Hello Fellow Adventurers,
When I decided to move from Southern California to Seattle last spring, I wanted to see what the national parks in Washington had to offer. Having explored almost exclusively desert/high desert areas I was in for a bit of a shock.
I took a day trip to the Olympic National Park, a sprawling, transforming landscape of snow capped mountains, rugged beaches and dense, damp rainforest. While I stopped in every environment, (Hurricane Ridge, La Push and the Hoh Rainforest) this post will focus on my rainforest journey.
I explored about eight miles of the iconic Hoh River Trail, which stretches 17 miles (32 round trip) through the rainforest and up into the mountains. Receiving about 14 feet of rain a year, the Olympic Peninsula is the wettest part of the contiguous United States. It’s also incredibly green. There is so much water you can’t really smell the usual earthy forest smells, and moss carpets everything from the ground to the trees.
The first part of the trail is fairly flat and runs alongside the tranquil Hoh River. There are several vistas that take you out of the rainforest to the banks of the river. It’s an eerily beautiful landscape and feels very prehistoric. Needless to say, the footing is really muddy during the wet season, so good shoes are a must.
I also had good luck spotting animals. The Olympic Peninsula is home to a huge herd of Roosevelt Elk, who despite their size and numbers, are aces at camouflaging themselves beside the mossy trees.
The summer is the best time to visit the rainforest, as you are less likely to get soaked. I went in late May and got caught in what felt like torrential rain, but some other hikers we spoke with said that for the rainforest, it was merely drizzling. They also said that Seattle got so gray in the winter that it made them want to hang themselves, which was lovely to hear when I was considering moving.
Next summer we plan to backpack the whole trail, which ends at the base of Mt. Olympus. If backpacking, you a required to have a permit and bear canisters. I highly recommend bringing some weatherproof gear. A jacket and a cover for your backpack are pretty important. I also protected my DSLR camera inside a plastic trash bag because I didn’t trust the supposedly waterproof cover of my camera bag.
From Seattle it’s a two hour drive over to the Olympic Peninsula and two more to get to the rainforest. You have to drive through the tiny town of Forks, where they filmed the Twilight Movies. The people there have really embraced their new vampire identity, the entire town is Twilight themed. I even saw someone selling “Twilight Firewood”.
I went to the Olympics in a marathon one day drive, in which I drove about 600 miles. To accomplish this I left at 4:30 am and didn’t get back to my hotel until 11 pm. It was a fun but exhausting day but next time I will allot a few days time to really explore all the trail has to offer.