Quartz Mountain Lookout Loop

The Quartz Mountain Lookout Loop offers perhaps the best views of any trail in the Mount Spokane Nordic Ski area. On excellently-groomed trails, the 5.5-mile loop winds through pine and fir forest to the base of Quartz Mountain. Then it’s either skiing through virgin snow or snowshoeing up to the former fire lookout tower and its sweeping 360-degree views.
  • Selkirk Mountains
3.2 out of 5
More Difficult (last bit is uphill and not groomed)
5.4 miles
1:41 hours moving time (XC Skiing)
Elevation Gain
731 feet
High Point
5,197 feet (Quartz Mountain)
Low Point
4,559 feet (Junction #1)
  • Mountain
  • Structure
  • Outing Type
  • Daytrip
  • Trail Type
  • Lollipop
  • Trailbed
    Groomed except for the Quartz Mountain stretch
  • At Selkirk Lodge
  • Camping
    • There are campgrounds in the state park. There are also two warming huts along the trail, Selkirk Lodge and Nova Hut. The lookout tower is for rent during summer months.
    • Excellent
  • Washington Parks & Recreation
  • Status
  • State Park
  • Maps
  • Mount Spokane
  • Fees & Permits
  • None required
  • (Snow Park and Special Groomed permits are required for parking during winter months; at other times a Discovery pass is required)
    Open To
  • Skiers
  • (dogs are not allowed on groomed trails)
  • Take I-90 exit #287 and head north on Argonne Road for 8.5 miles (Argonne will turn into Bruce Road). At the roundabout turn right onto WA-206 Mount Spokane Park Drive and follow it to the trailhead (about 16 miles). Alternatively, take the I-90 Sullivan exit and head north via Sullivan, Wellesley, Progress and Forker to WA-206.
  • Season
    January 14, 2017

    To start out this hike on a trail not already discussed elsewhere on this blog, take Bear Grass (the second from the left above Selkirk Lodge). This is rated moderate on account of two 180-degree hairpin curves on the far side that look more intimidating than they are. Bear Grass emerges onto Junction #1 and is succeeded straight across by Blue Jay, which ascends gradually, grosses the wider Alpine trail and winds its way through open forest towards Junction #2. At that junction take the Eagle Crest trail (second from right), which is rated difficult as there are lots of switchbacks and every curve is very steep.

    That effort is rewarded, however, with filtered views to the right, and, once the trail turns eastward, Mount Spokane. At the top of the knoll, sweeping views open up to the south and west. Then it’s downhill, again using sweeping switchbacks, to Nova Hut. Just before the hut take a left onto Lodgepole, then an immediate right onto Lookout. About a hundred yards downhill, Shady Way veers off to the left, but stay on Lookout for a bit longer. A couple hundred yards later the groomed trails leans to the right and becomes Abner’s Way. Continue uphill on Lookout, which may or may not be groomed.

    The uphill to the lookout tower is pretty tedious when it isn’t groomed so you may want to check the grooming report and if it isn’t groomed pack your snowshoes. When I was up there the trail was not groomed, the poles virtually disappeared in the loose 3-to-4-foot deep snow and with temperatures far below freezing the frosted snow was slick and made for a difficult ascent. Much better with snowshoes!

    It’s about a mile to the top. The trail is not terribly steep, more of a gradual incline, leading past old quarries and through pretty forests. The views up top are nothing short of breathtaking!

    Once you’ve taken in the views, retrace your steps, which goes a whole lot easier going downhill on skis. Once you’re back at Nova Hut, follow the Lodgepole trail downhill for just a short bit, then turn sharply right at Junction #3 to turn this into a lollipop loop (the stick being the Quartz Mountain piece). This is an unnamed connector trail leading down to junction #4, where you’ll be taking a sharp left and follow the Hemlock Trail on a fun downhill run. Eventually the trail levels off, then starts climbing again towards Junction #2. Just before that junction you get to a T-intersection. To the right is a great downhill slope to the Linder Ridge trail (this is not marked on the Nordic Trail map; it is the route I took), while a left will get you to Junction #2. Here take a right and follow Sam’s Swoop, which ebbs and flows and then declines towards Junction #1. Any of the trails will return to the Selkirk Lodge from Junction #1.

    Alternate Routes

    • Refer to the trail map for alternative routes; there are miles and miles of groomed trails!

    Things to Consider

      Not so great

        Bear Grass Trail
        Blue Jay Trail
        Junction #2
        Eagle Crest Trail
        View from Eagle Crest Trail
        More views from Eagle Crest
        Nova Hut
        Quartz Mountain quarry
        Quartz Mountain Trail. Making tracks…
        Quartz Mountain lookout tower
        View southwest from Quartz Mountain
        The views from the lookout are grandiose
        Zoomed in on southwestern view
        Quartz lookout tower boarded up during the winter
        View northwest
        Looking down from tower
        Snow-blanketed tree on Quartz Mountain
        Downhill is more fun even if it’s almost virgin snow!
        Hemlock Trail
        Linder Ridge Trail