backpack: Olympic Peninsula – Hoh River Rainforest
Two night backpacking trip in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula rainforest
- distance & elevation gain to Five Mile Island Camp: 5.1 miles, 400 ft. gain
- best months: May to June
- location: Olympic Peninsula; nearest town: Lake Quinault
- land management: Olympic National Park
- trail conditions: Olympics: Hoh River Trail
- hike description: Washington Trails Association – Hoh River Trail
- permits: required in advance for all backcountry campsites
- trailhead pass: none required
- regulations: dogs are not allowed; bear wires are available at some of the camps
From Portland, we drove five hours to the Hoh River rainforest in the Olympic National Park. On the way, we stopped at the Lake Quinault Ranger Station to pick up permits ($8 per night per person).
From the trailhead, we hiked in 5.1 miles through a lush green forest to the Five Mile Island camp. The trail follows the Hoh River and is relatively flat, with only about 400 feet of elevation gain.
At the 5 mile trail junction, we turned right to take the side trail to 5 Mile Island Camp. The sites next to the river were all taken, so we setup camp in the trees for the night and hung our food on the bear wires that are provided for food storage.
In the morning, a group of hammock campers packed up and left, so we moved our tents to a large campsite next to the river. A small gravel bar in the river made it easy to access water for filtering.
After breakfast, we did a day hike towards the Olympus Guard Station, stopping to take a side trail to Happy Four Shelter on the way. Several trail runners warned us about a bear on the trail about two miles ahead of us, but we turned around before we reached the Guard Station. This area is known to have a lot of bears and Roosevelt elk. We saw a few elk, but no bears. The trail was fairly muddy in a few spots.
The camp area was quiet the first night, but on Saturday, it was an endless stream of people coming through. Just past the turn off for the camp area, there were a lot of downed trees blocking the trail, so hikers were confused about where the main trail was and came through our camp instead.
Once the main campsites were full, people crossed a ribbon of the river to reach the large gravel bars that make up Five Mile Island to set up camp there. There were a lot more people here than I expected for a trip in May.
From our campsite, we had great views of the river and the high ridges surrounding us, as well as two snow-capped peaks: Cat Peak and Mount Carrie.
A couple of deer wandered through our camp area at dusk.
We hiked out to the trailhead under blue skies, pausing to take in views of the river and enjoy spending time in the rainforest before heading back to Portland.