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The Olympic National Park Rain Forest

Updated on April 19, 2012
Stephanie Henkel profile image

As a full-time RV'er, Stephanie writes about many natural wonders to be found in the U.S. National Parks and Monuments are her favorites.

Olympic National Park Rainforest

Olympic National Park Rainforest floor.
Olympic National Park Rainforest floor. | Source

Ferns and Fungi in the Rainforest

Ferns in the rain forest
Ferns in the rain forest | Source
Fungus in the rain forest.
Fungus in the rain forest. | Source

Big Cedar at Olympic National Park RainForest

Big Cedar Olympic National Park Rainforest.
Big Cedar Olympic National Park Rainforest. | Source
Big Cedar Olympic National Park Rain forest.
Big Cedar Olympic National Park Rain forest. | Source

Olympic Peninsula Rainforest

The Olympic National Park in Northwest Washington encompasses a magnificent 1,400 acres of mountains, coastline and rainforest. It was designated a Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and a World Heritage Park in 1981. So different from other National Parks, it's three distinct areas are each a world of their own. You may have already read my articles on the Olympic National Park Coast and the Olympic National Park Hurricane Ridge (the mountains). In this article, I would like to share some information and photographs of the Olympic National Park Rainforest.

The mountains to the east of the Olympic National Park rain forest protects it from weather extremes and keeps temperatures moderate. The rain forest is a temperate rain forest with temperatures seldom going below the freezing point or rising above 80°. The rain forests lie in the valleys of the Hoh, Queets and Quinault Rivers. Temperate rain forests are found in only a few other places in the world.

Rain Forests Host an Amazing Variety of Plants, Birds, Animals and Insects

The rain forest is like no other place. The gigantic Sitka Spruce and western hemlocks sometimes grow to heights of 300 ft. and 23 ft. in circumference. Just standing near one of these giants is a humbling experience. Walking through one of the trails in the rain forest, you will see a fairyland of mosses, ferns and plants hanging from the trees and growing from the ground. Rotting fallen logs provide nurseries for seedlings to begin new life.

The rain forest is home to many animals including Roosevelt elk, black tailed deer, black bears, cougars, river otters. Insects, reptiles and amphibians abound, though there are no poisonous snakes here. For bird watchers, bring binoculars to see thrush, western robins, gray jays, ravens, and pileated woodpecker.  Walking on the trails of the rain forest, with greenery everywhere, mosses hanging from the branches and growing on the downed trees, one can imagine the many unseen small animals, birds and insects in, under and among the plants. 

Temperate rain forests, unlike tropical rainforest which have many "wet" seasons, usually have one long wet season and one fairly long dry season with fog providing the needed moisture. This makes the temperate rain forest of Olympic National Park a pleasant place to visit in the summer months. During our visit in early September, we only experienced a few short rain showers.

Rain forests are so named because of the very large amounts of precipitation that occur in their ecosystems. The park's rainforests get an incredible 140 to 167 inches of rain each year. That's 12 to 14 feet!

Caught in the fog.  Olympic National Park.
Caught in the fog. Olympic National Park. | Source

More Photos Taken in the Rainforest

Moss hanging from trees in rain forest.
Moss hanging from trees in rain forest. | Source
Rain forest Olympic National Park.
Rain forest Olympic National Park. | Source
Tall trees of Olympic National Park.
Tall trees of Olympic National Park. | Source

Record Breaking Trees in Olympic National Forest

Unless you see them in person and stand next to one of these mammoth trees, it's hard to imagine trees this huge.  If you go to Olympic National Park, do get a list of the biggest trees and take the short walks into the forest.  There are few places in the U.S. where you can experience old growth forests of such majesty.  Standing next to the western red cedar that is 159 feet tall with a circumference of 63 feet is truly a humbling experience. 

Where to find the biggest trees: 

Douglas fir is 37 feet in circumference and 298 feet tall. It is located on the South Fork Hoh River Trail, 0.25 mile inside Park boundary, 40 ft south of trail.

The Sitka Spruce Near Lake Quinault in Olympic National Forest is 191 feet high and over 58 feet in circumference!

Western Redcedar 761 feet in circumference, 159 feet tall is located on the North Shore of Lake Quinault, across from Rain Forest Motel.

For a complete list of other huge trees to be found in the park, consult rangers at a Park visitor center.

Flowers of the Olympic National Park Rain forest

Foxglove discovered on a back road drive through the rain forest.
Foxglove discovered on a back road drive through the rain forest. | Source

Olympic National Park in North West Washington

Exporing the Rain Forest with a Camera

The Olympic National Park Rain Forest offers many opportunities for wonderful photographs. Interesting plants, mosses and flowers are perfect subjects for close-up digital pictures, and you will see details in your photographs that you may not have noticed in the live subject.  Be sure to make notes when you download your pictures so that you will remember where you took them.  In order to find my photographs again, I file each batch of pictures in a folder named with year, month and place.  When I have time, I go back into my computer and name each photograph.  That way, I can find a specific photo even years later.  And don't forget to back up those very important pictures!

