The Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest is one of the greenest, mossiest forests we have ever seen! It looks as though it came straight out of the “Upside Down” from the show, Stranger Things! Believe us when we say “YOU ARE NOT GOING TO WANT TO MISS IT!”
Visiting the Hoh Rainforest rainforest is one of the most popular things to do in Olympic National Park in Washington State. You might have heard of the famous Hall of Mosses trail which is one of the most famous short hiking trails in the Hoh Rainforest.
As well as hiking, you can also camp in the Hoh Rainforest. This guide provides details on the different trails there are to choose from in the forest, where to find camping and accommodation options and also lists some other must-see places in Olympic National Park.
If you are planning on visiting the Hoh Rainforest, we recommend making it into a road trip and checking out some of the beautiful beaches nearby.
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A Few Facts About the Hoh Rainforest
- The Hoh Rainforest is classified as a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
- The rainforest is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the USA and is made up of miles of low elevation forest along the Hoh River.
- The Hoh Rain Forest receives over 12 feet (3.6 metres) of rain a year!
- Dogs are not allowed in the Hoh Rainforest. For a full list of which areas dogs are and are not allowed in in Olympic National Park, visit The National Park Service Website.
- There are toilets located right next to the Hoh Rainforest visitors centre.
What is a Temperate Rainforest?
You may be asking yourself, what the heck is a “temperate rainforest.” Don’t feel bad for not knowing because before visiting the Hoh, I didn’t know either. A temperate rainforest is a forest or woodland area that is located in an area that is usually quite mild (not too hot/not too cold) in temperature and that also receives heavy rainfall. These types of forests also get a lot of mist. Compared to tropical rainforests, temperate rainforests decompose slowly, which gives them a rich soil.
Why is it called the “Hoh” Rainforest
The “Hoh Rainforest” is named after the Hoh River which is an epic river that flows from Mount Olympus to the Pacific Coast. The word “Hoh” comes from the Quinault language name for the river, Hoxw.
Where is the Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh Rainforest is located on the Olympic Peninsula in Western Washington State in the USA. It is approximately a 4 hour drive from Seattle to the Hoh Rainforest. There are two different driving routes, one which includes a ferry where booking information and ferry times can be found here.
Click here to open the map in Google Maps!
Why Would I Visit the Hoh Rainforest?
The Hoh Rainforest is unique. I don’t think we have ever seen a more green, mossy or lush rainforest in our lives. It looks like it could have come out of a “Stranger Things” episode. The Hoh is such an incredible forest to see, not to mention the hundreds of awesome photo opportunities in there.
Do I Need a National Parks Pass for the Hoh Rainforest?
The Hoh Rainforest is located in Olympic National Park so you will need a National Parks Pass. You can purchase an America the Beautiful pass from the REI website here which covers loads of national parks in the USA for a year. Alternatively, you can buy one at the gates to the Hoh.
Visiting the Hoh Rainforest in Winter
You can visit the Hoh Rainforest during the Winter but make sure you check that all the roads are open and the weather is safe to travel in. Winter is the wet season in the Hoh and the rain makes everything mossier and more vibrant, making Winter the perfect season to visit!
Wildlife in the Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh is home to wildlife such as the northern spotted owl, the bobcat, cougars, racoons, black bears and elk. If you are travelling outside of Winter, make sure you carry bear spray with you at all times.
Trails in the Hoh Rainforest
There are a three main trails that you can do while visiting the Hoh Rainforest. All three start from the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Centre. The are toilets located next to the visitors centre. The most famous trail you might have heard of through social media is called the Hall of Mosses.
Hall of Mosses
Elevation: 150 metres
The Hall of Mosses is the shortest trail. It is only a 1.2km loop, however might take you longer than you think if you spend as much time as us taking photos and marvelling at how crazy the trees looked! You will be completely blown away by the amount of moss in this forest and on this trail! The name “Hall of Mosses” is very fitting. The Hall of Mosses trail is easy and is great for the whole family.
Spruce Nature Trail
Elevation: 20 metres
The Spruce Nature is 1.9km loop and a little more open that the Hall of Mosses and actually runs along the Hoh River for a bit. This trail has some really fantastic trees that are growing over the top of fallen down trees! A truly incredible site to see!
Hoh River Trail
Distance: up to 32km one way
Elevation: 1646 metres
The Hoh River Trail is a hike that ends at a view overlooking the Blue Glacier on Mount Olympus. This is a hike that can be done as a multi day backpacking trip as there are campsites along the way. Permits for these campgrounds need to be reserve prior. For more information on how and where to book a Wilderness Camping Permit, check out the National Park Service Website. Alternatively, you can choose to just do some of the hike and return the same day.
The hike begins in the beautiful mossy forest. As you walk further, you will notice the surroundings change to a more dry forest, then meadows and finally into the mountains. This hike is no joke and definitely one that you will need to plan and train a bit for as the elevation and distance make it quite hard.
Choosing between the Spruce Nature Trail or Hall of Mosses
If you are short on time and only have time for one trail in the Hoh Rainforest, you will most likely be trying to decide between the Spruce Nature Trail and the Hall of Mosses. I have listed the pros and cons of each trail in the table below. We only had time for one trail and chose the Hall of Mosses as we knew that it was the more popular trail for photography due to the denser crazy bright green moss.
