Headed to Olympic National Park and looking for info on the Hoh Rainforest trails?! Here’s everything you need to know about the epic Hall of Mosses trail — how to get there, when to go (for less crowds), what to bring, and so much more!
Imagine a lush forest canopy of western hemlocks, bigleaf maples, and Sitka spruce reaching heights of up to 250 feet. A rainforest floor blanketed in soft mosses and countless ferns. That cool, crisp air of the rainforest. This is the Hoh Rainforest in a nutshell. And it’s absolutely mesmerizing.
The Hall of Mosses trail in Olympic National Park is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
There’s every single shade of green you can imagine, and pictures do not do it one bit of justice — you’ve gotta come here to see it for yourself. The Hoh Rainforest trail actually reminded me of Jurassic Park a bit (and Fern Canyon in Northern California) — it’s one of the largest temperate rainforests in all of the USA! It’s wild and beautiful and everything in between.
I swear, I’ve never seen anything like the rainforests in Olympic National Park, especially the Hall of Mosses trail in the Hoh Rainforest! The forest is absolutely breathtaking, with it’s green vibrance of color, lush temperate plants, world-record trees, and unique wildlife. Many trees are even 200 feet or taller, so don’t forget to look up while hiking!
And the best part of the Hall of Mosses trail — it’s easily doable for anyone and everyone! This Hoh Rainforest trail is super short and super sweet, mostly low efforts with great rewards! I promise you, anyone can get through the 0.8 mile round trip interpretive loop trail.
Hoh Rainforest is actually a temperate rainforest, not a tropical jungle-y rainforest you probably think of when you initially think of a “rainforest”. There’s no colorful toucans or monkeys swinging around here — instead you’ll find hemlocks, firs, maples, mushrooms, mosses (lots of it) and even Roosevelt Elk if you’re lucky! Everything is super wet and moist, especially after it rains of course. This is the rainforest we’re talking about!
While there’s actually 4 (!!!) temperate rainforests on the Olympic Peninsula alone, the most popular and most well-known is undoubtedly Hoh! And it’s so special it’s even been named a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO! The Hoh Rainforest alone is one of the main reasons for establishing Olympic National Park in the first place! So you know it’s worthy of a visit!
The Hoh Rainforest makes up one of the most interesting ecosystems in the entire National Park Service, so I highly recommend paying a visit and taking your time on the Hall of Mosses trail. This is not the place to rush through!
Hall of Mosses Trail Basics and Important Info:
- Length: 0.8 miles
- Elevation: ~100 feet
- Difficulty: Easy Peasy
- Trail type: Loop
- Starts: At the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center
- Bathrooms: At the trailhead
How to Get to Hoh Rainforest and the Hall of Mosses Trail
In short, you’ll find The Hoh Rainforest (and the Hall of Mosses Trail) in the Pacific Northwest (along with other popular hot spots like Portland and Seattle). More specifically, it’s located on the western side of Olympic National Park in northwestern Washington on the Olympic Peninsula in the Hoh River Valley.
The nearest town to the Hall of Mosses trail is Forks, at roughly 45 minutes/30 miles away. This is where we stayed on our 2-day Olympic National Park itinerary, and it was the perfect base for exploring not only Hoh, but other parts of the park as well!
Since the Hoh Rainforest trails are some of the most popular in the park, expect there to be at least some traffic in the summer. Always give yourself extra time to get there, just in case!
To get to the Hall of Mosses Trail (as well as the other trails in the rainforest), you’ll need to route to the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center. On the GPS it looks like Hoh Rainforest is super close to Forks (15 minutes or so), but you’ll need to drive about 45 minutes from Forks to actually get to where you’re going, just P.S.
- From Forks: 45 minutes/30 miles
- From Port Angeles: 2 hours/88 miles
- From Port Townsend: 3 hours/135 miles
- From Seattle: 4 ½ hours/170 miles (includes a ferry crossing)
Can you do a day trip to the Hall of Mosses from Seattle?
Well, technically, you could, but considering it’s at least a 4 hour drive (each way) from Seattle (ferry crossing and all), I wouldn’t recommend it. That is unless you don’t mind sitting in the car for EIGHT to NINE hours in one day. I highly encourage you to stay at least one night (preferably in the nearby town of Forks which I feel makes the most sense).
