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Hoh Rain Forest: Travel Guide to Washington’s Rainforest

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The Hoh Rainforest in Washington State is an iconic ecosystem of lush greenery and lively wildlife that is rare in the United States. Every year, millions of visitors visit the Hoh Rainforest to connect with nature. It is the only surviving natural rainforest in the United States and is open year-round.

When you enter this dense forest, you will marvel at the lush vegetation of an evergreen canopy formed by different tree species, as well as the undergrowth forest that consists of ferns and moss. The only sounds you can hear in this tranquil forest come from the Hoh River, tree branches, and the birds.

The Hoh Rainforest is the best for a unique weekend getaway and a break from the daily grind. If you’re planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, check out this guide to things to see and do in the Hoh Rainforest.

About Washington State’s Hoh Rain Forest

Giant Tree Trunk in Hoh Rain Forest, Washington
lemanieh / Shutterstock

The Hoh Rain Forest is a temperate rainforest in Olympic National Park, Washington State. The 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 a 1-hour drive from Forks, the nearest town. It is accessible by Upper Hoh Road, off Highway 101.

It is characterized by mosses and ferns that blanket the surfaces, creating a lush and verdant environment. The forest is also renowned for receiving around 12 to 14 feet of rain annually. This unique ecosystem is home to a variety of wildlife and an impressive old-growth forest that feels as old as time itself.

The park features incredible picturesque views and is one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforests in the United States. Beyond that, it features glaciated mountain peaks, a rugged coastline, and this magnificent temperate rainforest.

How do you pronounce Hoh Rain Forest?

“Hoh Rain Forest” is pronounced with “Hoh” rhyming with words like “so” or “dough.” The name comes from the Hoh River, which flows through the rainforest and is named by the local Hoh people.

What is special about Hoh Rain Forest?

Trees in the Hoh Rain Forest
Steven Phraner / Shutterstock

This rainforest is unique due to its designation as one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S., located within the Olympic National Park in Washington state. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its lush, verdant environment, rich with mosses and ferns, brought on by the 12 to 14 feet of annual rainfall it receives.

Furthermore, the Hoh Rainforest is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including Roosevelt elk, black bears, cougars, and Pacific tree frogs, providing a unique ecosystem for wildlife enthusiasts to explore.

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See Related: Things to Do in West Seattle

Weather

Foggy Weather at Hoh Rain Forest
T.Schofield / Shutterstock

Part of Olympic National Park, the majestic Hoh Rain Forest is inside the Olympic Mountains. This range has influenced its weather pattern, which is unique to other rainforests temperate. Here is a table showcasing the average weather in Hoh Rain Forest by month to help you plan your trip:

Month Average High (°F) Average Low (°F) Average Precipitation (inches)
January 45 34 18.5
February 47 34 14.7
March 50 36 13.7
April 55 39 10.1
May 60 43 7.2
June 63 48 5.2
July 67 51 3.5
August 69 51 4.4
September 65 48 7.7
October 57 43 13.9
November 49 38 18.0
December 45 34 17.0

The region catches storms from the Pacific Ocean year-round. These clouds, laden with moisture, slow down as they brush over the glaciated mountain peaks, causing lots of precipitation that feeds this rainforest. This region gets most of its rain between late October and early March. That may not be the best time for campers because most campsites can be flooded by water.

However, you should expect rain in Hoh Rain Forest at any time of the year. If you plan to camp here, carry all the necessary items, but don’t forget to include waterproof tents, raincoats, and winter clothes in case of a chill.

See Related: What to Bring on a Camping Trip with Friends

Things to Do in the Hoh Rain Forest

Camping

Riverside Camping in Hoh Rainforest Washington
Rawpixel.com / Adobe Stock

Olympic National Park is a very popular site for camping and hiking, due to its many scenic nature trails. Let’s discuss these activities further.

One way to experience the best of the native ecosystem is by camping. It has two campgrounds that are open all year round. However, these are not nearly enough to accommodate all the overnight visitors in the summer months.

The campsites are popular destinations often reserved well in advance during summer. Bookings begin as early as six months before peak season. You need to prepare for your camping trip here as the weather conditions can be highly variable, but it’s worth the risk of rain.

