Thursday, August 29, 2013

Route Beta: Biking Over Stevens Pass

This post provides route beta* for bicyclists who are interested in cycling over Stevens Pass, along Highway 2, in Washington state.

* "Beta" is a term utilized among rock climbers to indicate specific information on how to accomplish a climb or task.

  • The highest point of Stevens Pass is 4,061 ft in elevation.
  • Ascending the pass from the west is steeper, and thus more difficult, than ascending the pass from the east.
  • The elevation profile for the 37 miles from Skykomish, WA
    to the intersection of Highway 2 and WA Route 207.
  • The shoulders along Highway 2 are "wide enough." The shoulders disappear, however, for bridge crossings.
  • Google Maps provides great bike directions, but beware that some of the road signs indicating turn-offs are either easy-to-miss or, occasionally, non-existent.
  • If you stick to Highway 2 (as opposed to taking side roads), you have the benefit of seeing the progress of your ascents/descents, as signage along the Highway provides the elevation at numerous locations along the pass.
  • Google Maps suggests taking Reiter Rd, which is west of the pass, on the north side of Highway 2. This road is beautiful and has very little traffic. However, note that this road involves descent elevation gain that is then lost when later reconnecting with Highway 2.
  • Google Maps suggests taking Tye (Scenic) Rd, which is west of the pass, on the north side of Highway 2. This road is beautiful, has very little traffic, and has a number of switchbacks (which is particularly beneficial for the ascent, if biking eastward). However, note the following:
    • The road alternates between paved and loose gravel sections. If you are not comfortable riding on gravel, or if your bike tires are not suitable for gravel-riding, you may wish to avoid this side road, particularly on the descent, as you will be traveling at fast speeds.
    • You will come to a point along the route where the road appears to end. Push or ride your bicycle onto the narrow trail straight ahead, cross the footbridge, and then continue to follow the road.
    • If traveling westward on Highway 2, the turnoff for Tye Road is not marked. It is the first road on your right after you begin your descent. It will be a tight hairpin turn to your right, directly onto loose gravel.
  • As the descent is fast, I recommend sticking to the main Highway for the descent.
  • When I rode over the pass, the shoulders were pretty dirty with large chunks of gravel, and so I opted to take the lane on the descent.
  • There is a restroom (pit toilets) at the top of the pass. Look for signage.
  • Should you require wifi, there is a McDonalds located in both Monroe and Sultan.
  • Consider staying at the Dinsmore's Hiker Haven in Baring. If you stay, please contribute a donation, as running a gig such as this is not inexpensive.


  1. Not sure if you will respond or not, but I am looking to book a trip from NYC to Seattle to do some cycling, by the looks of it the HWY 2 (Over Stevens Pass) looks like an amazing ride to fly over for. Do you know what would be the best town/area for me to find a hotel?

    1. Hey Sean. Thanks for your note. :)

      Are you looking just to bike over Highway 2? Or are you looking to do a loop in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps starting and ending in Seattle? While the ride over Highway 2 is grand, there are ways to incorporate this ride into an even grander tour of the area. :)

      As for hotels, the web is going to be your best resource for that, as I stay at campgrounds when I tour.

    2. Thanks for getting back to me Sarah! I was hoping to do a 100 mile ride on the Saturday while I'm there. Is there a good loop if I'm doing that kind of distance? Thanks again! :)

    3. Since I don't know where you're starting from, I'll provide a link which has cue sheets for a number of great routes in the Seattle area, with varying starting locations, distances, and difficulty levels. The cue sheets can be found here:

  2. This is great! Thank you for all the details. Planning on cycling from the Seattle area to Lake Wenatchee via Highway 2 over the span of two days from Oct 6 - 7. Any additional tips since your original post?

    1. Hey John. I haven't ridden Stevens Pass since I wrote this post, so I have no new tips. Have a great ride! I'd love to hear how it goes! 😊

  3. Hey John, I'm riding from Seattle to Spokane in a few weeks and will be going over highway 2 through Leavenworth and Wenatchee. How was it for you?

  4. Hi C.M. Hockett! It was a long and arduous journey for me. I was using my singlespeed Bike Friday with a few interchangeable rear cogs to make it easier to climb. There is usually enough space on the shoulder to not feel like you're going to be hit by a car, but it's a bit scary when eighteen wheelers come by. It rained very hard the first night, which was absolutely miserable, but the next day was beautiful. There's a small snack stand near the peak which was honestly a life-saver for me. I was able to take a break and dry all my wet clothes. I called the park ranger before leaving (which I recommend you do) and got approval to camp at the Money Creek Campground beforehand. I actually didn't end up camping there, because I didn't make enough progress the first night. It was easy to sneak a bit into the woods and camp on the side of the road. The incline gets pretty intense as you near Stephen's Pass, and gets much better afterward. It's mostly downhill from there to Wenatchee, but there's still some incline. It felt so great to reach Stephen's Pass. Not much to report besides all that, just a TON of cycling.


I would love to hear your comments on this post!