The Hoh Rain forest is one of the few temperate rainforests in the U.S.A and it is also one of the largest. It's a lush and green paradise of trees covered in moss and such. It really reminded me of a fairy tale forest! It rains a lot here and you can expect wet weather when you visit here, but when we visited we were lucky and had dry weather. When we got there it was drizzling a little bit, but later on the sun even made an appearance.
Once you get to the parking lot at the Hoh Rain Forest you will find a little trail to the Visitor/Info Center where you can gather information, get some trails maps, by some gifts and stuff like that. We walked 2 different shorter trails. We did the Hall of Mosses Trail which is a 0.8 mile loop trail beginning near the Visitor Center. The other trail we did was the Spruce Nature Trail and this one is a 1.2 mile loop trail beginning near the Visitor Center.
This is an easy one to combine with the Hurricane Ridge section.
11 miles up the road (west) from Port Angeles is the forested Elwha Valley. Here the park road parallels the Elwha River and up to an observation point once overlooking Lake Mills (visible in my photo.) I was dragging a bit from a bad cold so we only did a few of the shorter hiking trails, the drive to the point, and spent a little time along the banks of the river but it's a really peaceful, pretty section of the park. The trails range from a short, paved path to a small waterfall (Madison Falls Trail) to an 8-mile, one-way climb up to the meadows of Hurricane Ridge (Wolf Creek Trail). There are also 2 campgrounds and some nice picnic areas with restrooms. The website has a downloadable brochure with map and descriptions of the trails.
A note about Lake Mills: it was created by damming of the river in the early 1900's and, being built without requisite fish runs, blocked the natural migration of salmon that were the mainstay of the area's indigenous people. In 2011/2012, Glines Canyon (at the south end of Lake Mills) and Elwha dams (farther north at Lake Aldwell) were removed, the lake drained to restore the river to its former, unimpeded run through the valley, and salmon re-introduced to the waters.
On one of the days we spent in Olympic National Park we visited the Hoh Rain Forest in the morning as it was cloudy and a little drizzly. Later in the day it was clearing up and the sun came out. So, we decided to drive to the La Push area after dinner and hike the Second Beach Trail. It's only a 1.6km/1mi hike from the trail head through the forest onto the beach. There are quite some stairs to go down on, so remember you have to climb them up again when you go back. This is a good thing to remember if you don't like to stay past dark.
You can find the sign of the trail head along the road near La Push, you can't miss it on your left. There is a parking lot and from there you walk through the forest. There are 3 beaches in this area, First Beach, Second Beach and Third Beach. All of them are accessible via a different trail as you can't just walk from one beach to the other due to the headlands. We choose Second Beach as it looked like a beautiful place from photos I saw online. And yes, it was a gorgeous sandy beach with beautiful views! If you are here at low tide you can enjoy tidal pools as well.
La Push is a wonderful area to visit and pretty close to Rialto Beach. So if you have time and you are in the area of Rialto Beach, make a little side trip to La Push. From here you can just visit the main beach where you can also find a beach resort. Or you can stop at several trail heads just before La Push to get to some of the nicest beaches in the area.
There's First beach, Second Beach and Third Beach in the area that are definitely worth a visit. We only visit First and Second Beach, both are very nice. You get beautiful views from James Island and other sea stacks rising from the ocean. Second beach is a nice sandy beach and great at low tide if you like tidal pools! La Push and its beaches is a great area for beach walks, sunsets, looking for tidal pools and much more.
I mentioned in my previous trips that Rialto Beach is a place you shouldn't miss. One reason is that you can enjoy beautiful sunsets here. When we were here we spent a few evenings watching the beautiful sunset here and every time it was well worth it. Sometimes you get beautiful clouds that reflect the wonderful colours of the sunset. If you have the time and you are not too far from this beach, make sure to catch a sunset here.
Rialto Beach is one of the most accessible beaches along the west side of Olympic National Park. It is also one of the most popular beaches on the Olympic Peninsula. Rialto Beach boosts some of the most awesome views of the Pacific Coast. It's a bit of a rocky beach with tons of logs that have been washed onto the beach, but these come in handy for a nice front row seat when watching a beautiful sunset. There is a parking lot near the beach, you might have to do a bit of climbing over some logs to get to the beach, but it's definitely worth it. One of the most popular hikes/walks at Rialto Beach is called "Hole-in-the-Wall" and this is especially recommended at low tide. This is a great beach to watch the waves roll in, to watch a beautiful sunset or just to enjoy a great walk.
Rialto Beach starts at the mouth of the Quillayute River and extends 6.5km/4mi past sea stacks and tide pools. The winter months bring heavy storms which can be enjoyable to watch, as well as rewarding. As the beach turns northward, Cake Rock is the massive sea stack that rises far up out of the churning sea. Dahdayla Island is also a sight to see but is much closer to the beach. The views are really wonderful here no matter what time of the year visit!
You will see a number of logs along the beaches here. These are drift logs that have been washed downstream by flooding from high up in the mountains. Stay away from the logs at high tide because they have been known to shift and crush unwary people.
The shallow water area between the mainland and the sea stack is a tide pool. These areas are filled with water at high tide then exposed to the hot sun at low tide. Several interesting forms of sea life have adapted to this type of environment. A tide pool is a fascinating thing to study. Please do not disturb the residents of the pool.
Here the Hoh River widens and slows its movement towards the Pacific forming a pleasant little pond. This is a great place to spend some time and look for some of the animal residents of the Hoh River Valley. When I was here there was a Bull Elk standing guard over his harem.
A sea stack is a small island of hard rock that used to be a part of the mainland. The surf slowly eroded softer rock until the sea stack is separated. These sea stacks are important nesting areas for a variety of birds including cormorants, murres, pigeon guillemots, and petrels. Many of these birds fly miles out to sea for food and come no closer to shore than the sea stacks. I also think the sea stacks are very pretty.
There are a number of beaches along the Pacific Coast that belong to Olympic National Park. I had to opt for Ruby Beach because there have been a few Rubys in my life that have been (and still are) important to me. Another popular beach is Rialto Beach on the Northern Coast. Ruby Beach is easily accessed off US Highway 101. From the parking area it is a short walk down the trail to the beautiful beach itself.
This photo shows how the blowdowns provide the perfect platform for hemlock and spruce seedlings to take root. They cannot take root on the tangled forest floor but the downed trees provide just the right minerals, moisture and warmth for the trees to establish themselves.
Because of the large amount of rainfall here the Sitka Spruce trees do not need t grow deep taproots. This makes then vulnerable to the high winds that frequently accompany winter storms here. When one of this massive trees topple they sometimes take neighboring trees with them. These downed trees provide an ideal environment for spruce and hemlock seedlings continuing the circle of life.
Most of the attractions along the Hoh Road are near the Hoh Visitors Center. Here you can get a park brochure, a map, and any information you need to help you maximize your enjoyment of the park. There are several trails near the visitors center. I go into detail on a few of these under my Sports Tips. Interpretive signs acquaint you with this fascinating rain forest.
This rain forest is dominated by the Sitka Spruce. The Sitka Spruce only grows along a narrow strip of land along the coast from Northern California to Alaska and a few valley like this one. This is one of the largest Sitka Spruce trees in the US. See how it dwarfs my car. This tree is 270 feet tall and is about 550 years old. There is a short trail around the tree and other large Sitka Spruces.