The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park is some of the most spectacular temperate rain forest in the world. It’s a magical land of moss-covered maples, shoulder-high ferns, and ancient conifer trees.
The best way to see it is to hike the Hoh Rain Forest trails.
So, if you’re looking for things to do in Hoh Rainforest, I’ve included the 5 best Hoh Rainforest hikes – ranging from easy walks the whole family can do to longer hikes that will take you deeper into the forest and far away from the crowds.
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Before we look at each of the best hikes in Hoh Rainforest, a few practical things to know:
Guided Hoh Rain Forest Hikes
Although you can definitely hike all of these trails by yourself, going with a guide has advantages. An expert guide can give you a lot more information about the geology, ecology and history of the area around you, which can really add a lot to your experience. Plus, they will take care of all the logistics and keep you on the trail – and you won’t have to stress about parking.
If you’re interested in taking a Hoh Rainforest tour, here are my top picks:
This small group (maximum eight people) leaves from the Kalaloch Campground, so you get to spend more time in the park and less time in the bus. In addition to the Tree of Life and Ruby Beach, you’ll get to hike 2 miles each way along the Hoh River Trail.
A small group tour (maximum 14) that leaves from Port Angeles. In addition to the Hoh Rainforest, you will also get to see Rialto Beach and the Hole-in-the-Wall (depending on the tides). At the Hoh Rainforest, you’ll be able to walk the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail.
A private tour means you get the guide all to yourself – and have more flexibility in what you do. An expert naturalist guide can point out all the features of what you’re seeing and give you extra information that will enhance your hikes. You get picked up at Kalaloch Beach 4 and spend some time at Ruby Beach as well as the Hoh Rainforest. Choose this hike in the Hoh and you won’t be disappointed!
Rather than drive and have the hassle of finding your own accommodations, you can take this three-day tour from Seattle. One day is spent at Hurricane Ridge, another at Lake Crescent and the Pacific coast, and the third day is in the Hoh Rainforest.
What to Pack for Hoh Rain Forest Hiking
- Some parts of the longer trails are overgrown, so if you hike those trails and don’t like brushing against leaves, you’ll want to wear long pants.
If you need some, get some hiking pants for men here or some hiking pants for women here. This isn’t necessary for the short hikes.
- There are ticks and bugs, especially in spring and summer. I’m not aware of any reports of Lyme Disease, but bug spray is nonetheless a good idea.
I’m a fan of DEET-free insect repellent, as it’s better for the environment and your skin. Get some here.
- There can be muddy sections in winter, spring and through early summer – even on the shorter trails. Good quality waterproof hiking boots will really make a difference!
If you need to get some, take a look at my Guide to Buying the Best Hiking Shoes/ Boots to help you know what to look for and get some recommendations. My top pick is this pair of Salomon Gore-Tex boots.
- This is a rain forest, so it can rain a lot. I recommend taking a rain jacket and wearing layers that you can take off or put on depending on the weather, which can change throughout the day.
If you need one, I like this Columbia rain jacket for men and this Little Donkey Andy rain jacket for women.
- Trekking poles are a big help for navigating around mud and puddles and up hills – especially for the longer trails. I have these Foxelli trekking poles – they are really light weight, adjustable, and have several tips and cork handles. Get them here.
- For any hike, you should take water. There is a refill station at the Visitor Center, so you just need a refillable water bottle for the hikes that leave from there.
I love this hydroflask. It’s easy to carry, keeps temperatures well, and comes in multiple colors.
- You will definitely want to take a camera.
I love the GoPro HERO 12. It is designed for travel. It’s water resistant and durable and takes photos, video and even does streaming. Check current prices on the GoPro HERO 12 here
- Check my list of essential things to take and wear on a day hike to make sure you have everything you need.
Tips for Hiking the Hoh Rainforest Trails
- Get to the Hoh Rain Forest before 8:00AM if you’re visiting in the busy summer months. This is a very popular part of the park and when there is no more parking available, the rangers hold traffic at the entrance station and only let a vehicle enter when another one leaves.
- If you find yourself stuck waiting to get into the park, there is a restroom just before the entrance that most people don’t know about. If you need to go, walk along the side of the road from your vehicle. There are also restrooms at the Visitor Center.
- There’s a parking lot for four of these hikes right next to the trailhead and Visitor Center, which is where you should try to park. If it’s full, there are other lots around the campsite area where you can park. You are also permitted to park on the side of the road in the vicinity of the Visitor Center.
