Hoh River Trail – Experience the Beauty of Hoh Rainforest
The Hoh River area in Olympic National Park is an extremely popular place due to the beauty of the dense, temperate Hoh Rainforest. However, for those wanting to distance themselves from the crowds, we recommend hiking along the Hoh River Trail to Five Mile Island to experience probably the most scenic Hoh Rainforest trail in the park.
To get to the Hoh River Trail, go south from Forks on US-101 for 21.1km. Turn left onto Upper Hoh Road. Follow signs for the Hoh River section of Olympic National Park. After the gate continue for a few miles until you reach the parking spot.
|When to do|
Yes, along the Hoe River Trail, permits required.
Yes, at trailhead.
Out and back
Hoh River Trail – Experience the Beauty of Hoh Rainforest
Hoh River Trail Guide
To begin the Hoh River Trail, walk to the right of the visitor center. There is a dense network of short nature trails leaving from the parking area; however, you just need to follow signs for the Hoh River Trail. Soon you will escape the nature trails and pass the large sign for the Hoh River Trail, which helpfully shows distances for all of the destinations along it.
You will trek through the incredibly dense, classic Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest (also called Hoh Rainforest) for the entirety of the trail. The first 1.6km or so is always the most impressive. From the humongous trees and bushes, to the ‘Old Man’s Beard’ and moss hanging off every branch, it feels like you’re walking through a fairy tale.
After a 1.6km of hiking on the Hoh River Trail, you will get your first view of the gently flowing Hoh River. Across the river, you will see Mt Tom poking its head out from the forested foothills. The trail will pass by the river several more times, winding left and right, but never gaining a tremendous amount of elevation.
After just over 8.0km of hiking, you will arrive at the Five Mile Island campground, which is a great place to stop for the day. It is named as such because of the island that has formed in the river, which is commonly home to deer and elk.
After enjoying the sand beaches beside Five Mile Island return the way you came.
Hiking Trail Highlights
The gorgeous River Hoh runs its course for 90.1km across the Olympic Peninsula, through some of the most beautiful, lush rainforests of the region. Fed by meltwaters from the Hoh Glacier, the river passes through the mountains and foothills of the Olympic National Park, before widening into a broad, flat floodplain and emptying into the Pacific Ocean at the Hoh Indian Reservation.
The waters of the River Hoh help to sustain the incredible biodiversity of this lush region. The river is home to a wide variety of fish, including rare forms of salmon and trout, and the wider valley supports a large population of Roosevelt Elk. The Hoh Tribe take their name from the river, and live close to its mouth; their culture and way of life is closely tied to the river and the area around the watershed.
The Hoh River Valley is home to the Hoh Rainforest, a fine example of North American temperate rainforest. This lush region receives over 140 inches of rain per year, meaning that it’s home to an incredible variety of trees, insects, plants and animals. You’ll find moss-covered deciduous trees, scented conifers, lush ferns and all manner of hanging epiphytes, nourished by the moist air.
This protected rainforest is a rare and important natural habitat, and the rich earth of the Hoh River Valley produces some impressive specimens of Sitka spruce and hemlock. Lettuce lichen grows on many trees, which in turn provides sustenance for deer, elk and other mammals. The forest is home to a wide variety of species, including Pacific tree frogs, northern spotted owls, cougars, black bears and bobcats.
The Hoh Rainforest is an extremely important conservation area, but it also has cultural significance for the Hoh Tribe, and protection of the wider region also has positive effects for local communities. The Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center, which can be found at the end of Upper Hoh Road, is a wonderful resource for visitors who want to learn more about conservation efforts, the history of the region, and what makes the local ecosystem so special.
Five Mile Island Campground
The Five Mile Island Campground is a wonderful place to stay if you feel like getting away from it all. Most hikers on the Hoh River Trail stop at Five Mile Island for lunch, and then turn back the way they came. However, if you want to extend your hike, the campground is an ideal place to spend the night, allowing you to enjoy even more of this beautiful, epic hiking trail.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to stray too far from the beaten track, the Hoh Campground is an excellent option. Located conveniently close to the visitor center, this campsite offers a wonderful riverside setting, with plenty of space and campground activities organized by local rangers.
Interesting facts about Hoh River Trail Area
Why is it called the Hoh rainforest?
The Hoh Rainforest takes its name from the Hoh River, which feeds the rainforest as it winds its way through the Olympic National Park.
Where does the name Hoh come from?
The name ‘Hoh’ is derived from ‘Hoxw’, the Quinault tribal name for the river. However, its contemporary name among the Hoh tribe is Cha’lak’at’sit, meaning the ‘southern river’.
Why is the Hoh River blue?
The blue color of the Hoh River is a result of its glacial origins. As glaciers scrape over the rock during their slow journey, they grind it into a blue residue or powder, which then gives their rivers a distinctive milky blue color.
Are there snakes in the Hoh Rainforest?
The Olympic National Park is home to a large number of amphibians and reptiles, including snakes (primarily garter snakes). However, there are no venomous snakes in the Olympic Peninsula.
What animals live in the Hoh Rainforest?
The Hoh Rainforest sustains a wide variety of animals and birds, including owls, deer, elk, brown bears, bobcats, cougars and Pacific tree frogs.
How old are the trees in the Hoh Rainforest?
The Hoh Rainforest is a fine example of old-growth temperate rainforest, and some of its trees are over 1000 years old.
Are dogs allowed in Hoh Rainforest?
Dogs are not allowed on the trails of the Hoh Rainforest.
Want to find more amazing trails? Check out the best hikes in Olympic National Park.
The Hoh River Trail makes for a fantastic backpacking trip. If you have the juice, go all the way to the end of the trail. You can go right up to the edge of the Blue Glacier at the foot of Mt. Olympus!
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