Health, Hiking, Humor, National Parks, Travel

Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park Tips

Among the Giants

Journey with me to Olympic National Park to the Hoh Rainforest as we explore this plush green wonderland.

The Mighty Quinault Lodge

I decided to make it a two-night trip. I had always wanted to see and possibly stay at Quinault Lodge, made popular by the book Snow Falling on Cedars. It seems like a mystical place. When I called to book a reservation for the trip dates, I couldn’t get a reservation for both nights, only one. I didn’t want to break up the trip so I checked further north and I happened upon the Kalaloch Lodge. It was about the same price and on the beach although I picked a unit that did not have an ocean view. My husband really does not like that, but the room was cheaper and the bed looked more comfortable than the ocean view unit pictured on the website. Sometimes the pictures are helpful and sometimes they are not. Usually, the pictures make everything look better. It’s funny how you don’t know what a location is really like until travelling there yourself and experiencing it.

We did, however get to stop at Quinault Lodge and it was rather stately. I loved the main part of the lodge that had a fireplace and comfortable chairs that looked like you could curl up and read a book and sip hot cocoa or tea and look up every-so-often and reflect on the ambient light in the room.

Ruby Beach

We stayed a short time and then headed to our destination. When we first arrived out room was not quite ready, so we took a short drive to Ruby beach. I guess the rocks on the beach look like rubies when reflected by the sunlight during a certain part of the day. The north has a different type of feel. It feels beautifully desolate and a little forlorn. We spent a short time there and actually decided head further north to the Hoh Rainforest to catch the late afternoon sunlight. I have anticipated taking this trip for a long time and the forecast called for rain. I really wanted to see the abundant mosses in the sunlight.

It took about a half hour from Ruby Beach to get there. The entrance is pretty nondescript. When you turn into the entrance, it is another 12 miles or so to the entrance booth. We arrived around 4:30 pm and the visitor center closed at 6 pm. We presented our Discover Pass which we purchased online that week. The park ranger said we needed an America the Beautiful pass which was good for all U. S. National Parks. The Discovery Pass is good for all Washington state parks. The parks system can be confusing at times. Surprisingly, since my husband is now a senior, we ended up purchasing the America the Beautiful pass for $20 and it is normally $80. We were able to purchase it at the booth, thankfully.

Hoh Rainforest

After passing the entrance booth, it was another 10 miles to the parking lot. We were treated with mossy tree branches sticking out like fingers wrapped in a mossy gauze. We parked, went into the visitor center to get a map and proceeded to the Hall of Mosses. It was truly enchanting. I fell in love with the pool of water before entering the Hall of Mosses. It reminded me of the Ophelia painting by Sir John Everett Millais. The pools of water are so clear and inviting to look at just like in the painting. I could stare at the pools all day. I imagine myself laying in the pool (alive, of course) just contemplating life. That is originally what I thought the women in the painting was doing.

We were able to make it through the Hall of Mosses with time to spare. There is another trail, and I didn’t want to rush, so we decided to come back the next morning. The park ranger mentioned that it is best to come in the morning, especially since it would be the weekend and a holiday weekend to boot (Memorial Day weekend).

Kalaloch Lodge

We drove back to Kalaloch and ate a dinner of cold cuts, veggies and such. Tip #1 Bring your own food in a cooler. The lodge had a restaurant, but it was not open all hours and it was very expensive. We never ate there. A disappointment of mine – the lodge’s website that you would be greeted with a fire in the fireplace in their main building but we were not. I asked about that, but the desk attendant said they could start one but that would take a while.

We stayed in a unit which had several hotel rooms (not pictured). The majority of the property had cabins which were all separate. They have fireplaces which would be cozy.

Mosses and Banana Slugs

Back to the Hoh the next morning. We arrived before 9 am. It was very drippy and expected to rain that day. We took the Hoh River Trail and were the only ones on the trail for a good bit of time. The pine needles and moss underfoot padded our footsteps. The forest was quiet. The trail took us to the river and then circled back. Again, we walked through the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail. I like to capture scenery during different times of the day and in different lighting. It was so green!

I set my sights on finding the all-elusive banana slug, which can grow quite large. There is one pictured below from the visitor center. It was a little early in the season to see them plentifully crawling about the soft forest terrain.We decided to take the trail which leads to Mt. Olympus but it proved to be hugely muddy and impassable without the right footwear. Hikers before us, just observed a banana slug and told us where to look for it. It was not very big and this one was not very bright, but definitely a different shade than what I have ever seen before. I was excited about finally seeing one.

More and more people began to arrive and there were buses of people. I am glad we had the forest to ourselves at the onset of the day. We ate our lunch that I packed in the truck. It was beginning to rain. As we were driving out of the park, the ranger station was letting one car in as one went out. The cars were snaked back about a mile.

Tip #2 Arrive early to the park.

Rialto Beach

On our way home, we decided to take a loop of the Olympic National Forest area and return via I-5 through Seattle. I will write about that in an upcoming blog post. On the way home, we drove through Forks made famous by the Twilight book and movie series and then onward to Rialto Beach which was covered with washed-ashore tree stumps and logs on a rocky shoreline. Beautiful and mysterious at the same time.

Tip #3 Bring a winter coat. I layered with a t-shirt, sweatshirt, rain-resistant jacket, and winter coat plus I carried an umbrella. I don’t like to be wet or cold so I guess it depends on your tolerance level to the elements. If you are like me, you won’t be sorry that you came prepared.

There is so much to explore here, I couldn’t cover it all in one blog post.

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