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The Tall Trees

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

Forests, Individuals, and Forest Bathing

Take a walk on the wild side, pack a picnic and head to the trees. Trucks, SUVs, and 4WD vehicles are the best and we speak from experience. Ask us!!

There is no cell phone reception in the Port Renfrew and the surrounding area, so always be prepared. Always have a full tank of fuel, a spare tire you can count on and a first aid kit with bottled water. We recommend the Vancouver Island Back Country Maps. There is a well-fingered map book in our bedroom library. Feel free to use and return. I like the downloaded Gaia Map app as it works well offline.

It is a remote wilderness - travel smart. Treat the land and all creatures with respect, tread gently.

Avatar Grove

Avatar Grove and the Tall Trees ~~ Temporarily Closed by Recreation Sites & Trails BC

Copies of this map are on the Rack – Front Door – Help yourself.

Immerse yourself in the magic of Avatar Grove.  You will find a mixture of boardwalks and lightly challenging trails/stairs. The upper walk is shorter but steeper and includes the gnarliest tree. If you have limited time see just this one. The lower grove has larger trees to see, is a little easier to reach and if you keep walking through, the trail will end up at Upper Gordon River.

Photographer and Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder TJ Watt discovered the 50-hectare stand of 80-metre tall old-growth Douglas-fir and western red cedars; now called Avatar Grove - while looking for big trees in late 2009. Now the group has located a grove of unprotected old-growth trees between Lines and Loss Creek. It’s been nicknamed “Jurassic Park’. Support The Ancient Forest Alliance as we do for their efforts for tall tree justice. Check their website at

Lonely Doug

My favourite is Lonely Doug by virtue of the name; same as our down-under son-in-law.  This old-growth Douglas-fir stands in the middle of a clear-cut and is not so lonely these days. He stands 4.0 metres wide and 70 metres tall and is estimated to be 1000 years old.  His rival the Red Creek Fir lives just a valley away.  ***Unless you plan on the long hike up the logging road off Gordon Mainline, you will need a vehicle with guts and high road clearance.  The off-road path through the clear-cut will require good hiking boots and stamina.

Red Creek Fir

Red Creek Fir is Canada’s largest Douglas-fir tree; measuring 4.3 metres wide and 74 metres tall. The drive to the Red Creek Fir past the San Juan Spruce takes about 40 minutes and is along bumpier road logging roads but worth the journey for the adventurous big tree fans.

San Juan and Harris Creek Sitka Spruces

One of Canada’s largest Sitka spruce sits on the edge of the San Juan River; just off the main road leading from Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan.  A gentle giant surrounded by bigleaf Western maples; she sits at 3.7 metres wide.

The Harris Creek Sitka is by far the easiest tall tree to access and is just 20 minutes outside of Port Renfrew on the Pacific Marine Road. Over 80 metres tall, it towers above the surrounding 2nd growth forest.  Somehow this 200+ year-old tree managed to escape the European saw blade of the late 1800s.  And, even though it’s not protected in a provincial park, the unofficial respect and awe from all are evident.

Support, as we do, The Ancient Forest Alliance with their efforts for tall tree justice.

"We must protect the forests for our children; grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can't speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees."

~Quatsomas - (hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation


Port Renfrew, the land of the Tall Trees, has inspiring forest walks.

Take a walk in the woods with no specific destination in mind. When was the last time you walked into the woods with no plans, no set agenda? Wander, observe and immerse! Allow your senses to guide you.

Forest bathing, forest therapy, or Shinrin-yoku, was developed in Japan in the 1980s. There is a large amount of scientific evidence surrounding the health benefits of spending time in nature. Because of this, forest bathing became an integral part of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.

This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.

First, find a spot. Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savouring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.

The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. Place your hands on the trunk of a tree. Dip your fingers or toes in a stream. Lie on the ground. Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm. This is your sixth sense, a state of mind. Now you have connected with nature. You have crossed the bridge to happiness.

When it comes to finding calm and relaxation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – it differs from person to person. It is important to find a place that suits you. If you love the smell of damp soil, you will be most relaxed where the natural landscape provides it. Then the effects of the forest will be more powerful. Maybe you have a place in the countryside that reminds you of your childhood or of happy times in the past. These places will be special to you and your connection with them will be strong.

Science Agrees: Nature is good for you

1. Reset the Stress Button

2. Kick-Start Your Creativity

3. Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful

People who spend time in the forest experience decreased cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which can help relieve high blood pressure, heart conditions, skin conditions, and asthma. High-stress levels can compromise your immune system. By reducing these levels your body’s natural defence system can work its magic. Trees release oils into the air, called phytoncides, and inhaling these natural essences can help to boost your immune system. Physical activity in the form of a 40-minute walk in the forest was associated with improved mood and feelings of health and robustness.

Song and Surf Music Festival

An annual event not to be missed.  Book early not to be disappointed.

Song & Surf is the jewel of Port Renfrew and a showcase of the Canadian West Coast. It embodies what we love: close friends, amazing Canadian musical talent, a backdrop of ocean and mountains, all enjoyed from a hot tub on the beach or cozied up by the fire (beer always in hand).

Small and intimate. Taking place in Port Renfrew, BC over the BC Family Day long weekend, it’s the perfect retreat to breathe in the fresh coast air and stare at the mountains. It’s about bonfires on the beach with your best and new friends. Please come and join!

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