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Hoh Rainforest: What to See & Do

Hoh Rainforest: What to See & Do

Millions of visitors come to the Hoh Rainforest to connect with nature. It is the only surviving natural rainforest in the United States which is one of the reasons tourists come here all year round.

The Hoh Rainforest is the best for a weekend getaway and taking a break from busy city life. When you get into this dense forest, you will marvel at the lush vegetation consisting of an evergreen canopy formed by different tree species. Undergrowth also consists of ferns and moss, which dresses the forest in a green suit.

The only sounds you can hear in this tranquil forest come from the Hoh River, tree branches, and birds. If you plan a trip to this national forest, we have all the facts you need. Read on for Details.

Location of the Hoh Rainforest

Location of the Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest is located on the western side of Olympic National Park abutting the Pacific Ocean in Washington State. It is about a 2-hour drive from Port Angeles and 1-hour-drive from Fork. This is the nearest town. It is accessible by the Upper Hoh Road, off Highway 101.

Most visitors to Olympic National Park go there because of the Hoh Rainforest. However, the park itself is not short of picturesque views. It features glaciated mountain peaks and a rugged coastline in addition to this magnificent temperate rainforest. The Olympic National Park attracts tourists from far and beyond because of its wild environment.

See Related: Best Things to do in West Seattle, Washington

Weather at Hoh Rainforest

The majestic Hoh Rainforest is located right inside the Olympic Mountains. That has influenced its weather pattern, which is somehow unique compared to other rainforests.

Weather at Hoh Rainforest

The forest catches storms from the Pacific Ocean all year round. These clouds full of moisture slow down as they bush over the glaciated mountain peaks, causing an annual average rainfall of up to 12 feet! The forest gets most of its rain between October and April. That may not be the best time for campers because most campsites are flooded by water.

However, you should expect to rain in Hoh Rainforest at any time of the year – the clue is in the name. If you plan on camping here, carry all the necessary items, including waterproof tents, raincoats, and winter clothes in case you catch a chill.

Activities at Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest is known for two main activities: camping and hiking. It is an ideal ground for hiking because of its many nature trails that pass through the forest. Let’s discuss these activities further.

Camping

One of the best ways to experience the best of the native ecosystem is by camping in Hoh Rainforest. It has two campgrounds that are open all year round. However, these are not enough to accommodate all the visitors who come here in the summer months.

The campsites are often reserved well in advance during summer. Bookings begin as early as six months before peak season. You, therefore, need to prepare for your camping trip to the Hoh Rainforest in a timely fashion.

Camping at Hoh Rainforest is one of the best getaway activities during the weekend or lazy days. It also gives you access to the best nature trails through this forest. You will also be a short distance from the Hoh River.

Hoh River

There are up to 88 sites at the campground. Most are RV-friendly for smaller vehicles not exceeding 21 feet in length. There are also flushing toilets, running water, and other amenities. Do note that these are not available in every Olympic campground.   

There are five additional backcountry camping areas along the Hoh River Trail. These are also open all year round. The Olympus Ranger Station camping area is the best option for those who want a basecamp in the wilderness. It is located about 9.7 miles from the visitor center. And due to its location, you can easily access the Seven Lake Basin and Blue Glacier near Mount Olympus. However, you need a permit to camp in these areas.

See Related: Best Winter Destinations in Washington State

Hiking

Hiking in the Hoh Rainforest is the main activity here for visitors. If you are not an avid camper, you can travel from the town of Fork or any other area to walk along the nature trails that pass through tall trees here. Hoh Rainforest has three main hiking trails. You choose the one you will use when you get to the Hoh rainforest visitor center. Let’s get the details and what to expect in each.

Hall of Mosses Trail

Hall of Mosses Trail

Hall of Mosses Trail is one of the two short trails in the Hoh Rainforest. It stretches over 0.8 miles and is the most popular of the three nature trails.

Hall of Mosses Trail offers hikers an easy trail with an elevation gain of only 500 feet. It is the best option if you are new to hiking or coming along with kids. Children should be able to climb through without any problems.

You will find a maple grove along with the Hall of Mosses Trail. This place has trees with dense moss growth over them, which is why it is called so. You will also go past the fallen giants that give way to the new generation of trees. Hall of Mosses Trail is also a perfect option if you are just starting to explore the Olympic National Park.

