Hiking Washington's Railroad History - Atlas Obscura

Skykomish, Washington

Hiking Washington's Railroad History

Embark on an afternoon hike to learn about Washington State's early railroad history and discover the remnants of a train depot devastated by a record-breaking avalanche.

On February 28, 1910, the small rail station of Wellington, Washington, was in lock-down after almost a fortnight of blizzard conditions that had left the area buried in an impassable layer of snow. Despite the best efforts of depot workers, two trains remained snowed in place for six days at the base of Windy Mountain. With telegraph lines downed by the storm, all communication to the small town had been effectively cut off, and a number of train passengers waited for the weather to pass.  Sadly, relief would not come in time.

In the wee hours of March 1, 1910, lightning struck the mountainside and triggered a massive avalanche that sent a towering wave of snow thundering down toward the depot. The cascade of “White Death” obliterated the station and much of the small community of Wellington, and rolled the waiting train cars over 150 feet down into the Tye River Valley, burying the wreckage in dozens of feet of snow. In the final accounting, 96 souls were lost in the disaster including passengers and train workers, making it the deadliest avalanche in United States history.  

During our five-hour, one-way, 3.5-mile hike, we will follow the old rail line and experience rail history first hand, as we pass several old railway tunnels, snow sheds, and scenic viewpoints along the Iron Goat hiking trail. Join Field Agent Jared Steed as we hike this historic path, learning about Washington's early railroad history, the town of Wellington, and the tragic events of March 1, 1910. Our tour will end at the former Wellington town site, as we explore the site of the deadly avalanche, the town's remnants, and explore the bits of warped train wreckage that were never carried off the mountain, and still crumble under the overgrowth of the Tye River Valley as a reminder of nature’s terrible wrath.  


  • Meet in the parking lot of the Iron Goat Trail Interpretive Site parking lot at 87450 Old Cascade Highway, Skykomish, WA 98288 (look for the red train caboose on the eastbound route of Stevens Pass Highway/U.S. Highway 2).
  • The hike will require walking a distance of approximately 3.5 miles one way.  The first quarter-mile of the hike will involve walking up a steep, but non-technical, switchback.  After the switchback, the hike runs along the old railroad track and consists of mostly even, flat ground. A map of the hiking route can be found by clicking here.
  • Round trip, the hike will cover approximately 7.25 miles.  For those wishing to make only the one-way, 3.5 mile hike to Wellington, cars can be parked at the Wellington town parking lot and used to ferry people back to the Iron Goat Interpretive Site.  The road to the Wellington site parking lot is off Tye Road, just west of the Stevens Pass Ski Resort on U.S. Highway 2.  The address for the turnoff off eastbound Highway 2, and onto Tye Road, is approximately 93001 Stevens Pass Highway, Skykomish, WA 98288.  The turnoff onto Tye Road is just past mile post 64. Participants will then need to follow Tye Road signs to Wellington.
  • If you plan on leaving your car parked in the Iron Goat Trail Interpretive Site and/or Wellington parking lots, you will need to display a National Forest Recreation ePass which can be purchased for $5 here.
  • The tour is entirely outside and will run rain or shine from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Please wear comfortable walking and water-resistant shoes, and appropriate hiking clothing.  Participants will be responsible for bringing their own food, water, sun protection, and clothing.
  • Tour is family friendly but parents must keep an eye on their children.
  • This tour is best suited for people without mobility restrictions.
  • Public restrooms are available at both the Iron Goat Trail Interpretive parking lot and Wellington town site.  No restrooms will be available during the hike itself.

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Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.

This event is part of a series of Chase Sapphire Selected experiences.  Questions or concerns about this experience? Email SapphireQuestions@AtlasObscura.com for help.