As you climb from river valleys toward the peaks you enter the montane zone, where new characters enter the forest stage. Montane forest begins at about 1,500–2,000 feet and transitions into subalpine forests at about 4,000 feet. On the wetter west side of the park, silver fir becomes a major player along side western hemlock. On the drier east side silver fir enters, but only on cooler, north-facing slopes. On sunny, south-facing slopes, Douglas-fir and western hemlock dominate and fire plays an active role in creating a mosaic of different-aged forest.
These forests cover thousands of acres of Olympic National Park’s mountain slopes where growing conditions are more challenging than the lowlands. Montane trees grown more slowly, but many are still centuries old. In fact, a 12-foot wide record Alaska yellow cedar grows in montane forest above the North Fork Quinault River.
Where to See Montane Forest
The Hurricane Ridge and Deer Park roads both traverse montane forest enroute to the mountains. All trails that lead to the high country also cross the montane zone.