There’s perhaps no hike in Olympic National Park that’s more iconic than the Hall of Mosses trail. Located in the lush Hoh Rainforest, the Hall of Mosses lives up to its name, with verdant moss carpeting the forest ground, larger-than-life primeval ferns, and trees soaring hundreds of feet overhead. Best of all, this easy trail is accessible for hikers of all skill levels. Here’s everything you need to know about the Hall of Mosses trail, a walk through a real-life fairytale forest.
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About the Hall of Mosses Trail
- Distance: 1.1 miles
- Elevation gain: 78 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Are dogs allowed? Sadly, like most national park hikes, you’ll need to leave your furry best friend at home for this one.
How to Get to the Hall of Mosses Trail
While it’s an unmissable stop on any Olympic National Park itinerary, it’s admittedly a little bit in the middle of nowhere, being 45 minutes from the teeny town of Forks (yes, of Twilight fame), two hours from Port Angeles, and four hours from Seattle. Luckily, though, it’s reasonably close to the coastline and some of the most popular Olympic National Park beaches, like Rialto Beach, Kalaloch Beach (home to the famed Tree of Life!), and Ruby Beach, so there’s plenty to explore nearby.
When you’re driving here, be sure to actually put the trailhead itself into your GPS and not just the “Hoh Rainforest”- I’ve made this mistake a couple of times and it incorrectly leaves off driving 35 minutes along Upper Hoh Road, through the rainforest to the trailhead.
Before you reach the parking area, you’ll pass by a fee station for the national park, which costs $30 per vehicle for a one-week pass or $80 for an annual America the Beautiful pass for unlimited access to all of the Washington national parks (and all the rest of the national parks!) and over 2,000 federally managed sites (pretty incredible deal, eh?).
Once you’ve paid your fee or flashed your fancy annual pass, you’ll reach the Hoh Rainforest parking lot, which holds about a hundred or so cars.
What is the Hoh Rainforest?
I live in Seattle now, but before moving here, I visited the city just for funsies a few years prior. Before my trip, multiple people asked me if I planned to visit the Hoh Rainforest while I was in town. Given that it was four hours away from Seattle, I thought the question was a bit odd—what’s the big deal with a random forest?
As it turns out, the Hoh Rainforest is totally worth the hype. It’s one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States and has been named UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere, thanks to its unique and complex ecosystem, which has remained largely unchanged for thousands of years. Unlike the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica, you won’t find monkeys or sloths here, but instead, loads of mushrooms, lichen, moss, roosevelt elk, or if you’re super lucky (or, maybe not so lucky), even black bears.
It’s home to many ancient and massive trees, like Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock. These trees can reach over 300 feet tall and are dripping with ferns and hundreds of different species of mosses. Add in the low-hanging fog that’s seemingly omnipresent in the Olympic Peninsula and the Hoh Rainforest looks straight up magical.
What to Expect Along the Hall of Mosses Trail
The trail departs from the east side of the parking lot and heads left along the Hoh Visitor Center Mini Loop Trail. After just 0.1 miles, the trail splits off—to the right, you’ll find the Spruce Nature Trail, but we’re heading left along the Hall of Mosses.
Shortly into the trail, you’ll cross over Taft Creek. The water is SO clear and from September through January, you may just get to see a young coho salmon swimming through the water.
In a few hundred feet, the trail splits into a loop—every time I’ve done this trail, it feels like all of the hikers head clockwise first, so Iet’s head to the left first.
The trail gently slopes upward and just 0.3 miles into the trail, there’s a short offshoot to Maple Grove, a small lookout where you can gaze up in awe at a grove of moss-covered big leaf maple trees.
Back on the main trail, the path continues to climb upward (but nothing too intense–it gains less than 80 feet in elevation total!).
As you continue along the loop trail, be sure to gaze up overhead at the towering trees, dripping with lichen and moss. And take your time—the hike is way shorter than you think, so your experience being immersed in this fairytale forest will be over before you know it if you rush through.
Half a mile in, the trail will start to slope downward and after completing the loop, you’ll simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
While the trail is short and relatively flat, it’s worth pointing out that it’s also covered with rocks and tree roots. I’ve seen people take baby strollers on the trail, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it—I think you’d be on the struggle bus the whole time. While there’s unfortunately only sections of the trail that are considered wheelchair accessible, the trail is otherwise accessible to hikers with mobility issues and offers several benches along the way if you need a rest.
Other Frequently Asked Questions About the Hall of Mosses
What should I bring to the Hall of Mosses Trail?
- Raincoat: Wanna know a fun fact about the Hoh Rainforest? It receives twelve FEET of rain each year, which is why the forest is so incredibly lush and green. That means, though, that there’s a decent chance that it may rain during your visit. Come prepared with a waterproof jacket—here’s the one that my husband, Justin, uses and here’s one for women.
