The Lower Big Quilcene Trail begins just outside the Buckhorn Wilderness and follows the lower Big Quilcene River along a mostly non-technical tread for approximately 6.5 miles. The moss-lined route starts on an old roadbed through younger forest and then winds past large old-growth cedars. In spring and summer, blooming rhododendrons add vibrant color to your journey. This trail is also a great choice during the fall and winter months because the trees provide shelter from precipitation.
At 2.7 miles from the trailhead, you’ll encounter the first established campsite, Bark Shanty. It is a large, level camping area nestled in a grove of big trees, right on the banks of the Big Quilcene River, with plenty of room for at least half-dozen tents.
Immediately after Bark Shanty you cross the Quilcene on a sturdy bridge, and then intersect the clearly marked Notch Pass trail at 2.8 miles. There are some fun loop opportunities here, going up and over Notch Pass to get back to the trailhead - look at a map for specifics! But for this hike, continue on the Lower Big Quilcene trail, which is now slightly more rooty and technical. The next couple miles to Camp Jolly have a wilder feel, as your feet carry you closer to the Buckhorn Wilderness.
At 5.1 miles, reach the signed Camp Jolly. Years ago you had to ford Jolly Creek in order to access the camp. These days, the camp has been moved to the east side of Jolly Creek, so no creek crossing is necessary to reach camp. More importantly, there is now a sturdy log bridge across Jolly Creek, so even if you do continue past the camp, your feet should stay dry!
The last 1.5 miles from Jolly Creek to trail’s end is narrower and sees a bit less traffic than the rest of the trail. Enjoy the lush forest before the Lower Big Quilcene trail ends somewhat anticlimactically at FS Road 2750, which is also the trailhead for Upper Big Quilcene trail (and happens to have a convenient pit toilet). It is possible to extend your hike even further, by taking the Upper Big Quilcene trail towards Marmot Pass and the headwaters of the Big Quilcene. For most people, however, the end of the Lower Big Quilcene trail marks their turnaround point on this 13-mile round-trip outing.
WTA Pro Tip: If you’re taking the Edmonds/Kingston ferry, plan on a post-hike stop at J’Aime Les Crepes. We recommend putting your car in line at the Kingston ferry terminal, and then walking over to J’Aime Les Crepe while you wait for the next ferry. Give yourself plenty of time, as the crepes are made-to-order and can take a little while to prepare.