Expert Guide to Exploring the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park

I remember my first time visiting the Hoh Rainforest in the summer of 2017. I was on a solo road trip around Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and my parents had hyped it up so much. Walking around, I loved how quiet it was, with moss hanging six to 12 inches off trees and the immense amount of ferns on the ground.

It honestly felt like a different place and it’s such a lush landscape to explore.

Since then, I have moved to Washington and have had the chance to return to the Hoh Rainforest two more times. Seeing it in different conditions and seasons really shows how diverse this area is and why it’s totally worth visiting for anyone who comes to Olympic National Park.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Planning Your Trip to the Hoh Rainforest

Best Time To Visit

The first thing to know is that the Hoh Rainforest is open year-round. Rain or shine, you’ll be able to access this temperate rainforest.

Most people who visit the area will do so in the summer months. It’s just the time when most people visit Washington, and hiking in the rain isn’t anyone’s favorite thing. This is also when the days are the longest, and you’ll get to appreciate more of what Olympic National Park offers.

Just know the lush, moody vibes you see in videos of the Hoh Rainforest won’t be there if you visit after weeks or months of no rain.

While I believe the best time to visit the Olympics is the summer, I have been disappointed by the Hoh Rainforest when it’s dry.

Visit Off Peak Hours and Days

During the summer months, expect to have a sizeable wait to get to the Hoh Rainforest. Our first year in Washington, we waited about an hour in line to get to the parking lot. We made the dumb mistake of showing up at 1pm.

If you plan to visit on a weekend, I recommend coming early in the morning or around 5 p.m. Better yet, show up on a weekday, and you’ll beat most of the crowds.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Dry vs Wet Season

The Hoh Rainforest gets around 12 feet of rain each year, making it one of the wettest places in North America. That said, much of it comes from October through May, with the summer months being much drier. (I can’t complain about blue, sunny skies.) But, it is less “nice” when it’s dry out, with the moss looking more yellow than green.

I explored after a big rain and found the lush landscape TOTALLY different than what I’d seen in the summer months. Plus, there were almost no crowds, making it a much more serene experience than crowded summer months.

I think I prefer visiting in the wet season.

Getting to the Hoh Rainforest

This is not a short trek, especially from Seattle or Portland, where I assume most of you will be driving. The drive to the Hoh Rainforest is four hours from Seattle and a bit longer from Portland, at 4.75 hours.

Most of your route is winding roads off main interstates, creating longer drives than you would realize. However, it’s a beautiful drive with plenty to do along the way.

If you’re making Forks your home base, expect a 50-minute drive to the Visitor Center with no traffic.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Camping and Lodging Near the Hoh Rainforest

This is where it gets a bit hard. There are not a ton of places to stay in this area. Yes, Forks has spots, and so does Port Angeles. But other than that, this is a pretty untouched place.

If you’re okay with not doing a hotel, I suggest checking out Hipcamp camping options or getting lucky with one of the National Park Campgrounds.

Campgrounds in the area

  • Hoh Rainforest Campground
  • South Fork Hoh Campground
  • Minnie Peterson Campground
  • Hoh Oxbox Campground
  • Cottonwood Campground
  • Kalaloch Campground
  • South Beach Campground
  • Mora Campground

Olympic National Park: Hoh Rainforest Hikes

Hike the Hoh River Trail

The Hoh River Trail is a 17-mile trail that cuts east to west through Olympic National Park. Although only a small percentage of visitors complete the entire trail, it is incredibly popular overall, and you’ll see plenty of hikers on it, especially on the first couple of miles.

I would estimate most people only hike 4-8 miles round trip, as it looks more or less the same.

Distance:

  • First River access (0.9 miles/ 2.9 km one way)
  • Mineral Creek Falls (2.7 miles/ 4.3 one way)
  • Cedar Grove (4.0 miles/ 6.4 km one way)
  • 5-mile Island (5.0 miles/ 8.0 km one way)
A map outlining trails in the Hoh Rainforest.
Map of the Hoh Rainforest popular trails, courtesy of NPS

Backpack into the heart of the Olympics at Blue Glacier and Mt. Olympus

While the majority of the trail may look the same, the end is where the magic lies. Getting to Blue Glacier and Mt. Olympus is an incredible achievement, but it is not for the faint of heart. You’ll have to trek 35 miles, with the last quarter gaining serious elevation.

