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||>|| Quartz Lake Loop Trail
Includes Quartz Lake, Middle Quartz Lake, Lower Quartz Lake
Trailhead: Bowman Lake Parking Lot
Distance: 12.8 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 1,475 vertical feet
Elevation Loss: 1,105 vertical feet (See trail map at bottom of page)
The Quartz Lake Loop Trail in Glacier National Park is one of two of the only true day hike "loops" in Glacier National Park. Located in the North Fork Area of Glacier National Park near Bowman Lake, the Quartz Lake Loop Trail is among several pleasant Glacier Park hikes in the Bowman Lake Area. This enjoyable Glacier Park hike includes three lakes: Quartz Lake, Middle Quartz Lake and Lower Quartz Lake, with Quartz Lake being by far the most scenic. Back country campgrounds are located at the foot of Quartz Lake and at the foot of Lower Quartz Lake if you are interested in turning this day hike into an overnight backpacking experience. The total elevation gain and loss is about 2,600 vertical feet, so make sure you're in reasonable shape before attempting this Glacier Park hiking adventure.
Finding The Trailhead
The trailhead to the Quartz Lakes Loop Trail is located near the Bowman Lake Campground. To get to Bowman Lake you must first drive 25 miles along the west side of Glacier National Park to the Polebridge Ranger Station.
To reach the Polebridge Ranger Station, take a right at Apgar Village and keep going past the junction for the Fish Creek Campground. This nicely paved road, known as the Camas Road, lasts about 11 miles. Once you cross the North Fork of the Flathead River, you will then take another right onto the mostly unpaved Outside North Fork Road for about 14 miles. Just about a half mile beyond the historic Polebridge Mercantile is the Polebridge Ranger Station, which is the northwest entrance to Glacier National Park.
Once you enter Glacier National Park at the Polebridge Ranger Station, in about 0.3 miles you will see the Bowman Lake Road junction. Take a right and drive six miles up the rough gravel road as it climbs in elevation while working its way to Bowman Lake. The actual trailhead to the Quartz Lakes Loop Trail is located on the south end of the main beach of Bowman Lake, just beyond the parking area. The name of the trail that you begin on is called the West Lakes Trail. There are signs showing you exactly where to go once you park at the backcountry parking lot that's next to the Bowman Lake Campground.
The Hike Around the Quartz Lake Loop Trail...
This 12.8 mile Glacier Park hike (round trip) is best hiked in a clockwise direction, where you will first visit the main Quartz Lake, then the other two lakes as the trail works its way to the west down Quartz Creek. Not only is this direction (clockwise) the most scenic, but it is by far the easiest direction to take with regard to vertical gain and loss.
Bowman Creek (mile 0.0)
To begin your Glacier Park hike around the Quartz Lake Loop Trail, you will cross a large foot bridge that crosses Bowman Creek at the foot of Bowman Lake. The name of this trail is "West Lakes Trail" which will then follow the Bowman Lake shore for about a half mile. The view of Bowman Lake and the distance mountains of the Livingston Range along this section of this Glacier Park trail is very stunning.
This bridge that is crossing Bowman Creek at the outlet of Bowman Lake marks the beginning of your hike around the Quartz Lake Loop Trail in Glacier National Park.
Quartz Lakes Trail Junction (mile 0.4)
As you hike along the West Lakes Trail, in about one half mile you will reach the Quartz Lakes Trail junction. This is where the actual "loop" begins and ends. To take our recommended clockwise direction, stay left towards Quartz Lake. If you take a right, you will be heading to Lower Quartz Lake, which we feel is the wrong direction for those who are interested in hiking the entire loop.
As you stay left on the Quartz Lake Loop Trail, this Glacier Park hike begins to steepen quite a bit as the trail works its way up a rather high ridge (Quartz Ridge) through a beautifully forested area. You will gain nearly 1,500 vertical feet in the next 4 miles.
Quartz Ridge will then give way to what is known as Cerulean Ridge during the last mile of your ascent. Once the trail reaches the top of this high ridge, the trail then begins to take you downhill about 950 vertical feet to the foot of Quartz Lake. Along this descent, you will hike through the remnants of the 1988 North Fork Fire, where young lodgepole pine trees are beginning to make a solid stand. On your way down the south side of the ridge, as the trail descends to Quartz Lake, you will be able to see portions all three of the Quartz Lakes above the young lodgepole pines.
The Quartz Lake Loop Trail works its way up Quartz Ridge and Cerulean Ridge approximately 1,500 vertical feet in less than 4 miles. Once you get to the top of the ridge, you can see a portion of all three lakes below you to the south (see below).
This is the view of the three lakes from the top of Cerulean Ridge. Once you reach this ridge top, the Quartz Lake Loop Trail then descends approximately 950 vertical feet to the foot of Quartz Lake.
