The Hoh Rainforest is perhaps the most famous area of Washington state’s Olympic National Park, with its ancient trees, dripping with moss, and towering primeval ferns. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, this magical place is a must on any Olympic National Park itinerary. Here’s the most incredible Hoh Rainforest hikes that are perfect for exploring this wild and otherworldly place.
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Best Hoh Rainforest Hikes
Are you ready to learn all about the three most spectacular Hoh Rainforest Hikes? In full disclosure, there’s actually only three hikes that leave from the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center area—but luckily, they’re all pretty stunning in their own way!
Let’s get into it!
1. Hall of Mosses Trail
- Length: 1.1 miles
- Elevation gain: 78 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
The famed Hall of Mosses trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park—and for good reason!
Along this short and easy loop trail, you’ll wander past babbling streams with crystal clear water and trees that tower hundreds of feet overhead, dripping with lichen and moss. While most of the giant trees you’ll see here are western hemlock and spruce, there’s a little offshoot along the trail called Maple Grove, which, true to its name, features huge big-leaf maple trees, draped with club moss. Exploring this trail seriously feels like you’re walking through some kind of fairytale forest (…it doesn’t hurt that there’s often low-hanging fog that clings to its treetops).
But, as one of the best hikes in Olympic National Park, it also can get pretty crowded, especially on busy summer weekends and holidays—my husband, Justin, and I visited once during the Fourth of July weekend and actually wound up leaving the trail because it was so packed! So, if you’re visiting on a weekend in the summertime, I’d suggest getting here bright and early so you can have this magical place (mostly) to yourself.
2. Spruce Nature Trail
- Length: 1.4 miles
- Elevation gain: 16 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
To be honest, the Spruce Nature Trail, an easy loop trail, feels incredibly similar to the Hall of Mosses—but with half the crowds. While maybe a teeny less dramatic than the Hall of Mosses, you’ll still get the same kind of enchanted forest vibes, with enormous sitka spruce and hemlock trees soaring overhead and comically enormous primeval ferns, lining the trail.
One of my favorite aspects of the Spruce Nature Trail is that about a third of the pathway is along the Hoh River, with several clearings that provide stunning vistas across the river to the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. If you’re lucky, you may get to see some deer or even roosevelt elk grazing along the riverside—they love hanging out here!
This hike is very family-friendly, with its minimal elevation gain and interesting educational signs along the way. No matter whether you’re hiking with kiddos or not, this is an excellent addition to the Hall of Mosses or an alternative trail if the Hall of Mosses is too packed for you!
3. Hoh River Trail
- Length: 34.6 miles (or less- this one is kind of a choose-your-own-adventure!)
- Elevation gain: 3,700
- Difficulty: Hard
So if short and sweet nature loops described above are too leisurely for you, you can kick your Olympic National Park itinerary up a notch along the Hoh River Trail, which winds through miles and miles of the rainforest and ends at a vista overlooking a stunning blue glacier cascading down the side of Mount Olympus.
Most folks just do the Hoh River Trail as a day hike, walking just a few miles down the trail and turning around whenever you feel like it (don’t feel like you need to hike the full 35 miles!). However, you can also do the full Hoh River Trail as a three or four day backpacking trip, with five campgrounds between the trailhead and the Blue Glacier to stop along your itinerary.
If you’ve only got one day in the Hoh Rainforest and are looking for a more moderate day hike than the Hall of Mosses or Spruce Nature Trail, consider hiking to Five Mile Island, where you’ll have a view clear across the Hoh River and stunning views of Bogachiel Peak. True to its name, Five Mile Island is about five miles from the trailhead, making a 10.1 mile out-and-back trail, with minimal elevation gain (just 387 feet).
Alternatively, for an easier option, hike the Hoh River Trail to Mineral Creek Falls, to a gorgeous waterfall. This easy option is just 5.6 miles out-and-back, with less than 250 feet of elevation gain.
No matter how many miles you hike along the trail, you’ll get those classic Hoh views—ancient trees, nurse logs (which are fallen logs that new trees and shrubs take root from), and thickly layered moss. The deeper you go into the rainforest, the better chance you’ll have of spotting Olympic’s incredible wildlife, from deer and elk to even some black bear.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hoh Rainforest Hikes
What is the Hoh Rainforest?
If you’re this far into this article, I’d hope you’d know what the Hoh Rainforest is! Juuuust in case, though, the Hoh Rainforest is one of four temperate rainforests found in Washington’s Olympic National Park. True to its name, the Hoh Rainforest gets, well, a lot of rain, with an annual average rainfall of 140 inches. This rainfall enables the proliferation of vast biodiversity, including almost ten species that can be found here and nowhere else on the planet!
