Best time to travel to Olympic National Park, WA

Mushrooms of the Olympic Peninsula in Olympic National Park, WA

Discover hidden life in the Olympic Rainforest

Mushrooms of the Olympic Peninsula
Mushrooms of the Olympic Peninsula
Mushrooms of the Olympic Peninsula
A flush of chanterelles

Few places in the US can compare to the ecological diversity of the Olympic Peninsula, which is home to over 1,400 different species of fungi. These hidden heroes play a critical role in decomposing and recycling forest nutrients.

Each year, countless mushroom enthusiasts venture into the forest to witness the Olympics’ rich fall flush of seasonal mushrooms. Among the myriad of mushroom species that occur in the Pacific Northwest’s temperate rainforest, two species of mushrooms are highly prized—chanterelles (Cantharellus formosus) and matsutake (Tricholoma murrillianum). These two choice edible species generally tend to fruit from the beginning of the fall rains to winter’s first frost, but the peak season for these delicious forest treats is halfway through October.

As maple and alder leaves change color and drop, seasonal rains envelop the forest with moisture and conditions for fruiting mushrooms to become near-perfect. At times, they can be so numerous they seem to blanket the forest floor!

Some of the best places to search for these mushrooms are near the Quinault, Lake Cushman, and Sol Duc Valley areas of the Olympic Peninsula. Be sure to know where you are, as mushroom foraging is only permitted on national forest land as well as by permission on private property. If you are willing to learn more about hunting, cooking, or the biology of mushrooms, check out the annual Rainforest Mushroom Festival, usually held at Lake Quinault Lodge around the middle of October.

Most importantly, make sure your mushroom identification skills are up to par, as several toxic and even deadly mushrooms occur in the area. Remember the mushroom hunters adage: there are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters. If you are not entirely sure of the identity of a mushroom you find, please leave it to the forest. Those first getting into this rewarding hobby, link up with a local mycological society in the area, such as the Olympic Peninsula Mycological Society (OPMS).

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Olympic National Park for mushroom hunting?

Mushroom hunters frequent Olympic National Park in mid-October when the forest is enveloped in seasonal rains and moisture, creating almost ideal conditions for mushrooms to fruit during this time. The occurrence of alder and maple leaves changing color and falling also signifies the onset of the mushroom season and makes it easier for hunters to locate them. Show more

Where are some of the best places to search for mushrooms in the park?

Forest land within the Quinault, Lake Cushman, and Sol Duc Valley areas of the Olympic Peninsula provides ideal conditions for mushroom foraging, and where the Olympic Peninsula Mycological Society (OPMS) can offer useful advice to firsttimers. Mushroom hunting and foraging on private property and other unauthorized areas is strictly prohibited. Show more

How many species of fungi are found in Olympic National Park?

Olympic National Park has roughly 1,400 fungi species, which is an impressive number given its ecological diversity that makes it one of the United States' most incredible places. This number includes 270 mushroom species, among them the prized chanterelles and matsutake varieties cherished for their flavor and nutritive value, Show more

What are some of the delicious edible mushrooms that can be found in the park?

Mushroom collectors in Olympic National Park mainly focus on chanterelles and matsutake highly sought for their unique texture and flavor. These two varieties usually fruit when fall rains begin and through the first frost of winter. They are abundant in several areas, including the Quinault, Lake Cushman, and Sol Duc Valley, and are a favorite for use in high-end dining around the world. Show more

Are there any safety precautions that mushroom hunters should take while foraging in the park?

Forest mushroom hunting comes with risks due to the presence of some toxic and potentially fatal mushroom species. It is advisable to develop identification skills to differentiate between these types of mushrooms and non-toxic varieties. The Olympic Peninsula Mycological Society offers educational resources to help first-time hunters familiarize themselves before venturing into the woods. Mushroom hunting should always be done with caution to avoid any risks. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin