HistoryStevens Pass is named after John Frank Stevens, the first non-indigenous person to discover it. Native Americans familiar with the area knew of the pass, although very little is known about Native American routes through the mountains. An old native trail over nearby Cady Pass, connecting the North Fork Skykomish River and the Wenatchee River, had been known about and used by pioneers since the early 19th century. In 1872 Hubert C. Ward, who was exploring the area for the Northern Pacific Railway, heard from some Native Americans that there was a low pass at the head of Nason Creek, a tributary of the Wenatchee River, which led to one of the sources of the Skykomish River. Later, in 1887 Albert Bowman Rogers who, like Stevens, was working for the Great Northern Railway learned from Native Americans that the Skykomish River and Nason Creek had sources close to one another but that neither Native Americans nor whites visited the Nason Creek area. Neither Ward nor Rogers had time to fully explore the area. In 1890 John Stevens conducted a thorough survey, located the pass, and determined it to be the best suited for a railway crossing of the North Cascades. He wrote that there was no indication that the pass was used — there was no sign of any trails, blazes, campsites, or old campfires, for at least ten miles in either direction and that the area was thickly forested and covered with almost impenetrable brush. Steven wrote, "the region promised nothing to the prospector, while Indians and Whites crossing the mountains used either Snoqualmie on the south or the Indian Pass on the north."
On February 23, 1910, the two Great Northern Railway trains, the "Seattle Express" local passenger train No. 25 and Fast Mail train No. 27, were stalled on the tracks at the Cascade Tunnel Station on Stevens Pass because of a heavy snow storm and avalanches. Then on March 1, six days later, another avalanche pushed both trains 150 feet (46 m) down into the Tye RiverValley, thus burying the train cars in snow and debris. The Wellington Disaster killed ninety-six people – thirty-five passengers and sixty-one railroad employees – which made the Wellington avalanche one of the worst train disasters in United States history.
Over a century later, an avalanche occurred on February 19, 2012 near Tunnel Creek Canyon Road, killing three of four experienced backcountry skiers, including the Stevens Pass Ski Area's marketing director; professional skier Elyse Saugstad, who was wearing an avalanche airbag backpack, survived after tumbling down for more than 2,000 feet (600 m).