Olympic Peninsula: Hoh Rainforest


If you go to Olympic National Park and only have time for one hike I highly suggest hiking the Hoh Rainforest. It is a different world. Ancient trees, their limbs heavy with moss. A trail running next to the glacier fed Hoh River lined with giants: trees over 200 feet tall and ferns taller than me. Beautiful and quiet, a world full of magic and secrets.

Th mosses are air plants. They feed off the nutrients and moisture in the air not the trees. However, the weight of the mosses overtime will cause the branches to break and crash to the forest floor.

Tips for visiting:

  • There is a fee to enter this portion of the park, if you purchase a multi-day pass elsewhere, such as Hurricane Ridge, it will get you into the Hoh Rainforest as long as it is within the date.
  • Bring proper rain gear such as a raincoat and water-proof boots.
  • If you are planning to do a multi-day hike make sure to read the updated rules and regulations before going.
  • Bring plenty of food and water, there is a visitor center but depending on the season it maybe closed, such as when we were there. The closest town is Forks and it is over an hour away.

We only hiked up to Tom Creek (about 6 miles there and back). This portion of the tail was fairly easy, without too much elevation gain. This is the main trail in the Hoh Rainforest, Hoh River Trail, and is very popular with hikers. There are a couple of shorter trails, such as the Hall of Mosses, near the visitor center. The main trail presents the best opportunity to explore the main portion of the Hoh. The Hall of Mosses is 3/4 of a mile loop that teaches visitors about the rainforest. For as short as it is though it does have some steep portions.

Animals of the Hoh Rainforest:

I have no idea what species this little guy is but he was hanging out in the middle of the trail and I nearly stepped on him! Don’t worry, I moved him to the edge of the trail gently with a leaf.
Roosevelt Elk Bull

Theodore Roosevelt established Olympic National Monument to preserve the habitat for this subspecies of elk. The national monument was made a national park later by FDR. Read more of the history here. We also spotted many birds and squirrels along with one small yellow striped snake that slithered into the grass before I could grab a picture. And a very dedicated woodpecker that we found by following the sound of his day’s work.

Glacier or snow melt?

The picture above is of a stream that must be crossed to hike the Hall of Mosses trail. I don’t know if it is spring fed or snow melt fed but I rarely, if ever, have seen clearer water. Snow melt water tends to be really clear and there is so much ground cover in the rainforest that it makes sense that the resulting water is clear because it cannot pick up much sediment. The picture below is of the Hoh River. This river is fed by the Hoh Glacier. Glacier fed rivers are often cloudy with glacial silt, small rock dust that the glaciers carve off the surface of the earth as they move.

Overall we did not hike enough of the Hoh Rainforest. This forest is absolutely incredible and I want to go back. Have you ever hiked the Hoh or in another rainforest? Let me know in the comments! Save travels!

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Thank you KW Photography for allowing me to use your wonderful photos!

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