Scenic, Washington: Old Cascade Tunnel: Scariest Place in America?

Maybe just read about this one. It sounds dangerous.
Address:
Scenic, WA
Directions:
Take US 2 from Monroe east 43.6 miles, then turn left (north) onto the Old Cascade Highway and look immediately to your right to see the new Cascade Tunnel. Return to US 2, turn left, and drive east another 5.6 miles. At 47.74587 N, 121.0941 W turn left (north again) onto an unmarked road, which is another part of the Old Cascade Highway and no longer maintained by the state. This broken concrete surface winds back west through the Tye River valley as you slowly descend into thick vegetation. Eventually you'll take a right at the sign for the Iron Goat Trail, a walking path that parallels the original railroad tracks. Park in the gravel parking lot. No one else will be there. When standing at the large trail map, you can either take the Iron Goat Trail right or left. You'll want to walk left and bypass the orange plastic mesh that was put there to keep out thrill seekers. The area is infested with Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Wolves, Mountain Lions. After a quick 0.3-mile walk, around a bend, you'll catch a glimpse of the old Cascade Tunnel.
Hours:
Remote area, accessible only by unimproved roads/trails, and fenced off.
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Visitor Tips and News About Old Cascade Tunnel: Scariest Place in America?

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Old Cascade Tunnel

This tunnel was home to the most epic underground (literally) dance parties for many years. While the stages took place in the first half mile of the tunnel, the real treat was for people brave enough to venture past the music and lights. The thumping music and lights would quickly fade away, leaving nothing but light from a single powerful laser, which would oscillate with the bass from the speakers it was sitting on. Finally you would be left in absolute darkness and silence. Even toward the front, the narrow creosote covered walls made for quite the head trip.

Sadly, the tunnel met most of its demise back around 2006, when the east end collapsed. Water pooled around that end and formed a stagnant lake, but it was so far from the end where the parties were happening that another regularly scheduled one was attempted. Unfortunately, the acoustics of a tunnel blocked at one end are much different than an open one. Far more noise came back out the entrance and LEO [law enforcement officer] troubles ensued. Finally the parties ceased, as cave-ins became more frequent and the west entrance would crumble noticeably with each bass thump.

These days it is definitely best observed from afar, and anyone daring enough to venture inside should probably bring several days worth of food, water, and oxygen. But man... you should have seen it!!!

[Ani Hacking, 03/30/2014]
The NEW Cascade Tunnel. Cascade Tunnel

It's not nearly as well known as the Golden Gate Bridge, yet it's 10 times as long. At 41,152 feet long (or 7.8 miles), the new Cascade Tunnel reigned as the longest tunnel in the Western Hemisphere from 1928 to 1989.

It was completed by the Great Northern Railway in 1928 to safely transport trains through Washington's Stevens Pass between Spokane and Seattle. In a location where the winter snow is measured in meters, it was of the utmost importance that a railroad be built under the mountain to circumvent the heavy winter precipitation. Problems with avalanches and air circulation in the original tunnel inspired the construction of the newer tunnel beginning in 1925. The Cascade Tunnel was officially designated as a U.S. Engineering Landmark in 1993 for its innovation.

But if you really want an experience, you must visit the original Cascade Tunnel nearby (preferably at dusk for the full effect), perhaps the creepiest location in America. Return to U.S. Highway 2 from the new Cascade Tunnel and continue another 5.6 miles east on the highway. At 47.74587 N, 121.0941 W, you'll turn left onto an unmarked road. Part of the old Cascade Highway and no longer maintained by the state, this broken concrete surface winds back west through the Tye River valley as you slowly descend into thick vegetation.

Eventually you will take a right at the sign for the Iron Goat Trail, a walking path that parallels the original railroad tracks. Park in the gravel parking lot. You won't have any competition for a spot because no one else will be there.

When standing at the informational center and large trail map, you'll have two choices. Take the Iron Goat Trail right or left. You'll want to walk left and bypass the orange plastic mesh that was put there to keep out thrill seekers. The area is infested with Grizzly Bears, Black Bears, Wolves, Mountain Lions and many other creatures of the forest. But the quick 0.3-mile walk is worth the risk.

Around a bend, you'll catch a glimpse of the old Cascade Tunnel, the dark and foreboding western portal looming ahead of you. You probably shouldn't enter because massive flooding can occur at any instant overwhelming the entire tunnel and creek bed (thanks to snow melts atop the mountains and a hole in the tunnel's roof). Hence the orange mesh to keep people out.

The tunnel is 2.6 miles long and construction was orchestrated from 1897-1900 by John F. Stevens, the chief engineer of Great Northern Railway (the same guy after which they named Stevens Pass). It's been abandoned since 1929 and is overgrown with vegetation. The tunnel is also the location of the deadliest avalanche in U.S. history and the 4th deadliest railroad disaster.

On March 1, 1910, three trains were stuck in a huge snowfall. On the 6th day, a massive avalanche roared down the mountainside and swept the trains into the creek (to the right of the tunnel as you look at the opening). A confirmed 96 people lost their lives. It is an obscure tragedy lost in American history that has no official memorial.

If you are bold enough to brave the bears and cougars at dusk, the potential of being carried away by a rushing flood, and the ghosts of the 1910 disaster, you will officially be standing in the scariest place in America!

[Pete Wade, 09/03/2007]

As interesting as the original Cascade Tunnel's history sounds, we don't condone trespassing into an area not open to the public. This place needs a ranger, a statue, and a gift shop.

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October 20, 2014

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