- The trails can be muddy in spring. If you’re hiking then, or after it has rained, a good pair of hiking shoes or boots will come in handy. If you need to get some, take a look at my Guide to Buying the Best Hiking Shoes/ Boots to help you know what to look for and get some recommendations.
- The trails can be snowy in winter. Microspikes may not be necessary if there is only a little snow, but will make you safer. Read my guides to The Best Microspikes for Hiking and The Best Snowshoes for Beginners if you need to buy some.
- Because most of the annual precipitation is in winter, the rain forest can be a little dry looking by early fall. There’s not much you can do about this other than to adjust your expectations or the timing of your trip. Though I’ve been there in September, and it was still stunning.
- The Hoh Rain Forest can be very crowded in summer. However, if you take the longer trails, you’ll soon leave the crowds behind.
- Check current road conditions before you set out. Trees sometimes fall down and block the road for a few hours.
- There are often ranger talks at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and guided walks. These are a great introduction to the temperate rain forest. Check for ranger programs for the dates of your visit.
- Keep an eye out for animals. Banana slugs are around, but may be hidden if it’s been dry. Roosevelt elk and deer are often seen in this area. It’s also bear country, so stay aware.
Best Hoh Rainforest Hikes
Here are the five hikes near Hoh Rainforest that I recommend:
1. Hoh River Trail
- Type: Out-and-back
- First River Access: 0.9 miles each way | 1.8 miles total
- Mineral Creek Falls: 2.7 miles each way | 5.4 miles total
- Cedar Grove: 4.0 miles each way | 8.0 miles total
- Five Mile Island: 5 miles each way | 10.0 miles return
- Glacier Meadows: 17.3 miles each way | 34.6 miles return
- Time: 4-5 hours to Five Mile Island and back
- Difficulty: Moderate to Five Mile Island, due to its length, not elevation gain, as it mostly flat. Easy if you turn back sooner.
- Elevation change: 300 feet
- Trailhead: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center
This is the main Hoh Rain Forest hike. The Hoh River goes through the entire length of the Hoh Valley and you can hike a mile or 35 miles! There are several popular places along the way and as a day trip, most people turn back at Mineral Creek Falls, Five Mile Island or sooner.
The trail sets off from the Visitor Center and passes through several groves of gigantic trees, enormous ferns, and moss. After just under a mile, you can take a side trail to see the Hoh River or continue on to the small but lovely Mineral Creek Falls. The waterfalls are nestled up the hill in the middle of lush forest.
Even further along is Five Mile Island. There are restrooms and a grassy area that is an ideal spot for lunch or a snack.
If you’re up for something even more adventurous, you can continue about 18 miles to the end of the trail at Glacier Meadows and then a final push to an overlook with stunning views of Blue Glacier on the side of Mount Olympus. This is a multi-day trip that requires backpacking and camping along the way. If this sounds interesting but intimidating, I recommend a five-day guided hiking/ camping trip. Having a guide takes a lot of the stress away – though you’ll still need a reasonable level of fitness.
- You’ll sometimes come to splits in the trail. Heading out from the Visitor Center, take the left trails. The ones to the right sometimes rejoin the trail, but sometimes they dead end at the river.
- Temperate rain forest; moss; waterfall; river views
READ MORE: Hoh River Trail Guide
2. Hall of Mosses
- Type: Lollipop/ lasso loop
- Length: 0.8 miles
- Time: 30 minutes
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation change: 100 feet
- Trailhead: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center
This is the most iconic Hoh Rainforest trail. It’s an easy loop through a grove of Bigleaf maple trees. These trees arch and angle in odd directions as they seek the sun in any way they can. The result is like something in a fantasy movie. Making them even more magical are the hundreds of varieties of moss and lichen that coat the trunks and drape from branches.
There is a short side trail to the most spectacular section about half way along.
- The light is best for photography early in the morning. When the early morning sun hits the moss, turning it into a golden glow, it is truly magical.
- Keep an eye out at the creek at the start/ end of the hike. You may see river otters and/ or salmon here in season.
- Temperate rain forest; moss
READ MORE: Hall of Mosses Trail Guide
3. Spruce Nature Trail
- Type: Lollipop/ lasso loop
- Length: 1.2 miles
- Time: 30 minutes
- Difficulty: Easy
- Elevation change: 230 feet
- Trailhead: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center
This is the second of the two most popular Hoh Rain Forest day hikes. There is less moss than in the Hall of Mosses, but this trail has a greater variety of trees spread throughout new and old growth forest. And it’s even flatter than the Hall of Mosses.
