Complete Guide: Hoh Rainforest

Olympic National Park is one of the most diverse National Parks in the US. It ranges from coastal beaches with sea stacks, soaring mountains with glaciers, crystal clear lakes, and one of the best preserved temperate rainforests in the Northern hemisphere.

While Olympic NP actually has 4 rainforests, the Hoh rainforest is the most accessible. There are 3 trails in the Hoh rainforest – all relatively easy depending on the distance you want to cover. 

Contents:

About the Hoh rainforest:

“The Hoh Rainforest, pronounced “Hoe”, earns its name from the ever-flowing Hoh River that carves its way from Mount Olympus towards the Pacific Coast. However, where the name originates, is up to some debate. The word “Hoh” undoubtedly comes from Native American languages; possibly the Quileute word “Ohalet” which means “fast moving water” or “snow water.” Since the river itself forms from glacial runoff, that origin seems straightfoward.”

When to visit the Hoh rainforest:

The road into Hoh rainforest and the campground are accessible all year round. The rainforest is temperate so any time of year will result in abundant greenery and likely wet conditions. I would base your visit on other areas in WA and what weather/ activities you plan to do there. Keep in mind on summer weekends, the trailhead parking can reach capacity as early as 11AM.

Fees:

$30/ private vehicle. Free with an American the Beautiful- National Parks pass.

Our experience:

We visited during probably Washington’s busiest tourist month- August. That being said, we drove out on a moody (read: rainy) Friday evening and the parking lot was just about empty. We saw a handful of people along the trails but as they are one way, we didn’t have to pass too many of them.

We saw several deer and particularly enjoyed the low hanging clouds along the river. Maybe this hike is busier on a weekend or sunny days, but I can attest that packing your rain jacket and visiting in less ideal weather conditions is just as magical

Trailhead directions:

All trails for the Hoh Rainforest start just to the right of the visitor center if approaching from the parking lot. (Across from the flag pole) As you arrive to the National Park, there is a large parking lot labeled “hikers parking lot.” This is confusing as the trails don’t actually start from this parking lot.

You need to cross over the tree divider/ picnic area to the main visitor center parking lot where you will see the restrooms and main trailhead. 

Best hikes in Hoh Rainforest

From there the 2 shorter loops will branch off with the Hall of Mosses on your left and the Spruces trail on the right. 

The Hall of Mosses

This is the trail that almost everyone told me we “had” to do. It’s a nice short loop with you guessed it – an amazing display of moss along with towering trees. While we thoroughly enjoyed this trail, we like the Spruces trail for its variety and solitude a little bit more. That being said- if you can do both- do both. 

Trail details:

Distance: 1 mile loop
Elevation: flat
Time: 1 hr
Difficulty: Easy

Highlights of the Hall of Mosses:

The Maple Grove is particularly spectacular with towering trees over 250 feet in a close cluster. The trail also sports an incredible variety of moss and ferns along the forest floor. This trail is enjoyable rain or shine but prepared to get wet as well as for some mud along the trail.

The Spruces Trail

Maybe it was the lack of expectations going into it, but the Spruces trail really surprised us and blew us out of the water. There was no one on the trail with us on a Friday evening and the trail had a little more variety to it than the Hall of Mosses.

There’s still that beautiful moss and towering trees that you visit the rainforest for, but you also luck out with beautiful riverside views as well. The lack of crowds also helps persuade wildlife to hang around so we actually spotted a few deer on this trail. 

Trail details:

Distance: 1.2 mile loop
Elevation: flat
Time: 1 hr
Difficulty: Easy

Highlights of the Spruces trail:

The river views and sparsity of crowds are definitely the highlights of the trail. There are plenty of tall tress and just as many moss/ ferns as the Hall of Mosses. I highly recommend both of the trails but if you want moody river views specifically- this is your trail.

A couple little deer hiding in the forest

Where to stay near Hoh rainforest:

Hoh Rainforest Campground:

There are 78 first come first serve campsites at the Hoh rainforest campground. Fees are $20/ night. There are a few sites that can accommodate RVs up to 21 feet long and a couple that can fit one 35 feet. There is no dump station or hookups however the campground provides flushing toilets and potable water.

We did not stay in the campground but admired it as we drove by. The sites are stationed along the river dispersed among giant trees. Just be prepared to get wet if you camp here!

Forks, WA

Forks is the closest town (about 1 hour away) to the Hoh rainforest part of Olympic NP. It’s a fantastic place to base for a day or two to also visit the many nearby Pacific Beaches including Ruby Beach and those of La Push. Be warned hotels don’t come cheap and are pretty sparse in the small town- book early. My recommendation: Forks Motel

What do you think? Is Hoh Rainforest on your must do list? Anyone hike both trails and think the Spruces trail trumps as well?

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