If you have read my previous blog about Ruby beach and planning for it, you can also include Hoh Rain forest as a part of the plan. Both places are located at Olympic Peninsula and very close to each other in terms of distance. Less than one hour driving distance you can visit two different beautiful places. Hoh Rain forest is named after the Hoh river that originated from Mount Olympus and eventually ended up in the Pacific Coast. Some people say that the name ‘Hoh’ comes from Native American language Quileute word ‘Ohalet’, which means ‘snow water’ or ‘fast moving water’. As the river originates from glacial runoff, this meaning resonates with this explanation. Some other state that the name came from another Quinault word ‘Qu’ which means ‘boundary’. The reason behind this statement is that the river is massive, and Hoh forms a boundary across the landscape. There are some other explanations about the name ‘Hoh’. But which one is true? That is a mystery. Whatever the reason behind the name does not actually matter but still I feel a strong connection with any place when I know more about it, the history, and the information available.
We visited Hoh Rain forest in Spring and Winter time. To be honest, I love the winter vibe best. The gloomy weather accompanied by a little bit rain made the place more dramatic and the trees full of moss and ferns almost looked like giant people from a far distance. I was feeling goosebump; but still it was an amazing experience. During the winter season, rain is a frequent incident. Almost 140 inches or 3.55 meters of average precipitation occur during that time each year. And the result is spectacular lush green forest full of coniferous and deciduous species. The mosses and ferns add another dimension to the beauty of the rain forest. It’s really overwhelming to know that the rain forest once spanned from Southern Alaska to the central coast of California. Today, Hoh rain forest is the only remaining part of temperate rain forest in the United States. The rain forest is located on the west side of the Olympic National park and more than four-hour drive from Seattle and less than one hour drive from Ruby Beach.
Now the important question, what to see? As soon as you arrived at the end of Upper Hoh Road, there is a visitor center known as Hoh Rain Forest visitor Center. During the summer months, the visitor center is open daily and during Spring and fall, the center is open Friday through Sunday. But from January to March, the visitor center remains closed. Even if the visitor center is closed, you can still visit the rain forest and park at the parking lot there. The trailhead for the hikes starts from the parking lot. Depending on what you want to see and how you want to explore you have several options. if you have only time for a day or half day, you can take the two short loop trails or either one of them. These two short trails are the Hall of Mosses trail (0.8-mile loop) and the Spruce Nature trail (1.2 miles loop). Both trails are beautiful and amazing. The Hall of Mosses is full of old trees and a grove of maple trees draped with club moss. The view is quite awesome here and there is section where you will be surrounded by the giant moss-covered trees, which is a spectacular sight. The Spruce Nature trail features not only old growth but also new growth forest along with the Hoh River and Taft Creek. But if you have more than one day and want to explore further, the Hoh River trail is the one you want to take. You can take the trail and hike as much as you want. It’s all depended on you- how much you want to explore. There are a few camping areas along the way. The last one is located at the 17.3-mile mark and the destination is the Blue Glacier moraine looking up at Mt. Olympus located at 18.5 miles. It seems, if you want to go all the way in, it’s total 36-mile round trip with an elevation gain of 3700 feet most of which you will gain in the last five miles. There is another trail named the Hoh lake trail branches off from the main trail right after the ranger station and ascends to Bogachiel Peak. Also, if you don’t want to go this further, there are a few turn around points where you can start your return journey and call it a day. Some of these turn around points are First River access (0.9 miles), Mineral Creek Falls (2.7 miles), Cedar grove (4 miles) and five-mile Island (5 miles). Like I said, its all depend how far you want to go and how much you want to explore. If you want to make it a backpacking trip for several days, you have to get the permit or reservation. Backpacking reservations information can be found here:
- Wilderness (Backpacking) Reservations - Olympic National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
If you are visiting Hoh Rain forest during the summer or weekends, you may find a lot of people on the trails. Take your time, enjoy, and let people enjoy the Rain Forest as well. As always, practice leave no trace principle.