Have you ever dreamed of wandering through a rainforest with its overly saturated, giant green leaves, moss-covered trees dripping from a recent rain and overgrown ferns tickling your legs? Here’s your chance to do so without leaving the U.S., no matter your ability and even if you have kids in tow. The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforests in the United States and is one of Olympic National Park’s most popular destinations because of its accessibility from park gateway towns, its visitor center and easy trails.
The Hoh Rain Forest lies on the west side of Olympic National Park, about a two-hour drive from Port Angeles and under an hour from Forks, Wash. Although the rainforest area is open year-round, the visitor center is closed January through early March, and has limited hours during spring and fall. There is a picnic area near the visitor center with accessible restrooms.
Dogs are not allowed on trails in the Hoh Rain Forest. That’s probably a good thing because you may see Roosevelt elk grazing in the forest. Please do not approach the elk and stay at least 100 feet away. They can become aggressive if you get too close. There are also black bears and mountain lions in the area but if you stay on these well-traveled trails, you probably won’t encounter them, and attacks on humans are rare. Never-the-less, leave food in the car while hiking these short trails and avoid wearing or carrying anything with a strong scent.
Take your time and leisurely stroll these two easy trails, each less than 1.2 miles with trailheads near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center parking lot. The two trailheads are close to each other, making for a convenient double hike. The ground is rugged with tree roots, small rocks and potentially mud covering the gravel so it’s best to protect your feet with closed-toe shoes or boots.
Tip: The best time to visit is the in the autumn when the leaves turn color. Bring your raincoat – fall is the rainy season. But there’s nothing more magical than walking in a rainforest in the rain.
Hall of Mosses Nature Trail
The Hall of Mosses nature trail ventures 0.8 miles through the Hoh Rain Forest with an elevation gain of less than 100 ft. It’s a favorite loop hike for kids and anyone who would enjoy an educational stroll with interpretive signs. Although this compacted gravel trail is not considered accessible, the average trail width is 3-6 ft. and the first 400 ft. of trail has less than a 5% grade. The remaining trail is more challenging with many up and down sections, the steepest of which is a 24% grade.
Spruce Nature Trail
For those with more time, another loop, the Spruce Nature Trail is just 1.2 miles and an elevation gain of only 230 ft. Parts of the trail follow Taft Creek and the Hoh River. Watch for nurse logs, fallen logs that provide a base for newly growing trees. Like the Hall of Mosses Trail, the first 400 ft. of compacted gravel trail has less than a 5% grade with the remaining trail trail being more rugged. Near the beginning of the trail, there is bench to sit and breathe in the forest.
Hoh Rain Forest Trail Map
Need an Olympic National Park map? Buy the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Olympic National Park map at REI.com. The map includes clearly marked trails and points of interest such as scenic views, campgrounds, trailheads, boat launches, picnic sites, ranger stations and more printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.