Tiny Index (pop. 150) lies a mile off Highway 2 and just across the clear waters of the Skykomish River. This quaint old mining, logging, and quarrying camp has tidy homes, a delightful old lodge, and an almost-encircling Cascade Range backdrop that features the extremely impressive spire of Mt. Index. There are plenty of hiking, rock climbing, steelhead fishing, and mountain biking options in the area. The granite quarry (closed in the 1930s) was the source of stones for the state capitol steps in Olympia .
Pickett Historical Museum (505 Ave. A, 360/793-1534, Memorial Day through September Sat.–Sun. noon–3 p.m., $1 adults, free for kids) is housed in a little clapboard structure. Pick up a brochure here that indexes Index’s historic buildings. Lee Pickett’s extraordinary collection of photographs from the early 1900s makes up the centerpiece of the museum. He was the official photographer for the Great Northern Railway.
Directly behind town rises Index Town Wall, a 400-foot granite cliff that’s a favorite of Seattle-area rock climbers. A steep path leads much of the way up the slope for those who aren’t climbers; ask at the Bush House for directions. Wave Trek (360/793-1705 or 800/543-7971, www.wavetrek.com ) is an Index-based company that teaches beginner-level climbing classes at the Index Wall.
For a short day hike near Index, try the one-mile one-way hike from Highway 2 just east of town to Heybrook Lookout. This Forest Service fire tower provides views of Mt. Index, Baring Mountain, and the Skykomish Valley . Slightly longer (2.2 miles one-way) but with little elevation gain is the Barclay Lake Trail, which follows the course of Barclay Creek to the lake with a nice view of Baring Mountain. To get to the trailhead, take Barclay Creek Road 6024 for four miles.
Index General Store (500 Ave. A, 360/793-0693, daily 8 a.m.–9 p.m. Mar.–Oct., daily 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Nov.–Feb.) is an old-time general store, selling everything from gardening supplies to espresso. Its home-baked goods are especially noteworthy.
Guests will enjoy the solitude at A Stone’s Throw Bed and Breakfast (360/793-0100, www.acabinonthesky.com , $90 d). There’s only one room available in this 1912 home, but you get the entire upper floor to yourself, including a bath and private hot tub; full breakfast is included.
A Rivers Edge Country Cottage (360/793-0392, $90 d) is a cottage with a kitchen, full breakfast, and spa in the courtyard. Kids are accepted.
Index has a popular Easter Sunday Pancake Breakfast, but the town’s big shindig comes on Memorial Day Weekend with ballgames, a goofy relay fun run, and a popular spaghetti feed. Of course, the town’s 4th of July has the all-American standards: a parade, crafts fair, live music, a rubber-duck derby, and fireworks echoing off the surrounding mountains.