|Maple grove in the Hall of Mosses|
Access: Paved road to trailhead, Olympic National Park entrance fee required
The Hoh Rainforest in Washington State's Olympic National Park is a magical forestscape of huge trees and omnipresent moss in a valley that receives some of the highest annual precipitation of any place in the contiguous United States. This short and easy trail is a good way to enjoy some highlights of this forest and learn about its fascinating ecology. Although it's hard to justify a drive out from Seattle just for this short hike, this hike pairs well with other short Olympic hikes for a road trip circumnavigation of the peninsula.
I hiked to the Hall of Mosses with two friends visting from the Bay Area. We drove out from Seattle, taking I-5 south to Olympia and then heading west to Aberdeen, from which we then followed US 101 north. After stopping by Kalaloch and Ruby Beach to check out the tidepools and the sea stacks, we made a turn off US 101 to the right onto Upper Hoh Road, an intersection which was clearly marked with a sign reading "Olympic National Park: Hoh Rain Forest." We followed the road through miles of clear cut and second growth forest before finally arriving at the national park; after passing the entrance station, we drove to the Hoh Campground and snagged a first-come, first-serve campsite.
We started our hike at the visitor center, which was within walking distance of the campground. By the time of our hike, it was late afternoon and the mosquitoes were out in force. I unwisely forgot to apply insect repellent before we began hiking and was thus partially consumed by the time we returned to our campsite.
The trail started at the visitor center parking lot. The first hundred yards followed the same path as the Spruce River Trail, another short nature hike, and the Hoh River Trail, a longer trail leading down the length of the Hoh River to its source at the glaciers on Mount Olympus. The Hall of Mosses Trail branched off to the left; we followed the signs for Hall of Mosses, passing another junction for a trail back to the visitor center and coming to a placid stream in the middle of the forest. We crossed the stream on a well-built bridge and then hiked up a short incline to reach a trail junction with the loop trail. We chose to hike the loop clockwise, taking the left fork first.
The rainforest areas on the early parts of the trail actually weren't particularly impressive: the trees weren't particularly big and the moss wasn't particularly thick. We did pass through an oddly shaped tree that arched directly over the trail, which was an unexpected sight.
After a few minutes of walking along the loop we came to a spur trail for the maple grove. Hounded by mosquitoes, we almost chose not to take this spur, but at my insistence we took the trail a couple dozen yards up to a dead-end next to some of the mossiest trees I'd ever seen. A number of mature maple trees with sinewy trunks were adorned crown to roots with moss. The trail indeed lived up to its name. Moss-covered maples were actually substantially more attractive than their coniferous counterparts, due to their relatively higher geometric complexity compared to the cylindrical trunks of firs and hemlocks.
|You wonder why it's called Hall of Mosses|
|Hoh Rain Forest|
|Line of trees growing from a nurse log|