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Hoh River-Five Mile Island

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The most famous of all the Olympic rain forests, the Hoh is one of the busiest places in Olympic National Park. A visitors center and a couple of well-groomed nature trails attract bus loads of admirers from Seattle to Seoul, Boston to Berlin. And its not just camera-toting tourists that invade this valley; pan-toting backpackers and caribiner-clanking climbers flock here too. The Hoh River Trail also provides access to Mount Olympus and the High Divide. But who can blame all of these people for coming here? The Hoh rain forest truly is one of the world's most spectacular places.

While the Hoh rain forest is a busy place, most hikers visit during the summer months and on autumn weekends. Come in the spring or even winter and experience a valley more sedate. Besides, with fewer people in the off-season, chances are good of witnessing members of the resident elk herd. But even if you end up hitting the trail on a busy day, the crowds thin out dramatically after only a couple of miles.

The hike to Five Mile Island is far enough to experience the old-growth grandeur and pure wildness of this valley, yet close enough that it can be done by most hikers, young and old. The trail is impeccably groomed, and the way virtually level, with minimal elevation change. Five Mile Island, with its wide grassy banks along the mighty rainforest river, was designed for whiling the afternoon away.

Start by following the paved Hall of Mosses Trail for 0.2 mile to a junction. Now on bona fide tread begin your journey through this valley of primeval forest. A cacophony of birdsong from wrens, nuthatches, woodpeckers, chickadees, and thrushes can be heard over the distant hum of the river. Pass by colonnades of spruce and under awnings of moss-cloaked maples. Licorice ferns and club mosses cling to overhanging trees like holiday decorations on New York's Fifth Avenue. And while the surroundings are lush, the understory is fairly open. Browsing elk keep the shrubs and bushes well trimmed.

In 1 mile get your first unobstructed view of the river. Gaze out to the High Divide and snow-capped Mount Tom, a peak on the Olympus massif. Pass the Mount Tom Creek Campsite at 2.3 miles; then climb above the river, catching glimpses of deep emerald pools below. Cross Mineral Creek by a lovely cascade. Five minutes later another cascade delights. At 2.9 miles come to a junction with the Mount Tom Trail. If you'd like, follow this path right 0.25 mile to open gravel bars and spectacular valley views.

Veering away from the river, the main path continues. Traverse impressive stands of Sitka spruce and at 4 miles come to the Cougar Creek cedar grove. Stand in awe beneath these trees, older than the great cathedrals of Europe-and just as inspiring. At 5.3 miles arrive at Five Mile Island. Formed by river channels, the island is an inviting grassy bottomland graced with maple glades. Sit by the churning river and enjoy views up the valley all the way to Bogachiel Peak. If it's raining, the nearby Happy Four Shelter (0.5 mile farther) will provide cover for your lunchtime break.
Driving Directions:

From Forks travel south on US 101 for 12 miles to the Upper Hoh Road. (From Kalaloch head north on US 101 for 20 miles.) Head left (east) on the Upper Hoh Road for 18 miles to its end at a large parking lot, visitors center, and trailhead. Water and restrooms available.

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Recent Trip Reports

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There are 77 trip reports for this hike. See all trip reports for this hike.
Hoh River-Five Mile Island — Apr 02, 2014 — austineats
Day hike
Issues: Mudholes
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I've lived and hiked in Washington for 21 years now. I've dreamed of visiting the Hoh rain forest fo...
I've lived and hiked in Washington for 21 years now. I've dreamed of visiting the Hoh rain forest for and equally long period of time. Today was the day! When I awoke in the middle of the night, like a kid on Christmas Eve, I looked out to the skies, and behold, it was clear! Not a cloud in sight.

Our hike was sunny and cheerful and glorious. The trail has it's muddy spots and downed trees here and there, but all and all it was easy and gorgeous.

The first few (5) miles are suitable for just about everybody. There are a few ups and downs but mostly gawking at the mosses, listening to the rushing Hoh river, and marveling at the monstrous trees. Sitka Spruce, Silver Pine, Douglas Fir, Red Cedar, Red Alder, and Big Leaf Maples shrouded in mosses.

