Olympic National Park is made up of various eco-systems, including alpine forests, wildflower meadows, towering mountains, rugged Pacific Beaches, and temperate rainforests. Of the Washington rainforests, the Hoh Rainforest is the most well-known and is perfect for families wanting to adventure further afield into Olympic National Park. It is a primeval rainforest dripping with moss, vibrant green foliage, and a verdant warmth.
The Olympic Peninsula is the wettest area in the lower 48 states, and the Hoh Rainforest gets about 140 inches of rain each year. It’s a magnificent example of a temperate rainforest.
Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center
How to Get to the Hoh Rainforest
The first thing you’ll encounter when you arrive at the Hoh Rainforest is the Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center. The Visitor’s Center is about 2 hours from Port Angeles, 50 minutes from Forks, 3.5 hours from Olympia, and 4.25 hours from Seattle. Unless you are camping, its easiest to visit the Hoh Rainforest as a day trip from Forks or Port Angeles. The Visitor’s Center is closed in January and February every year.
Visitor’s Center Amenities
Check out the Visitor’s Center for information about trail conditions and the Hoh itself. The Visitor’s Center has bathrooms and a diaper changing table. Beyond that, it’s pretty limited. They do not sell food, so bring a lunch and any snacks that you’ll need for the day. They have a ‘Discovery Room’ for kids, and kids can pick up a copy of the ‘Olympic National Park Junior Ranger’ booklet, or join the ‘Olympic National Park Ocean Stewards Program.’ You can print the ‘Ocean Stewards’ pdf before you arrive and kids can use it as they travel around the park. The Visitor’s Center also a cute gift shop that kids will love to peruse.
Hoh Rainforest Hikes
There are four Hoh Rainforest Hikes off of the Visitor’s Center: the Hall of Mosses, the Spruce Nature Trail, the South Snider-Jackson, and the Hoh River Trail. Additionally, there’s the mini-trail, which is only .1 mile and is paved. All trailheads are located right outside of Visitor’s Center.
1. Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rainforest
This is what you’ve come for, and it’s breathtaking. At only .8 miles round-trip, the Hall of Mosses is not difficult or strenuous. It’s aptly called the ‘Hall of Mosses’ as the towering trees form a sort of a ‘hallway’ of trees, literally dripping with moss and greenery. It’s an easy hike, with a 100 ft. elevation gain.
The Hall of Mosses is a great way to take in the rainforest and explore the trees, shrubs, and fallen logs. You’ve never seen anything like it; the trees are twisted and curved, and the trees contort into these natural sculptures. What makes this even more pronounced is how the trees, shrubs and other plants seem to all grow into each other, forming ethereal, junglish canopies.
2. Spruce Nature Trail in the Hoh Rainforest
The Spruce Nature Trail is a 1.2-mile loop with less than a 100-foot elevation gain. It’s a lovely trail; however, it’s not stroller friendly. I tried taking a stroller on this trail and I had to turn back after about a quarter of a mile; a baby carrier is definitely the way to go!
The trees are enormous, and the sun shines through the canopy in streams of light. One draw of the Spruce Nature Trail is that it runs along the Hoh River, and with water comes wildlife! Combining the Spruce Nature Trail with the Hall of Mosses makes for a great afternoon hike.
3. Hoh River Trail in the Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh River Trail is a 17.3-mile trail from the Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center to Glacier Meadows. The entire trail may be too long for a family with small children, but you could do an out-and-back for whatever distance suits your needs. The first two-thirds of the trail is relatively flat; however, the last 4.5 miles is steep. The elevation gain for the entire route is 3,700 ft.
A popular hike along the Hoh River Trail is to hike out to where the trail meets the Hoh River, approximately 1 mile. Or, hike out to Five Mile Island, which is around 5 miles out. The elevation gain out to Five Mile Island is only 300 feet.
Hoh Rainforest Lodging
The Hoh Campground is open year-round and is first-come, first-served. They have campsites and also RV sites. You can also camp along the Hoh River Trail at campsites or along the Hoh River. Other than that, there’s not much out there. There are a few cabins and campsites scattered along the way from the visitor’s center back to the Forks.
Other Washington Rainforests
If you don’t get your fill of rainforests from the Hoh, three other rainforests are accessible in Olympic National Park. The four temperate rainforest valleys of Olympic National Park are the Hoh Rainforest, the Quinault Rainforest, the Queets Valley, and the Bogachiel Valley.
Visiting the Quinault Valley is more accessible than visiting Queets or Bogachiel. The Quinault Valley is in the southwestern corner of Olympic, located about three hours from Port Angeles, and one hour from Forks. There is a lot to see at Quinault; there’s Lake Quinault, an old Homestead, and of course, the rainforest. Lake Quinault has a few easy hikes including, Maple Glade, Kestner Homestead, Cascading Terraces, and Irely Lake.
Queets River Trail
You can access the Queets Valley from the Queets River Trail, located about 2 hours from the Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center, 1.5 hours south of Forks, and an hour from the small town of Queets. You must ford a river to access the trailhead, so not easy, or stroller friendly 🙂 This trail is good for experienced and serious hikers.
Bogachiel River Trail
The Bogachiel Rain Forest River Trailhead is about 25 miles south of Forks, and an hour from the Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center, off of Hwy 101. The Bogachiel River Trail has several creek crossings and is also for experienced hikers.
Things to Know About the Hoh Rainforest
Leave No Trace: In its simplest form, ‘leave no trace’ means to leave a place as you find it. No one should ever know you were there. The National Parks Service has a great website on leaving no trace, but here are a few principles to help you to leave no trace:
- Minimize the amount of trash you produce on the trail, and any garbage you do create, pack it out with you.
- Hike in small groups.
- Do not feed wildlife.
- Do not remove rocks, sticks, or other natural objects.
- Stay on the trail, and do not disturb natural habitats.
Food/Beverage: The Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center is in the middle of nowhere. Bring whatever food and water you’ll need for the day.
Gas: The closest gas station to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor’s Center is 31 miles away, so gas up before heading to the Visitor’s Center.
When visiting Olympic National Park many people stay on the northern side of the park, near Port Angeles and Hurricane Ridge. I’d encourage you to visit the western and southern areas of the park, like the Hoh Rainforest, or Pacific Beaches of Olympic National Park. I promise that its worth the trek and you won’t be disappointed! Also, the great thing about the Hoh Rainforest is that most of the hikes are ‘easy,’ not strenuous, and won’t take you all day. Drop me a note below if you have a favorite hike from the Hoh Rainforest!
Follow us on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook
for more travel hacks, tips, and inspiration!