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Lower Big Quilcene River

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The Big Quilcene Trail to Marmot Pass is one of the most popular trails in the Olympic National Forest. What many hikers don't realize is that it was once twice as long. The road delivering them to the trailhead severed it in two. Good news, though, the entire trail still exists, the eastern 6 miles now known as the Lower Big Quilcene Trail. And although not in the Buckhorn Wilderness, it's still quite wild in places. Much of the route runs through a rugged canyon cloaked in primeval forest. And while past logging has eaten away at the periphery, plenty of ancient groves grace the way.

Starting at an elevation of 1400 feet, the Lower Big Quilcene River Trail climbs a mere 1200 feet in its entire 6.2-mile journey. Besides making for an easy trek, the low elevation is ideal for an early-season hike. But if you wait until early summer, you'll be rewarded with blooming rhododendrons. The trail passes by old camp and shelter sites, testaments to when there was no shorter option to Marmot Pass.

A good day-hike objective is Camp Jolley, 5 miles out. But hikers not intent on putting in that many miles can cut their hike in half by opting for Bark Shanty Camp. No matter how far you venture, the Lower Big Quilcene offers one of the best low-country valley hikes in the eastern Olympics.

The trail starts high above the river on an old roadbed. Walking is fast and easy on this well-groomed and well-graded path. After a slight descent in the first mile the trail enters a steep-walled canyon. After another mile the trail finally meets up with the roaring river, crossing it on a good bridge. Along the rushing waterway and through beautiful groves of towering old growth, reach Bark Shanty Camp at 2.6 miles, a great place to stare at the rapids or cut some z's under an ancient tree.

The trail continues, however, recrossing the river and heading farther up the valley. Just beyond the old wooden bridge is the western terminus of the Notch Pass Trail. Continue through a series of old rapidly recovering clear-cuts , and then at 4 miles enter the forest primeval once more. Keep your boots dry crossing a series of side creeks, and at 5 miles arrive at Camp Jolley. Take a break by bubbly Jolley Creek before happily making your way back to the trailhead.
Driving Directions:

From Quilcene drive US 101 south for 1.5 miles. (From Shelton follow US 101 north for 50.5 miles.) Turn right (west) onto Penny Creek Road. After 1.5 miles bear left onto Big Quilcene River Road (Forest Road 27). Drive 3 miles, coming to a junction. Continue right on FR 27 and after 0.4 mile turn left onto FR 27-080. Follow this narrow dirt road 0.5 mile to the trailhead. Privy available.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 38 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Lower Big Quilcene River — Mar 09, 2014 — Nutmeg
Day hike
Issues: Clogged drainage | Water on trail
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LBQ is snow free to Bark Shanty and well past. Pics are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/51278183@N05...
LBQ is snow free to Bark Shanty and well past. Pics are at http://www.flickr.com/[…]/.

There is negligible snow at about 4 miles, and copious meltwater graces the trail (mostly after Bark Shanty). Unbelievably, it did not rain on our hike today. That’s right – nary a drop from the sky, though many glistened from every green thing dripping along the trail. I figure if I ever go crazy, I’ll come stay here. The walls are well-padded with moss, and it’s so very lovely. I saw 2 naiads, 17 dryads, and countless miscellaneous fairies, several of whom our little dog chased (they got away). This trail is magical!

The road is in great shape. I moved some limbs that had fallen across the gravel section between paving, and our low-rider 2WD made it no problem. No snow, not even potholes to speak of (how is this an adventure?!?). Privy at trailhead had no TP when we were there, but is unlocked. NW Forest Pass required.

Thanks to USFS and Grey Wolf Trail Crew, the trail is in amazing shape to Bark Shanty camp at 2.5 miles, including INCREDIBLE work the first mile plus to clear near-growing saplings and open the corridor to spring sun – thank you!!! Great to see the re-route put in by WTA just past Bark Shanty is in great shape, though after it rejoins the old trail, God knows how long until the river requires another re-route. There is some water on the trail and drainage work is needed, but our boots were happy to get a little wet and muddy.

