Looking up along moss covered tree trunks at the vibrant green canopy of the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park.

Visiting The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park | A Complete Guide

Everything you need to know about the enchanting Hoh Rainforest, a beautiful temperate rainforest right in the heart of Olympic National Park.

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You've probably seen photos of the unimaginably green forests of the Pacific Northwest. Towering trees practically dripping with moss. Layers upon layers of dense ferns and undergrowth.

There are few intact rainforests left along the Pacific coast, though they used to stretch all the way from Oregon to Alaska. The Hoh Rainforest lives on as one example.

We fell in love with this place during our circuit around the Olympic Peninsula and we've put together the guide below to help you plan your own trip here. We'll cover a little about what the Hoh actually is and what makes it such a special place. Then we'll give details on how to get there, what to do, and where you can stay in the area. We've also got plenty of inside tips along the way, including the best times to visit and what to pack. So read on for our complete guide to visiting the Hoh Rainforest.

What is the Hoh Rainforest?

The Hoh Rainforest is known for its lush old-growth forest trails, crystal clear streams, and incredible biodiversity. It's protected by Olympic National Park and as a World Heritage Site and is one of the most popular destinations in the park.

It's home to a wide variety of tree species, including massive Sitka spruce and western hemlock. The cool and damp environment is ideal for moss and lichen, giving the rainforest its uniquely characteristic appearance.

Branches are draped with hanging moss that overlap lichen covered trunks and a dense carpet of ferns along the forest floor. Honestly, walking down a path through the Hoh Rainforest makes you feel like you've stepped into a fairytale. It's simply enchanting.


Warm golden light spills through the tree tops of a dense rainforest with dense ferns in the foreground.Close up on the fronds of a fern that are partially illuminated by a beam of sunlight.

Where is the Hoh Rainforest

You'll find the Hoh Rainforest on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. It sits about 25 miles inland from the Pacific coast, along the Hoh River, which carries glacial water down from Mount Olympus.

The rainforest is a two hour drive from Port Angeles, the gateway to Olympic National Park, and just under an hour from the small town of Forks.

The Temperate Rainforest Climate

Because of its temperate rainforest climate, Hoh receives an average 140 inches (3.55 meters) of precipitation every year, mostly between November and March. It also enjoys a narrow range of temperatures, with highs rarely going above 75F (24C) in the summer and staying above freezing for most of the winter.

Those comfortable temps not only make it a great place to visit, it also allows for the lush year round greenery that sets Hoh apart.

A small stream cuts through dense rainforest undergrowth and is lined by large moss covered trees in the Hoh Rainforest.

Things to do in the Hoh Rainforest

Hiking Trails

There are two shorter loop trails and one out-and-back that all begin from the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center. The Hall of Mosses Trail is an extremely popular and iconic trail. The Spruce Nature Trail is nearly as popular and just as accessible, but slightly longer.

The Hoh River Trail leads directly into the heart of Olympic National Park and can be taken as far as you'd like, making for a great day hike or a longer, overnight backpacking adventure.

Hall of Mosses Trail

Distance | 1.1 miles Elevation gain | 78 feet Difficulty | Easy Duration | 24 minutes

If you've ever seen a photo of the Hoh Rainforest you've undoubtedly seen the Hall of Mosses Trail. It winds through an old growth forest, with towering maple trees covered in vibrant moss. At just over a mile, it's easy, accessible and the best way to quickly soak in the spirit of the rainforest.

Spruce Nature Trail

Distance | 1.4 miles Elevation gain | 95 feet Difficulty | Easy Duration | 42 minutes

An equally great way to see what Hoh Rainforest is all about is on the Spruce Nature Trail. With slightly more distance and elevation, it's still doable for anyone and takes you through both old and new growth, out to the banks of the Hoh River.

Hoh River Trail & Hoh Lake Trail

Distance | 5.5 - 35.1 miles Elevation gain | 213 - 5,633 feet Difficulty | Easy - Hard Duration | 2+ hours

The Hoh River Trail begins with about 13 miles of flat terrain, but does include some river crossings and sections of steep, loose rock. You can venture in as far as you like for a day hike before turning back, but it's also a popular route in the park for backcountry camping.

