South Fork Hoh River Trail, South Fork Hoh Trailhead, Olympic National Park, Washington

South Fork Hoh River Trail - 8.0 miles

South Fork Hoh Trailhead

The South Fork in late Spring

The South Fork in late Spring

Round-Trip Length: 8.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 780' - 810' (810' max elevation at trail terminus)
Elevation Change: +30' net elevation gain (+800' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy-Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

South Fork Hoh River Trail - 8.0 Miles Round-Trip

The South Fork of the Hoh River is formed by Hubert Glacier on the south flank of Mount Olympus, and flows west into the main stem of the Hoh River near the Olympic National Park Boundary.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The South Fork Hoh River Trail begins just upstream of the confluence and runs 4 miles through intervals of forest, meadow and open river banks before fading out along a sharp bend in the valley.

While the Hoh River Trail is among the Park's most popular hiking and backpacking corridors, the nearby South Fork sees a fraction of the traffic and offers genuine solitude in a pristine old-growth rainforest:

The trail drops from the trailhead and abuts a forest service road before leveling out to the Olympic National Park Boundary. NPS travel and camping rules apply beyond this point (.5 miles : 735').

Trees are noticeably larger and the understory is much thicker once inside the Park. The trail crosses a major tributary (1.0 miles : 765') leading to Big Flat (1.4 miles : 690'), a wide point in the valley with level grades, river access and sunny meadows ideal for backcountry camping.

The trail passes Big Flat to your first clear (albeit brief) view of the South Fork (2.0 miles : 725'). It quickly edges away under a massive canopy of Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Cedar broken by small glades (2.5 miles : 755').

The forest gradually opens to large meadows with several excellent campsites as you head upstream (3.0 miles : 765'). The trail meets a bend in the river against the north valley wall with a nice look at Hoh Peak (3.5 miles : 785').

It closely follows the river now and eventually becomes squeezed between it and the steep valley wall. This well-defined path gradually fades amid forest debris and downfall to the end of the maintained trail (4.0 miles : 810'). 

Views from the end of the trail are terrific. Hoh Peak (5,570') looms in the distance, and interesting gravel bars can be accessed during periods of low river flow. Travel past the 4.0 mile mark, while technically possible, is not recommended due to hazardous conditions.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N47 47.958 W123 57.245 — 0.0 miles: South Fork Hoh River Trailhead
  • N47 47.719 W123 56.759 — 0.5 miles: NPS Boundary
  • N47 47.674 W123 56.190 — 1.0 miles: Cross major South Fork Hoh tributary
  • N47 47.465 W123 55.948 — 1.4 miles: Enter Big Flats area
  • N47 47.111 W123 55.406 — 2.0 miles: First South Fork Hoh River access
  • N47 46.887 W123 54.891 — 2.5 miles: Trail continues in forest parallel to river
  • N47 46.748 W123 54.289 — 3.0 miles: Trail runs through open meadows
  • N47 47.002 W123 53.767 — 3.5 miles: First glimpse of Hoh Peak across river
  • N47 47.122 W123 53.180 — 4.0 miles: End of South Fork Hoh River Trail

Worth Noting

  • Expect muddy trail conditions, even during dry periods. There are several creek crossings on fallen logs that may be uncomfortable for some when wet, or with heavy packs. Alternatively, these crossings are easy-moderate fords.
  • Despite proximity, river access is somewhat limited along the trail. Campsite access spurs offer reliable paths to the river.
  • Don't Tread on Redd! A redd is an 8' x 4 ' depression (nest) in the river constructed by female salmon to deposit their eggs. Fisheries biologists and the Hoh Indian Nation are concerned about the trampling of these Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout nests so please do not wade in nest areas or disturb spawning fish.
  • The Hoh Rainforest receives up to 145" of rain per year.
  • The South Fork of the Hoh River sees much less traffic than the main Hoh River making it a haven for park wildlife including black bear, mountain lion and Roosevelt elk.
  • A lightning strike on July 26, 1978 in the Hoh River Valley became the largest fire in Olympic National Park history. After smoldering for 12 days, the fire ignited on August 7 and burned 1050 acres in just two days. Rain on August 10 extinguished much of the fire, though individual trees burned for several months.

Camping and Backpacking Information

The South Fork Hoh Trail is not maintained for stock.

