Exploring the original route of the Sunset Highway and the history of the towns in between.
This website will attempt to document the original route of the Sunset Highway from 1915 to the 1950's. The maps will try to show the original routes and the later realignments as accurately as possible.
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History of the Highway
Early east - west travel across the state followed Indian trails that had been in place for hundreds of years. In 1867 the first rough wagon road was constructed from Seattle to Ellensburg following those trails. This early route called the Snoqualmie Wagon Road altered the economy of the region by providing a direct route for trade and settlers to Puget Sound.
By the 1900's The Northern Pacific and Milwaukee railroads had effectively absorbed most commercial and passenger traffic across the state and the wagon road fell into disrepair.
In 1905, the first automobiles would cross the pass on the old wagon road, signaling the dawn of a new era.
It was not until 1909, when the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition’s transcontinental auto race over Snoqualmie Pass generated widespread publicity that focus shifted to improving this road for the motorcar.
The Sunset Highway was established in 1913 as a primary state highway. Prior to this designation, the road was known as State Road no.7. On July 1, 1915 The Sunset Highway was officially dedicated.
The highway originally began in Renton. Then east to North Bend and over the Snoqualmie Pass. Then through the towns of Easton, Cle Elum and Ellensburg. The road continued east to Vantage where you had to take a ferry across the Columbia River. From here it was north to Quincy and then west to another ferry across the Columbia and then north to Wenatchee. From Wenatchee you crossed the river for a 3rd time (on a bridge) and continued north to Waterville and then east to Spokane. Finally it reaches the State border with Idaho.
In 1922 the road was improved and the route was changed. At Cle Elum the route continued north over Blewett Pass to Peshastin then east to Wenatchee.
By 1934, all sections of highway paving were complete from Seattle to the pass. During this time, the Sunset Highway received official designations as State Road No. 2, Primary State Route No. 2, and U.S. Highway 10, but the name "Sunset Highway" has persisted and is still alive in place names from Renton to Spokane.
In 1936 the route had changed again. Fall City and Snoqualmie were bypassed at Preston by what is known as the Echo Lake Cutoff.
In 1940 when the Lacey V. Morrow Memorial Bridge was completed the route was changed again. At Issaquah the new route continued east to Seattle across the new bridge. Renton was bypassed because of this direct route across Lake Washington.