Marmot Pass - Big Quilcene Trail, Upper Big Quilcene Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington

Marmot Pass - Big Quilcene Trail - 9.8 miles

Upper Big Quilcene Trailhead

Looking down on Marmot Pass

Looking down on Marmot Pass

Round-Trip Length: 9.8 miles
Start-End Elevation: 2,520' - 5,950' (max elevation 5,950' at Marmot Pass)
Elevation Change: +3,430' net elevation change (+3,450 total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Marmot Pass - Big Quilcene Trail - 9.8 Miles Round-Trip

Marmot Pass (5,950') is located in the Buckhorn Wilderness on the east side of the Olympic Peninsula. It spans a small saddle on the southwest flank of Buckhorn Mountain (6,956'), just east of the Olympic National Park boundary.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Marmot Pass can be reached by three separate routes, however only the Big Quilcene Trail offers a truly manageable day hike:

The Big Quilcene Trail climbs steadily through a young, dense Douglas fir forest to the Upper Big Quilcene River. It heads upstream through intervals of downfall until switchbacking up the north bank (1.35 miles : 3,190') and crossing a large cascade (1.5 miles : 3,250') on its way back to the river at Shelter Rock Camp (2.3 miles : 3,835'). 

Shelter Rock Camp is an established set of backcountry campsites located just off trail with convenient river access. The trail continues past Shelter Rock Camp and moves away from the river - starting a more aggressive ascent as it pushes towards Marmot Pass.

Breaks now appear in the forest canopy as views of Warrior Peak emerge (3.0 miles : 4,505'). Footing becomes noticeably rockier as the forest thins to reveal flower-laden hillsides.

For the next mile, the distant sounds of the Big Quilcene River become a footnote to the impressive views of Warrior Peak and the visible jagged spires of Buckhorn Mountain which rises to the north (4.0 miles : 5,315').

The trail continues west and reaches Mystery Camp (4.3 miles : 5,380') the last viable stand of tree cover with accessible water. Mystery Camp is comprised of a series of suitable backcountry campsites and unless there are plans to camp on the pass or beyond - this is the last call for backcountry campsites. 

Past Mystery Camp, the trail leads past a natural spring and heads straight into an impressive rock wall before turning southwest and switch backing up a steep granite rock bowl.

The rock bowl lets out into a wide, dry basin with a clear trail up to Marmot Pass (4.9 miles : 5,950'), a small saddle on the south flank of Buckhorn Mountain (6,956').

Continue above Marmot Pass (5.2 miles : 6,260') for unending views of the snowcapped Needles, Mount Deception, Mount Clark, Mount Walkinshaw, Mount Mystery and Mount Fricaba.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 49.665 W123 02.479 — 0.0 miles: Upper Big Quilcene Trailhead - 2,520'
  • N47 49.740 W123 03.110 — 0.5 miles: Steadily ascending through forest - 2,770'
  • N47 49.625 W123 04.223 — 1.35 miles: Trail leaves river - begin switchbacks - 3,190'
  • N47 49.650 W123 04.280 — 1.50 miles: Scenic cascade flows into the river - 3,250'
  • N47 49.510 W123 05.276 — 2.30 miles: Shelter Rock Camp - begin steady ascent - 3,835'
  • N47 49.326 W123 06.131 — 3.00 miles: View of Warrior Peak emerge - 4,505'
  • N47 49.231 W123 06.844 — 3.60 miles: Trail becomes noticeably rockier - 4,955'
  • N47 49.067 W123 07.341 — 4.00 miles: Forest thins as treeline approaches - 5,315'
  • N47 49.035 W123 07.427 — 4.30 miles: Mystery Camp - natural spring - 5,380'
  • N47 49.082 W123 08.003 — 4.90 miles: Marmot Pass - 5,950'
  • N47 48.828 W123 08.077 — 5.20 miles: Viewpoint Above Marmot Pass - 6,260'

Worth Noting

  • A valid national recreation pass is required for parking, day-use and trailhead access. Display this pass on your windshield upon parking.
  • Marmot Pass is located in the Buckhorn Wilderness, managed by the Olympic National Forest Service. The National Park Service does not have jurisditicon over this area.
  • The road to the Upper Big Quilcene Trailhead is technically wide enough for one vehicle only - drive slowly to avoid accidents.
  • Marmot Pass is one of the most popular destinations in the Olympic Peninsula. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.

Camping and Backpacking Information

Backpacking is allowed along the Upper Big Quilcene Trail and within the Marmot Pass area.

Self-registration is available onsite at the Upper Big Quilcene Trailhead. It's always recommended to call the Quilcene Forest Service Ranger Station before your trip for current conditions and information. There are two main waterside areas for backcountry camping: Shelter Rock Camp and Mystery Camp

There are also some nice campsites between Mystery Camp and Marmot Pass, however water acquisition is more difficult in these areas.

Fishing Information

Fishing is permitted on the Big Quilcene River - the National Forest abides by all Washington State Fishing regulations. License required.

Rules and Regulations

This is a Fee Area - a valid National Recreation Pass is required to park / access the Upper Big Quilcene Trailhead - contact the Forest Service for more information (360.765.2200).

The following is not permitted:

  • Groups consisting of more than 12 persons and/or 8 head of livestock.
  • Starting and/or maintaining open fires, such as camp, cooking and warming fires above 3,500'.
  • Gathering wood for starting and/or maintaining open fires or stoves above 3,500'.
  • Tethering of livestock to trees and/or other vegetation, except for incidental use not to exceed 30 minutes.
  • Possessing and/or transporting unprocessed vegetative matter such as hay, straw, grass or grain. The use of pelletized or certified weed-free feed is required in all National Forests in the Pacific Northwest. This helps prevent the introduction and spread of invasive plants.
  • Caching or leaving equipment, personal property or supplies unattended for a period in excess of 24 hours.
  • Possessing or using any form of wheeled vehicle for the purpose of transportation of such things as people, equipment, personal property, supplies and game.
  • Possessing or using a motor vehicle, motorboat, motorized equipment, hang glider or bicycle.

Directions to Trailhead

From Quilcene, travel 1 mile south on US Highway 101 to Penny Creek Road. Take a right. Follow Penny Creek Road staying left at the “Y” (mile 1.4) to the Forest Service boundary and paved Forest Service Road 27.

Continue on Forest Service Road 27 another 9.3 miles to the intersection with Forest Service Road 2750. Travel on Forest Service Road 2750 for 4.5 miles to the well marked trailhead. A vault toilet is located at the trailhead.

Contact Information

Olympic National Forest

Supervisor's Office
1835 Black Lk Blvd SW
Olympia, WA 98512
Hours: 8-4:30, M-F

Hood Canal Ranger District - Quilcene

295142 Highway 101 S.
PO Box 280
Quilcene, WA 98376

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