1 / 9
Snoqualmie Pass
2 / 9
3 / 9
4 / 9
Blewett Pass
5 / 9
6 / 9
7 / 9
Moses Coulee
8 / 9
9 / 9
Fall City

The Historic Sunset Highway
in Washington

"The Trail to Sunset"

A Brief History of the Highway

The first wagon road over the Cascade Mountains was constructed in 1853 by the U.S. Military. This crude wagon road was known as the Fort Walla Walla Military Road and the Naches Trail. The road ran between Fort Steilacoom and Fort Walla Walla. In 1867 the Snoqualmie Pass wagon Road was completed over the Cascades between North Bend and Easton.

In 1860 a ferry began operations across the Columbia River at White Bluffs. The Naches Trail was used to reach this ferry from Puget Sound. This would be the first route across the state between Puget Sound and Spokane. The Naches Trail was a terrible road and it would be replaced by the Snoqualmie Road. The Snoqualmie Road connected to the Naches Trail at Yakima, and from there you could either travel to Spokane or Walla Walla. On the east side of the Cascades it is wide open as there are few trees and a traveler could go almost in any direction with ease.

In 1907 State Road No. 7 was established between Renton and Spokane, and the Snoqualmie Pass Wagon Road became a part of this new highway. This was the same year the first automobile made it across Snoqualmie pass from the eastern side. In 1909, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition’s transcontinental auto race from New York to Seattle used the Snoqualmie Pass Wagon Road. The cars were mired in the mud for most of the way, and the race brought to light the terrible condition of the road. The publicity generated widespread support for a good road across the mountains, which lead to the improvement of the old wagon road for automobile use.

In the 1st Biennial Report of the State Highway Department printed in 1906, it said the following about State Highway No. 7; "This is the most important trans-mountain road projected, as it crosses the Cascades through the lowest known pass, the Snoqualmie, the elevation of which is 3,131 feet above sea level, and will have the lightest grades and shortest distance through the main range of mountains of any known route in this state. The approximate length of proposed road in King county is 25 miles and the exact length in Kittitas county is 20.35 miles, a total distance of about 45 miles. A small part of this proposed road will lie along the line of the old road, but owing to excessive grades it is necessary to abandon most of the old line. This is demonstrated in Kittitas county, where 25% grades are replaced with grades between 3% and 5%."

The Sunset Highway was established in 1913 as a primary state highway and on July 1, 1915 the highway was officially completed and dedicated. The 1915 route originally began at the Pacific Highway in Renton. Then eastward to North Bend, and then over the Snoqualmie Pass, through the towns of Easton, Cle Elum and Ellensburg. The road then continued east to Vantage where you had to take a ferry across the Columbia River. From the east side of the river, the road continued north to Quincy and then west to another ferry across the Columbia.

From here the highway meets the Old Colockum Road and follows it north to Wenatchee. From Wenatchee the traveler crossed the Columbia River for a 3rd time (on a bridge) and continued north to Waterville, and then eastward to Spokane. In 1913 the concrete bridge over Latah Creek was opened for traffic, this new road and bridge bypassed the old wagon road, which gave motorists a better approach to the city.

In 1922 the road was improved and the route was changed. After reaching Cle Elum from Seattle, the new route continued north over Blewett Pass to Peshastin and then eastward to Wenatchee. In 1926 the Bothell brach was established and motorists could chose between driving around the north end or the south end of the lake. There was also the Yellowstone Trail which used the Kirkland Ferry to reach Seattle from Fall City. Also in the late 1920's the route of the highway changed again. At Renton a new highway was built over the hill east of Renton and it connected to the Pacific Highway in Seattle.

By 1934, the concrete paving had been completed between Seattle and Spokane. During this time, the highway received official designations as State Road No. 2, Primary State Route No. 2, and U.S. Highway 10. In 1936 the Echo Lake cut-off was completed, and this new route bypassed Fall City, Snoqualmie and North Bend. 

In 1940 the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge was completed and the new 4-lane highway bypassed Renton. Today most of the old highway is called by different names, but the name "Sunset Highway" has persisted and is still alive in places between Renton to Spokane.

Snoqualmie Pass

This website is in the process of being upgraded.