Day 4 Hoh Rain Forest and Wild Coastal Beaches
The Hoh Rain Forest is a not-to-be-missed attraction here on the Olympic Peninsula. Moist ocean air from the Pacific brings over 150″ (record of 211″) of annual rainfall to this area, which, along with presence of Sitka spruce and “colonnades” (row of trees that grew atop downed trees called “nurse logs”), qualify the west-facing valleys of the Olympics as the only temperate rain forests in the northern hemisphere! The park was established in 1938 after President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited and was duly impressed with the region and it’s wildlife. Three loop trails near the Hoh Visitor Center are easy to stroll and give a great sampling of the area: The Hall of Mosses Trail is 3/4 mile and shows the moss-draped maples, magically green in the spring, spectacular with color in the fall and a treat any time of year; the 1 1/4 mile Spruce Trail follows the Hoh River along red alder and maple “bottom”, and shows the landscape carved by this glacier-fed river; and a paved 1/4 mile path suitable for a wheelchair or stroller. The year- round Visitor Center is the starting point for many longer and more challenging hikes up to the alpine meadows and glaciers.
The Hoh Rain Forest is located 90 miles west of Juan de Fuca Cottages by taking Highway 101 through the town of Forks.
Scenic shores with easy access are found in the Kalaloch (pronounced kalay-lock) area, just 15 south of the Rain Forest Road. Beach Trail 4 is a pebble beach with a dramatic surf (beware of the strong undertow), tidal pools and is a popular place to dip for smelt. Picturesque Ruby Beach with a meandering creek and dramatic sea stacks is named for the garnet-colored sand. Miners panned for gold here earlier in this century.
Rialto Beach, north of the Quillayute River, is one of the few drive-to beaches in the area and a beautiful spot to enjoy the surf and watch shorebirds, eagles and seals. On the south side of the river, at La Push, First Beach is a mile-long crescent known for surfing-size waves and great whale watching. Kayakers, surfers and seals add to the view. Second Beach, just east of La Push, is popular with photographers and is reached by way of a .6 mile forested trail that leads to a 2 mile long sandy stretch of beach with sea stacks and tidal pools – watch for the eagle nest above the tree line. Third beach, a mile east of Second beach, is a mostly-level 1.5 mile trail through natural second growth forest, a result of winds up to 170 mph in January 1921. The “21 Blow” leveled nearly 8 billion board feet of timber, enough to construct 600,000 3-bedroom homes. In the fall, mushrooms flourish under the forest canopy, be sure to take along a guide book.