The Hoh's major hiking trail is the Hoh River trail, which leads 17.3 miles to Glacier Meadows and Blue Glacier, on the shoulder of Mount Olympus. Most people hike the initial parts of this trail and turn around to retrace their steps once they have been overwhelmed with enough beauty. For this reason, the number of other users drops off after the first few miles, even though this is one of the most heavily used trails in the park.
From the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center area, take the paved loop east for just 0.2 miles to the junction with Hoh River Trail. This well groomed, easy trail ascends the lush river valley along the north bank of the braided Hoh River. The heavily wooded and mossy trail is mostly flat for the first 12 miles. The first good view of the river comes around 1 mile, although you'll likely have heard the rush of its waters over the birdsong much earlier. Spot Mount Tom and the High Divide from here. Pass campsites, two small falls and the impressive Cougar Creek cedar grove. After 5.3 miles, you arrive at Five Mile Island, a meadow-like spot formed by a huge gravel bar. Elk often can be found here and there are good views up valley. This is a worthwhile destination after which many people turn around.
For those continuing on, the trail takes on a more mystical wild feel away from other people. Pass the Happy Four shelter, several more campsites and cross a rickety bridge. After the Olympus summer ranger station and the intersection with Hoh Lake Trail
, you start really feeling isolated. Marvel at the blue Hoh River water as you near its source. Wind towards the river and away from it, through meadows and dense forest. Begin an abrupt ascent climbing 3,000 feet over four miles through narrowing valleys and over a gorge via the High Ho Bridge.
The vegetation changes from luxuriant rainforest to drier fir forest. Pass the Martin Creek camping area and marshy Elk Lake. Views of the Mount Olympus glaciers are superb from the north side of the lake. Continue the arduous climb ever southwards, now along Jemrod Creek towards Glacier Meadows in the high country. There is one slide area to navigate, but a helpful rope ladder makes this very do-able. The trail ends at a spectacular overlook on the lateral moraine of the shrinking Blue Glacier. Hear it creak and groan? It is sweeping past you very slowly. Visit the glacier's terminus on the way down by taking the Terminus Primitive Trail
to the west.
The 50-mile long wild Hoh River is born high on glacier-capped Mount Olympus and descends 7,000 feet to the Pacific Ocean, fed by snowmelt and rain along the way. The glaciers of its birth grind rock into glacial flour, coloring the river a milky, slate blue. On its descent the river meanders, creating gravel bars and cutting into the lush rainforest along its banks.
Immense fallen conifers are swept downriver and create logjams and quiet pools for salmon. Their spawned-out carcasses feed dozens of aquatic and forest animals and fertilize the soil, bringing riches from the ocean to the forest. In turn, the forest lends stability to the river by preventing massive sediment flushing. Mountain, river, forest, ocean--each part of this ecosystem depends on the other, a tapestry woven together as one naturally functioning unit.
Ferns, moss and huge trees. Elk, deer, bear.