Greetings From: Hoh Rainforest, WA

Walking under moss-laden trees in the Hoh Rainforest - located in the Olympic National Park, Washington.

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

Save the rainforests!

If you saw someone walking through an airport wearing a shirt that said that, you’d probably expect to see them getting on a flight to Madagascar. Or Borneo. Or New Guinea.

You know, to where the rainforests are.

Someplace warm. Lush. Wet. Green. 

Imagine our surprise coming across signs for a rainforest in the United States.

And no, we weren’t in Hawaii.

The Hoh Rainforest, one of a few rainforests in the 48 contiguous states, is in the Olympic National Park, about 100 miles (as the crow flies) from Seattle. 

Anything stationary – like these tree trunks – in the Hoh Rainforest ends up swaddled in thick moss.

The Hoh is lush. There are spruce trees, hemlock trees, fir trees, maple trees, and cottonwood trees. The forest floor is covered in different varieties of ferns.

The Hoh is wet. It gets an average of 140 inches of precipitation per year.

And the Hoh is green. There are apparently no rolling stones in the park, because everything is covered in moss. 

But here’s where the Hoh is different from the rainforests in places like Borneo or New Guinea.

The Hoh is temperate, not tropical.

Sword ferns abound in the Hoh Rainforest.

Scientifically, the definitions get fussy. Suffice to say temperate rainforests are cooler, have fewer tree species, more trees with needles than leaves, and older trees than tropical rainforests.

The other temperate rainforests in the lower 48 states include areas of the Redwood National Park in California, Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park in Washington, and portions of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina/Tennessee.

The Hoh has its own campground, but without reservations made well in advance, we weren’t able to get into it. 

Instead, we parked the RV at the ocean-front Kalaloch campground and daytripped into the Hoh. The drive took about an hour.

On the way, we spotted a Roosevelt Elk bull feeding along the edge of a pond. The Olympic National park is home to approximately 5000 of these “Rosies.” They are the largest species of elk, with bulls weighing up to 1100 pounds. President Theodore Roosevelt created the Olympic National Park mostly as an elk reserve for them.

The Olympic National Park is home to approximately 5000 Roosevelt Elk.

And yes, you can hunt the elk.

Once into the rainforest itself, we found a couple of options for exploring. 

For those who aren’t hardcore hikers – like us – there are two nature trails that total about two miles. 

Between the moss-covered trees, fern-rich forest floor, and view of the Hoh River, there’s plenty to point a camera at on them.

For the more experienced, there is 17 mile long trail that brings you to the shoulder of Mount Olympus.

No matter which way you go, the Hoh is well worth a visit. 

Even if just to be able to say you drove to a rainforest on your vacation.

Plan your visit to the Hoh Rainforest at nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-the-hoh.htm.