Winding through the magical Hoh Rain Forest, the largest temperate rainforest in the contiguous United States, the Hoh River Trail features massive towering trees, moss-covered logs, unique wildlife, and the greenest, lushest forest you’ve ever seen! Located in Olympic National Park, the Hoh River Trail is one of the most unique hiking trails in Washington and a can’t-miss Pacific Northwest experience. In this article, we’ve outlined everything you need to know to hike the Hoh River Trail!
- Hoh River Trail overview
- Hoh River Trail | FAQs
- Hoh river Trail Hike Guide
- Other PNW Resources
Hoh River Trail overview
- Distance | 5.5 to 35.1 miles
- Elevation gain | 213 feet to 5,600 feet
- Difficulty | Easy to hard
- Estimated time | 1+ hours
- Why you’ll love it | Family-friendly stroll through an enchanted rainforest; an Olympic National Park classic
- Epic-ness rating | 4
Find this hike on AllTrails | Hoh River Trail to Mineral Creek Falls
Note | The entire Hoh River Trail is 35 miles round trip, but you can choose to hike as short or far as you’d like.
The Hoh River Trail is a 17-mile long trail that follows along the banks of the Hoh River on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula in Olympic National Park.
The Hoh River is fed by melting glaciers on Mount Olympus in one of the rainiest locations in the United States. With all the moisture, the area is filled with lush forests, bright green moss, and abundant wildlife.
This is a perfect trail for hikers and backpackers of all fitness levels and skill sets and you’ll quickly see why it’s one of the most popular trails on the Olympic Peninsula.
- Unique lush rainforest environment is unlike anywhere else in the United States
- Trail is very easy to follow and relatively flat
- No set destination, meaning you can hike for as long as you’d like
- Plenty of campsites along the trail, make it a great backpacking option
- One of the most popular trails in Olympic National Park, so expect large crowds
- No big mountain views until the very end of the trail, requiring a multi-day hike to access
- While hiking through the rainforest is nice, it can get repetitive after many miles
Key things to know before you hike
- Expect to wait | Unless you reach the trailhead at the crack of dawn, you can expect to wait in line to reach the parking area for the Hoh River trailhead. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 1+ hours.
- Entrance fee required | You’ll need to pay a $35 per car fee to enter Olympic National Park, or bring your America the Beautiful Parks Pass.
- Leave your dogs at home | Pets are not permitted inside Olympic National Park.
- No cell service | There is no service along the trail. Download trail maps in advance.
Hoh River Trail | FAQs
In this section, we’ll cover a few important frequently asked questions about hiking the Hoh River Trail.
Where is the Hoh River Trail?
The Hoh Rain Forest is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the United States and was formed by retreating glaciers over the course of thousands of years. It’s also the rainiest forest in the contiguous United States, receiving well over 100 inches of rain per year.
The Hoh River cuts through the heart of the rainforest and is one of the most popular areas in Olympic National Park. With moss covered trees, dense vegetation, and diverse wildlife, it’s truly a magical and unique area.
- Note | This map is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on a s means of navigation.
How do I get to the Hoh river trailhead?
The trailhead for the Hoh River Trail is located 1 hour from the small town of Forks and 2 hours from Port Angeles. The closest major cities to the Hoh River Trail are Olympia (3 hours) and Seattle (4 hours).
To reach the trailhead, you will head east on the Upper Hoh Road off Highway 101, continuing for about 30 minutes (without traffic). The road is fairly well-maintained (if not for a few potholes) and suitable for any vehicle type. The Hoh Visitor Center is located right near the trailhead.
Regardless of where you are coming from, you should expect a fairly long drive to the trailhead due to its remote location. Be sure to plan your itinerary accordingly!
Is it difficult to find parking?
Yes, parking at the Hoh River Trailhead is notoriously challenging!
Especially on weekends during the peak season (typically June-August), you can pretty much count on having to jockey for a parking spot. When we visited on a Saturday afternoon in June 2023, we sat in a line of cars for about 60 minutes just to reach the parking lot.
If you want to avoid the parking hassle, you can always arrive either early in the day or later in the afternoon to beat the crowds.
How difficult is the Hoh River Trail?
Because the Hoh River Trail is so long (approximately 17 miles one way!), you can choose to hike for as long or as short as you’d like. Are you looking for a quick few miles to stretch your legs and explore the rainforest? The Hoh River Trail is perfect for you!
In the mood for a multi-day trek that bring you to the base of Mount Olympus and the massive Blue Glacier? The Hoh River trail checks those boxes as well!
The first 12 miles of the Hoh River Trail are fairly flat, with nothing more than some undulating ups and downs, while the final 5 miles become increasingly steep.
When is the best time to hike the Hoh River Trail?
- Peak | June through September
- Shoulder | October, May
- Avoid | November through April
This is actually a bit of a tricky question because you can hike the Hoh River Trail at any time of year, but there are slight pros and cons to the different seasons.
To start, it’s important to remember that the Hoh River Trail is located within the Hoh Rain Forest, which, as you can imagine, gets a ton of rain. Expect clouds and rain no matter what time of year you visit.
That being said, the summer months, from June through September, are the most popular time to hike the Hoh River Trail. The weather tends to be drier and sunnier (by Olympic Peninsula standards, that is).
The winter months (November through April) bring the highest amount of precipitation, but temperatures remain fairly mild. You can also expect significantly fewer people on the trail during the winter months.
Is it possible to backpack the Hoh River Trail?
