Hoh Rain Forest

Located on the Olympic Peninsula, the Hoh Rain Forest is one of the few, and also one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States. The part of the forest located within the Olympic National Park is protected, however the part laying between the park's boundary and the Pacific Ocean has been logged regularly during the past century.

The Olympic National Park was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938. After visiting the area, the president was so impressed with the natural beauty of the ancient trees and the magnificent wildlife within the forest, he declared this section a national park and wildlife haven. And that is how the Roosevelt elk got their name.

Some of the large trees found in the Hoh Rain Forest
Some of the large trees found in the Hoh Rain Forest Reproduced under a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of billandkent on Flickr

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Sitka spruce and western hemlock are the most dominant species found within the forest. Some of these trees have grown to a remarkable 312 feet tall and 23 feet in diameter.

Many of the trees are more than 500 years old. Other species you will find throughout the forest include the coastal Douglas fir, western red cedar, big leaf maple, red alder, black cottonwood and vine maple. Plus, a wide variety of ground coverings, moss and plenty of shrubs and bushes.

Many varieties of wildlife call the forest home. You may not see them, as wild animals tend to hide from humans. But, if you are lucky and keep your eyes peeled, you may see the Pacific tree frog, a bobcat, northern spotted owl, cougar, black tailed deer, black bear, Roosevelt elk and of course, plenty of raccoons.

The banana slug also calls the forest home, but it has recently been threatened by an invasive European species known as the black slug.

Most of the rain falls during the winter months. In all, the forest gets about twelve to fourteen feet of rain per year.

The forest once spanned most of the coast along the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska all the way to central California. The Hoh Rain Forest in the northern part of Washington State is about all that is left of that vast forest.

The Campground

What could be more exciting than camping in a real rain forest surrounded by glorious moss covered ancient trees? The campground located in the Hoh Rain Forest is open all year. It has three loops with a total of 88 sites in the old growth forest along the Hoh river.

You can stroll through the moss covered trees during the day, sleep under the stars next the glorious river and when you wake up, you may just find an elk or two getting their morning drink from the sparkling Hoh River.

The sites are first come – first served, so you have to get there early to nab a river side spot. Check in begins at 11 am and is completely self serve. Park amenities are self serve, as well, so make sure to bring the correct change for fire wood and other supplies.

There are flush toilets at the campground, but no RV hook ups, laundry facilities or showers.

If you arrive too late to get a spot at the campground, there are plenty of nearby places to stay. The town of Forks is only a short drive from the Hoh Rain Forest, and offers some fabulous accommodations for very low prices.

The sign welcoming you to the Visitors Center
The sign welcoming you to the Visitors Center Reproduced under a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of afagen on Flickr

The Visitor Center

The visitor center is located at the end of Upper Hoh Road. This is the perfect place to begin your Hoh Rain Forest adventure. The friendly staff can tell you about the hottest features and must-see exhibits in the area. You can get detailed info on why the Hoh Rain Forest is one of the most magical places on earth.

The center is open every day during the summer and usually from Friday to Sunday the rest of the year. The hours of operation change with the seasons.

There are two short nature trails that loop through the forest close to the center. The Hall of Mosses is just less than a mile long and the Spruce Nature Trail is just over a mile. Both are easy to handle for all fitness levels. You can even take a wheelchair or stroller along the trails.

The major hiking trail is the Hoh River route. It runs about seventeen miles along the shoulder of Mount Olympus and leads up to the Glacier Meadows. Just after the ranger station, the Hoh Lake trail begins. It ascends up to Bogachiel Peak where you will be blown away by the breathtaking views of the Hoh River and Sol Duc Valley.

These trails are a little more challenging, but well worth the time and effort if you are physically able.

Even if all you want to do on your vacation is sit and be surrounded by beauty, the Hoh Rain Forest is definitely the place to go.

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