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South Fork Hoh River - Big Flat

Olympic Peninsula

The South Fork Hoh Trail penetrates a wild and remote wilderness and offers hikers solitude just a short distance from the crowded main Hoh Rain Forest. The easy trail stays in the bottomland among groves of towering spruce and grassy maple glades. Continue reading


Olympic Peninsula -- Pacific Coast
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7.0 miles, roundtrip


Gain: 150 ft.
Highest Point: 850 ft.


2.67 out of 5

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  • Mountain views
  • Wildlife
  • Established campsites
  • Old growth
  • Good for kids
  • Dogs not allowed
  • Fall foliage
  • Rivers

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass

The South Fork Hoh Trail penetrates a wild and remote wilderness and offers hikers solitude just a short distance from the crowded main Hoh Rain Forest. The easy trail stays in the bottomland among groves of towering spruce and grassy maple glades. The farther one wanders the more grotesque the forms become, displaying remarkable growth behavior that is the way of life here.

The South Fork Hoh Trail drops immediately from the trailhead to cross a stony stream bed before heading into second-growth Sitka spruce. This part of the valley was logged in war times when spruce was in high demand. Ferns and oxalis decorate the forest floor under the uniformly spaced trees.

After 0.4 miles the trail enters Olympic National Park. Suddenly hikers are surrounded by large trees and tenacious shrubs. This is old growth. Several Douglas fir trunks over 10 feet thick disappear into the canopy and host a community of young hemlock trying to make a living in the crevassed fir bark.

At about a mile the trail crosses a small stream, rounds a point, and descends to the level of the river. This is Big Flat, a glaciated bottom lying between two relatively high ridges which catch unfathomable amounts of precipitation. The rainfall and occasional fog combined with the low elevation and moderate climate promote vegetative growth unparalleled anywhere on earth.

At 1.3 miles a sign marks Big Flat campsite to the right. A short path leads to the river and several places for tents along the way. The main trail proceeds across Big Flat through halls of incredible spruce. Nurse logs and colonnades line the trail here and there among "rooms" of hanging moss with a carpet of oxalis.

There is a brief glimpse of the river at about 2 miles before heading back through the jungle. Notice that even though plants cover everything one sees from ground to sky there is an ordered look to things. This is partly due to elk browsing, which has been the focus of extensive study in the valley. Moderation in species diversity is also credited to the overall landscaping design.

A small meadow on the right invites explorers in at 2.8 miles, after which point the main trail becomes rough and faint. Trees often lie upon the trail and by midsummer grass and shrubs crowd the way. But soon hikers hear the river again just as the path strikes the foot of the north ridge. Here the river has cut into the base and the old trail has been washed away, which marks the official trail's end at 3.5 miles.

It is possible to descend the bank onto the gravel bars and access the river. Anyone wishing to explore the upper valley should wait for low water levels after most of the snow has melted in the high country.

Hike by WTA Correspondents
Wes Partch

South Fork Hoh River - Big Flat

Map & Directions

Co-ordinates: 47.7993, -123.9544 Open in Google Maps


Olympic Peninsula -- Pacific Coast

South Fork Hoh River (#19)

Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Olympic National Park

See weather forecast

Guidebooks & Maps

Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula (Romano - Mountaineers Books)

Olympic Mountains Trail Guide (Robert L. Wood - Mountaineers Books)

Green Trails Mt Tom No. 133

Custom Correct Mount Olympus Climber's Map

Buy the Green Trails Mt Tom No. 133 map

Getting There

From Forks drive south on Highway 101 for 15 miles and turn left at the well marked Hoh Mainline junction. The Hoh Mainline Road is paved and in very good condition, with a few humps and dips. Take it for 7 miles, around one big curve, and turn left onto Maple Creek Road, which is marked with a single tree in between the road forks.

After just a mile stay left with the main road and in another 1.2 miles turn right onto H 1000, crossing Owl Creek before climbing with views over extensive clear cuts and the Hoh River.

At the 4 mile mark on H 1000 stay straight at the big clear cut and proceed for another mile at which point H 1000 turns left -- follow it. In a quarter mile cross the South Fork Hoh River near a DNR campground notorious for black bear sightings.

After two more miles stay right and proceed a half mile farther to the obvious trailhead. There is room for a half dozen vehicles but there are no facilities. The usual kiosk with wilderness regulations and overnight registration slips marks the trailhead. Note that this is DNR land and that a Discover Pass is required.

Parking Pass/Entry Fee

Discover Pass

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South Fork Hoh River - Big Flat

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