Bending southwest along the banks of the Sol Duc River, US-101 passes through miles of green forests under ever-gray skies to reach Forks (pop. 3,832), the commercial center of the northwestern Olympic Peninsula. Named for its location astride the Sol Duc and Bogachiel Rivers, Forks is a die-hard lumber town grappling with the inevitable change to more ecologically sustainable alternatives, mainly tourism. Visitors come to fish for steelhead during the late-summer runs, to beachcomb along the rugged coast, or to visit the remarkable rainforests of Olympic National Park. Today, the main attractions are related to the wildly popular teenage vampire novels and films of The Twilight Saga, which were set here in Forks (the movies were filmed elsewhere). You can also visit the quirky Forks Timber Museum (360/374-9663, daily, $3), on US-101 on the south edge of town, packed with handsaws, chainsaws, and other logging gear as well as antique cooking stoves and displays telling the town’s history. There’s also a forest-fire lookout tower perched outside the upper floor gallery.
With three gas stations and five motels, Forks is not a metropolis by any stretch of the imagination, but it does offer the best range of services between Port Angeles and Aberdeen. Sully’s Drive-In (220 N. Forks Ave.) is a good burger stand on US-101 at the north end of town. There are also a couple of Chinese and Mexican places, plus pretty good pies at Pacific Pizza (870 S. Forks Ave.). Stay at The Forks Motel (351 S. Forks Ave., 360/374-6243, $63 and up) or a more peaceful B&B, the Miller Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast (654 E. Division St., 360/374-6806 or 800/943-6563, $125 and up), about half a mile east of US-101.
South of Forks along US-101, Bogachiel State Park (360/374-6356, around $25 for tents, $35 for RV hookups) has over 100 forested acres of nice campsites (with showers!) along the Bogachiel River. Sites are first-come, first-served.
For more information, contact the Forks visitors center (360/374-2531), next to the Timber Museum, which also serves as clearinghouse for Twilight-related tourism.
If you have time to visit only one of the lush rain forest areas of Washington’s northwest coast, head for the Hoh Rain Forest, 13 miles south of Forks and then 18 miles east along a well-signed and well-paved road. Not only is this the most easily accessible of these incredibly lush, old-growth areas, the Hoh Rain Forest is also among the least disturbed, with a thick wet blanket of vibrant green ferns, mosses, and lichens covering every inch of the earth at the foot of massive hemlocks, cedars, and towering Sitka spruce. Displays inside the visitors center tell all about the forest’s flora and fauna and how they are affected by the massive rainfall here—upward of 140 inches every year. There’s also a wheelchair-accessible nature trail and a wide range of hiking trails, including the quickest access to the icy summit of 7,979-foot Mt. Olympus, 22 miles away in the glacier-packed alpine highlands at the heart of the park.
The closest services to the Hoh Rain Forest are in Forks, but budget travelers may want to take advantage of the $10-a-night bunks at the amiable Rain Forest Hostel (360/374-2270), 22 miles south of Forks along US-101 (between milemarkers 169 and 170), midway between the Hoh Rain Forest and the coast at Ruby Beach.