At the far end of the loop is the trail highlight – a lovely view of the Hoh River. There are several interpretative signs along the way explaining some of the features of the forest like nurse logs.
Roosevelt elks are often seen on this trail.
- The Spruce Nature Trail and the nearby Hall of Mosses Trail are by far the two most popular hiking trails in Hoh Rainforest. If you get there in the morning, most people go to the Hall of Mosses first, so if you head to the Spruce Nature Trail instead, you have a better chance of having the rain forest more to yourself. Later in the day, it will make little difference, though.
- Old growth temperate rain forest; view of Hoh River
4. Hoh Lake Trail
- Type: Out-and-back
- Length: 14.9 miles from Hoh trailhead. It can also be reached from Sol Duc trailhead (9.7 miles)
- Time: 13-14 hours
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Elevation change: 3,500-foot gain then 800-foot loss from High Divide
- Trailhead: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. It can also be reached from Sol Duc trailhead
This Hoh Rain Forest trail starts along the Hoh River Trail for 9.7 miles. About half a mile after the Olympus Guard Station, you’ll see a side trail to the left. Take this.
This is when it starts to get challenging. The trail soon starts to climb a series of 22 switchbacks up to Bogachiel Peak, which lies between the Hoh and Sol Duc Valleys. There are incredible views of the Olympic Mountains and good chances of seeing Roosevelt Elk, bears and snowy mountain goats. The goats are cute – but dangerous, especially if they get accustomed to interacting with humans, so keep a safe distance from them.
The trail then descends about 800 feet down to a beautiful subalpine lake.
- If you plan to do this in one day, get a very early start and take plenty of water.
- This is a very long day hike, but makes a great overnight hike. Be sure to get a Wilderness Permit/ book a wilderness campsite for each night you’ll be on the trail.
- If you do decide to do this as an overnight hike and you are traveling with two or more people (and have two vehicles), a great option is combine two epic Olympic National Park Rainforest hikes. Park one vehicle at Sol Duc and then drive to the Hoh River Trailhead and hike one way, ending up at your other vehicle at the Sol Duc Trailhead. It takes almost 2 hours to drive between Sol Duc and Hoh trailheads.
- Temperate rain forest; Hoh River; subalpine meadows; mountain views; lake; wildlife
READ MORE: If you’re also going to be hiking in Sol Duc, check out some great Sol Duc hikes.
5. South Fork Hoh River Trail
- Type: Out-and-back
- Length: 7 miles round-trip
- Time: 2.5-3 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation change: 150 feet
- Trailhead: South Fork Hoh Trailhead
This Hoh Rainforest hike starts just outside the national park’s boundaries, so you first go through a second-growth Sitka spruce grove. After about half a mile, you’ll cross the park’s border and immediately notice the difference as you enter the old growth forest. Here you’ll find western hemlock and enormous Douglas-fir trees.
After about a mile, you’ll come to the river and the large area called Big Flat. There are groves of breathtaking spruce trees and halls of moss-draped Bigleaf Maple trees.
At 2.8 miles, you’ll reach a small meadow. 0.2 miles later, the trail ends where the river washed away the rest of an earlier and longer trail.
This is one of the best trails Hoh Rainforest has to get away from the crowds and has a landscape just as – if not more – beautiful than the main Hoh trails.
- The trail does not start at the main Hoh Rainforest trailhead near the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center! It actually starts outside the national park, so you’ll need a Washington State Park’s Discover Pass to park at the South Fork Hoh River Trailhead.
- To get there, if you’re coming from Forks, as you’re driving along Highway 101, you’ll pass the turn off to the main Hoh Rainforest area / Visitor Center. After another 2.5 miles/ about three minutes, turn left on to Hoh Mainline. Then take a left on to Maple Creek Road and then at the fork, turn right on to H-1000. You’ll pass the South Fork Hoh Campground. The trailhead is at the end of the road, about half an hour from Highway 101.
- The road is open all year, but can be closed for weather or if a tree falls across the road. Check with DNR for road conditions before setting out: (360)-374-2800
- There are no restrooms at the trailhead. The nearest are at the campground.
