I’ve got friends coming in from Belgium in 2 weeks. They wanted to tour the Olympic Rain Forest. What can I tell them they can do when they arrive in Seattle (headed ultimately for Yakima)?
-Karen in Yakima
My answer depends how long your friends have to sneak in a visit to Washington’s Olympic rain forest before turning back around and heading to Yakima. I will give you a few different options!
Sidenote: When people speak of the Pacific Northwest’s temperate rain forest, they’re usually referring to the western-facing coastal edge and western slopes of the Olympic mountain range. However, the western slope of the North Cascades in Washington is also temperate rain forest, so if your friends don’t have time to trek out to the coast for the ultimate rain forest hike, here’s an alternative: the Carbon River Rain Forest at Mt. Rainier.
The west side of the Olympic mountains is very wet, and 140 inches of rainfall a year keep the forest perpetually damp and vibrantly green, resulting in one of the world’s rarest ecosystems – temperate rainforest. While these rain forests once covered the coastline from southern Oregon to southeast Alaska, few of them remain. Four long river valleys–the Quinault, Queets, Hoh and Bogachiel–stretch down from glaciated peaks in the Olympics all the way to the ocean. Each of these hosts an enchanting rain forest, most of it protected from development as part of Olympic National Park. Access roads and hiking trails allow visitors to explore these diverse ecosystems.
Some people attempt to see the rain forest in a day trip from Seattle, and although this isn’t ideal, it can be done. An overnight trip is better.
For a day trip, go to the Quinault Rain Forest near Lake Quinault.
Several miles of inter-connected nature trails through rain forest can be accessed from the lake’s South Shore Road. You can pick up the trail at two of the forest service campgrounds in the area (Falls Creek or Willaby campgrounds) or from the Lake Quinault Lodge. Some stretches of the nature trails have interpretive signage. One stretch, the Quinault Rain Forest Nature Trail, is just .5 miles in length, while the Quinault Loop Trail is closer to five miles, allowing for a few good hours of easy hiking through this moist emerald paradise. If you park in the trailhead parking lots, your vehicle will need a Northwest Forest Pass.
To make this an overnight trip, I recommend three great places to stay on Lake Quinault here.
If your friends have more than a day, they could drive a bit further to the Hoh Rainforest, one of Olympic National Park’s star attractions and most-visited spots. Nature trails take you through ancient trees that stand like giants holding up a moss-covered forest canopy. Maples mingle with Sitka spruce and Western red cedars tall enough to pierce the sky. Lettuce lichen, spike mosses and many types of ferns adorn tree trunks and branches, creating layers upon layers of verdant jungle. Read more about visiting the Hoh Rainforest here.
For an overnight stay near the Hoh Rain Forest, I recommend Olympic Suites Inn in Forks.
Hope that helps!