We reached 5 Mile Island quickly enough despite spending countless moments crouched over something green debating whether it was a true moss or club moss, a lung wort or liverwort. Flowers popped out here and there but for the most part it is too early for flowers. We entertained ourselves with lichens, differentiating the trees, and examining 'elf gardens' with miniature fiddle head ferns (aka fiddle heads) and my new favorite plant, snake liverwort (conocephalum conicum).
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Hoh River-Five Mile Island — Mar 28, 2014 — WillowTree
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Mudholes | Water on trail
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Don't let the rain and mud deter you: this is the time to see the Hoh river! This hike was absolutel...
Don't let the rain and mud deter you: this is the time to see the Hoh river! This hike was absolutely beautiful, and the rain added to the lush magical mood. Wear warmer clothing than you think you need and everything waterproof that you own, and go out and enjoy the solitude. This is an easy, flat trail that allows for a lot of mileage with minimum pain, and I'm sure in the summer it's overrun, but at this time we saw less than ten groups the entire time. There are a few blowdowns and mud puddles, and a few stream crossings, but all of them have worn paths around or over them to show you where to go. Will try to get back again before the season takes off!
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Hoh River-Five Mile Island — Mar 18, 2014 — Nutmeg
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns | Clogged drainage | Mudholes | Water on trail
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This is a great time to hike the Hoh River Trail! Water, water, everywhere, and all of it to drink (...
This is a great time to hike the Hoh River Trail! Water, water, everywhere, and all of it to drink (if you have a filter). Pics to just short of 5 miles in are at: http://www.flickr.com/[…]/.

Streams and waterfalls are gushing through impossibly varied greens, fluorescent to emerald to cedar. Life drips, springs, oozes from every conceivable surface. Even the trail is wet, with many puddles and mud spots. One section in particular has become a stream. Gaiters would have been helpful to keep socks dry as a few spots are more than boot deep. I was happy to see boot prints right down the center of the trail through the muck – hooray for true hikers who don’t damage the gorgeous forest to avoid a little mud!!! There are downed trees, too, about 7 of them, but only 1 or 2 must be detoured.

We saw a small herd of elk – a handsome young bull with around a dozen cows. They were on the trail, but trotted off downhill when I asked politely (seriously!). We saw a solo bull about 4 miles in. He did not move for us, nor did he care about us one iota. We gave him lots of space anyway. On this not-rainy and sometimes-even-sunny Tuesday, we saw zero hikers on the way in, six on the way out, all within a mile of the visitors’ center. We had not hiked this trail for years, and my memory of the insanely verdant woods was not exaggerated. What a special place!
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Hoh River-Five Mile Island — Jan 26, 2014 — back to the source
Day hike
Issues: Blowdowns
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Who would guess that hiking on the Olympic Peninsula in the Hoh River Valley rainforest in January w...
Who would guess that hiking on the Olympic Peninsula in the Hoh River Valley rainforest in January would provide us with a perfectly clear blue sky day to hike upon? Amazing!!! If more people knew what a great weekend it was they surely would have been there, but as it was we were the only people on the trail. It was beautiful. The trail crew has been busy clearing fallen trees off the trail, but we came across a couple areas where we had to make diversions. Other than that it is heaven back there amongst the giants of the forest. If you like quiet trails and a bit of solitude then now is the time to hike the Hoh.
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Hoh River-Five Mile Island — Dec 18, 2013 — abertino
Day hike
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Under partly cloudy skies, the trail was in perfect condition. We did have a brief moment of very li...
Under partly cloudy skies, the trail was in perfect condition. We did have a brief moment of very light hail, but that was it.

We had the trail to ourselves - except for a herd of elk that crossed our path, which was pretty spectacular.

A perfect winter hike and a great way for us to introduce some out-of-towners to the state of Washington. Lush rain forest, snow-capped mountains, enormous trees, and wild-life sightings - pretty hard to beat!
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Hoh_river.jpg
Counting Rings-Hoh Rainforest Trail by Arlo Smith.
WTA worked here!
2010, 2011, 2012
Location
Hoh River (#15)
Olympics -- West
Olympic National Park
Statistics
Roundtrip 10.6 miles
Elevation Gain 300 ft
Highest Point 800 ft
Features
Rivers
Old growth
Mountain views
Wildlife
Established campsites
User info
Good for kids
Dogs not allowed
National Park/Refuge entry fee required
Guidebooks & Maps
Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)
Green Trails Seven Lakes Basin-Mt Olympus Climbing No. 133S
Custom Correct Seven Lakes Basin-Hoh

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Note: the description and driving directions for this Mountaineers Books entry are copyrighted and can't be changed.

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  • Youth Vacations 2012
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