I haven’t been back this far, but I hope to make it soon.

A path through the hoh rainforest in washington

Explore the Hall of Mosses Trail

Short, sweet, and amazing—that’s the Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rainfest. This mile-long loop trail is perfect for the entire family and offers impressive views of old-growth forests and mossy trees. I recommend visiting after a rain to see how lush and vibrant the area is.

There is an elevation gain at the beginning, then it flattens out.

Distance: .8 miles

Spruce Nature Trail

The Spruce Nature Trail is an even easier option than above and offers more views of the Hoh Rainforest, trees, ferns, and lush vegetation. This one is almost completely flat and should be good even for those who may not want to walk too far.

Distance: 1.2 miles

Other Things to Do in the Area

Explore the Olympic National Park Coast

There’s so much of the Olympic National Park coastline to explore right by the Hoh Rainforest. Ruby Beach and the Tree of Life are just south, and then you’ve got epic beaches near Forks to see, too. Just promise me you won’t only see the rainforest; get out to the nearby sites.

One of the amazing views from the Olympic National Park coast
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Bogachiel State Park

I’ve driven past here four times in my life and still haven’t been. It’s also a rainforest, and I can only imagine it offers similar sights as the Hoh Rainforest without the crazy crowds. One day, I’ll make it here!

Quinault Rain Forest

I spent an afternoon in this part of Olympic, and it was awesome. This area is far less crowded and still provides a lush and scenic view. I barely grazed the surface on my trip, as we missed waterfalls and other gorgeous sights.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

We saw the following:

  • Quinalt Rainforest Trail
  • Willaby Falls
  • World’s Largest Sitka Spruce

Hoh Rainforest Photos

Enjoy these pictures from Olympic National Park.

What Wildlife Might You See

Expect to see a lot of deer and elk in the area, so drive slowly at dawn and dusk. You might see some black bears and mountain lions, but those are much rarer – especially with how crowded an area the Hoh Rainforest is.

Lastly, you’ll see plenty of frogs, slugs, and birds that I frankly don’t know enough about to give detailed facts.

What to wear

During the summer months, wear your normal hiking gear. You’ll want a comfortable shirt, hiking pants/shorts/leggings, a backpack, water, a hat, and sunglasses.

See my article on what to pack for a hike here.

In wet conditions, you’ll want a rain jacket, waterproof boots, and maybe rain pants, depending on how heavy it’s raining.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

FAQ: Hoh Rainforest

How long does it take to hike the Hoh rainforest?

For most day hikers, I would budget 2-4 hours of hiking. While you can surely do more, I don’t think you necessarily need to, considering all the other things to do in the area.

Does the rainforest get snow?

If the temperature is cold enough, the rainforest can see snow. However, with it residing so close to the ocean, where the weather is more temperate, it would take a frigid winter storm to drop snow here.

However, the Olympic mountain range receives tons of snow yearly.

Can I bring my dog into the Hoh Rainforest?

No dogs, cats, or pets are allowed on any of the Hoh Rainforest trails, including the Hall of Mosses, Spruce Nature Trail, and the Hoh River Trail.

What camera lens should I bring?

I would bring your widest lens to capture the tall trees and show off the scale of the area. But I’d also bring your normal lens set up to get detailed shots of the moss and different textures.

For me, I had my 16-35 and 24-105.

What pass do I need?

You’ll want to have the America the Beautiful Pass (i.e., National Parks Pass), which will give you access to this park and all parks in Washington and the United States. It costs $80, while the fee to enter here is $30.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Final Thoughts on the Hoh Rainforest

No matter when you visit Olympic National Park, you’ll want to check out the Hoh Rainforest. With more vegetation and hanging moss than you’ve ever seen, it’ll be an epic experience you’ll never forget.

And if you want to ditch the crowds, plan to hike a couple of miles on the Hoh River Trail, where you’ll find solitude inside this stunning wilderness.

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside