Visiting Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew, BC, is like walking into a wonderland. This mossy stand of old-growth trees is so massive, it makes humans feel tiny. There’s a stillness here that takes you back to pre-history. You feel how ancient these trees are, how vital, how sacred.
The people of the Pacheedaht First Nation call this area T’l’oqwxwat, meaning “wide bluff overlooking river.” Its 50 hectares lie within Pacheedaht traditional territory. Imagine how members of the Ancient Forest Alliance must have felt when they first stumbled upon this magical grove of Douglas Fir and Red Cedar giants. They rallied around it, raising awareness and advocating for its preservation. This was in 2009, the same year the movie Avatar came out.
The Government of BC declared Avatar Grove a protected area in 2012. The Alliance built a boardwalk for both Upper and Lower trails, making them much more accessible.
Avatar Grove is a kind of ancient forest ambassador, reminding us what once flourished on the West Coast is becoming more and more of a rarity.
The journey to Avatar is just as epic as the destination. Thankfully, the Ancient Forest Alliance has laid out specific directions on their website. Be prepared for twisty pot-holed roads with loose gravel. Keep your eyes open for wildlife! There’s a sign at the trail head to let you know you’ve arrived.
Park on the side of the road and choose which trail to take. On this particular trip, we took the Upper Grove. That’s where the holy of holies grows – “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree.”
A Western Red Cedar with a 10-foot burl.
With the new boardwalk, the trail is much easier to negotiate than it used to be. There are still roots and rocks to navigate, as well as sharp inclines, so please tread carefully.
Trees are fenced off for their protection, but there are still lots of excellent photo opportunities.
Remember to treat this special place with respect. Pack in, pack out. Stay on designated paths. Enjoy!