The Hoh Rainforest has been an important part of the lives of the Indigenous people who have called the Olympic Peninsula home for thousands and thousands of years, thanks to its plethora of salmon, deer, and other important plantlife. While many areas of the peninsula were unfortunately logged during the 1900s, the formation of Olympic National Park protected the Hoh and its old-growth forest, allowing it to be the incredibly stunning and special place it is today.
How do you get to the Hoh Rainforest?
The Hoh Rainforest is found on the west side of Olympic, the most popular of the three Washington national parks. The rainforest is located about 45 minutes southeast of the teeny town of Forks (yes, of the Twilight sparkly-vampire-teenage romance fame) or two hours southwest of Port Angeles, which is largely viewed as the springboard for Olympic National Park. From Highway 101, used to drive around the Olympic Peninsula Loop, you’ll reach the heart of the Hoh Rainforest along the Upper Hoh Road.
To enjoy Olympic National Park, you’ll need to get a one-week pass per vehicle for $30 or pick up an America the Beautiful Pass, for unlimited access to all of the U.S. National Parks and over 2,000 federally managed sites, for just $80 for an entire year!
Tip: Be sure to put in the “Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center” in your GPS app of choice, instead of just the “Hoh Rainforest”, which will just take you to the start of the Upper Hoh Road. This way, you’ll have accurate directions and know how long it will take you to get there. As mentioned above, I’d also recommend getting here as early as possible if you’re visiting on a summer weekend or holiday. The Upper Hoh Road is, for the most part, a two-lane road the entire time and I’ve heard of folks having to wait over three hours just to get into the parking lot during the peak season.
What should I bring for the Hoh Rainforest hikes?
- Raincoat (his | hers): Did I mention that the Hoh Rainforest gets almost twelve feet of rain per year? It’s wise to come prepared for surprise rain showers (which tend to make the rainforest look more lush and beautiful anyway!).
- Waterproof boots (his | hers): Lots of rain makes for lots of mud. Keep those tootsies dry and warm with some waterproof boots.
- Water bottle
- Offline maps: We don’t get any kind of cell phone signal in or around the Hoh Rainforest, so plan ahead and download offline maps for both Google Maps and AllTrails.
Pssst… you’ll need AllTrails+ to download an offline map for hiking, but luckily, you can get a 7-day free trial, PLUS our awesome readers get a sweet 30% off discount—just use the code “Uprooted30” at check out! If you’ve been thinking about upgrading your AllTrails account to the paid version (I know it took me, like, five years to make the jump), we wrote a whole post about whether an AllTrails+ account is worth it.
- Bear spray: Along the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll run into a bear, but if you’re venturing deeper or backpacking in the Hoh along the Hoh River Trail, I’d suggest coming prepared with some bear spray, which temporarily disarms, but does not permanently injure, aggressive animals.
Are there any other hikes in the Hoh Rainforest?
While most people explore rainforest from the Visitor Center area, there’s a handful of more primitive trails that you can find along the Upper Hoh Road, like the 11.8 mile South Snider Jackson trail or the 2.4 mile West Twin Creek Route. If you’re looking to enjoy the Hoh Rainforest all to yourself, these hikes might be your best bet.
When is the best time to enjoy the Hoh Rainforest hikes?
One of the best things about the Hoh Rainforest is that, for the most part, it’s open and accessible year round, due to its proximity to the coastline and consistently moderate temperatures. That being said, you’ll probably have a vastly different experience, depending on what time of year you go.
The Hoh Rainforest is lovely in the summertime, when the temperature is warm and the sky is clear. However, you’ll be missing the Hoh at its lushest (I’ve visited in the height of summer and some of the luscious moss can look a bit dried out) and, more importantly, the trails can get super crowded.
Outside of this window, it can get pretty rainy in the Hoh Rainforest, but honestly, a little bit of rain can make the dramatic trees and moss look even more dreamy. Plus, if you come in the off-season of October through April, you’ll likely have the trail mostly to yourself. Just come prepared for drizzly, muddy weather and with a positive attitude!
I hope you enjoy exploring the Hoh Rainforest and all of its incredible hikes. Do you have any questions about the trails? Let me know in the comments below!
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2 thoughts on “3 Incredible Hoh Rainforest Hikes in Olympic National Park”
Bear spray is NOT needed in Olympic National Park! The vast majority of park bears will run if they detect human presence.
I worked in ONP for two summers and have spent countless days and nights exploring.
Bear spray certainly isn’t required in black bear country, but we personally carry it on all of our hikes in Oregon and Washington in the unlikely event we run into a startled mama bear or cougar, especially when we’re camping in more remote areas. For us, it’s personally worth it for our peace of mind, but understand others may not think it’s necessary.
Thanks for reading!