Spruce Nature Trail

Spruce Nature Trail

This trail is also easy to navigate through. Hiking the Spruce Nature Trail can be done by visitors of all ages. It is a bit longer than the Hall of Mosses Trail, stretching slightly over a mile long.

The Spruce Trail is less popular but offers even more natural beauty than the Hoh Rainforest. You will stroll past small creeks surrounded by tall trees covered by moss and ferns.

You also have a chance to get to the Hoh River bank. If you come here in the fall months, you can enjoy a unique hiking experience. You can see eagles, salmon, elk, and the forest floor decorated with colorful fall mushrooms.

Hoh River Trail

Hoh River Trail

This is the longest of the three hiking trails in the Hoh Rainforest. It extends up to the Blue Glacier of Mount Olympus, covering 20 miles. However, most hikers only do the first five miles from the trailhead at Hoh Visitor Center. We recommend this trail for the most experienced hikers who want to feel everything Hoh Rainforest offers. On this mighty round trip, you see Mother Nature’s best.

Most people like this scenic trail through the forest because of the guaranteed mighty Hoh River view. If you talk to the locals, they will tell you that hiking along Hoh River Trail is the best and favorite activity through this temperate rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula.

Hiking along the trail takes you through dense trees, underbrush, and draping mosses. You can also spot wildlife if you are keen enough. Elk sightings are very common here, but their presence depends on the season. Owls are another wildlife regular in Hoh Rainforest, and you can typically only see them if you use this trail. You can also spot black bears, cougars, raccoons, and deer if you are lucky.

The Hoh River Trail also opens up to a potentially clear view of the surrounding mountains. However, you can only see them if you come on a sunny day with a clear sky. Check the weather ahead of time, as the weather on the Olympic Peninsula is mainly foggy.

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Flora and Fauna at Hoh Rainforest

Flora and Fauna at Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest is the native habitat of some of the rarest animal and plant species in the world. Walking along the trails can reveal the wildlife and some of the oldest trees in the United States. Some are estimated to be over 300 years old.

The Hoh Rainforest is home to the following animals:

  • Bigger animals such as Roosevelt elk, black bears, river otters, bobcats, and mountain lions.
  • Smaller animals on the forest floor, including banana slugs, snails, rodents, snakes, and salamanders.
  • Birds on trees such as American robins, barred owls, Canada gray jays, and northern spotted owls.

Hoh Rainforest consists of dense, lush vegetation throughout the year and is home to North America’s giant spruce trees. Some of the remarkable tree species here include:

  • Sitka Spruce
  • Red Cedar
  • Big Leaf Maple
  • Douglas Fir
  • Western Hemlock
  • Western Red Cedar
  • Red Alder
  • Black Cottonwood
  • Vine Maple and Big Leaf Maple
  • Mosses
  • Ferns

Other Things to Do at Hoh Rainforest

The location of the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park makes it one of the best options for tourists who need more than just hiking and camping. It is the best destination for day trips because there is a lot to see at the park.

Fortunately, there is a 330-mile-long Olympic Peninsula Drive that leads to different attractions in the park. Apart from the Hoh rainforest, you can also go to the beach, Hurricane Ridge, or head to Port Angeles, Forks, and Hoodsport.

The Olympic National Park has vast ecosystems to explore. Let’s quickly highlight a few of them.

Mineral Creek Falls

Mineral Creek Falls

Mineral Creek Falls is one of the hidden gems in the Hoh Rainforest. It is located about 2.5 miles along the Hoh River Trail from the visitor center. This waterfall offers additional features to explore when walking through the Hoh Rainforest.

See Related: Best Washington D.C. Walking Tours

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is located at an altitude of 5,200 feet above sea level. Visitors come for magnificent views of the glacier-covered Olympus Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island in Canada.

You better add it to your list for your next summer trip! Summer is when you can see the natural beauty of the alpine meadows. However, note there are no accommodations here. Plan for a round trip to nearby Port Angeles which has several hotels.

If you’re looking to lean into to wilderness vibe, check into the Emerald Valley Inn on the outskirts of Port Angeles. It’s secluded, comfortable, and has all the mod cons including a restaurant. Some rooms have a patio and others have kitchenettes, and best of all; it’s very sensibly priced.