On one of our explorations of the rain forests, we wandered several miles down a dirt road, stopping to photograph plants and flowers along the way. The patchy fog along the way increased the feeling of solitude in the deserted area, and when we stopped, there was only the sound of a few birds calling.

The bright pink of the foxglove stood out sharply among the green ferns and plants along the roadside, and I was thrilled to photograph it close-up. At the time I did not know that there were no poisonous snakes in the rain forest, so I was very wary of leaving the edge of the road.

Camping in the Rain Forest

There are a few campgrounds in the rain forest that will accommodate RVs, though it is wise to call ahead to make sure that the winter storms have not blocked access roads or campgrounds. As in other National Park campgrounds, the camping is primitive with no utilities or water hookups.

Some great books about the Olympic Peninsula

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    • profile image

      Binod Budhathoki 

      16 months ago

      Nice articles love the way you describe

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      pommefritte - How lucky you were to see a Roosevelt Elk so close-up! We saw some in Yellowstone National Park, but the only wildlife we saw in Olympic NP was deer. The Hoh Rainforest is an amazing place, and photographs hardly do it justice. Thanks so much for the read and for your comments!

    • pommefritte profile image


      7 years ago from Northern Virginia

      Stephanie, I really enjoyed this hub with all the great pictures and descriptions. I went with my wife to the Olympic Peninsula in the late '90s and camped at a National Park Campground in the Hoh Rainforest. We were fortunate enough to see a huge Roosevelt Elk browsing on the vegetation right near our tent. It was a fabulous place!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      Peggy W - Thanks so much for including links to my hub in your wonderful article on Washington's National Parks! I know that you would love the Olympic Rainforest as well as the other parts of the Olympic National Park, and I do hope that you'll be there to explore it all some day.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Stephanie,

      All the up votes except funny on this great hub. You have no idea how much I would like to be able to follow in your footsteps and experience the Olympic Rainforest such as you have done. This is another hub added as a link to mine about the 3 national parks in Washington. So nice to be able to include your great hubs! Sharing this one also.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hello Baygirl,

      The Olympic National Park is an awesome place that I'm sure you'd love. The National Park service does have a lodge and there is lodging in some of the nearby towns that are within driving distance of the park. Do enjoy your visit! Thanks for stopping in to read and comment!

    • baygirl33 profile image


      8 years ago from Hamilton On.

      Wow! I need to go there.

      I could feel the atmostphere while reading.

      I know how you feel humble standing at the base of the huge trees.We have Douglas Firs in British Columbia here in Canada and I have felt the feeling.

      I would have to find a lodging some place near in place of an RV,but sounds like it would be a great place to investigate.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi RealHousewife, I know you'll love traveling in an RV with your family - it's a great way to see the country! The Olympic National Park is one of my very favorite places in the U.S. The diverse ecology and wonderful scenery makes it a perfect place to take an RV trip. Thanks for following me and for sharing here! I'm also a fan of yours!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Stephanie! I am so glad I had time to hop over here and I thank you in advance for all I am going to learn from you. You know traveling is my "thing". lol I have always been so curious about traveling across the country in an R.V. I have discussed it at length with my husband and priced them:) lol

      My 12 year old wants to visit Washington! This is so cool - I am super impressed and so glad to be your newest fan! Thank you!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      9 years ago from USA

      Hello Applecsmith,

      The Olympic National Park was one of my very favorite National Parks. Each area was so beautiful that it would be hard to say if the rainforest, mountains or coastal areas were the best. I do hope you will go back to explore it further! Thanks for commenting and voting on my hub!

    • applecsmith profile image

      Carrie Smith 

      9 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Wow, the pictures are beautiful and your description of this National Park is wonderful. I have been to this area before, but it was a quick trip and I didn't get much time for sightseeing. I can't wait to go back.

      Thanks for sharing. Voted up and awesome.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Henkel 

      9 years ago from USA

      Hi John, There's more information about camping in Olympic National Park in my hub "Olympic National Park Coast~ RVing on the Washington Coast". Click on the link up above.

      We stayed at Elwa River Campground for a few days and also at South Beach on the coast. No reservations are accepted at either one. I believe that Kalaloch Campground on the coast is the only one that takes reservations. Many of the sites at the National Park campgrounds are small, so check ahead of time with the park service to be sure your RV will fit. We have a 33' motorhome.

      Another place we camped that we liked a lot was the Dungennes Recreation Area, a county park in Sequim. Some sites had views of the Straight of Juan de Fuca. From there you can drive to Hurricane Ridge or Deer Park for day trips. Check out my Hurricane Ridge Hub, too, as it has some nice pictures of the views and the flowers.

      Thanks for stopping by to read my hub!

    • John Fremont profile image

      John Fremont 

      9 years ago from Bend, OR

      We are heading to Olympic at the end of the month in an RV. Which campgrounds did you stay in or would you recommend?

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      9 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing!


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