Since you’re already here, take a look at my 2-day Olympic National Park itinerary and see more of the park! Don’t miss Ruby Beach and Sol Duc Falls — my two other favorites in Olympic National Park besides the Hoh Rainforest!
When to Go to the Hoh Rainforest
There’s never a horrible time to go. But I’d opt for summer or fall, as there’s too much rain in spring (making the trail very wet and muddy), and it’s too chilly in winter for my liking. And whenever you go (especially in the prime summer months of July and August), make sure you start early in the day or later in the afternoon for less crowds and more solitude. The Hall of Mosses trail in the Hoh Rainforest is one of the top attractions in the entire Olympic National Park! With that being said, it gets super busy!
We visited midweek in June (starting around 11am or so), and we were surprised that it wasn’t super packed. I would start earlier in the day to ensure you get a parking spot, though!
Weather and What to Wear and Bring
The two things you really need for Hoh? Waterproof footwear and a good rain jacket!
Expect some form of precipitation — this is a rainforest we’re talking about! And like I mentioned before, it’s the wettest spot in the lower 48 states! We got lucky and it was relatively dry when we visited, although with 12-14 feet of rainfall each year, I’d expect some form of precipitation any day.
We wore waterproof hiking boots, leggings, and layers on top. You’ll want those layers depending on the time of year you visit and how chilly it is that day! Like I mentioned a million times in my massive Olympic National Park itinerary post, the weather is super unpredictable in the park.
Better to just be prepared, and keep a rain jacket in your backpack at all times! I wore a flannel and a packable jacket, and kept a light rain jacket with me in case I needed it.
On the Hall of Mosses Trail
Why’s it so lush and green?
Well, for starters, Hoh Rainforest is the wettest spot in the lower 48 states, if that tells you anything! There’s a great deal of precipitation over here, averaging over 14 feet of rainfall per year (WHOA) — it ain’t called the rainforest for nothing!
And guess what all this precipitation causes?! Yes — all that vibrant leafy green vegetation you see! From tall sitka spruces and western hemlocks to moss-laden trees and quite possibly millions of ferns, it’s all quite remarkable.
The greenery gets its moisture from everywhere in the forest — whether it be the misty air, fog, or rain itself. Basically its entire surrounding environment, which makes for perfect conditions for all that green leafyness to grow out of control. And the mosses! I couldn’t believe it when I learned that the Washington rainforests are home to one of the most diverse collections of mosses on the planet!
Wildlife on the Hoh Rainforest Trails
While you won’t see poisonous dart frogs and colorful toucans here, you’ll be surprised to know just how much flora and fauna is out there!
Keep an eye out for wildlife along the trail; there’s the Pacific tree frog, banana slug, northern spotted owl, river otters, bobcats, cougars, and racoons here. Black bears have been spotted here (ahhh), so brush up on your bear safety (although they’re hardly seen since the area is oh so popular with visitors).
I saw a few banana slugs, but the most impressive (and exciting to say the least) was watching a massive Roosevelt elk deep within the forest. They’re the largest members of the deer family and I promise you — seeing one is just magical! Look super close in that photo on the right — there’s an elk hiding in the dense forest!
Considering there’s about 400-500 elk roaming around the Hoh River Valley, you’ve got a great chance of seeing one! If you are lucky enough to spot one, keep exceptionally quiet and watch from a distance. As with other wild animals, NEVER approach or feed an elk, as this can do both harm to them and yourself.
Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center
Before you start hiking the Hall of Mosses trail, check out the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center. It’s open everyday during the summer and Friday through Sunday in off-peak seasons. This is a good place to use the restroom, as well as grab your passport stamp (if you collect them!), and get a map.
I’d say you can ask about trail conditions as well, but with the hike being so short, I wouldn’t worry too much. But it may be muddy (depending on recent rainfall), so they’ll know about that!
Hiking The Hall of Mosses Trail in the Hoh Rainforest
As soon as you step out of your car, you’ll know you’re in the rainforest — the air will feel instantly cooler and you’ll be surrounded by lush green vegetation, as far as you can possibly see! Everything is covered in moss — it’s super surreal and feels like you’re in either Jurassic Park or a Dr. Seuss story! Absolutely wild and crazy!
The Hall of Mosses Trail begins literally at the Hoh Rainforest Visitors Center, and the entire trail is very well-maintained. And it’s super easy — only 0.8 miles ROUND TRIP! It’s quick, but don’t rush through. Do some forest bathing; close your eyes and just feel the forest all around you. We spent about 1.5 hours here just enjoying the sounds of the forest and of course taking a whole slew of photos!
