Exploring the Enchanting Hoh Rainforest - The Ultimate Travel Guide

Exploring the Enchanting Hoh Rainforest

The Hoh Rainforest is one of the most spectacular temperate rainforests in the world. Old growth forests of spruce and maple, enveloped by imaginably green mosses and ferns, adorn the forest floor as far as the eye can see and the majestic Hoh River runs through, bringing life to forest, its inhabitants, and the Pacific Ocean beyond. It is no wonder it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve.


hoh river trail hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
The Hoh Rainforest is an amazingly beautiful place to hike.

A visit to the Hoh Rainforest is like a trip into the past. This prehistoric terrain and forest, untouched just inches from the trails, has been removed from our modern world. Life here in the Hoh Rainforest has continued as it is for millennia, day in and day out, a pristine wilderness. It is so removed from the stress of our world, that deep within the forest, muffled by the heavy flora of moss, ferns, and trees, is the quietest place in the continuous United States.


hall of mosses hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
The Hall of Mosses is the most well know trail in the park.

12 feet of precipitation fall on the Hoh Rainforest each year resulting in a lush, green canopy and mosses and ferns that blanket almost everything you can see. Those that find their way to visit the Hoh Rainforest will be rewarded with a walk through an enchanted rainforest unlike anywhere else in the world.


Need to Know



Part of the Olympic National Park, the Hoh Rainforest is located on the western side of this giant park; about 45 minutes southeast of Forks, Washington. In a larger prospective, the Hoh Rainforest is located in the northwestern portion of the Olympic Peninsula, a little over 4 hours west of Seattle, Washington.




The park is open 24/day all year.


The Visitor Center is open every day during the summer; Friday - Sunday in the off-season and closed January and February.




$30 entrance fee per vehicle (non-commercial) and is valid for 7 days.


Free entry with America the Beautiful Pass.  This pass can be bought at any of the entrances for $80.  It allows free entrance to most national parks for a year, so it is a good investment if you plan to visit other national parks. 


Free entry with Olympic National Park Annual Pass.  This pass can be bought at any of the entrances for $55.  It allows free entrance into the national park for a year, so it is a good investment if you plan to visit for the Olympic National Park for more than 2 weeks. 


When to Visit


entry traffic hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
If you don't arrive early you will have to wait in traffic to get in.

Hoh Rainforest is open year around so you can enjoy the beautiful trails all year. Summer is the nicest time of the year to visit; the weather is pleasant and there is the least amount of rainfall. This also means that it is the busiest time of the year for the park as well. If you visit during the summer, you will want to make sure to get an early start to the park. There is only so much parking and the line to enter will begin to back up around 9:30am and you could be waiting for hours. That said, you can easily get away from the crowds by hiking just a few miles in. Fall and spring are also great times to visit. The temperatures are lower, but there is also a bit more rain. Fall brings the most animals to the area, where spring brings out the wildflowers and mushrooms. Fall and winter are by far the wettest time of the year, and you will definitely want a raincoat/umbrella, rain pants, and shoes with traction.


What to Do


Hoh River Trail


mossy trees hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
Hoh River Trail is an amazing place to hike.

The Hoh River Trail is the main trail of the park, leading as far into the wilderness as you wish to go. The Hoh River Trail itself is 18.1 miles long (one-way), with 4,400 feet elevation gain, leading all the way to the Blue Glacier of the Mount Olympus. This of course is a multiday hike and requires a wilderness camping permit and the gear to take on such a challenge. There are also a few off shoots that go further into the park or connect with other with other trail like the Sol Duc.

mineral creek falls hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
Mineral Creek Falls is a great place to rest and take in the views.

For those that are not so adventurous, you can still enjoy the wilderness of the Hoh Rainforest without going all out. The first 12 miles of the trail have only a moderate elevation gain with the first 3-4 miles being almost unnoticeable. Although the Hoh Rainforest is a popular park to visit, most people only visit the two loop trails near the visitor center and the first mile or so of the Hoh River Trail. With that in mind, if you only hike a few miles in you will begin to be able to enjoy the park seemingly to yourself.


hoh river hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
The Hoh Rainforest is beautiful sandwiched between blue Hoh River and sky.

The trail is lined with tall pines, moss covered trees, and ferns as far as the eye can see. There are also a few spots where you are close enough to the river to take in the views of the forest as the river runs through it. A popular spot to hike to is the Mineral Creek Falls, about 2.5-miles into the trail. Just past the falls in is a little camping area on the right which is a great place to take your lunch along the creek and river.


Hall of Mosses


hall of mosses hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
One of the many moss covered trees in the Hall of Mosses.

The Hall of Mosses is arguably the most famous trail in the park; pictures from the trail are what most people know of the Hoh Rainforest. Starting just outside the visitor center, this 0.8-mile loop trail has 500 feet of elevation gain but is easy to do for any age. The Hall of Mosses is rightfully named, featuring a grove of maple trees draped in in moss. Along the trail you will also see old growth forest full of maples and spruce trees, nursing logs, and cross a creek of crystal-clear water over waving leaves of green grasses.


Spruce Nature Trail


mossy spruce trees hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
Mossy trees and ferns cover the Hoh Rainforest.

The Spruce Nature Trail is an easy 1.2-mile loop that is slightly less popular than the Hall of Mosses. Along this trail you will see giant Spruce and Douglas-firs, fern covered forest floors, cross the Taft Creek, and stand beside the Hoh River. This trail is also a great place to spot wildlife during the Fall months.


Visitor Center


visitor center hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
The exhibits inside the Visitor Center are a great way to learn about the Hoh Rainforest..

The Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center is a great place to start your exploration of the park. Inside there is a great exhibit about the park, the animals, and the plants that can be found there. It is also here that you can grab a map of the trails, speak to a park ranger about the trail conditions, get a backpacking permit, or join one of the guided tours during the summer months. The only restrooms and water fountains are found here as well, so fill up your bottle before setting out on the trails.



Where to Eat


hoh river hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
The camping by the river is a great place to eat while hiking.

There is no food in at the Hoh Rainforest, so you will want to make sure to bring your own food to eat while you are there. You can fill up water bottles at the visitor center though. The best place to get food is Forks, Washington. You can stop by the local grocery store to buy anything you need for lunch or camping in the park. If you plan to eat breakfast or dinner, there are also a number of restaurants in town. For burgers (elk burger if you want), I suggest Blakeslees Bar and Grill. For a great homestyle breakfast, I suggest The In Place.


Where to Stay




If you are wishing to camp in or around the Hoh Rainforest, then there are many options for you to pick from. Within the National Park there is the Hoh Campground located near the visitor center. The campground is open for both tent and RV camping for $24/night for regular sites and $48/might for group sites. The sites are reservable (highly recommended) from May 25th – September 20th and are first-come-first-served the rest of the year. There is also the option to backcountry camp if you wish (this is the only option if you are wishing to hike out to the Blue Glacier). For this you will need to purchase a Wilderness Permit for $8/person/night (Adults 18+) and a $6 permit fee.


Outside of the park there are also a few options as well. There are a few DNR run campgrounds (Minnie Peterson, Hoh Ox Bow, and Cottonwood) that nearby. These each only have a few official campsites but dispersed camping around these sites is allowed. These are free to use, but they fill up fast and are primitive sites. If you prefer more amenities with your campsite, then there is the Bogachiel State Park just north of the turn off for the Hoh Rainforest. Sites there will cost $20 - $50 depending on the time of year and utilities you require.




There are a few options if you wish to stay in a hotel or cabin during your time visiting the Hoh Rainforest. While visiting I stayed in the town of Forks; about 45-mintues northwest of the visitor center. Staying here gave me many more options for breakfast and dinner, allowed me to grab food from the grocery store for a hiking lunch in the park, and was far cheaper than the other options. At about an equal distance to the southeast from the visitor center is the National Park run Kalaloch Lodge. They offer hotel rooms, cabins, and houses for rent and is located on the beach. Closer at hand, about a third of the way along the road to the Hoh Rainforest, is the Hoh Valley Cabins. These are great little cabins and would give you a head start on the morning traffic.


How to Get There


pin point map location hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington

Most people arrive traveling to the Hoh Rainforest arrive to the area via international airport, rent a car, and drive. Unlike most of the Olympic National Park, the Hoh Rainforest does not have public transit to the park, so you will need your own transportation to get there.  




The Olympic National Park is served by the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), located just south of downtown Seattle. Seatac, as the airport is often called, is the port for all major airlines. Once you arrive at the airport there is a free shuttle outside of baggage claim that will take you to the car rental building located nearby and houses all the major rental companies. From there you can follow the driving directions below.




lake cresent hoh rainforest olympic national park seattle washington
The drive across the north of the national park takes you by Lake Crescent.

If you are driving from the airport your route will differ slightly depending on what time you are leaving. If you get away from the airport at the right time, then you can take the ferry across the Sound and save a little time. If this is the case, I would suggest that you reserve a spot on the ferry so that you are guaranteed a spot and won't have to wait. If you can get the ferry, then travel north to Port Angeles and then follow the 101 to Forks. This is a beautiful route that takes you along the northern reaches of the park and along Crescent Lake. From forks, continue south on the 101 until the turn off on the left for the Hoh Rainforest, which is about a 50-minute drive to the visitor center.


If you do not get the ferry, then the quickest drive is the southern route that takes through Olympia and Aberdeen then north along the national park and the Pacific Ocean. You can also take the northern route by going around the Sound to Tacoma and then turning back north. This route will be slightly longer, but it’s beauty might make it worth it.




As mentioned above, unlike the northern parts of the Olympic National Park, there is no public transit to the Hoh Rainforest so you will need to have transportation to get there. That said, if you did wish to take public transit part of the way you could take the Dungeness Bus Line from the Airport or Seattle to Port Angeles and then rent a car there. Although you can use Port Angeles as your base for travel to the Olympic National Park as a whole, it is a 2-hour drive to the Hoh Rainforest from there, so it is not optimal.


What was your favorite part of the Hoh Rainforest?


Exploring the Enchanting Hoh Rainforest

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  1. That looks like a wonderful trip.

  2. I would absolutely love this, I always enjoying visiting wooded/forested areas - they are so calming and just magical to visit.

  3. This is a lovely nature space to be at, would like to enjoy a camping trip if got chance. Love the scenery with blue Hoh River. Cheers Siennylovesdrawing

    1. There are so many possibilities for camping in the Hoh Rainforest National Park, for all levels of camping experience.

  4. it looks beautiful! a lot like fairy tale! I would love to visit it and see it with my own eyes one day. Wonderful guide and travel inspo. Lyosha

    1. Yes! The moss and fern covered trees really do make it look like a fairy-tale destination.

  5. This looks fantastic - like some place in a secluded tropical country. Never would I have guessed to find it in Washington of all places. If I ever make it back to the US, I need to visit that part, too.

    1. Right! It seems so out of place being in Washington.

  6. I have been meaning to visit the Olympic National Park for years now... Our last visit to the area, we went to Mt. Rainier which we loved.. The Hall of Mosses looks so very cool

    1. You should definitely go the next time you are in the area. It is such a beautiful national park.

  7. This is very interesting and good price to pay 30 for 7 days. I get to enjoy it a lot and explore it more. Thank you for the guide!


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