Destination PNW: Hoh Rainforest

Exploring this rainforest doesn’t require a passport… 

This post comes to us from nature expert and Northwest native, Lauren Haule.

Rainforests are few and far between but, buried deep in the Olympic National Park is the enchanting Hoh Rainforest. Accumulating over 100 inches of rain per year, it is one of the most idyllic temperate rainforest in the world.

Following the seemingly endless road that winds alongside the Hoh River, several turnabouts give you a chance to stretch your legs and take in views at the water’s edge – if you’re fortunate, you may even catch a glimpse of elk grazing along its banks.

Once you reach the visitor center, day hikers can choose between three main trail loops, and countless more for campers planning to spend the night.  The Hall of Mosses is not to be missed and, at only 0.8 miles, it’s also the shortest and most family-friendly of the trails.

A tranquil loop leading you through old growth Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and Maple trees slowly magnifies as you travel deeper.  On the forest floor, a deluge of mosses, ferns and other plants like Salmonberry shrub compete for space, while the trees host an abundance of epiphytes (plants growing on other plants), giving the rainforest its distinctive look.

Prevalent are “nurse logs,” or fallen trees, that, in their slow disintegration, become support for new growth.  Along the trail, some logs support up to 10 or 12 large trees, providing a firsthand look into the everlasting cycle of life.

These enormous conifers are hundreds of years old and can grow to 250ft high and 30-60 ft in circumference. Their size is impressive in and of itself, but then notice the layers of clubmoss billowing down, draping the gnarled branches and giving the forest an ethereal quality. There is a nearby maple grove where these peaceful giants stand almost mid bow, cloaked in their vibrant green linens. Here, time stands still.

The Hall of Mosses is only a small taste of what the rainforest has to offer. I was told by a park ranger that watching the sunset on the Hoh River – which can be as late as 9pm – is truly a sight to behold. The wildlife, visible mountain ranges and proximity to the ocean make the Hoh Rainforest the quintessential Pacific Northwest destination.

+ Learn about other Pacific Northwest trails here

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