Hiking an Emerald Cathedral: Washington’s Spectacular Hoh Rain Forest

Ever visited a massive cathedral drenched in emerald green? Put western Washington’s Hoh River Valley and Rain Forest on your bucket list.

Indeed, the colossal conifers that dominate the Hoh Rain Forest make it one of the most spectacular examples of a temperate rain forest in the world. Though limited, it also offers good hiking and other opportunities for outdoor lovers. Like:

Picnicking and camping. Snow-studded ridges. Rushing rivers. Gurgling streams. Warbling song birds. Stands of sword fern and tree moss so dense they block out the sun. And a thousand shades of green.

Hoh River.
Hall of Mosses! A 1,000 shades of green!

Tucked within the pleats of Olympic National Park, the skirts of the Hoh Rain Forest are soaked in green. Green drips from logs. Drenches ferns. Laps at streams, rivers, and bridges. Hangs from soaring Sitka spruce and Western hemlock trees like bunting on a band stand.

On the Hall of Mosses Trail. And they’re not kidding!

The average annual rainfall in the Hoh Rain Forest is 138 inches. That’s eleven-and-a-half feet of rain. Per year.

Of course the best way to experience this vibrant verdure is along Hoh hiking trails. Two of the most popular are the Hall of Mosses (.8 miles) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.2 miles.) Both are easy loop trails.

The Spruce Nature Trail meanders to the Hoh River before looping back to the visitors center and parking lot. With several downed logs to sit on and ‘E ticket’ views of the Olympic Mountains, it makes a great lunch stop.

But if you want to get a big taste of the lush, majestic landscape that is the Hoh Rain Forest, take the Hoh River Trail.

The total mileage on this moderate out and back trail – 32.8 miles – may seem daunting. But there are plenty of turn around options and lunch spots along the way, most with a pristine view of the river. Also two grand waterfalls.

One clearly visible waterfall is at about 2.9 miles at Tom Creek. The other, more hidden falls is a few minutes down the path and across a muddy creek. Neither are marked.

After hiking the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail, we hiked about four miles up the Hoh River Trail over Easter weekend. Shadows started to lengthen in late afternoon. The wind began to bite. We zipped into our fleeces while we rehydrated and munched snacks on a sandy spot by the river. Then we turned around and headed back.

On the shoulder of Mount Olympus, the Hoh River Trail is well maintained and wide in most spots. There’s an uphill climb about a mile or so before the first falls. But it’s brief and pretty mild.

Also, the road to the Hoh Visitor Center and all trailheads is a slow go. It winds and meanders some 18.5 miles off Hwy 101. Plan on about 30 minutes or so to cover this stretch. The good news: It follows the Hoh River for much of the way and is quite scenic.


Beware of mud and tangle foot early in the season. Creek crossings can be tricky, so use caution. Also, be Bear Aware! Bears are known to frequent this region. So keep your eyes peeled and don’t do anything stupid, okay?

Stuff You Should Know About the Hoh Rain Forest:

Olympic National Park Entrance Fee: $30 per car. Good for 7 days.
Hoh Rain Forest Entrance Cost: none
State Parks near the Hoh Rain Forest: Bogachiel
State Parks Admission: Discover Pass is required, $10 for one day, $30 for one year
When to Visit: The Hoh Rain Forest is open daily April – November, weekends only December – March, camping and hiking is accessible year round
Access: Road to the Hoh Rain Forest is open year round

8 Responses

    • HikerBabe

      Great Karen! It’s an impressive place. Hope you enjoy your visit!

  1. Sherri Preston

    This looks like an amazing place to visit. I love hiking and would hope to experience this in the near future!! Gorgeous pictures!!

    • HikerBabe

      Thanks Sherri. It was quite the adventure. Bonus points: the day was sunny and clear! ☺

  2. Amy

    Oh my stars! It is absolutely breathtaking! And that video! What a treat! I have never been up that way but I hope to at some point!

    • HikerBabe

      We’ll leave the light on for ya. 😉

  3. susietruett

    This sounds like an amazing experience. Definitely going on my list of things to do when we visit that area! I really want to see your part of the country & it’s on my bucket list! Thanks so much for sharing! Gorgeous pics too!💕💕

    • HikerBabe

      Thanks for commenting Susie. Glad you enjoyed the post. Best time to visit is Right Now or after Labor Day and before the snows fly, usually mid-October ☺