Located on the western boundary of Olympic National Park in Washington state lies the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the “finest remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the United States.” Since this area of the Olympic Peninsula receives between 12 and 14 feet (yes, you read that right, FEET) of rain per year, the Hoh Rain Forest is a lush, green, verdant woodland filled with moss-covered evergreen and deciduous trees and carpeted by a multitude of ferns. According to the national park website, the Hoh is “part of the Pacific Northwest rain forest which once stretched along the Pacific coast from southeastern Alaska to the central coast of California.” We’ve hiked through plenty of forests in our day, eastern stands of oaks and maples, acres of Texas Hill Country junipers, groves of California redwoods, and hillsides of pines, but the Hoh is a remarkably unique landscape. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be GREEN. Everything is green or covered in green and every shade of green is represented,….lime, olive, kelly, sea green, emerald, pistachio, chartreuse, hunter green,…it’s simply beautiful!
The Hoh Rain Forest is approximately 2 hours south of Port Angeles and 1 hour from Forks off Highway 101. The turn onto Upper Hoh Road which leads to the parking area and visitor center is well marked and the 12+ mile drive in is delightful as it parallels the beautiful glacier-fed Hoh River. There is ample parking at the visitor center, which is open daily during the summer, weekends during the shoulder seasons, and closed December-March. The Hoh Rain Forest has an 88-site, first come, first serve campground which is open year-round with flush toilets, potable water, and a dump station (FEE). Near the visitor center are the trailheads for the 0.8-mile Hall of Mosses Trail, the 1.2-mile Spruce Nature Trail, and the Hoh River Trail which leads to Blue Glacier, an 18-mile trek.
The Hall of Mosses Trail is undoubtedly the most popular trail in the park, an easy loop trail with an elevation gain of 100 feet. The trail meanders through an old growth temperate rain forest and has stunning displays of moss-covered trees and bushes which take on an ethereal appearance. Interpretive signs dot the trail, educating visitors about the types of vegetation as well as the role rain forests play in the environmental health of our planet.
The Spruce Nature Trail is another easy loop hike through the rain forest to the Hoh River with an elevation gain of less than 100 feet. It is a great trail for the kids with lots of coniferous trees lining the path.
The Hoh River Trail, which parallels the Hoh River, can be used by dayhikers or by permit if hikers are planning to backcountry camp on their way to Blue Glacier. The Hoh River Trail was our favorite trail, mainly because of the peace and solitude we found there. As the trail wound its way in and through the forest, a hush and sense of serenity enveloped us. There is something truly magical and therapeutic about walking through a forest. Time spent among the trees is a balm for the soul. It refreshes and revitalizes the mind and spirit enabling one to charge into whatever life is ready to throw your way. It’s no mistake there are so many references to trees and rivers in the Bible as life-giving, restorative parts of Creation. God knows we need time in nature to calm, renew, and reinvigorate our hearts.
Although this post is chiefly about our time spent at the Hoh Rain Forest, the entire Olympic Peninsula has many more attractions that we have previously visited and thoroughly enjoyed. The Quinault Rain Forest is another beautiful temperate rain forest with abundant hiking trails and some of the “biggest” and “tallest” trees on earth. Be sure to stop by for a glance or splurge and get a room at the gorgeous Lake Quinault Lodge, an historic, 99-room inn right on the shores of Lake Quinault and SURROUNDED by hundreds blue hydrangea bushes! Hurricane Ridge, located 17 miles south of Port Angeles on Hurricane Ridge Road, provides visitors with views of many of the mountain peaks within Olympic National Park, including Mount Olympus. If you are taking the 101 all the way around the Peninsula, you will drive alongside Lake Crescent, a deep, glacially carved natural lake surrounded by the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains. Be warned, there are some pretty tight, narrow spots that may give you a bit of a thrill if you are towing a camper. The many beaches along the western coast are wonderful places to watch for migrating whales or flocks of sea birds or search the tidepools and rocky outcrops for anemones and sea stars. And if you are feeling really adventurous, take route 112 west to Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point of the contiguous United States. It is an easy hike out to the cape and no doubt you will see several bald eagles along the way. You could indeed easily spend an entire year exploring the Olympic Peninsula and all it has to offer. It is truly the gem of the Pacific Northwest.