Olympic’s Quintessential Hike: Hoh River Trail

25 Jan

Map of the Hoh River Trail by National Geographic Trails Illustrated

See our Best Trails guide, including World’s Best Hikes: 20 Epic Trails.

Tucked away in the most northwestern part of the Pacific Northwest, Olympic National Park is a waterlogged wonderland befitting of its name: any place so magical must be a dwelling for the gods.

Surrounded by bodies of water to the north, east, and west, the secluded one-million-acre park is home to towering, glaciated peaks and stunning vistas, a distinctly beautiful coastline, and one of the most rare and magnificent of ecosystems—the temperate rain forest.

With western-facing valleys that receive up to 14 feet of rain annually, the Olympic Peninsula is the wettest region in the lower 48 states, and is enriched with landscapes so lush that life literally seems to drip from the trees, and every inch is carpeted with green.

There is perhaps no better hike for experiencing the grandeur of Olympic’s forests than the Hoh River Trail, a 31-mile out-and-back that starts on the western side of the park and climaxes at a glacier-adjacent meadow at the base of Mt. Olympus, the range’s highest mountain. And for those who would prefer to see a rain forest without the rain, there’s no better time to hike the trail than right now, as the Hoh region averages just over three inches of rain per month in the summer, and the temperatures are typically mild and pleasant.

The trail is mostly flat for much of the way as it follows the northern banks of the river, but begins an abrupt ascent at mile 11, where it climbs 3,000 feet over four miles as it veers up from the Hoh on its way to Glacier Meadow.

Most hikers will want to allot at least three days to hike the trail, and there are numerous campgrounds along the way to pitch a tent. And despite what the weather forecast might say, it is very much advised to pack multiple layers, with at least one being waterproof. Even in paradise—and perhaps especially so—clouds can crash the party at any time.

Olympic’s Quintessential Hike: Hoh River Trail ,

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