- Old growth rain forest; river views; few people
Hoh Rain Forest Trail Map
Use this Hoh Rainforest hiking map or buy a National geographic topographical map of the hiking trails in Olympic National Park, including the best trails in Hoh Rainforest, if you’re planning to do several hikes.
Here is a map of the Hoh River and Hoh Lake Trails:
Directions to Hoh Rainforest?
See above for directions to the South Fork. Here are the main Hoh Rainforest directions from major nearby places:
Seattle to Hoh Rain Forest
There are two ways to go from Seattle – Hoh Rainforest. The shorter route heads south from Seattle via Tacoma, Olympia and Quinault, then north on Highway 101. This takes about 4 hours. The slightly longer route (4.5 hours) heads west from Seattle via the Bainbridge Ferry, Port Angeles and Forks.
Lake Quinault to Hoh Rainforest
The drive from Lake Quinault Lodge to Hoh Rainforest takes about 1.5 hours. From the lodge, drive 2.2 miles to Highway 101, then turn right and keep going straight for 52 miles. Then turn right on to Upper Hoh Road. The national park entrance station is a short distance after the turnoff.
Olympia to Hoh Rainforest
This takes about 3 hours 15 minutes. Turn on to Highway 101 North from Highway 5 north or south at Tumwater and follow this all the way to the Upper Hoh Road turnoff.
Sol Duc to Hoh Rainforest
Although these two river valleys are separated by just one mountain ridge, to drive between them takes almost two hours. From Sol Duc, head back to Highway 101, then turn left and follow the main Olympic Peninsula road for abut 50 minutes, driving through Forks, before you come to the Upper Hoh Road. Turn left here to pass through the national park entrance station.
La Push to Hoh Rainforest
From La Push, head along 110 until you get to Highway 101 in Forks. Turn right and follow 101 until you get to the Upper Hoh Road on your left. This trip typically takes about 1 hour 15 minutes without traffic.
Ruby Beach to Hoh Rainforest
From Ruby beach Road, head back to Highway 101 and turn left, then after about 20 minutes, turn right on Upper Hoh Road. The trip takes about 50 minutes on a good day.
Visiting the Hoh Rainforest: FAQs
What’s the best time to visit Hoh Rainforest?
The best time of day to visit Hoh Rainforest is early morning. Parking near the trailhead for four of these hikes often fills as early as 8:00AM in summer.
Plus, the early morning light makes the moss especially beautiful. And you’ll have a better chance of seeing wildlife than later in the day.
Is there a fee for the Hoh Rainforest?
While there is no Hoh Rainforest fee per se, you do need to pay the Olympic National Park entrance fee
You can buy it online or, if you are planning to visit more than just Olympic National Park this year (Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park are both close), it can be great value to purchase an America The Beautiful pass.
For the South Fork Hoh River Trail, there isn’t a place to pay the national park entrance fee; however, you’ll need a Washington State Park’s Discover Pass to park at the trailhead since the trail starts in the state park.
What are the Hoh Rainforest lodging options?
Hoh Rain Forest lodging options are limited. There is a campground near the Visitor Center (book it on recreation.gov) but for other types of accommodations, your best options are in Forks about 45 minutes away.
What is the Hoh Rainforest parking situation?
There is a parking lot next to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. There is also some parking at the nearby campground. Park rangers also permit parking on the side of the road near the Visitor Center.
However, when all these spaces are full, traffic is held at the entrance station near Highway 101 and a vehicle is only allowed to enter the national park when another vehicle leaves. Get there before 8:00AM in summer, if possible, to avoid waiting.
Where is the Hoh Rainforest?
The Hoh Rainforest is in Olympic National Park, on the west side of Olympic Peninsula. It’s about 2 hours from Port Angeles and less than an hour from Forks.
Travel Insurance for Hiking Hoh Rainforest
You should definitely have travel insurance when you travel to Olympic National Park – Hoh Rain Forest. Good travel insurance will cover you for trip cancellation, theft or damage if your property when traveling, medical help if you have an accident while you’re on any of these Hoh Rainforest day hikes or medical repatriation if you need to get medi-vaced out.
A great insurance option is Travelex. It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can compare Travel Insurance plans here or get a quote right now:
Enjoy these Hoh Rainforest hiking trails!
Do you have any other top picks for the best hikes in the Hoh Rainforest? I’d love to hear what you think are the best rainforest hikes in Olympic National Park. Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more).
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James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.
He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks.
Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.
As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.
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