People say it rains a lot in Seattle. They view it as some kind of damp, dreary, depressing place in the winter. Most of the country sees rainy days in Seattle as the norm, assuming the only reason people live there is because of its liberal government, legalized substances, amazing microbrews, and the Seattle Seahawks. I mean, how else could anyone survive so much rain?
The truth is, it actually doesn’t rain that much in the city of Seattle. In fact, the Emerald City only receives 38 inches of rain annually. This figure is behind the likes of Houston, New Orleans, Mobile, Memphis, Nashville, New York, Miami, Philadelphia, and more. Statistics prove it doesn’t rain that much in the city, but just a few hours' drive from the Space Needle, entire river valleys receive 14-18 feet of rain each year. Out on the Olympic Peninsula, in the wilderness of Olympic National Park and Forest, it rains enough to create America’s rainforests.
On the western flanks of the Olympic Mountains, storm upon storm stack up to the west, dumping and pounding rain on the lush rainforests, filling the salmon-filled, glacial-fed rivers with rushing whitewater. From the craggy summits of the Olympic Mountains, all the way to the sea-stacks along the coast, the western half of the Olympic Peninsula gets fully saturated with precipitation.
The rainfall, combined with the deep river valleys and steep ridges have created four distinct rainforests in the region. With towering old growth forests, jungles of moss hanging from maples, and neck deep ferns hiding herds of Roosevelt elk, the rainforests each have their own style and highlights. Here, we take a look at what make them all so uniquely appealing.
1. The Secret: Bogachiel
Starting at the northern Olympic Peninsula, the region’s first rainforest region is one of the best kept secrets in America. Known as the Bogachiel Rainforest, the trail starts near the logging town of Forks, and leads all the way to the Seven Lakes Basin and Sol Duc Region of Olympic National Park. Weaving through huge ferns and towering firs and cedars, the hike in this region is quiet, remote, and a local favorite.
The Bogachiel gets its name from the local Quileute tribe, which loosely translates to “gets muddy after rain,” and the city of Forks receives an average of 10 feet of rain each year. Higher into the Bogachiel Rainforest, the region gets around 14 feet of rain annually, making hiking in the area an incredible (albeit wet) experience. The best trail option is starting at the Ira Spring Wetland Trail and working your way into the lush undergrowth of the Bogachiel rainforest in Olympic National Park. For 23 miles, the trail enters through wilderness so isolated and spectacular, you won’t look at any other forest the same ever again.
2. The Classic: Hoh
The entire world knows the Hoh Rainforest, seeing images of giant mossy trees plastered on the innards of National Geographic Magazine. Featured in the Twilight series, The Legend of Mick Dodge, and numerous other television programs, movies, books and travel articles, the Hoh gets all the glory for being one of the most accessible rainforests in the world. The Hoh is gorgeous, full of elk, easy day trails, and a ranger station, and it provides access to climbers looking to ascend the glaciated summit of Mount Olympus.
The most common hike is the Hall of Mosses Trail, which is a short loop through some amazingly mossy old-growth forests. While this is nice, the hike everyone needs to do is the trip up the Hoh River to Mineral Creek Falls, where a gorgeous waterfall and creek weave their way through the lush, dense rainforest. The trail is mostly flat, and is a good hike for kids who like the forest.
3. The Loner: Queets
The Queets Rainforest is rarely hiked, and when it is, few discuss their hikes. It is remote, tough to access, and for the best exploration, you have to start out your hiking and backpacking trip by fording the wild and cold Queets River. The Queets is the last unexplored bastion of the Olympic Wilderness, a river valley hiked rarely, fished often and about as remote as you can get.
High up the river, near the glaciers of Mount Olympus, Service Falls plunges hundreds of feet before carving the infamous Queets Canyon. Service Falls is one of the most inaccessible locations in the country, and only a handful of people have ever stood at the base of this mysterious falls. Downstream, sections along the river in the Queets Rainforest will feel just as isolated, with hikers commonly seeing as many bear as people. If you love solitude, remoteness, and lack of maintained trails, exploring the Queets Rainforest will show you just how wild Olympic National Park can be.
4. The Rainforest Next Door: Quinault
Once the novelty wears off of the Hoh, after the Queets has been attempted, and the Bogachiel has been fully hiked, locals and visitors to Olympic National Park tend to settle on exploring the Quinault Rainforest for the rest of eternity.
Complete with an amazing lake, fantastic day hikes, rustic, large lodges, and remote chalets, it is hard to find a location more beautiful than the Quinault. If you love mountain day hikes, Colonel Bob Peak looms over the Quinault Rainforest, offering staggering views of the Olympic Mountains and entire Olympic Peninsula. For those who like simple walks, the Rainforest Trail near Lake Quinault Lodge consists of 13 miles of fun, easy to access, well-maintained trails. Along the road to the more remote hikes, waterfalls plunge down along rocky sections, flowing into the salmon-filled, eagle-lined Quinault River. The region is beautiful, breathtaking, and the perfect example of rainforest beauty. Capped off with the majestic views of mountains, waterfalls, and wilderness from the Enchanted Valley, the Quinault Rainforest must be experienced to fully understand its majesty.