On September 10th, Alex and I packed a daypack and headed over to Hoh Rain Forest, a temperate rain forest region about 30 miles southeast of Forks, Washington (If you’re trying to remember why you have an unexplained association with Forks, it is because that was the setting for the Twilight series).
The rain forest is named for the Hoh (pronounced “hoe”) River, which is formed from glacial runoff from Mount Olympus down to the Pacific. According to the National Park Service website, the origin of the word “Hoh” is still up for debate, but a possible source is from the Quileute word for “snow water.”
As the rain forest is in Olympic National Park, we were required to pay the $30 entrance fee, which is good for seven days. The extended validity is convenient when you are visiting for several days (as we were) since you can leave and return as often as you like.
We parked near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and made our way up to some of the short trails that begin just past the Center. We’d heard the area gets very crowded so we arrived early, around 10:00 AM. Luckily, we seemed to beat most of the crowd, which started trickling in around lunch time as we were heading out.
Everyone we did pass was very conscientious of wearing face masks and social distancing, and we abided the de facto COVID trail procedures of covering our faces when passing someone, and then uncovering them for a few minutes when no one was around so we didn’t pass out from the heat. It was in the high 80s, which was much warmer weather than we expected, especially with a mask.
There are a couple of small trails that radiate from this spot, and we started on the Hall of Mosses trail, a short, flat walk no more than a mile long. This loop trail takes you through a gorgeous forest that is covered with – you guessed it – moss. Beautiful, flowy, elven, fairy tale moss that I resisted the urge to cover myself in and run through the woods like Queen of the Wood Fairies.
Specifically, the plant is called clubmoss, and according to the signs around the park, feeds on air and light, so it isn’t harmful to the trees it envelops. Moisture and nutrients for the clubmoss are provided by the rain forest’s atmosphere.
This section of the forest was the most crowded, but for good reason. The trees were gorgeous, and I, like everyone else, couldn’t stop snapping pictures.
All around us, we could see the forest both growing and decaying. I learned a new term (“nurselog), which refers to a fallen tree that serves as nutrients for new trees. Nurselogs are common in the rain forest, and once I knew what to look for, I realized so many of the trees around us were able to grow from the nutrients provided by the dead trees.
When the Hall of Mosses looped back, around, we picked up the Spruce Trail, a 1.25 mile loop that was also fairly flat, though with slightly more elevation in some places. It was still easy enough for plenty of families with small children, but the area was much less crowded than the previous trail.
The trail follows a former river bank and is mostly shaded, which was helpful as the afternoon sun was climbing overhead by the time we started our walk. The temperature shifted a lot as we walked, and I was glad I brought layers. It was noticeably cooler within the forest itself than it was near the banks of the Hoh River, which winds around a section of the trail.
Big leaf maples and Sitka spruces dominate the landscape, and there is no shortage of information about the plants in the area. We saw countless mushrooms which understandably grow abundantly due to the rainfall. Apparently, the rain forest gets around 12 feet of water each year (although we did not see a drop of it the whole time).
We spent several hours walking around, taking our time. Both trails were peaceful, and the size of the trees around us recalled how old the forest is (some of the trees are hundreds of years old). Here is a picture of me standing beside one of the trees for perspective. A majority of the trees were of the same size, and even just looking back at the pictures, I am still blown away by the sheer age of it all.
Ferns are also incredibly prolific in the area, and some of them were even taller than we are. I found myself wishing I’d brought a guidebook for plants of the region or downloaded a good plant-identification app before my trip. Every few steps, I was wondering about the next plant I saw. Next time, however!
Even the scent of the area is relaxing, and we probably looked like the strangest East Coasters, as we kept sniffing the trees and plants because everything was so fresh and fragrant.
In case it isn’t apparent from all the pictures I took, I would definitely recommend this spot to anyone travelling in Washington. These two trails are perfect for a casual stroll one morning or afternoon.
Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to leave any questions or comments about the trails. I will do my best to answer any questions, but you can visit NPS.gov for more information about the Hall of Mosses and Spruce Trail.