  • Permits are required for all overnight stays in Olympic National Park. Contact the Wilderness Information Center (360.565.3100) for backcountry camping reservations, permits, and trail conditions. Visit the WIC: 600 East Park Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

  • Quotas and Reservations are in effect May 1 - September 30 for the Hoh River and Sol Duc - Seven Lakes Basin. 50% of sites can be reserved in advance; the other 50% is available first come, first served from the WIC during business hours up to 24 hours in advance. Self registration is not permitted during this time.

  • Permits for quota areas must be picked up at the WIC, or a staffed ranger station during business hours.

  • There's a $5 registration fee per group, plus $2 per person per night (children under 16 excluded). If you don't have access to a WIC, or plan to arrive early or late, call the WIC to arrange your permit ahead of time. Self-registration trailheads have forms, permits, and submission boxes.

  • Reservations may be made no more than 30 days in advance. Groups of 7-12 people must camp in designated group sites within quota areas.

  • Camping is permitted only in designated sites within quota areas. Deviation from your permit itinerary is not allowed in quota areas, except in emergencies. In other areas, permits are not limited.

  • Campsites are not individually assigned, but are available to permit holders on a first come, first served basis. Campfires are not permitted abobe 3,500'.

  • Food Storage and Bear Canisters: All food and scented items must be secured 24 hours a day. Park- approved bear canisters are required in the Sol Duc - Seven Lakes Basin, Royal Basin, and all along the coast. Other areas may require bear canisters at any time based on wildlife activity, or elevation (e.g. not enough tree cover to hang food safely). Where bear canisters are not required, they are strongly recommended.

Fishing Information

A Washington State Fishing License is not required to fish in Olympic National Park except when fishing in the Pacific Ocean from shore. No license is required to harvest surf smelt.

A Washington State catch record card is required to fish for salmon or steelhead and they must be accounted for as if caught in state waters. Fishing regulations are specific to site, species, and season. Contact the Park before setting out.

Hoh River Seasons: All species June 1 - April 15. Catch and release only during this period, except 2 hatchery steelhead may be retained. Hatchery steelhead can be identified by a healed scar where the adipose or ventral fins have been removed.

Recreational fishing in freshwater areas of Olympic National Park is restricted to artificial lures with single, barbless hooks (exceptions may apply).

The use of seines, traps, drugs, explosives, and nets (except to land a legally hooked fish or dip-net smelt) are prohibited.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $15 fee to enter Olympic National Park ($30 annual pass).

  • Pets are not permitted on trails. Pets are permitted in campgrounds and must be leashed at all times.

Directions to Trailhead

From Port Angeles, drive 54 miles west on Highway 101 to the town of Forks. Drive through Forks and from the west end of town, travel south on US 101 for 14.5 miles. 

Drive 2 miles past the Hoh River Bridge and turn left onto Clearwater Road at milepost 176 (there is a large sign for "Clearwater - Hoh State Forest"). Proceed on this paved road for 6.7 miles to a major junction and turn left (towards the South Fork Hoh Trail and Campground). 

Drive for 2.2 miles and bear right onto Maple Creek Road, continuing to follow signs for the campground. After 5.4 miles cross the South Fork Hoh River and drive past the campground entrance (do not turn into the campground).

Continue for another 2.2 miles, bearing right at a final unmarked junction. After .5 miles, the road will dead end into the South Fork Hoh Trailhead - where a large trailhead sign post exists.

Contact Information

Olympic National Park
600 East Park Avenue
Port Angeles, WA 98362-6798

Visitor Information: 360.565.3130

Road & Weather Hotline: 360.565.3131

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort: 866.476.5382

Wilderness Information Center and Backcountry Permit Office (WIC)
360.565.3100

Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center
360.374.6925

Forks Information Station
360.374.7566 or 360.374.5877

Quinault Wilderness Information Office
360.288.0232

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.



Comments

"This has to be the nicest trail you've never heard about on the Olympic Peninsula. I was told about it by a friend who has been fishing the west side rivers for many years. He said this is an amazing bit of rainforest with massive trees and flat terrain - exactly what my family was looking for in a weekend adventure. The trailhead is remote and takes some time to reach, but it's worth the extra drive. The only caution I'd mention is the potential for fallen trees across the road - you definitely don't want to get stuck because phones won't work and it would be a long time before anyone comes by to help. Otherwise the road is in surprisingly good shape, especially for winter. I look forward to coming back this spring to camp with the kids."
Marc Margolin  -  Seattle  -  Date Posted: December 5, 2016

 

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