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Backpacker Magazine – November/December 2005

Weekend Adventures: Big Tree Hikes

Get ready to feel puny--and profoundly grateful--on three hikes through ancient forests.

by: Kelly Bastone

Hoh River, WA
Feel tiny under towering spruce

The Hike

Olympic's Hoh River Valley is the rainiest spot in the Lower 48. The upside of all that downpour is that its 140 annual inches creates a rare temperate rain forest. Sitka spruce grow more than 300 feet tall; western red cedar and Douglas fir are gargantuan, too. And all are draped in club moss and licorice fern that call to mind A Midsummer Night's Dream. The hike parallels the Hoh River for 5.7 miles to Happy Four Shelter. It's level terrain, but the constant mud mandates waterproof boots and gaiters, and that you tread the trail's mucky middle. Note the smaller trees growing from nurse logs--fallen giants that boost seedlings over the riot of vegetation. But don't forget to look up: Towering trees with 20-foot diameters dwarf everything, from the foot-long banana slugs to the Roosevelt elk.

Branch off

Shop the hubcap collection and wolf down the Olympus burger at the Hard Rain Café. (360) 374-9288

The Way

From US 101, take Upper Hoh Road 19 miles to the visitor center trailhead.

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