Quiescence is essential for long-term maintenance of adult stem cells. Niche signals regulate the transit of stem cells from dormant to activated states. Here, we show that the E3-ubiquitin ligase Huwe1 (HECT, UBA, and WWE domain-containing 1) is required for proliferating stem cells of the adult mouse hippocampus to return to quiescence. Huwe1 destabilizes proactivation protein Ascl1 (achaete-scute family bHLH transcription factor 1) in proliferating hippocampal stem cells, which prevents accumulation of cyclin Ds and promotes the return to a resting state. When stem cells fail to return to quiescence, the proliferative stem cell pool becomes depleted. Thus, long-term maintenance of hippocampal neurogenesis depends on the return of stem cells to a transient quiescent state through the rapid degradation of a key proactivation factor.