Location: Olympic National Park, WA
Distance: 10 mi
Elevation Gain: 515 ft
Dogs Allowed: No
Season: late June - Sept.

Backpacking Hoh River Trail

This guide covers the 10 mile roundtrip trek to Five Mile Island and back. The total length of the Hoh River Trail is 35 miles roundtrip.

Located on the west side of Olympic National Park, the Hoh River Trail is one of the quintessential hikes in Olympic National Park. The trail meanders through the lush forest canopy occasionally offering views of the milky blue glacial waters of the Hoh River. This mostly flat, out-and-back route is perfect for anyone wanting a quick overnight adventure in the Olympics.

The Trailhead

The trail starts right near the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center and is easy to find given that it is the only trail near the visitor center that is over a couple miles.

Mt. Tom Creek

The Hoh River Trails starts out as a very well groomed trail and stays that way for the most part for the first 5 miles. You will be immersed in the lush green rainforest right off the bat. At 2.7 miles, look out for the very picturesque cascading waterfall of Mineral Creek - it is definitely one of the highlights of the trail.

It's easy walking for the majority of the first 5 miles
It's easy walking for the majority of the first 5 miles
Draping moss on trees is a common scene on this trail
Draping moss on trees is a common scene on this trail
...so is this
...so is this
Mineral Creek is small but produces gorgeous cascades
Mineral Creek is small but produces gorgeous cascades

One thing to note if you plan on camping at the Mount Tom Creek campsite - the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map for this trail shows the campsite as being located before reaching Mineral Creek. This is incorrect. It is actually located a quarter to a half-mile after where they display it to be (and past Mineral Creek). Google Maps also shows an incorrect location for this campsite. Some people have been confused by this and have camped in the wrong undesignated section. Just remember that there will be a sign for the campsite and you should keep going until you hit that. It will occur after the Mineral Creek, and the accurate coordinates for the campsite are 47.866, -123.879.

Five Mile Island

After reaching Mount Tom Creek campsite, your next destination is Five Mile Island which is also the turnaround point for this guide. Along the way, you will see a huge western redcedar tree at around 4 miles. A beautiful meadow leads to the Five Mile Island campsite.

As you approach Five Mile Island, the trail gets more meadowy
As you approach Five Mile Island, the trail gets more meadowy

Google Maps displays the locations of the Five Mile Island campsite and Happy Four campsite incorrectly. Five Mile Island campsite is actually right near where Google displays the Happy Four campsite as being. The accurate coordinates for the campsite are 47.867, -123.84.

After you have reached Five Mile Island, you can either keep going for an additional 12.5 miles until you reach the end of the trail at Glacier Meadows (which this guide does not cover) or you can head back to the start of the trailhead.

Conclusion

The lushness of the Hoh River trail makes this trip a classic Northwest adventure. If you are visiting Olympic National Park and wondering what the best hikes are, this one should rank pretty high on your list.

Conservation:

Permit:

A permit is required for all overnight trips in Olympic National Park, however if you are camping at Mt. Tom Creek, Five Mile Island, Happy Four, Olympus Ranger Station, and/or Lewis Mountain, permits are unlimited and can be picked up the permit office on the day of your trip if your group size is under 7 and you are not taking stock animals.

Logistics:

Be sure to bring:

  • Bear canister (available for rent at the Olympic National Park Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles) or rope and the knowledge of how to hang your food. The NPS does not require a bear canister for this trail, but they do require either a canister to put your food in or a rope to hang it on. There are supposed to be community bear wires at Tom Creek and Five Mile Island campsites, however they may not be in working condition and they are not at every campsite.
  • Rain jacket / gear. They don't call this the rain forest for nothing.

Hazards Include:

  • Hypothermia from the frequent rain.

Season:

The NPS recommends you do this hike in late June through September, and it's easy to see why as the precipitation is at its lowest and the temperatures are most comfortable at this time. Also keep in mind that snow may still exist in the spring on higher elevation sections of the trail (past Lewis Meadow).

Current Conditions:

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