Camping also gives you greater access to the nature trails compared to joining a guided tour. You will also be a short distance from the beautiful Hoh River.

Hoh River

There are over 80 sites at the campground. Most are RV-friendly for smaller vehicles not exceeding 21 feet in length. Flushing toilets, running water, and other amenities are also available but not 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 great base camp in the middle of the wilderness.

It is located about 9.7 miles from the visitor center. Due to its location, you can easily access the Seven Lake Basin and Blue Glacier near Mount Olympus. However, a permit is required to camp in these areas.

See Related: Top Winter Destinations in Washington State

Hiking

Hiking in the Hoh Rainforest is the most popular activity for visitors. If you are not an avid camper, you can travel from the town of Forks or any other area to walk along the nature trails that pass through the thick foliage here.

The park has three main hiking trails and two short nature trails. At the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, you can choose which one to trek.

Hall of Mosses Trail

Hall of Mosses Trail

Hall of Mosses Trail is one of the national parks’ two short trails. It stretches over 0.8 miles and is the most popular of the three nature trails.

This 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 muddle 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 old-growth forests and the new generation of trees. Hall of Mosses Trail is also a perfect option if you are starting to explore the Olympic National Park.

Spruce Nature Trail

Spruce Nature Trail

This nature trail is also easy to navigate. Visitors of all ages can hike the Spruce Nature Trail, slightly over a mile longer than short nature trails or the Hall of Mosses Trail.

The Spruce Trail is less popular but offers even more natural beauty. You will hike past small creeks surrounded by tall fir trees covered by moss and ferns.

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

See Related: Best Places for Fall Foliage in the U.S.

Hoh River Trail

Hoh River in Olympic National Park Washington
Aree / Adobe Stock

This is the longest of the three hiking trails in the park. It covers 20 miles and extends to the Blue Glacier of Mount Olympus.

However, most hikers only do the first five miles from the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center trailhead. We recommend this trail for the most experienced hikers who want to enjoy all the park offers. On this mighty round trip, you see Mother Nature’s best of the best.

Most people like this scenic trail because of the guaranteed mighty Hoh River view. If you talk to the locals, they will tell you that hiking along the Hoh River Trail is the best and favorite activity through this temperate rainforest 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 widespread here, but their presence depends on the season. Owls are also residents of the area, and you can typically only see them using this trail.

The Hoh River Trail also offers a potentially clear view of the mountains near the visitor center. 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.

Spot the Flora and Fauna

Flora and Fauna at Hoh Rainforest

Thanks to the unique ecosystem, the Hoh Rain Forest is the native habitat of some of the world’s rarest animal and plant species. Walking along the trails can reveal this wildlife and some of the oldest trees in the United States. Some of these old-growth trees are estimated to be over 300 years old.

The area has dense, lush vegetation throughout the year and is home to some of North America’s giant spruce trees. Other remarkable tree species include Sitka Spruce, Western Red Cedar, Douglas fir, western hemlock, moss, ferns, and much more.

The rainforest is home to an astonishing array of wildlife. If you’re lucky, you can spot Roosevelt elk, black bears, river otters, bobcats, cougars, raccoons, and mountain lions. Other animals on the old-growth forest floor include banana slugs, snails, rodents, river and tree frogs, snakes, and salamanders.

Bird watchers will find heaven here, too! You can spot American robins, barred owls, Canadian gray jays, northern spotted owls, and many more.

Things to Do Near Hoh Rain Forest

Sunset at Hoh Coastline, Olympic National Park
wisanuboonrawd / Adobe Stock

Given the many things to see and do in the park, it’s an excellent day trip destination. Fortunately, a 330-mile-long Olympic Peninsula Drive leads to a parking lot for different park attractions.

Apart from the forest, you can visit the beach and 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 area’s best hidden gems. It is located about 2.5 miles along the Hoh River Trail from the visitor center. This waterfall offers additional features to explore the natural beauty, particularly after a rain storm when the falls’ flows peak.

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 onsite.

