If you are visiting the remote Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park, taking a hike on the Spruce Nature Trail should definitely be on your list. This short hike introduces you to the area by getting hikers up close and personal with the rain forest (that gets over 10 feet of annual precipitation!) without too much effort. On this hike you’ll see plenty of green trees, ferns and moss and may even be lucky enough to happen upon some wildlife!
While the Hoh Rain Forest is actually quite time-intensive to get to, it offers a very different view from what you’ll see in the Port Angeles area (near Hurricane Ridge) or near Lake Crescent. And it’s wildly different from nearby Kalaloch Beach, which is just a few miles to the west.
This short loop trail is more than worth the few minutes if you have the chance to check it out.
SPRUCE NATURE TRAIL DETAILS
- Difficulty: Easy
- Distance: 1.4 miles (round-trip)
- Trail: Loop
- Elevation gain: 10 feet
- Peak elevation reached: 610 feet
- Best time of year to hike: Late spring to early fall
- To beat the crowds: Arrive before 10:00 am or after 4:00 pm
- Footwear: Sneakers
- Watch out for: Mosquitoes
- Restrooms: Located at the trailhead, but not on the trail
- Pets: Not allowed
- Time needed: 45 to 60 minutes
The Spruce Nature Trail is one of many things to do in the area and one of dozens of things to do in Olympic National Park. Download our extensive Olympic National Park Itinerary to help you know what to do, what to pack and what to do while you are visiting this amazing park.
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE SPRUCE NATURE TRAIL
Spruce Nature Trail parking area, courtesy of the National Park Service
The trailhead for the Spruce Nature Trail is in the western portion of Olympic National Park, but it takes a bit of work to get here. It’s about 30 miles inland from the coast (as the crow flies). To get here, you have to drive on Highway 101 until south of Forks, WA before heading east on Upper Hoh Road. Upper Hoh Road ends at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center.
- Directions from Forks, WA to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. This will take a little under an hour, and you likely won’t have much in the way of traffic.
- Directions from Port Angeles, WA to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. This will take about 2 hours without stops. You may run into a bit of traffic as you head out of Port Angeles.
- Directions from Portland, OR to the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. If you are coming from the south on your way up to Olympic National Park, then this drive from Portland will take nearly 5 hours.
The parking lot for the Visitor Center has space for about 100 vehicles. Most of the time, parking is not a problem, but be ready for some crowds on the weekends (especially when the weather is nice). The parking area is for the Visitor Center and for the local hikes. Some of the hikes from here are full-day (if not longer), but the two main hikes are about a mile, so spots will open up quickly if you are patient.
Restrooms are available at the Visitor Center, but they are not present on the trail. Though the hike is short, expect to take your time meandering and checking out the trees!
SPRUCE NATURE TRAIL: TRAIL SURFACE AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Trail surface. The trail is packed dirt and not very hilly at all. Still, be prepared for plenty of moisture on the trail. Your shoes will likely get some mud on them, depending on when the last rainfall was.
- Accessibility. The trail is not wheelchair accessible. However, since it is not overly challenging, if you have a cane or need trekking poles for stability, you can likely take this trail and enjoy it. Consult with the ranger for the updated trail conditions before you go, though!
PREPARATION FOR HIKING THE SPRUCE NATURE TRAIL
Since the hike is relatively short, there isn’t much preparation that you need to do. However, there are a few things that we recommend:
- Water. We always recommend bringing water on the trail, even if it’s a short jaunt like this one.
- Map. This trail can be confused with the Hoh River Trail (which is about 17 miles long and heads in a different direction), so bring a map or take a picture of one before your hike.
- Rain Protection. It’s likely that you’ll get a bit wet in this part of the park, so be sure to bring a jacket or something to protect you from the dampness.
- Shoes. The trail can be muddy, so it’s good to go into it with closed toed shoes or hiking boots.
On this hike you will have a brief encounter with the Hoh River. Originating from the Hoh Glacier, this river is over 50 miles long. It starts by flowing east from Mount Olympus before turning toward the Pacific Ocean. It flows through the Hoh Rain Forest, but by this point most of the glacial silt that makes the milky blue color at the beginning of the river has settled out. The river terminates in Oil City, WA (which you can also visit).
HIKING THE SPRUCE NATURE TRAIL IN THE HOH RAIN FOREST
Spruce Nature Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
The trail starts from behind the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, where you can stop and get the latest trail information. Be sure to take the correct trail (it can easily be confused with the Hoh River Trail, which is just to the north) and head east.
The trail heads to the east southeast before taking a right at the Hoh River. Along the trail, you’ll be immersed in a rain forest full of trees, but what we found most amazing was the amount of foliage growing on top of other foliage. Ferns and mosses seem to cling to everything, with the host plants seeming unfazed by the hitchhikers. Eventually some of the trees succumb to age and wear, but continue to live a second life as “nurselogs”, or trees that continue to support the life of other plants.
As the trail heads to the south along the river, it can be muddy.
Turning west back toward the Visitor Center, the trail remains flat (as it is for most of the hike) and re-enters the forest. Along the route, you’ll find information about the forest.
The trail is quick, lasting only about 45 minutes over 1.4 miles. You won’t sense much elevation change in the hike at all.
SPRUCE NATURE TRAIL: TOP LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Immersive. Since it’s rare that someone gets to enter into a rain forest, it’s incredible to be able to walk into the forest and just be completely immersed like you are here. After you leave the parking lot, it’s literally just a couple minutes before you are covered under a canopy of trees.
- Quick payoff. The hike isn’t long, but it packs a lot. You get to see the trees and even head by the river.
- Quiet. While many people can take this trail, it’s generally very quiet. It’s a good place to go to reflect on the day.
- Too short. While the short length can be a benefit, it also means that the hike is over fairly quickly-too quickly for us, at least!
- Remote trailhead. The remote nature of this location keeps the crowds away (for the most part), but it does take some time to get here.
HIKING THE SPRUCE NATURE TRAIL IN WINTER
The winter season is when this hike is at its wettest. It can get snow here as well, so check in on the latest road conditions prior to heading out.
If you do hike in the winter, be sure to bring plenty of warm clothes, protection against the rain and waterproof boots.
THINGS TO DO NEAR THE SPRUCE NATURE TRAIL
The Hoh Rain Forest is a great place to visit for a few hours or the better part of a day. While here, we recommend checking out the following:
- The Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center is a great place to start your stop. Here you’ll find exhibits, a small store and access to Rangers who will have the latest information on the trails and the area.
- The Hall of Mosses Trail is another great option if you are looking for an easier hike than the Spruce Nature Trail. It’s to the northwest of the visitor center and is a 1.0-mile (round-trip) loop that is really pretty.
- If you are up for a longer trek, the Hoh River Trail is worth exploring. It can be as short as you want, or up to 34-miles (round-trip). There is minimal elevation gain for the first 10 miles, and allows you to get away from the crowds.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Before you leave on your trip, be sure to download a copy of the Olympic National Park itinerary. We provide you with all you need to know about your trip, including what to bring and how to spend your time in this expansive park!
- When you return from your vacation, shoot us a photo and we’ll make a vintage poster for you, complete with custom wording!