If you're considering an overnight stay or heading all the way out to see Mount Olympus, visit the NPS website for additional safety info. You'll need to secure a permit before doing any camping.

Peeking through dense rainforest foliage at a woman walking along a paved trail through the trees.Looking up the trunk of a towering evergreen green with golden sunlight spilling in through a rainforest canopy.

Spotting Wildlife in the Hoh Rainforest

The range of wildlife in the rainforest is just as diverse as the plant life.

Many visitors have spotted groups of Roosevelt Elk along the trails through Hoh Rainforest. It's also home to more elusive animals, like bobcats and cougars. You're most likely to encounter a black bear away from highly trafficked trails or in the backcountry, but keep an eye out.

The Hoh River boasts a huge variety of salmon species, and runs occur during spring and summer when they come here to spawn.

We weren't lucky enough to spot any large animals, but one critter we did see plenty of on our loop around the Olympic peninsula is the banana slug. These guys are so interesting to see in person. Not only are they huge, but they truly do resemble a (slightly overripened) banana.

Close up on a long yellow slug with dark brown patches along its body crawling across the rainforest floor.

The Visitor Center

Since all trails start at the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, it's a great place to stop before heading out. You can get more information from staff, learn more about the rainforest in the exhibit, browse the bookstore, and hit the restrooms.

The visitor center is open daily during the summer, but has limited hours in the off-season: typically Friday through Sunday in the spring and fall, and closed January through March.

How to Get to the Hoh Rainforest

US Highway 101 loops around the entire Olympic Peninsula and you can reach the Hoh Rainforest by taking it either clockwise or counterclockwise from the Seattle area.

From Port Angeles and the northern portion of the park it's about a two hour drive.

From Hoodsport and the Staircase area, on the southern end of the park, it's about a three hour drive.

Once you reach the Upper Hoh Road, off 101, it's a 30 minute drive in to the visitor center and hiking trails.

Best Time of the Year to Visit the Hoh Rainforest

Summer

This is by far the busiest time of year, but it also offers the most comfortable and driest weather. When visiting during summer months you'll need to arrive very early to avoid large crowds.

The drive along Upper Hoh Road can become totally gridlocked, resulting in wait times of several hours. Make sure you don't hit snooze and get to the visitor center before 9 AM.

Fall

While not as vibrant or spectacular as other parts of the country, you can expect to see some color change in the Hoh Rainforest during fall, creating a beautiful contrast to the lush evergreen foliage and the glacial blue waters of the river.

Crowds, along with temperatures, start to drop in mid September, so it's a great time to avoid the wait, while still being comfortable.

Winter

You can see the Hoh Rainforest at its greenest by visiting in the winter, but prepare to get wet. Most of the rain comes between November and March, with an average 25 inches in January alone. Compare that with 2 inches in July for reference.

Spring

Once again, the spring offers relief from summer crowds. Winter rains bring especially vibrant green colors and salmon runs in the swollen Hoh River and streams.

Places to Stay

Campgrounds

Hoh Rainforest Campground | Adjacent to the national park visitor center. Can be reserved in advance May through September. First come first serve during the rest of the year. Seventy two campsites, with a fire ring and picnic table. Food storage lockers and potable water are available at the restrooms, but no showers. The dump station here has been closed.

Kalaloch Campground | A one hour drive south from the trailheads. Beautiful location on the Pacific coast, that's books up quickly, especially during the summer. Camping fees include a fire ring, picnic table, and access to food lockers, drinking water, and restrooms. No shower facilities. A dump station is on site with a $10 fee.

There are several primitive campgrounds in the immediate area managed by WA DNR, which we've listed below. They have no overnight fees and operate on a first come first serve basis, but a Discover Pass is required.

South Fork Hoh Campground

Hoh Oxbow Campground

Cottonwood Campground

Hotels

Hoh Valley Cabins | Four modern one bedroom cabins located on Upper Hoh Road with a short drive into the park.

Miller Tree Inn | A beautiful and historic B&B with eight guest rooms. For Twilight fans: it's also been named the official "Cullen House" of Forks.

Misty Valley Inn | A quaint B&B on the edge of Forks with four rooms.

