Explore some of the world’s best examples of a temperate rainforest in Olympic National Park.
The park’s four rain forests are part of a huge Pacific Northwest rainforest that once stretched from Oregon’s southern coast to southeastern Alaska. Because of development, very few temperate rainforests outside of Olympic National Park exist along this stretch today.
But what makes a temperate forest? Rain. Rain. And more rain ⎯ 12-14 feet per year, to be exact in Olympic. Climate also is important. In Olympic, temperatures rarely drop below freezing or go above 80F, enabling an incredibly unique ecosystem to grow. Mosses, ferns, Douglas fir, red alders, Western hemlocks and Sitka spruce thrive in temperate rainforests, as do epiphytes, which are plants growing on other plants. Cat-tail moss and licorice ferns are two types of epiphytes you will find in Olympic.
Another characteristic of temperate rainforests are nurse logs, which are the remnants of downed trees. As you walk through the forest, stop and examine the nurse logs along the trails. They become vibrant places for seeds to grow, small mammals to live and insects to burrow.
On the park’s west side, where some 12 feet of rainwater falls annually, you can explore Hoh, Quinault, Queets and Bogchiel rain forests.