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Outdoor adventures, mostly gravel rides, but not always

Lower Big Quilcene & Notch Pass

A mixed surface trail run through the Olympics

By the Numbers

Sport
Hiking
Shape
Loop
Profile
Pyramid
Distance
15mi
Elevation
2900ft
Time
3h15m
Nutrition
Bring what you need to eat, water is plentiful
Logistics
Park at the Lower Big Quilcene Trail #833 trailhead and go clockwise stitching together trails & forest service roads
External
Strava | Komoot

We wanted a bit of an adventure run without a lot of running through snow and this route was nearly perfect.

We started our run at the Lower Big Quilcene Trail #833 trail head which was easily accessible with no snow at all on the road. The plan was to run to the junction of Lower Big Quilcene and Notch Pass trails, possibly run a bit down the LBQ trail to add a few miles, and then continue on a loop using the Notch Pass trail and a few forest service roads.

On many of our rides through the Olympics I’d seen the Notch Pass signs but had never been on the trail so I was excited about scouting it, and especially so in winter.

One of the numerous bridges crossing back and forth over the Quilcene River
One of the numerous bridges crossing back and forth over the Quilcene River

We decided after a few miles, expecting to go a little slower due to snow at the higher elevations, to skip the LBQ trail section and head straight to Notch Pass. I like fluid planning.

So we run over the bridge in the above photo and keep going. At some point I have the feeling we’ve gone to far and finally break out the phone to realize we’d missed the turn to Notch Pass and had in fact run almost exactly the route we had originally planned. Wrong turn #1.

Trail marker to Notch Pass
Trail marker to Notch Pass

Backtracking we finally see the signage for Notch Pass which is not easily visible coming from the parking lot even though it’s a very noticeable sign coming back from the LBQ trail. Anyway, we make the turn onto Notch Pass – a very lovely trail.

Mt Townsend seen while crossing FS 27
Mt Townsend seen while crossing FS 27
Crossing the very snowy FS 27-100
Crossing the very snowy FS 27-100

The Notch Pass trail climbs steadily through the woods and along a number of active creeks while crossing FS 27 and it’s smaller side roads. The trail itself was in great condition and while there was some snow on the ground it was easily navigated.

The not so obvious trail to Notch Pass from FS 2700-010
The not so obvious trail to Notch Pass from FS 2700-010

After running the length of the Notch Pass trail we came to the junction with FS 2700-010, our route back to 27 and finally the parking lot. I told Ryan we needed to “go to the right” as we came off the trail, then crossed the road, sat down facing the trail, ate a bit, got up and started running “right”, which was of course really left, and the wrong direction.

I’m not really sure what I was thinking, only that I was getting tired and made a dumb mistake. Anyway, after over a mile of running the wrong direction it didn’t feel right to I took out the phone again and sure enough, wrong turn #2.

FS 2700-010
FS 2700-010

At this point I was quite tired and was forced to run/walk the last three miles while Ryan off like an antelope!

Finally made it back to the truck and am super happy with the experience. We’re both looking forward to a reunion with a better understanding of the route. Highly recommend it, especially in the winter because it’s lower elevation means less snow but just enough to keep the cars away.

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