It’s been a picture perfect summer so far, here in Western Washington State. No rain for a month and mild temperatures make for perfect vacation weather. I gave myself a mini-vacation over the weekend and decided to head for the Olympic Peninsula and the rain forests. Mind you, there can be drizzle or a few sprinkles along the coast. The Pacific Northwest rain forest area normally receives well over 100 inches of rain per year. This past record, wet winter and spring saw several hundred inches of rain. Pretty amazing!
From whatever direction you travel, you have to navigate Hwy 101 on the peninsula. The highway travels up the Oregon coastline and beyond and just about circumnavigates the peninsula. In between is the Olympic Mountain Range and Olympic National Forest, a vast area. The highway doesn’t exactly follow the Washington coastline as it does in Oregon; it follows primarily an inland route through the coastal forests, with a short stint along the western coastline, at Ruby Beach. Once you reach the top of the peninsula, the highway travels closer to the inland strait, and then proceeds south along the scenic Hood Canal, ending near Olympia, Washington.
Of all the rain forests on the Olympic Peninsula, the Hoh Rain Forest is the largest and most popular. This area has a paid entrance and visitor center in the Olympic National Park system. There are several trails to choose from, some short and some quite long. If you are just visiting for the day, opt for the Hall of Mosses Trail or the Spruce Trail. The Hall of Mosses Trail is probably the most popular, as it is under a mile loop trail. Here you are greeting in the parking area with huge Sitka Spruce trees, as seen below.
I opted for the Hall of Mosses Trail, as I was on a tight schedule. Here you will encounter more of the giant Sitka Spruce along with giant Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir, and some Western Redcedar, with the first two being the predominant species in the rain forest. Below is an example of large, Western Hemlocks.
Here, some tourists are checking out a giant Douglas Fir.
Check out this image with these creepy, twisted roots of an old Hemlock tree.
In another section is a grove of old Maple trees that look like something out of a fantasy movie. They are totally covered in mosses and lichens.
The trail is relatively easy, with a few steps and inclines, here and there.
Along the 17 mile, winding road to the park entrance, from the main Hwy 101, glimpses of the Hoh River can be seen.
If you are hungry or looking for rain forest souvenirs, there is one small cafe (Hard Rain Cafe) along the road outside of the park and one outdoor/souvenir shop (Peak 6). I highly recommend the Peak 6 shop for souvenirs. They have an excellent selection of clothing and gifts at reasonable prices.
I hope you enjoyed my little tour of a temperate rain forest. Keep in mind that there is a lot of mileage involved to find these gems in the Pacific Northwest, and it is best to make motel or camp site reservations in advance. There are camp sites in the Hoh Rain Forest. The nearest motels are located in Forks, Washington. There are also rooms and cabins at Lake Crescent Lodge and Kalaloch Lodge. You definitely do not want to rush your stay!
All photos property of Peggy A Thompson