The western hemlock is a big tree that can grow to heights of 60 m tall. It has a thin bark crown and the new growth at the top of the tree droops over quite noticeable. The branches sweep downward.
The needles are flat, soft and yellow to dark green color on the upper side and whitish-green on the underside. The needles are unequal in length and produce flat sprays. The small, numerous cones are greenish to reddish-purple but turn brown with age.
It grows along both sides of the coast ranges, from sea level to mid-elevations, as well as in the Interior wet belt west of the rocky mountains and on all parts of Vancouver Island.
Western hemlock grows with many different tree species. Occasionally, it can develop into pure groups of trees. It can tolerate shade and grows abundantly underneath mature trees, where it provides an important source of food for animals.