Pros and Cons
|Hall of Mosses Trail||Spruce Nature Trail|
|Pro: denser, greener and more mossy||Pro: Views of the Hoh River|
|Pro: shorter walk||Pro: loop trail|
|Pro: loop trail||Pro: great for making your hike a little longer and to burn some extra energy|
|Con: a little more elevation at the start of the hike||Con: slightly longer trail so will take more time|
|Con: more popular so will be busier||Con: less bright green moss|
Packing List for Olympic National Park
When you are packing for Olympic National Park, you mustn’t forget that you are in the Pacific Northwest where it rains, A LOT.
- Snacks for the whole day.
- Hiking Boots and or shoes
- Merino t-shirt for hiking
- Hiking Pants, shorts or leggings.
- Puffer Jacket
- Bug Spray
- Bear Spray
- Swim Suit! Be prepared for cold water though!
- Camera! There will be plenty of photography opportunities! We have a guide on camera gear here.
Other Things to See and Do in Olympic National Park
If you are visiting the Hoh Rainforest, you should definitely check out some of the other beautiful places in Olympic National Park!
The Hoh Rainforest is located on the Olympic Peninsula near the coast. This means that there are lots of stunning Olympic Peninsula beaches nearby waiting for you to explore!
Kalaloch Beach is approximately a 20 minute drive from the Hoh Rainforest and is home to the infamous Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is a Sitka spruce, the largest type of spruce tree.
The tree is hanging onto the cliffs on the side of the beach, by its winding roots. The cliffs below the tree have been washed away over time by a little stream behind the tree. Every year more and more of the cliffs washes away, so it is unknown how much longer the tree will be able to hang on for. To find the Tree of Life, park in the day parking of Kalaloch campground and walk down the stairs to the beach. Then, facing the ocean, turn right and walk along for about 5 minutes. There you will find the tree and potentially a photographer or two.
Ruby Beach is a 20 minute drive from the Hoh Rainforest. This beach, like most of the beaches along the Olympic Peninsula, has a lot of driftwood across the beach. Ruby Beach also has some really stunning rock formations that make great photos! We highly recommend Ruby Beach for sunset if you have time.
Rialto Beach is around a 40 minute drive from the Hoh Rainforest. It is located near La Push which you might recognise from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books.
This beach is mostly pebbles and has a massive rock sticking out of the ocean which makes a really great photo. This rock however, is quite a walk up the beach. If you come out onto the beach from the carpark and turn right, you will need to walk along the beach for about 2.5km. The walk will involve a stream crossing with fairly deep water. You can either walk through it if you feel like taking off your shoes, or you can cross via the driftwood which is what we did.
The Hole in the Wall
The Hole in the Wall is another must see spot if you are already visiting Rialto Beach. Once you reach the classic Rialto Beach rock, if you walk past it, you will see a large grassy mound with steep stairs leading you up to a viewpoint. Be extra careful here as the ridgeline is quite narrow. Then, if you walk around to the right, it will take you down to the next beach over. This beach has another cool rock formation called the Hole in the Wall. This rock is literally a “hole in the wall” going into the water.
Not too far away from Rialto Beach, Second Beach is approximately a 35 minute drive from the Hoh Rainforest. Once you have parked, it is a 15-20 minute walk from the carpark to the beach. The walk takes you through a beautiful forest and eventually down onto the beach. Second Beach is quite a small beach but really beautiful and would be a perfect place to spend a few hours with a picnic.
Join a Tour to See Olympic National Park
If you are travelling by yourself and want to meet people, or simply prefer seeing the world with a tour guide, there are some really great tours that you can join with Get your Guide.
Where to Stay
The Kalaloch Lodge is nice and close to the Hoh Rainforest and also has a nice restaurant.
The Hoh Campground is right next to the Hoh River in the forest. This campsite is only a few hundred metres away from the Hoh River Visitors Centre. Book your spot in the Hoh Campground here.
Forks and the Twilight Movie
If you have heard of the little town of Forks, it is probably because you have read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books. You could even join a tour like this one, to visit all of the location in Olympic National Park that are inspired by the books!
Forks is the closest actual town to the Hoh Rainforest and is approximately a 20 minute drive away.
If you want a larger choice of accommodation options or just prefer staying in a town, Forks is a great choice! A list of some good options in Forks is below:
- Hoh Valley Cabins – Cute cabins with BBQs and desks!
- Bogi Bear Inn – for the rustic cabin experience
- 3 Rivers Resort – This caravan/cabin resort is around a 15 minute drive from Forks and saved us on our long weekend trip to Olympic National Park. Our car broke down unexpectedly and we were able to get the last available caravan for a couple of extra nights over the weekend so that we could get our car fixed.
The resort is owned by Jason and Hope who were absolutely lovely and really took good care of us. Thank you so much Jason, Hope and all of the lovely 3 Rivers staff for your awesome hospitality.
We loved how crazy looking the Hoh Rainforest was and gained a new appreciation for moss! The Hoh Rainforest is definitely a spot to add to your Olympic National Park bucket list. We spent a long weekend in Olympic National Park and felt a little bit rushed. We think that 4 or 5 days or even longer would be perfect to see park.
For more road trip ideas, check out our other road trip guides!
You might also enjoy:
- The Best Beaches in Olympic National Park
- How to Spend One Day in Mount Rainier National Park
- How to Visit Scenic Hot Springs in Washington
- Sunset at Park Butte Fire Lookout – Hiking and Camping!
- 40 Amazing Hiking Gifts for Her
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