A glacial valley that boasts 140 inches of rain per year cradles the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. Moss and lichen-covered spruce, hemlock, fir and other native tree varieties rise from the valley floor along the banks of the Hoh River and its South Fork. A layer of ferns and shrubs undergirds the canopy. The South Fork Hoh Trail is a less-traveled alternative to the Hall of Mosses and other trails located near the Visitor Center on the Hoh River’s main branch.
South Fork Hoh Trail (Aug 20, 2022) – 8.1 miles, 265 feet of elevation gain
Our visit to the Hoh Rain Forest involved a lot of driving. The miles between the forest and our hotel in Sequim were complicated by chip-seal crews, a traffic accident and 17 miles of marginal road from US 101 to the trailhead. Total round trip commute: six hours. Ack.
By selecting the South Fork Hoh Trail, however, we did manage to dodge the tour-bus crowds at the visitor center. We nearly had the trail to ourselves. And by visiting in August – a “dry” month – we avoided rain. Though, we still emerged with our pant legs wet to the knees.
A pervasive damp silence dogged our footfalls as we hiked through the sodden undergrowth, occasionally stumbling on hidden roots and stones. It all felt a bit ominous, like a scene from the film “Jumanji,” just before a herd of rhinos, a swarm of giant mosquitoes or Van Pelt bursts onto the screen.
But the deeper we walked into the forest, the more the anticipation of something big gave way to monotony. The trail lacked a goal or focal point. We could hear the river but never really approached it. Occasional critters scampered in the underbrush, but we never saw them. And so, about three miles in we turned around.
We’re glad we visited. The forest is unique and well worth seeing. But we left a little bit disappointed, wondering if by avoiding the crowds that pack the “classic” trails near the visitor center we had missed something awesome.
We spent much of August 2022 exploring the Pacific Northwest, including a week on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.