The Hoh Rain Forest is on the western side of the Olympic National Park in Washington State, 45 minutes from Forks, and 2 hours from Port Angeles.
This temperate rainforest receives an astounding 12 to 14 feet of precipitation each year, making it one of the wettest places on earth. Wild storms roll in off the Pacific Ocean, drenching the forest canopy in rain and mist, and fueling the dense undergrowth of ferns, mosses and lichens on this World Heritage Site.
Some of the world's tallest trees can also be found here, with old growth sitka spruce, western hemlock and douglas fir, reaching giddying heights of up to 300 feet. Of the four temperate rain forests in the Olympic National Park, this is by far the best!
Here's some tips:
- Set aside 2 to 3 hours to explore the Hoh Rain Forest.
- Check road closures.
- Trails start at the Visitor Center.
- Bring rain jackets and warm clothing, even in summer.
- The closest gas station is in Forks, so fill up before leaving.
- There are no stores, so bring food & drinks.
- Nearest towns are Forks and La Push.
- Arrive VERY early in summer, because the parking lot fills up.
- An entrance pass is required to visit the Olympic National Park.
10 best things to do at Hoh Rain Forest
1. Stop to admire the Hoh River along the drive to the rain forest.
The 18-mile road to the Hoh Rain Forest along the Upper Hoh Road, flanks the spectacular Hoh River. This river flows from the Hoh Glacier on mighty Mount Olympus (7,980 feet), and travels 56 miles before ending at the Pacific Ocean near Oil City.
The milky blue waters are from glacial melt, and cut through the gravel banks.
2. Check out the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center.
The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is the starting point for exploration of the rain forest, and is an easy 18-mile drive east off Highway 101 (the main Highway around the Olympic National Park). Check opening hours for the visitor center, because it can be closed in some winter months, and hours can vary throughout the rest of the year.
The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center has trail maps and a bookstore, and offers guided ranger walks in summer. However no food or drink is sold here.
There's ample parking in the lot adjacent to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, and a picnic area with tables and restrooms.
3. Take a photo by the phone booth.
The moss covered phone box outside the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is a big hit with guests, and perfect for a photo opportunity!
4. Choose from 3 main trails that start at the Visitor Center.
All trails start at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, and range from a quick 10 minute walk to 1.5 hours, taking you deep into this magnificent forest. Options include:
- 10 minutes: Mini Trail perfect for small kids (¼ mile trail)
- 1 hour: Mostly flat Hall of Mosses Loop through old growth forest (¾ mile)
- 1.5 hours: The Spruce Trail Loop through old growth and new forest, passing Taft Creek and the Hoh River (1¼ mile)
No pets are allowed on the trails.
5. Walk through the enchanting Hall of Mosses.
The most popular trail at the Hoh Rain Forest is the Hall of Mosses (3/4's mile) with lichens and mosses carpeting the twisted forms of conifers and bigleaf maples. The Hoh Rain Forest has a primeval feel, and looks much as it did thousands of years ago. This is a rare example of old growth forest, beautifully preserved thanks to the foresight of President Franklin Roosevelt who signed off on the Olympic National Park in 1938.
The temperature drops a few degrees, as you walk beneath the dense canopy along the Hall of Mosses.
The highlight of the Hall of Mosses trail is the Grove of Maples, where amazing curtains of club moss drape from the branches of maple trees. This type of moss is only found in extremely damp coastal environments, and is one of a hundred species of moss found at the Hoh Rain Forest!
Patches of sunlight break through the thick canopy along the Hall of Mosses trail, on a perfect summer's day. During winter time this same trail would be wet and muddy.
Walk beneath the archway of a tree that has split down the middle, creating a decaying nurse log that hosts new saplings.
The path along the Hall of Mosses is mostly flat.
This section of the Hall of Mosses trail looks like something out of the Jurassic era, with the surreal form of twisted branches and bulbous trunks.
Wander through an enchanting grove of sword ferns.
This Western Hemlock, has come crashing down over the trail, identified by its deeply groved bark.
6. Get up close to a nurse log.
Nurse logs are an important part of the cycle of life in the Hoh Rain Forest. Once a dead tree falls on the ground, it spawns seedlings that create the next generation of trees.
As the rotting wood decays, it enriches the tiny seedlings as they grow root systems.
7. See the Monarch tree, once one of the largest Sitka Spruce trees in the world.
The Monarch Tree was once one of the largest Sitka Spruce trees in the world, with a whopping diameter of 12.5 feet, standing 270 feet tall. Unfortunately this over 500 year old tree met its demise, when a wind storm snapped off the top of the tree on December 9, 2014. However, you can still stand beside the base of the tree. It's located on the Upper Hoh Road, a few miles before you reach the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center.
8. Experience camping in a beautiful rain forest.
The Hoh Rain Forest has a year-round campground near the Visitor Center, with 72 sites. Book here.
9. Find overnight lodging.
Below are the driving distances from the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center to different lodging:
- Hard Rain Cafe (25 minutes away): Camping and RV hook-ups, with a seasonal cafe.
- Hoh Valley Cabins (25 minutes away): Contemporary cabins.
- Township of Forks (1 hour away): Lots of budget motels and comfort food restaurants. Stay in a beautiful cabin at either the Hoh Rain Forest Resort or Woodlands Inn.
- Kalaloch Beach Lodge (1 hour away): Oceanfront cabins, lodge rooms and campsites, with a lovely restaurant and general store.
- Quileute Oceanside Resort at La Push (1.5 hours away): Renovated oceanfront cabins on spectacular First Beach. Campsites and RV hook-ups also available. La Push has one restaurant and general store.
10. Explore nearby wilderness beaches.
The closest attractions to the Hoh Rain Forest are Kalaloch Beach (39 miles), Ruby Beach (32 miles), and La Push (46 miles). La Push provides close access to three stunning wilderness beaches; First Beach, Second Beach, Third Beach and Rialto Beach.
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