I’ve heard people even bring baby strollers here, but I’m not sure how that’d work — the ground is rocky and there’s some spots with roots sticking out.
Tips for Hiking the Hoh Rainforest Trail
- It’s short! Take your time and don’t rush through!
- Stay on the trail! There’s signs everywhere reminding you! Don’t wanna accidentally step on any vegetation!
- The Hoh Rainforest trails are kinda in the middle of nowhere — bring your own snacks and water (you unfortunately won’t find any at the visitors center). But in all honesty, I’d leave the snacks in the car and eat once you get back. We don’t want crumbs in the forest (can lead to animal or plant harm believe it or not).
- Make sure the trail is actually open for use! When we visited, the trail was closed every other week for maintenance — so be sure to confirm it’s open to the public before making the long drive over! If you do find it closed, hike the Spruce Nature Trail instead; I’ve heard that’s a great alternative.
- You’ll need to show your National Parks Pass or pay the $30 entrance fee to the National Park, so have your pass or money handy!
- There’s no gas stations nearby, so be sure to fill up (or have enough gas!) before heading to the Hoh Rainforest!
- Stay quiet — you may see the elusive Roosevelt elk!
Leave No Trace
As with all other hiking (within National Parks or not), please follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. Do your part and help protect the outdoors! Thankfully, the forest is protected from commercial exploitation, so we’ve gotta keep it as pristine as possible to keep the flora and fauna alive for as long as possible! I mean, the Hoh River Valley was formed thousands of years ago (by glaciers no less), so it’s quite special!
Some important things to remember include:
- Plan ahead and prepare (it’s a short hike, but anything can happen)
- Dispose of waste property (pack it in, pack it out)
- Leave what you find (aka don’t take anything from the forest — no souvenirs here!)
- Respect wildlife (observe from a distance and NEVER feed)
Read more about the 7 principles of Leave No Trace here! So important!
Other Hoh Rainforest Trails
There’s 3 main trails in the Hoh Rainforest, being The Hall of Mosses, The Spruce Nature Trail, and the Hoh River Trail. We’ve already talked about the Hall of Mosses trail (it’s what this whole post is about!), but I wanted to give you some additional info about the other trails if you’d like to continue on your hike!
- The Spruce Trail: Being slightly longer than the Hall of Mosses trail, the Spruce Nature Trail is only 1.2 miles long! It’d be a great addition to the Hall of Mosses if you wanna extend your walk. It’s a diverse trail that loops through both old and new growth forest, and you walk along the Taft Creek and Hoh River.
- Hoh River Trail: If you’re looking for a much longer day hike, the Hoh River Trail’s your answer. Although you don’t need to walk the full 18.5 miles to the base of Mount Olympus. Many people walk a mile or so and then turn around (it’s an out and back trail). If you do wanna hike the full length, there’s campgrounds — just be sure to check if you need a permit.
Other Rainforests in Olympic National Park
Did you know that there’s actually 4 rainforests within Olympic National Park? Yup — Hoh’s just one of them!
There’s also Quinault, Queets, and Bogachiel rainforests, all filled with mossy green flora and Sitka spruce. I also visited Quinault Rainforest on my 2-day Olympic National Park itinerary, which was way quieter than Hoh! It’s kinda out of the way (and honestly pretty similar to Hoh but not as impressive), so not as many people make it out there! Queets and Bogachiel are even more remote!
Where to Stay near the Hoh Rainforest
Face it, the Hoh Rainforest is kinda in the middle of nowhere.
While there’s not tons of nearby accommodation options, the tiny town of Forks, WA is your best bet if you want a proper hotel. Although there’s more motels than actual hotels in this area. We chose to stay in Forks, and at less than an hour away from Hoh and the Hall of Mosses trail, we felt this was a great choice! Our motel was clean, had comfy beds, and a microwave (much needed for our cup of noodle dinners). Find other accommodation in Forks, Washington here.
Wanna stay in the old-growth forest itself?! The Hoh Rainforest has a campground that’s open year round (just come prepared). I bet it’s pretty magical sleeping under the trees and camping by the Hoh River!
I hope this helps you plan your short hike on the Hall of Mosses trail in the Hoh Rainforest! Enjoy and remember to take along a rain jacket!