Last year, I posted about a four-day visit to Mount Rainier National Park. The day following that visit, I took a tour with Evergreen Escapes to Olympic National Park. I am not usually the tour type, but I made an exception because, on this occasion, my guide would be my daughter Marjorie. I even got to sit in the front of the van with her. Marjorie took us (she had six other guests) on the ferry across Puget Sound and then on the 100-mile drive to a northern corner of Olympic. We saw Lake Crescent, and hiked to both Marymere Falls and Sol Duc Falls. It was beautiful and fun, but it was clear from Marjorie’s patter that the best parts of Olympic National Park lay farther west, out of reach of a day excursion from Seattle.
Back in Connecticut, getting to those best parts of Olympic became the focus of my plans for a second trip to Washington, a trip made all the more enticing when another daughter, Caroline, moved out to Seattle in the fall. I booked flights for the second half of January, and I booked Cedar Creek Cabin, an Airbnb near the small city of Forks—well within reach of Olympic’s rain forest and beaches.
This post is about hikes in the forest, primarily on the Hoh River Trail. But, for the record, we also visited Rialto Beach (huge driftwood, thunderous surf), Cape Flattery (the most northwesterly point of the Lower 48), and Second Beach (sea stacks galore). It was all great.
I hiked the Hoh River Trail twice, once with Marjorie and once alone. There are notes and photos for those hikes below. But before them, and before either Caroline or Marjorie arrived in Forks, I warmed up with a walk on the Bogachiel River Trail. Here are a few pictures, with information in the captions.
Hoh River Trail
DATES: Friday, January 20th (with Marjorie) and Monday, January 23rd (alone).
START & FINISH: Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center (47.860207, -123.934494).
(This is also the location of the famous Hall of Mosses nature trail, which I walked with Caroline. It was great on a Sunday in January, but I am told it can get extremely busy at more popular times of year.)
ROUTE: Hoh River Trail runs for 17½ miles, all the way to the glaciers of Mount Olympus. It wasn’t the season for that, even if we had had the time. Marjorie and I hiked out to Five Mile Island campsite; alone, I went just a little farther, to Happy Four campsite.
DISTANCE: Friday, 10-11 miles; Monday, 11-12 miles.
TIME: Friday: 5 hours (1:15pm to 6:15pm—we finished by lamplight 1¼ hours after sunset). Monday: 5½ hours (10:00am to 3:30pm)
TERRAIN: Pretty easy—mostly good trail, minimal elevation gain.
MAP: I mainly used Gaia GPS but also carried Trails Illustrated 216, Olympic National Park.
WEATHER: Looking at the weather in Forks in the run-up to the trip, I felt sure we would often be hiking in heavy rain. In fact, our rain forest outings were rainless, and the sun even peeked out once or twice. Temperatures in the 40s.
WILDLIFE: Two bald eagles over the river; Roosevelt elk; some kind of grouse; no cougar, despite the warning (see PICTURES).
UPS: On Friday, being with Marjorie for the first time in three months. On Monday, on stones beside the river at Happy Four, I experienced some moments of utter contentment, “a perfect comfort with the here and now” as I wrote on another occasion. No downs.
COMPANY: Just a very few other hikers, a definite advantage of a winter visit.
(Monday’s return leg, but good for all.)