Quartzite is one of the most prominent natural roadside features of the drive north on Highway 395, where the rocky outcroppings form a gorgeous backdrop for the town of Chewelah. The only way to improve the view is to climb to the top and gaze down on town from more 2,000 feet above the valley floor.
Despite the relatively short round-trip distance for this hike, it’s a workout. From the tiny roadside parking area (tip for groups: pack your carpool, as you won’t easily get more than two vehicles in this spot), the initial mile climb is relentless. Since the trailhead is on the east side of Quartzite, the views consist mainly of flora and fauna along the route. In June the spring wildflowers will be lingering, and some of the Ponderosa pines are massive. Animal sightings are apt to include whitetail deer and turkeys. When the trail finally breaks out onto an open bench above town, hikers will be glad to catch their breath as they take in the view.
The trail is a favorite of local Boy Scout troops, so there’s a campsite here should you try this as a short overnight trip. There’s no water on this trail, so pack plenty. There is a Boy Scout marker, and a mailbox serves as not-quite-summit register. To get to the true summit, continue uphill a little under a half mile. A USGS benchmark indicates the top, but the views are actually better near the camp. Be cautious if exploring near the cliffs, as this is a rustic trail and the drop-offs are sheer. Then brace your knees for the return trip. Trekking poles will come in handy for your descent to the bottom. Round trip distance is about three miles.
Getting there: From Spokane, travel Highway 395 north to Chewelah. Turn east on Main Avenue at the traffic light, and continue to Flowery Trail Road. At 2.1 miles, turn right on Mud Lake Road, continuing 2.6 miles to the trailhead on the west side of the narrow road. //