- Hiking shoes: Between the large amount of rain (did I mention that it receives twelve feet?!), which can cause the trail to be muddy, and the uneven pathway, I’d suggest wearing actual hiking shoes instead of regular ol’ sneakers. If you visit in the summer, which tends to be drier, you can probably get away with hiking sandals, like my beloved Tevas (here’s the kind Justin uses and here is mine).
Alternatively, if you’re visiting during the wetter period of the year (basically, anytime not in the summer), I’d suggest wearing waterproof hiking boots (here’s the kind Justin uses and these are mine) to keep your feet dry and your soles safe from the stabby rocks and roots along the trial.
- Water and snacks: As mentioned above, the Hall of Mosses trail is kind of in the middle of nowhere, so bring along all of the snacks and water you’ll need during your visit. We use these comically giant Nalgene bottles that provide plenty of water, whether we’re going on a longer hike in Olympic, like the Enchanted Valley trail, or a shorter trek, like the Hall of Mosses.
- Bear spray: Listen, it’s unlikely that you’ll see bears along the trail, given how popular it is. They have been seen here, though, and, if you’re headed to other, more remote areas of the park during your visit, bear encounters are much more common. So if you’re planning on exploring more hikes in Olympic National Park, it’s not a bad idea to throw a can of bear spray in an easily accessible part of your backpack.
When should I visit the Hall of Mosses Trail?
The summer is the driest part of the year to visit, which has its pluses and minuses. On one hand, you’ll likely get to enjoy the trail without getting wet or muddy. On the other hand, the forest can actually look a bit less lush this time of year and you’ll be battling with the most crowds.
Early fall (September and October) is likely the best part of the year to enjoy the trail—the skies are generally pretty clear and the crowds of the summer have died down.
Winter and spring are going to be the wettest time to visit. While it might not feel super fun to slosh around the trail in the cold, misty rain, the Hoh Rainforest truly looks its most luscious this time of year and you’ll have a great chance of seeing the low-hanging fog that makes the forest look that much more mystical.
In terms of the time of day, the Hall of Mosses trail is arguably the most popular one in the park. So, if you want to enjoy the magical forest to yourself, it’s best to avoid summer weekends or holidays and come super early or later in the afternoon. The forest just hits a bit better when you have it all to yourself, plus I’ve heard of four-hour long waits to get into the parking lot at peak visiting times in the summer!
What else is there to do in the Hoh Rainforest?
- Explore other trails. There’s two other Hoh Rainforest hikes—the Spruce Nature Trail and the Hoh River Trail.
The Spruce Nature Trail is a short 1.4-mile trail and is an excellent add-on to the Hall of Mosses if you want to soak in your time in the Hoh Rainforest.
The Hoh River Trail, on the other hand, follows along the river for 17.4 miles (one-way) to Glacier Meadows, to a stunningly blue glacier (aptly-named Blue Glacier), tucked into the side of Mount Olympus. While the full trail is quite challenging, most hikers simply do a couple of miles along the trail before turning around.
- Check out the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center. The visitor center is teeny, but offers some exhibits and signage that explains what makes this place just so special. Unfortunately, it does have some weird hours and is seemingly closed every time I’ve visited. Theoretically, though, it should be open daily in the summertime, on weekends in the fall and spring, and is closed throughout the winter.
Where should I stay near the Hoh Rainforest?
Given its remoteness, there’s not a ton of accommodations around the Hoh Rainforest.
Your best bet will be staying in the small town of Forks. You’re definitely not going to find any kind of luxury accommodations here, but if you’re just looking for a cozy spot to rest your head for the night, check out:
- Pacific Inn Motel: Family-owned and operated hotel with clean and comfortable rooms and a hot tub to relax in after all that hiking you did for the day. And if you’re a Twilight superfan, you’re in luck–there’s some Twilight-themed rooms here that you can book!
- Kalaloch Lodge: This hotel is perched on the side of a cliff, overlooking Kalaloch Beach and beyond, the crashing Pacific Ocean. You can stay in your own sweet, rustic cabin, which may come with a wood-burning stove or fireplace for maximum #hygge vibes.
- Quillayute River Resort: You’ll feel right at home here, with suites offering both a kitchen and a covered patio and stunning river views. Every detail of this place has been carefully selected by the thoughtful owners, from the comfortable beds to the fire-pits that you can roast marshmallows over to end your day.
Enjoy the Hall of Mosses trail—it’s seriously one of my favorite hikes in Olympic National Park! Do you have any questions about planning your visit? Let me know in the comments below.