June 8 2011 by Claudia Kunkel
A few years ago when planning our annual summer road trip with the kids, my husband suggested that we visit the rainforest in Washington state when traveling through the Seattle area. I must admit at that time, I didn't know there was a rainforest in the United States.
After doing a little research, I discovered that the temperate rainforest is named the Hoh Rain Forest located on the west side of the Olympic National Park - a two hour drive from Port Angeles, which you can reach by the Upper Hoh Road off of Highway 101.
One of the most amazing things about the Olympic National Park is that you can see the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, the rain forest and glaciers on the peaks of the surrounding mountains. The park is home to three major ecosystems: a sub-alpine, coastal and forest. The forest can be divided into the lowland forest and the well-known temperate rainforest, which was the focus of our trip into the park.
We planned our visit there in early summer, which proved to be an excellent time to go with fewer crowds than at the height of summer. I would recommend that as soon as you arrive, head to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center to get the latest updates on open trails.
Once we arrived at the Visitor's Center, we talked to the staff to get educated on what a temperate rainforest actually is. Being informed makes hiking the trails much more meaningful, especially when traveling with children. I recommend packing inexpensive anoraks or lightweight ponchos as well as shoes you don't mind getting very wet and muddy for your trek through the rainforest. Keep in mind, this rainforest gets approximately 140 to 170 inches of rain each year! The hiking trails range in length and you can choose the trail that will best suit the ages of your children. There are two short trails which traverse around the Visitor Center or the major hiking trail, the Hoh River trail, which covers 17 miles leading to the Glacier Meadows at the base of Mount Olympus.
We chose the Spruce Nature Trail which is about 1.2 miles. It was just the right amount of hiking for the ages of our children at that time. They loved it, but trouncing around in the rain and muck for an hour or so was all they could handle.
It turned out to be a great adventure - one that all of us loved. I would highly recommend you go see and experience the Hoh Rain Forest for yourself.
Be sure to make your hotel reservations ahead of time when traveling to this area as lodging is few and far between. We chose to travel the 40 miles south to the Best Western Lighthouse Suites Inn for a comfortable night's stay.