Sol Duc Hot Springs

Sol Duc Hot Springs

Sol Duc Hot Springs is found within the Olympic National Park and is known for its therapeutic waters. Its trailhead marks the beginning of exploration through mammoth trees. And with your wilderness permit, you can extend to the gorgeous Seven Lake Basin.

Forks

Forks

Forks is a town on the coastal western of the Olympic National Park. It is the major economic hub for the surrounding area and offers easy opportunities to see waterfalls and hot springs.

You can stop by the Forks Timber Museum to learn everything about logging history in the region. You can also use this town as your base to explore the lovely coastal village of La Push.

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Neah Bay

Neah Bay

Neah Bay is located far northwards to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, opening up to the northmost point in the contiguous United States.

Its main highlight is the Makah Cultural and Research Center. There is also the Makah Museum, which features a collection of exhibits that record local history.

Backpacking in The Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest is one of the best sites for a backpacking trip for both beginners and experienced hikers. It will give you more time to explore all the must-see features along the Hoh River Trail.

However, backpacking the Hoh Rainforest is not for everyone. You need to get ready for rain at any time and get your wilderness permit. That is available at the visitor center or wilderness information centers at the Olympic National Park.

Get everything ready to fulfill your curiosity about a challenging task further up the Hoh River Trail. If you have mountaineering experience, you can reach the summit of Mount Olympus Glacier and capture the breathtaking views of Blue Glacier in the summer and fall months.

Additionally, you can add an 18-mile hike along the loop at Seven Lakes Basin. The trail takes you up the alpine lakes and viewpoints of mountains and wildlife.

What to Include in Your Backpack

You will not find any services or amenities when backpacking the Hoh Rainforest. Therefore, self-sufficiency is the secret to success. Get enough food and water since these are very essential for survival. However, you also need other things, which include the following:

  • Reliable rain jacket.
  • Waterproof hiking boots (mid or high-leg is best).
  • Camera and accessories for recording memories.
  • Phone for emergencies…and even more pictures!
  • Water bottle.

See Related: Best Museums for Kids in Washington D.C.

How to Get to Hoh Rainforest

Hoh Rainforest is accessible from almost anywhere because of its location on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. It takes about a 3-hour drive from Tacoma, a 4-hour-drive from Seattle, and a 5-hour-drive from Portland.

You can take a round trip through Olympia and around Lake Crescent and Kalaloch Beach and follow the route to Forks and Port Angeles on your return.

Some visitors who want to explore the entire Olympic National Park use tours. You can find a number of them that include the Hoh Rainforest on the list. It is the best way to conveniently go around the park.

Best Time to Visit Hoh Rainforest

You can come to Hoh Rainforest throughout the year. However, you should avoid the rainy season because the trails and campsites are likely to be muddy or even flood.

The best time to visit the Hoh Rainforest is between July and August. That is the season it receives the least rainfall, and the sky is clear for spectacular mountain views.

Also, you might want to visit during the low season if you are interested in a camping adventure. That is the time you can secure a spot on the campground, though you should be ready for challenges, usually caused by rain.

See Related: Washington’s Triangle of Fire: What to Know When Visiting

Where to stay near Hoh Rainforest

A good percentage of visitors to Hoh Rainforest opt to camp. The Hoh Campground costs about $20 a night, but there are other campsites along the Upper Hoh Valley Road. You can also reserve a spot at Kalaloch campground or Sol Duc Campground, but these are about a 1-hour-drive away from the rainforest.

Kalaloch Campground is recommended if you come along with your dog. But if you are interested in exploring the area around the Sol Duc is at Sol Duc Hot Springs, you know which campground to choose! The waters in the spring can be relaxing after a strenuous hike along the Hoh River Trail.

Camping at Olympic National Park can be frustrating, especially during the rainy season. That is the reason some hikers opt for hotels and vacation rentals during this time of year.

There are many lodging options near Forks, and these are also close to restaurants that allow you to taste the terrific foods at Fork. Search for the best hotel that meets your needs or budget at Booking.com. You can also choose hotels in the town of Fork from the list below:

FAQ

How do you pronounce Hoh Rainforest?

It’s literally how it’s spelled, rhyming with “so” or “hoe”.

What is special about Hoh Rainforest?

Apart from being the only rainforest in North America, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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