From Cougar, Washington, drive east on Highway 503 (which becomes Forest Road 90) for 20 miles. Turn left on Road 9039 and follow this road for three quarters of a mile to the parking area located on the south bank of the river. Cross the bridge and continue for several miles past the Lewis River Campground to a turnout just before the road crosses Quartz Creek.
*Note: I will eventually add to this trail description. The goal is to link this trail with the Quartz Ridge trail to form one grand loop. This description here covers the first four miles.
The Quartz Creek Trail offers many great features, such as beautiful old growth trees, numerous waterfalls, and several crystal clear and beautiful creeks. The trail starts right along Quartz Creek with old growth Douglas Fir and Cedar, lulling you into the false idea that this trail will be a leisurely creek-bottom hike. As soon as the trail crosses the small, but beautiful Platinum Creek, the trail starts to climb in a series of switchbacks above the river. As the trail rises, it emerges from the old growth to a smaller stand of fir trees, planted within the last thirty years after a logging campaign (The logging is really the only detracting factor along this trip, as there will be another section like this just past Straight Creek, but the trip is still worth it). The trail soon leaves the logged section, but stays high above Quartz Creek. The forest here is very open, lacking much of the vibrant-green underbrush that grows along the creek.
Near the two-mile mark, the trail begins to descend to the absolutely beautiful Straight Creek. This very shallow (but very slippery!) creek runs crystal clear over a sheet of red bedrock before combining with Quartz Creek where the two march off a forty-foot cliff together. Views of this waterfall are hard to gain however. There is no bridge crossing Straight Creek, so hikers have two options, trudge through the creek which really shouldn’t be too difficult since it is in most places less than a foot deep, or with a great deal of care, hikers can scramble 100 yards over small rock outcroppings up the creek to a log jam where crossing the creek is relatively easy. Also for those who scramble up the creek lies a beautiful waterfall that isn’t readily apparent from the trail.
Beyond Straight Creek, the trail passes a great campsite before switch-backing to its perch high above the river. Like before, the trail emerges in a previously logged area, but soon drops into some beautiful old growth which accompanies the trail for the next two miles to Snagtooth Creek. This creek isn’t nearly as beautiful as Straight Creek, but nice nonetheless. There is not a bridge over this creek either, but plentiful boulders make the crossing easy in certain places. There is a nice campground just past this creek, as the trail climbs slightly. The beautiful old growth continues to the junction with the Quartz Butte Trail, a total of four miles from the trailhead.
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October is a great time for this hike, which is also an excellent choice on a rainy day. There is spectacular old growth near the beginning of the trail and also near the junction with Quartz Butte Trail. The variety of mushrooms is stunning and there are several glades where the turning leaves of vine maple blaze in the understory.