Boondocking

Of course, we're always in favor of responsibly finding free places to camp, even when visiting a national park. Though you can't legally boondock inside Olympic National Park, there are still plenty of opportunities for staying off-grid in the surrounding area. Use some of our favorite techniques and search along the route between Forks and Kalaloch.

Common Questions About the Hoh Rainforest

Should I visit the Hoh Rainforest?

Absolutely! The Hoh Rainforest offers such unique views along its trails and a huge diversity of wildlife. While it can get very busy, you should definitely plan a visit if you're going to be in Olympic National Park and use our tips above for dodging the crowds.

Do you need a National Parks Pass for the Rainforest?

Yes. An entrance pass is required inside Olympic National Park. You can buy a seven day pass for $30 or purchase an annual pass for $80, which covers entry into more than 2,000 sites across the US.

Which trail is better - The Hall of Mosses or Spruce Nature Trail?

While they're very similar, the Hall of Mosses Trail is slightly shorter, though it has a very small uphill section. The Spruce Nature Trail is almost completely flat. Hall of Mosses will take you deeper into old growth rainforest and it's well known for its greenery and mossy trees.

Because both trails are so short, we'd recommend doing both. But, if we were on a real time crunch and could only do one, we'd choose the Hall of Mosses.

What should I bring to the Hoh Rainforest?

You won't need much to make the most of your visit to the Hoh Rainforest. The trails here are short, unless of course you're planning a backpacking trip. Here's a list of just the essential things you should bring along for an enjoyable day.

Comfortable hiking boots. Investing in a pair of reliable and waterproof boots or shoes is a great idea.

A rain jacket. Even if you're visiting in the summer, be prepared for at least some rain.

A warm hat. Since temperatures are typically a bit chilly here.

Offline maps. The route here is pretty direct, but because of limited cell reception, make sure to download offline maps first and/or bring a paper park map.

Your camera. You're not going to want to miss out on the incredible photo opportunities here.

National Parks Pass. You can save a lot of money throughout the year by purchasing an annual America the Beautiful pass.

A water bottle. Even if you're only doing a few miles you'll want to stay hydrated. Bring along a sturdy reusable bottle that you can fill at the visitor center.

What else is there to do near the Hoh Rainforest?

There's so much more to do on the western edge of the Olympic peninsula. You can't come this far without stopping by one or more of the incredible beaches in the area.

The closest is Ruby Beach, almost directly west of Hoh Rainforest. When the tide is low, head out just off shore and see if you can spot the absolutely massive starfish clinging to the rocks.

Just south is Kalaloch, where the now famous Tree of Life's roots span a gap of eroded shoreline.

About twenty minutes beyond Forks is a magical stretch of coastline with several noteworthy beaches. In La Push you'll find First, Second, and Third Beach. They don't win awards for most creative name, but they're some of the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen. With a backcountry permit you can hike out and spend the night here.

A two person tent is set up among large pieces of driftwood with a view of Washington's Second Beach and its distant offshore rock formations during a soft pink sunset.

Lastly, there's Rialto Beach. It's just north of First Beach, but you'll need to access it by a different route. The views here are on par with its neighbors, but Rialto has one extra claim to fame: the Hole in the Wall.

You'll need to be here at just the right time to fully appreciate the namesake archway. But, even if the tide is high, as it was when we got there, it's still worth the walk down the beach and up the steep hill for views looking back along the coast.

Looking directly toward the sun as it sets behind offshore rock formations at Rialto Beach in Washington.
See a shot you love? We have photos from Olympic National Park for sale in our print shop!

If Hoh Rainforest hasn't satisfied your need for deep green enchanting forests, you're in luck because one hour down Highway 101 is the Quinault Rainforest. Here you'll find practically the same views, with much thinner crowds.

For a very similar experience to Hoh, we'd recommend heading into the trees on the Quinault Rainforest or Maple Glade Nature Trails.

A woman stops along a paved trail through the dense green Quinault Rainforest and looks all a clearing among towering trees.

Want to visit the Hoh Rainforest? Pin it for later!

A lush green rainforest with ferns in the foreground and text overlay that says 'Hoh Rainforest A Complete Guide'

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