This species ranges from Alaska southward along the whole British Columbia coast, and is also found in the interior of British Columbia in certain areas of heavy rainfall. It extends into northern Washington, Idaho, and to the western slopes of the Cascades.

Neither the tree nor the timber bears close similarity to eastern hemlock. The timber of western hemlock is pale brown in colour and somewhat lustrous, with a straight grain and fairly even texture, non-resinous and non-tainting when dried, it has a faint sour odour when freshly sawn. The darker-coloured late-wood bands have a reddish or purple cast and produce a well-marked growth-ring figure on plain-sawn surfaces. with an occasional short, purplish-coloured line here and there on the wood. The growth-rings are less prominent than those of ‘Douglas fir’.

The timber is not as hard as ‘Douglas fir/ but compared with that species, it is about 30 per cent less stiff and 50 per cent less tough, and in respect of general strength properties it is more closely comparable to European redwood (Pinus sylvestris).