We hiked a glorious 4.5 miles before turning around, having had the ENTIRE trail to ourselves. We encountered 2 hikers coming in about a mile from the TH. The river is RAGING, and every streamlet gushing, little waterfalls abound around every turn. No flowers yet, but some of the rhodies are budding! Happy Daylight Savings Day!!! (that’s a thing, right?)
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Lower Big Quilcene River — Mar 01, 2014 — tpb3jd
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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If you have a gps or a cellphone app like MotionX that can use Lat/Lon, my photo should direct you ...
 If you have a gps or a cellphone app like MotionX that can use Lat/Lon, my photo should direct you right to the trailhead. I went with my four legged hiking partner at the start of March. There was still snow on the ground and flurries in the air. I liked that; he didn't. This is a great trail for photographers. Multiple waterfalls abound; bring your tripod for some long exposures and make sure to take your shots down a full step. I got a late start and made it as far as Bear Shanty Shelter (5.8 m, roundtrip); but appreciated the hard work of the WTA in the new bridges. On my way back, fog rolled in off the Hood Canal, and it was really stunningly beautiful, in a "Sleepy Hollow" sort of way. In terms of crowds, I saw three other groups, two with dogs. While one group didn't have their dog, a teacup poodle, on the leash, it was a well behaved gentleman, so it gets a pass. This is a good trail for dogs. There's a lot of interesting nooks and crannies for them. Mine found a bear track, probably his first, and bristled and was beside himself. All in all a good day. Thanks, National Forest Service.
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Lower Big Quilcene River — Feb 21, 2014 — Bob and Barb
Day hike
Issues: Water on trail | Snow on trail
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When we arrived at the TH at noon, there were 3 hikers leaving. There was a small amount of snow on ...
When we arrived at the TH at noon, there were 3 hikers leaving. There was a small amount of snow on the trail and it increased to 2-3 inches by the time we reached Bark Shanty and its beautiful old growth trees! This is a beautiful trail with its moss and lichen covered rocks, 3 beautiful bridges, ferns, seasonal falls along the trail, and old growth trees. We hardly felt the 500 ft elevation gain. One other hiker passed us at the second bridge. We saw him again at the third bridge after our lunch and he had hiked the Notch Pass Trail. There was some snow on the road to the TH, but this day it was easily driven by any vehicle.
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Lower Big Quilcene River — Jan 05, 2014 — Mountainman
Day hike
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To Bark Shanty Shelter. Nice day hike for my family of four and our 12 year old Lab. Sunday was a co...
To Bark Shanty Shelter. Nice day hike for my family of four and our 12 year old Lab. Sunday was a cold day mid 30's, but no snow. This trail is well maintained with 3 new bridges. We hiked in 2.5 miles to Bark Shanty Shelter (the first camp site) before we turned around. There were several hikers out and some trail runners also. We talked with one person who caught a ride to the upper Big Quilcene River trail head and then walked down to the lower Big Quilcene River trail head. We had never been on this trail before and thought it looked like a good adventure.

Our thought as we walked was on how easy of a hike this was. Not sure if it gets tougher after Bark Shanty Shelter, but if you were looking for a nice overnight trip with young children this would be perfect. Camp is along the river between two nice bridges. An already established camp fire pit. Plenty of flat area to pitch a tent. A nice hill for the kids to explore, and 4 more miles of trail to walk and see. No actual Shelter there.

This trail does not follow the river as one might think. It is a stroll through the woods. It crosses two creeks before getting to the river at Bark Shanty Shelter. Again we did not continue past this point.

This trail is also used by mountain bikes and Motor Cycles, so stay alert to them. Allot of dogs on the trail, all seemed very nice and under voice control, did not see to many leashes. I carry a leash for my dog but at 12 years old she is not going far fast. The hike back down it was my lab that we had to keep stopping and waiting for. She made it tail wagging the whole way. Not sure how many more hikes she has with us, but she always likes getting out on the trail.
  
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Lower Big Quilcene River — Jan 02, 2014 — Emily's Dad
Day hike
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Today was such a beautiful day. The weather called for rain but never let that deter, go prepared. N...
Today was such a beautiful day. The weather called for rain but never let that deter, go prepared. No rain and the trail was perfect. I can't account for much of the trail though. We made it an hour in and then turned around. There were 2 tiny creeks that we got to walk through. The boys loved it. It took a while to get them moving again. This trail was very well taken care of.
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Big Quilcene River bob & alex.jpg
Big Quilcene River. Photo by Bob and Alex.
WTA worked here!
2010, 2011, 2012
Location
Lower Big Quilcene River (#833)
Olympics -- East
Olympic National Forest - Hood Canal Ranger District
Statistics
Roundtrip 10.0 miles
Elevation Gain 800 ft
Highest Point 2000 ft
Features
Rivers
Old growth
Wildflowers/Meadows
Established campsites
User info
May encounter pack animals
May encounter mountains bikes
Northwest Forest Pass required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Tyler Peak No. 136
Custom Correct Buckhorn Wilderness

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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Red MarkerLower Big Quilcene River
47.78355 -122.964916667
  • BCRT 2011
  • BCRT 2010
  • Trail Work 2012
  • Trail Work 2011
  • Trail Work 2010
(47.7835, -122.9649) Open in new window
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