Published September 2, 2020 9/2/2020

Hiking Olympic National Park's Magical Rainforest

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Rainforests are home to more than half of the world’s species of flora and fauna, the source of about 40 percent of the planet’s oxygen supply. Olympic National Park is home to one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the U.S. It boasts abundant wildlife like elk, river otter, bobcat and hundreds of bird species along with numerous plants, moss-covered trees, and waterfalls.

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Quinault Rain Forest with lush ferns on the forest floor and moss hanging from tree branches, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA
Quinault Rain Forest with lush ferns on the forest floor and moss hanging from tree branches, Olympic National Park, Washington, USA

The Quinault Rainforest is nestled in a valley formed by the Quinault River and Lake Quinault known as the “Valley of the Rain Forest Giants” due to its many record size tree species which include Sitka Spruce, Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, Mountain Hemlock and Alaska Cedar, along with five of the 10 largest Douglas fir trees. In fact, it’s believed to be the region with the greatest number of record size giant tree species in the world’s smallest area. 

Hydrangeas, Olympic National Park, Washington
Hydrangeas, Olympic National Park, Washington

In the summer with flowers in full bloom, the area is transformed into a breathtaking fantasy world that looks as if it was pulled from the pages of a storybook.

Some highlights, like 40-foot-tall Merriman Falls, can be seen right from the South Shore Lake Quinault Road, but the best way to experience the rainforest is to get out and hike.

Lake Quinault Lodge
Lake Quinault Lodge

There are more than 15 well-maintained trails in the area to explore, each with its own perspective on the diverse ecosystem. Right across from Lake Quinault Lodge are eight miles of interconnected hiking trails that wind through spectacular nature, including short family-friendly treks along with more challenging options for avid hikers.

World`s largest spruce tree, Quinault Rainforest, Olympic National Park
World`s largest spruce tree, Quinault Rainforest, Olympic National Park

The World’s Largest Spruce Tree Trail is just a third of a mile and will bring you to the World’s Largest Sitka Spruce. Accessed about a mile from Lake Quinault Lodge, it’s one of six record-breaking trees in the Quinault Valley, a 1,000-year giant that’s considered a must-visit.

Quinault Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Quinault Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington

The Pony Bridge Trail is ideal for those who want to explore more of the backcountry without having to embark on a day or longer trek. It’s located about 17 miles up the South Shore Road from the Lake Quinault Lodge, starting from the Graves Creek Trailhead which sits at the end of the road.

A 5-mile round-trip hike, it winds through old-growth forest with beautiful streams and opportunities to spot wildlife like Roosevelt elk, which are commonly seen along the trail, along with the occasional black bear.

Sol Duc Falls, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Sol Duc Falls, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington

On the west side of the park, you’ll find many trails that meander through the Hoh Rainforest, including hikes that lead to gorgeous waterfalls. From the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, located about 20 miles inland from Highway 101, you can check out the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and then walk one or more of the three-loop trails nearby for a fabulous sample of the area. The one-and-a-quarter-mile Spruce Nature Trail passes through younger forests of red alder and cottonwood along the glacier-fed river, while the three-quarter-mile Hall of Mosses Trail reveals the moss-covered maples that are especially stunning in the spring.

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