Washington Rain Forest

Washington Rain Forest. See the temperate rain forest near Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula. Photos feature a salmon spawn on the Sol Duc River, the Ancient Grove attraction, the Sol Duc Falls, and surrounding rain forest.

Want to experience the Olympic Peninsula temperate rain forest?

Don’t have time to drive the extra 2-3 hours
to the Hoh or Quinault Rain Forests?

If so, perhaps you'll have time for a visit to the Washington rain forest that is nearest to Port Angeles, and experience the Salmon Cascade, the Ancient Groves, and the Sol Duc Falls. All of this is just an hour west of Port Angeles on Sol Duc Hot Springs Road in the temperate rain forest of the Olympic National Park.

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(Pictured at right:
a moss-covered sapling
highlighted by a lone sunbeam in the
Sol Duc valley.)

Allowing for the drive there and back from either Forks or Port Angeles, time at the Salmon Cascade and the short walk through the Ancient Groves, plus time to hike to and then enjoy the Sol Duc Falls, refreshing yourselves later at the Springs Restaurant at Sol Duc Hot Springs, plan for a minimum of 6 - 8 hours.

highly recommend it! 

Google Map to Sol Duc Valley

From Port Angeles on the North Olympic Peninsula:

  • Take Highway 101 west, through absolutely beautiful scenery.
  • Pass Lake Crescent
  • At the top of the next rise beyond Crescent Lake, turn left at the well-marked turn-off for Sol Duc Hot Springs.
  • The Salmon Cascade is 6 miles beyond the Hwy 101 junction.
  • The area called Ancient Groves is just 7.5 miles beyond the Hwy 101 junction (1.5 miles past the Salmon Cascade), and offers an excellent sense of the Washington rain forest.
  • At the end of the road (12 miles from Hwy 101) you’ll find a parking lot and the trailhead to the Sol Duc Falls, an easy 0.8 mile hike one way.

This is not to say one should skip the Hoh or Quinault Rain Forests if you have the time and inclination to visit those areas. The Hoh Rainforest is one of my most favorite of all places on earth.

Our Recent Visit to the
Sol Duc Valley Rain Forest

Here is a part of the beautiful Pacific Northwest Rain Forest as Hubs and I saw it on a recent visit to the Sol Duc Valley.

We left around 2 p.m. on an early October morning with the goal of viewing the salmon run at the Salmon Cascade. The first hard rains of the fall season had just spent themselves, though the drizzle was still in the air. This would mean the salmon were likely running strongly up the Sol Duc River -- and they were.

Lake Crescent was lovely under partly cloudy skies, but look at those clouds over the ridge line on the left of the photo below. They promised rain along the Sol Duc River valley.

Pictured: the view of Lake Crescent from the south shore.

Our first destination was the Salmon Cascade in the Sol Duc River Valley's Washington rain forest.

Photo iTour of the Salmon Cascade and Ancient Grove Here

Pictured below: Views of the Sol Duc River both downstream (top photo) and upstream. The Salmon Cascade is visible in the second photo.

Both life and death occur with regularity
within the Washington rain forest

Just 2 years prior to this visit, a gigantic Douglas Fir stood like a drunken sentinel over the short path to the Salmon Cascade. The three pictures below were not taken on a tilt - it was the tree itself that was listing.

With its head already towering 250 feet in the clouds, this giant Doug Fir should not have needed to lean in order to snag a few sun rays.

Two years later, we found this same tree had fallen to the forest floor, its massive root ball ripped out of the forest floor.

With a pang of inevitability, we paused long enough for a photo, and then hurried to see the salmon run.

Below: That's a lot of firewood cordage just lying there!

Salmon Cascade

The elevated Salmon Cascades viewing area is in the background of the picture below. But clearly, many feet have clambered over these polished roots in order to reach the edge of the river thundering over the Salmon Cascade. It makes for better photos of the multitude of salmon fighting upstream against all odds.

Our 19-Second Video of
Spawning Salmon

Standing on the rocks lining the river bank, we watch as the water literally thunders over the rocks. Over and over again, we watch the salmon leap upwards.

There seems to be a pattern - most of the salmon leap up against the right bank of the river, sometimes bouncing off the rocks with a slap and falling back into the river.

Even if the salmon clear the first hurdle, there are several more that they must pass. If they can land in a pool of water, even if turbulent, they can rest for a few moments, and then take more leaps upward and onward.

What great life lessons! There is no ‘quit’ in these salmon. They persevere against all obstacles. They keep trying, leaping again and again until they get it right.

It is astounding to consider the determination of the salmon as they fight over and over again to leap upward against the pounding of the mighty waters.

Pictured: An as-yet unsuccessful attempt to leap the first stage of the Salmon Cascade.

Between these cascades and the Sol Duc Falls, which is too high for leaping, the salmon will find miles of shallow river bed in which they can spawn and die.

More info on the Salmon Spawn here

The seasonal presence of salmon is critical to the health of the Washington rain forest.

The best time to see salmon jumping at the Salmon Cascade is early October, but depending on the seasons, species and rainfall, salmon might be seen any time after August through the end of November.

Ancient Grove in the
Washington Rain Forest

Continuing 1.5 miles toward Sol Duc Hot Springs and Sol Duc Falls, you arrive at the Ancient Grove, an easy, 0.6 mile looping walking trail through a dense forested area that represents a temperate rain forest quite well.

Photo iTour of the Ancient Grove and
Salmon Cascade Here

The Ancient Grove walk is an easy one.

A boardwalk is provided through marshy areas.

You’ll see dense trees, mossy vistas, as well as a wider view of the spawning grounds of the Sol Duc River beyond the Salmon Cascade.

You’ll find everywhere scenes typical of the Washington rain forest; thick moss drenching everything; trees of all sizes that have surrendered to age and to the buffeting of Nature lying on the forest floor. In time, these become known as nurse trees when other species grow literally on top of the tree's corpse.

Below: This gigantic fallen log was, I think, a Douglas Fir, upon which a host of hemlock seedlings are now thriving. In a couple hundred years when the nurse tree has completely rotted away, there will be a vacant hole among the roots of the few giant Western Hemlocks that have won the battle for survival and supremacy atop this nurse log.

It is thanks to the Washington rain forest that the state of Washington is called the Emerald State. No wonder....

Below: This area of the Ancient Grove receives very little sunlight, yet is verdant to the extreme.

On that day we ran out of time for the Sol Duc Falls (pictured here during a later visit), but we've been back many times since. 

Photo iTour of Sol Duc Falls and Bridge Here

The Sol Duc Valley is a memorable area within the Washington rain forest - we hope you'll take the time to visit!

ONP: Visiting the Sol Duc Valley

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