Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Quartz Creek Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Quartz Creek Falls on Quartz Creek (bobcat)
First (and only) footbridge, Quartz Creek Trail (bobcat)
Quartz Creek, near the trailhead (bobcat)
Air compressor, Plamondon Prospect, Quartz Creek (bobcat)
Big tree bench on the Quartz Creek Trail (bobcat)
The Quartz Creek Trail #5 as far as Quartz Creek Camp (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Upper Lewis River TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End Point: Quartz Creek Camp
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 9.2 miles round-trip
  • Elevation gain: 2010 feet
  • High Point: 2,325 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Seasons: Mid-spring into Fall
  • Family Friendly: Yes, as far as Straight Creek
  • Backpackable: Yes
  • Crowded: No

Contents

Description

The hike up Quartz Creek is one of the premier old growth hikes in the Portland/Vancouver neighborhood, and there are frequent views of the creek itself as well as crossings of tributaries that flow over a colorful bedrock of tuff. From the Upper Lewis River Trailhead, the Quartz Creek Trail #5 runs 10 ¼ miles to meet the Gifford Pinchot’s Boundary Trail. It encounters three other trails on the way: Quartz Creek Butte Trail #5B, Snagtooth Trail #4, and French Creek Trail #5C. This description takes you into the Dark Divide Roadless Area and as far as Quartz Creek Camp, before which you will need to make three creek crossings (Platinum, Straight, and Snagtooth Creeks) that can be challenging in times of high water. Bring watershoes and poles to help you across.

The Quartz Creek Trail had suffered accumulated storm damage, especially in 2010, with many huge trees coming down on the sections after Straight Creek. Washington Trails Association crews, followed by a U.S. Forest Service team from the Mt. Adams Ranger District, put in a large amount of time and effort over three years, and the trail reopened all the way to the Boundary Trail in the summer of 2014.

The Quartz Creek Trail #5 begins 25 yards down the road from the trailhead in the direction of the Quartz Creek Bridge on FR 90. It is a wide trail here that follows an old mining road, and it immediately enters a tall old-growth forest of western red-cedar, Douglas-fir, and western hemlock. Vanilla leaf and lady fern carpet the forest floor. Pass the junction with the trail leading to the Lewis River Horse Camp and cross a wide but aging footbridge. Quartz Creek flows quietly to your right. After the trail crosses a small footbridge, it approaches Quartz Creek again among more large conifers. Where the trail splits (The original road bed has been completely destroyed here), keep left and switchback up a slippery slope to hike across a slide area. The rock in this whole area consists of a colorful welded tuff with varying degrees of hardness. Descend to creek level and pass a campsite shaded by large cedars. Next, head up the slope, and see where the remains of the old mining road break off to the left. Follow this a short way to “discover” the rusting remains of an air compressor scattered about: this was part of the Plamondon Prospect, a Depression era claim that was worked until about 1950. The miners were looking for silver and gold-bearing chalcedonic quartz embedded in the tuff. There’s a very shallow adit on Quartz Creek just north of the confluence with Platinum Creek.

Drop down a slope towards the collapsed Platinum Creek Footbridge. A detour trail leads off the main trail before it reaches the structure. This will take you to an easy summer rock hop over Platinum Creek as it flows down a bedrock of iron-stained tuff; in spring, this could be a very brief ford. The Quartz Creek Trail continues by switchbacking up the slope and making a traverse along the edge of a young plantation. Soon, however, you’ll be back in quiet, older forest with a sparse carpet of Oregon grape. Keep rising gradually before making a long, gentle descent in a forest of hemlock and Douglas-fir with a few fire-scarred giants. Descend more steeply and make two switchbacks on a deer fern slope as Straight Creek comes into view (The three-tiered slide falls on Straight Creek is visible through the trees from the first switchback).

At low water, you can gingerly complete the Straight Creek Crossing and keep your feet dry. Most of the year, it’s a ford or a find-your-own way to cross. Another option is the see if there logjam upstream affords a viable crossing: this will involve walking along large downed trees and perhaps a shinny across a narrower log. Upstream, you can spot Straight Creek Falls, a 50-foot drop in three cascades down the colorful tuff. Once on the other bank, take the trail on your right that leads down to a campsite and then the confluence of Straight and Quartz Creeks. You’ll have to recross Straight Creek to clamber out on the pinkish rocks to get a view of Lower Quartz Creek Falls and its beautiful, expansive plunge pool: this is not possible at times of high water. A more satisfying sight is Quartz Creek Falls, which you can reach by heading upstream next to the creek. These falls slide over a 25-foot drop and are quite colorful at low water, when the bright bedrock is exposed. They are an impressive raging force in the spring: at that time, you’ll have to wade out in the freezing water to get a good view. There’s a very inviting swimming hole below the falls.

Return to the main trail and head up. Pass a trail sign that declares it’s two miles to Snagtooth Creek, the next crossing. Make two switchbacks up to a mature Douglas-fir plantation. The trail traverses and then drops to a grove of big trees before rising to a vine maple thicket among large Douglas-firs. Cross a mossy talus slope and descend to a lovely bench of old growth trees. Wend through this lush cathedral of trees and descend again to get lose to Quartz Creek’s narrow gorge. Keep winding through the old growth and cross a mossy footbridge over a trickling creek. Hike up the slope and then drop steeply to boulder, alder-shaded Snagtooth Creek. Again, the crossing here is easy at low water, but becomes more of a chore when the creeks are rushing. If you want to tag a 300-foot waterfall, Snagtooth Falls is about a mile upstream via an extremely brushy bushwhack.

On the opposite bank, the trail veers left and heads up parallel to the creek, passing a campsite. Pass another campsite protected by a huge Douglas-fir and make two short switchbacks up. Soon find yourself above Quartz Creek, which is now constricted in a narrow defile. Make a level traverse, drop into a mossy gully, and then undulate along among more impressive old growth to the Quartz Creek-Quartz Creek Butte Trail Junction (Here signed as its former name, the Quartz Creek Ridge Trail #5B).

Go right on this trail and drop about 2/10 of a mile to the expansive Quartz Creek Camp. Head upstream about 15 yards and you can make use of a large fallen Douglas-fir to cross the creek with dry feet. The official crossing is about 80 yards upstream from the camp and leads to the Quartz Creek Butte Trail, which switchbacks steeply up the densely forested slope. Find a spot along the creek here to picnic and admire the quiet old growth. The creek itself runs serenely, its rounded gray boulders contrasting with the tannin-stained waters as they flow over pale bedrock.

After the Quartz Creek-Quartz Creek Butte Trail Junction, the Quartz Creek Trail begins an up and down ascent with some very steep sections. It eventually reaches the Boundary Trail #1 just over six miles from the junction.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

Maps

  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Lone Butte, WA #365
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument & Administrative Area
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • Adventure Maps: Hood River, Oregon, Trail Map
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Hiking Washington’s Goat Rocks Country by Fred Barstad
  • Best Old-growth Forest Hikes: Washington & Oregon Cascades by John & Diane Cissel
  • Off the Beaten Trail by Matt Reeder
  • One Night Wilderness: Portland by Douglas Lorain
  • Day Hiking: South Cascades by Dan A. Nelson & Alan L. Bauer
  • Washington Hiking by Scott Leonard
  • Pacific Northwest Hiking by Scott Leonard & Sean Patrick Hill
  • Exploring Washington’s Wild Areas by Marge & Ted Mueller
  • Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient Forests of Western Washington by the Dittmar Family for the Wilderness Society
  • Hiking the Gifford Pinchot Backcountry by the Columbia Group Sierra Club

More Links


Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.