If you’re looking to embrace the wilderness vibe, check into the nearby Emerald Valley Inn. It’s secluded, comfortable, and has all the mod cons, including a restaurant. Some rooms have a patio, and others have kitchenettes; 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 western coast of Olympic National Park. It is the major economic hub for the surrounding area and offers easy access to waterfalls and hot springs.

You can visit the Forks Timber Museum to learn about the region’s logging history. You can also use this town as your base to explore the lovely coastal village of La Push.

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. The Makah Museum features a collection of exhibits that record local history.

Tours

To make the most of your Hoh Rain Forest and Olympic National Park experience, you might consider taking a tour of the rainforest or some of the hotspots in the surrounding area. Here are a few popular tours to consider:

Backpacking

Misty Rialto Beach Olympic National Park Washington
Vadim / Adobe Stock

The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the best sites for a unique backpacking trip for beginners and experienced hikers. It will give you more time to explore all the must-see features along 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 to the alpine lakes and viewpoints of mountains and wildlife.

However, backpacking here is not for everyone. You need to be prepared for rain and get your wilderness permit ahead of time. That is available at the Olympic National Park’s visitor or wilderness information centers.

What to Pack for Camping & Backpacking

There are limited services or amenities when backpacking through the forest. Therefore, self-sufficiency and preparation are the secrets to success. Pack enough food and water since these are essential for survival. However, you also need other things, which include the following:

See Related: Best Camping Spots in the World

How to Get There

Car Driving Through Olympic National Park
NatalieJean / Adobe Stock

The forest 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.

On your return, you can take a round trip through Olympia and around Lake Crescent and Kalaloch Beach and follow the route to Forks and Port Angeles. Some visitors who want to explore the entire region book tours in advance as it’s the best way to get around conveniently.

Best Time to Visit

Waterfall in Hoh Rainforest Washington
stockbusters / Adobe Stock

You can visit the forest throughout the year. However, it is best to avoid the rainy season, as the trails and campsites can become very muddy or flood.

The best time to visit the Hoh Rain Forest is between July to August. That is the season it receives the least rainfall, and the sky is clear for spectacular mountain views. That said, this is also the busiest time of year.

If you want a real camping adventure, you could visit during the low season. The rain presents a series of challenges, most notably staying dry. The other real challenge is psychological because when it rains here during the off-season, it rains. The sound can be a bit much for some.

But if you can hack it, it’s a real adventure and rewarding challenge. And while the weather is more adverse, securing a spot on the campground will be easier!

See Related: Washington State ’s Triangle of Fire

Where to Stay Near Hoh Rain Forest

Temperate Rainforest of Olympic National Forest
Stephen / Adobe Stock

A good percentage of visitors opt to camp. The Hoh Campground costs about $30 a night with tax. You can also reserve a spot at other campsites along Upper Hoh Road, Kalaloch Campground or Sol Duc Campground, which is about one hour from the rainforest.

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

Camping at Olympic National Park isn’t for everyone, especially during the rainy season. That is why some hikers opt for hotels and vacation rentals during this time of year.

Many lodging options exist in and near Forks, mostly independent hotels, motels, rentals, inns, cabins, and B&Bs. Here are a few options popular with visitors:

FAQs

What is the best time of the year to visit Hoh Rain Forest?

The best time to visit the Hoh Rain Forest is during the late spring and summer months when the weather is typically drier. The lush greenery resulting from the frequent rain is an iconic aspect of the rainforest, making it beautiful to visit any time of the year.

What are some popular trails and hikes in Hoh Rain Forest?

Popular trails in the Hoh Rain Forest include the Hall of Mosses Trail and the Hoh River Trail. The Hall of Mosses is a short, 0.8-mile loop trail that provides a stunning view of the rainforest’s moss-draped trees. The Hoh River Trail is a longer route that extends up to Mount Olympus, offering views of the river and the surrounding mountains.

Can I camp in Hoh Rain Forest?

Yes, camping is possible in the Hoh Rain Forest at the Hoh Campground. This campground, open year-round, offers 78 sites and is equipped with potable water and flush toilets. Reservations can be made online through the National Park Service’s website or Tentrr during the summer months, while the rest of the year, sites are first-come, first-served.

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