up against the railroad tracks. During my visit, it looked like this hotel/cafe might be one of only a couple of business in business (not counting the convenience stores on the US-2 side of the bridge).
Beyond Skykomish, I began to realize that I had tried to drive too far in one day. I still had another hour of small-road driving, and at least another half-hour of freeway travel, in order to complete the loop and return to SeaTac. The sun was setting, which put it directly in my eyes throughout the remainder of the drive. I know I was passing some beautiful scenery, but at this time of day, it all looked washed-out and grey.
Adding to my frustration, there weren’t any good, established scenic viewpoints along US-2. Somewhere around Index, I kept catching glimpses of mountains in my rear-view, but finding a spot to stop and get a good picture was difficult. Finally, I tore off onto a dirt logging road, hoping it would take me far enough uphill to expose a nice view. It didn’t, really. This picture was the best I could muster. I think that’s Mount Index, elevation 5,991 feet/1,826 meters.
After returning to SeaTac to pick up my traveling companion, I headed to Tacoma and spent the night. It was a good launching spot for a day at Mount Rainier.
If you’d like to see the drive from Leavenworth to Skykomish, check out the previous page. This Drivelapse video picks up at Skykomish, and heads west, ending somewhere in the Bellevue area, along I-405.