Hoh Rainforest, campground and hiking opportunities within a premier example of North America’s temperate rain forest – a must-visit location.
We discovered the Hoh Rainforest in 1992. Having been raised in the greater Los Angeles area, I was used to "rivers" being muddy trickles in the middle of a cement aquaduct wandering toward the Pacific Ocean through industrial jungles.
The Hoh Rain Forest was wonderful. I had no idea that such a magical place as a temperate rain forest could exist on earth, let alone in the USA.
After two glorious, sun-filled days, the rain set in. As we attended a ranger presentation just before leaving, a few guests in the audience feared the rain would ruin their vacations.
Because the Hoh had already made a deep imprint on my soul, I never forgot the words of the ranger as he opened his talk:
"Don't resent the rain! It is because of the rain that we have a rain forest, and without it, you could not enjoy the beauty of the Hoh."
Years later, my hub and I moved to Port Angeles, where we can now return to the Hoh Rainforest as often as possible.
Port Angeles is approximately 88 miles (141.6 km) away, or about a 2- hour drive from downtown Port Angeles. If Port Angeles is not your starting point...
On Washington's Olympic Peninsula, tucked in a valley between the Pacific Ocean and the west-facing slopes of the Olympic mountain range, is the Hoh Rainforest and Visitor Center. It is its location - near the Pacific Ocean to the west producing prevailing winds that pile up against the Olympic Mountain Range immediately to the east - that results in a temperate rain forest biome. The Hoh Rain Forest typically experiences lots and lots of rain, 12 - 14 feet annually on average. During the summer when rainfall diminishes, the morning mist waters the forest.
Other characteristics of a temperate rain forest are:
The result of location, climate and prodigious rainfall is a collection of enormous evergreen trees, some deciduous trees, and lots of ferns, lichens, mosses, and berry brambles fed by the rich loamy soil made from millennia of fallen trees, branches, and leaves.
It is no wonder that the region was set apart for future generations as the Olympic National Park.
Though parts of the area outside the Park have been logged over the last century, inside the Park there is plenty remaining of the quiet mystery of moss, fern and lichen and the awe-inspiring native Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock. These giants can reach sizes of over 300 feet high and 25 feet in diameter.
Chickadees, wrens, woodpeckers, nuthatches and thrushes whistle and tweet their way through the trees providing a symphony for Pacific tree frogs, black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, cougar, Olympic black bear, bobcats, raccoons, banana slugs and their nemesis, the non-native black slug. And, of course, the occasional human, including you, me, and Mick Dodge (see below).
All have made themselves at home amid the moist, draping moss and the understory of big-leaf maples, alder and ferns.
The Hoh Visitor Center, located at the end of Upper Hoh Road, off Hwy 101, south of Forks, WA, is the hub of the Hoh, as most of the walking and hiking trails are accessible at or near the Hoh Visitor Center.
Stopping at the Visitor Center can be very helpful. Ask all your questions about the amazing rainforest or obtain local up-to-the-minute information about trails. Check out the rainforest exhibits, get your wilderness permit, and purchase a gift or souvenir.
The Hoh Visitor Center is:
You have your choice of five trails within the Olympic National Park's Hoh Rainforest, ranging from easy to difficult. All will lead through rainforest mosses dripping from maple trees, creeping over fallen trees and carpeting the forest floor. Look for "nurse" trees nurturing the next generation of distinguished sentinels.
These shorter trails are wonderful for giving the essence of the Hoh Rainforest. Choose one, or stroll all of them. They won't disappoint!
(Below: click any photo to open gallery in full size.)
The next two trails are for the experienced and well-conditioned hiker. They may include fording rivers and/or traversing glaciers.
Five Mile Island is just 5.3 miles along the Hoh River Trail (10.6 miles counting the return hike). Altitude gain is negligible. It's a lovely hike, and sightings of elk are somewhat likely. But, it will feel really long if you're unused to hiking.
If you like, the Hoh River Trail also offers access to an additional hike to Blue Glacier, 0.9 miles beyond Glacier Meadows and 700 feet higher. Along the way catch glimpses of the High Divide and Mount Tom. Backpackers will need to obtain a wilderness permit before proceeding.
The Hoh Campground is situated within the Hoh Rainforest surrounded by lush rainforest. It is open year round, is wheelchair accessible with flush toilets and potable water. Some riverside campsites available. First-come, first-serve.
Many campsites on A Loop and C Loop border the Hoh River, which snakes along beyond the trees in the photo above.
This rainforest story is not complete without mentioning the legendary
Mick Dodge, who lives off the land near the Hoh River Valley. The National
Geographic channel featured his life in its series, "The Legend of Mick
More info at this link:
Seattle Times story: Hoh Rain Forest Dweller Featured in TV Series