Quartz Lake and Quartz Lake Campground (mile 6.2)
From the foot of Quartz Lake in Glacier National Park, this vantage point provides a great view of several peaks of the remote Livingston Range, such as Logging Mountain (right) and Vulture Peak (left). This beach in the photo above is a great place to enjoy a nice lunch while you take in the view.
Once the trail descends nearly 950 vertical feet during your Glacier National Park hiking adventure, you will find yourself at the foot of Quartz Lake. The view of remote peaks of the Livingston Range that are looming at the head of this long lake are stunning, and will prompt you to get your camera out. Some of the more prominent peaks are Logging Mountain, Vulture Peak and Cerulean Ridge. Vulture Peak is a major peak within the Livingston Range that is extremely remote and seldom visited or climbed. This huge peak is home to two glaciers, and can be seen from the Granite Park Chalet and Highline Trail from the east. The beach at the foot of Quartz Lake is a great place to rest and enjoy a lunch as you take in the beauty of this amazing landscape...
Next to the foot of Quartz Lake is the Quartz Lake Campground. This back country campground is for those hikers who chose to make the Quartz Lake Loop Trail an overnight, multi-day experience.
At the foot of Quartz Lake is Quartz Lake Campground. This backcountry campground is for those hikers who prefer to make this 12.8 mile Glacier Park hike an overnight, multi-day experience.
As you continue your Glacier Park hiking adventure along the Quartz Lake Loop Trail, in less than a sixth of a mile you will hike by the Quartz Lake Patrol Cabin that rests on the shore of Quartz Lake. There is a short spur trail that takes you to this darling little cabin that was built in 1930. And shortly beyond the patrol cabin along the main trail you will cross the Quartz Lake outlet stream on a well built foot bridge.
Just beyond the Quartz Lake Campground in Glacier National Park is the Quartz Lake Patrol Cabin that was built in 1930, and a foot bridge that crosses the outlet stream of Quartz Lake.
Middle Quartz Lake (mile 6.5)
The Quartz Lake Loop Trail skirts along the south shore of Middle Quartz Lake. Notice Cerulean Ridge in the above photo... this is the ridge you hiked up and over earlier in the day from Bowman Lake.
Once you're beyond the foot bridge,the Quartz Lake Loop Trail then works its way along the south shore of Middle Quartz Lake.
Middle Quartz Lake is much smaller and shallower than Quartz Lake, and less picturesque as well....but the forest that you hike through along this section of the trail is quite nice and enjoyable.
Along the hike between Middle Quartz Lake and Lower Quartz Lake, we enjoyed a Franklin's Grouse that was really trying to impress the lady grouse as this was their mating season (October). Another name for Franklin's Grouse is Spruce Grouse.
Lower Quartz Lake and Lower Quartz Lake Campground (mile 9.3)
After about a mile along this section of the Quartz Lake Loop Trail in Glacier National Park, the trail will then skirt along the east shore of Lower Quartz Lake. After following the east shore of Lower Quartz Lake for approximately 2 miles, you will find yourself at the foot of Lower Quartz Lake, as well as at the Lower Quartz Lake Campground. Lower Quartz Lake is a nice lake, but again, it's not nearly as scenic as Quartz Lake. But nonetheless it's a very pleasant place to visit.
Lower Quartz Lake along the Quartz Lake Loop Trail in Glacier National Park.
Quartz Creek Junction
In addition to the Lower Quartz Lake Campground being at the foot of Lower Quartz Lake, there is also the Quartz Creek Junction. At this junction, make sure you take a right to continue on the Quartz Lake Loop Trail. The trail to the left, the Quartz Creek Trail, takes you along Quartz Creek all the way to the Inside North Fork Road (approximately 7 miles). The trail ends up near the Quartz Creek Campground.
Once you've enjoyed the Lower Quartz Lake area, you will continue onward along the Quartz Lakes Trail Loop, as you cross the outlet stream on one of the longest footbridges we've ever seen. Our hats are off to the amazing Glacier National Park trail crew!....
One of the longest foot bridges we've ever seen is at the outlet of Lower Quartz Lake in Glacier Park.
West Lakes Trail Junction (mile 12.3)
For the next three miles, the Quartz Lake Loop Trail once again must deal with Quartz Ridge as it makes its way back to where you started. So after you've crossed this impressive footbridge, the trail then begins its annoying ascent back up Quartz Ridge about 750 vertical feet. Once you've reached the top of the ridge, just as you guessed, the trail then descends about 1,000 vertical feet to complete the loop at the West Lakes Trail Junction (mile 12.3). Take a left at this junction, and you will see familiar sights as the trail takes you along the beautiful Bowman Lake and eventually back to your car in less than a half of a mile.
We were welcomed back to Bowman Lake with this amazing late evening alpenglow. What a great end to a wonderful day along the Quartz Lake Loop Trail in Glacier National Park.
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