Yes! The Hoh River Trail is a perfect backpacking trip for backpackers of all skill sets and experience levels. There are plenty of backcountry campsites all along the trail, each with easy access to water.
If you’re looking for an easier backpacking trip with minimal elevation gain, choose one of the campsites closer to the trailhead (Mount Tom Creek, Five Mile Island or Happy Four).
Conversely, if you’re up for a challenge, you could hike all the way to Blue Glacier and spend multiple days along the Hoh River Trail.
How do I get backpacking permits?
Olympic National Park requires permits to camp at all of the campsites along the Hoh River Trail.
The first five campsites along the Hoh River Trail (Mt. Tom Creek, Five Mile Island, Happy Four, Olympic Guard Station, and Lewis Meadows) do not have a quota. This means that while you still need to get a permit in advance, these sites do not sell out.
On the other hand, the last three campsites (Martin Creek, Elk Lake, and Glacier Meadows) all have overnight quotas and a limited number of reservable permits.
Reservations for the summer season (mid-May through mid-October), usually become available in mid-April. Always check the NPS website or Recreation.gov for the most up-to-date information on backpacking permits and reservations.
What should I bring?
Below are a few items to make sure you pack for hiking the Hoh River Trail.
- Snacks and lunch | The trailhead is quite remote without much by way of food options nearby. Pack lunch and plenty of snacks to avoid hangry-hiking.
- Rain jacket (Patagonia Torrentshell)| You are hiking through a rainforest, after all. Don’t hit the trail without a good rain jacket!
- Waterproof hiking boots (Danner Mountain 600)| As the trail tends to be wet and muddy, we recommend wearing a good pair of waterproof hiking boots or trail runners.
- Pullover (Smartwool Merino Quarter Zip) | Be prepared for chilly temperatures year-round.
where Can I stay near the Trailhead?
Due to its remote location on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula, there aren’t a ton of lodging options near the Hoh River Trail. However, we’ve listed a few options below.
- Woodland Inn | Located right in the small town of Forks, Washington and 45 minutes from the trailhead for the Hoh River Trail, the Woodland Inn is more of an upscale option with larger suites available.
- Kalaloch Lodge | Located just under an hour from the trailhead for the Hoh River Trail and sitting right on the shores of the Pacific Ocean, the Kalaloch Lodge is rustic yet refined and a perfect embodiment of the Olympic Peninsula.
- The Hoh Rain Forest Campground is the most convenient place to stay near the trailhead. The campground is open year-round and has 72 sites available. During the peak season, the sites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance.
Hoh river Trail Hike Guide
With all of the background information out of the way, let’s talk about the different options for hiking the Hoh River Trail. Below, we’ve outlined a few popular options for hiking the Hoh River Trail!
Hoh River Trail | Mineral Creek Falls
- Distance | 5.5 miles
- Elevation Gain | 213 feet
- Difficulty | Easy
Find this hike on AllTrails: Hoh River Trail to Mineral Creek Falls
Hiking the Hoh River Trail to Mineral Creek Falls is a popular option for folks looking for a short hike with minimal elevation gain. This hike allows you to experience everything the Hoh Rain Forest has to offer, with towering Sitka spruce trees, lush forests, and moss-covered logs over a short and flat journey.
If you are limited on time or simply don’t want to hike for hours and hours, making the journey to Mineral Creek Falls is a great option.
We did the hike to Mineral Creek Falls after exploring Rialto Beach in the morning, and it made for a perfect day of adventuring in Olympic National Park.
Hoh River Trail | Five Mile Island
- Distance | 10 miles
- Elevation Gain | 367 feet
- Difficulty | Moderate
Find this hike on AllTrails | Hoh River Trail to Five Mile Island
Hiking the Hoh River Trail to Five Mile Island is probably the most popular option. Covering 10 miles, it might sound a bit long but remember that the elevation gain is minimal, making this only a moderately challenging hike.
Despite being 10 miles in length, the hike to Five Mile Island should only take you about 4 hours. Five Mile Island itself is a nice spot for a lunch or snack break!
Hoh River Trail | Blue Glacier
- Distance | 35 miles
- Elevation Gain | 5,300 feet
- Difficulty | Challenging
Find this hike on AllTrails | Hoh River Trail to Blue Glacier
The full hike to the Blue Glacier and the base of Mount Olympus is a challenging adventure that should only be attempted by experienced hikers and backpackers. This multi-day trek takes you through the entirety of the Hoh Rain Forest and culminates with up close views of Mount Olympus and the massive Blue Glacier.
Unfortunately, we haven’t made the trek all the way to Blue Glacier but some friends have said it’s one of the best backpacking trips they’ve ever done! Going all the way to Blue Glacier adds over 5,000 feet of elevation gain, so don’t expect this to be a leisurely stroll through the park.
We’d imagine that once you pass 5 Mile Island, there are probably very few hikers on the trail and you’re likely to find some peace and solitude that you can’t find when you’re still in day hiking range.
Other PNW Resources
Looking for more incredible hikes in Washington and the Pacific Northwest?! You may also be interested in these resources to help you plan your trip!
- Hiking Summerland Trail in Mount Rainier
- Backpacking the Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park
- Rialto Beach to Hole in the Wall
- Maple Pass Loop Hike Guide
- Best Towns on the Oregon Coast
- Best Hikes on the Oregon Coast
- Southern Oregon Coast Guide
- Northern Oregon Coast Guide
- Best Things to do in Oceanside, Oregon
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Questions about hiking the Hoh River Trail? Let us know in the comments section below!