Awe Inspring Avatar Grove

Canada's Gnarliest Tree
The main attraction at Avatar Grove, an ancient gnarly western redcedar.

Avatar Grove is an awe inspiring grove of old growth western redcedar and huge Douglas-fir trees. It’s hard to describe the feeling in this quiet forest near Port Renfrew. The trees are immense, towering over a forest floor covered with a chaotic jumble of fallen moss-covered wood, deer fern, salad, and red huckleberry.

Forest Floor Chaos
A mad jumble of fallen trees and rainforest undergrowth at Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew.

Tiny western hemlock cluster on the rotting backs of nurse logs. Photography is challenging because there is just so much in every image—it is very difficult to simplify compositions and I struggled with it.

Salal and Deer Fern
Salal and deer fern carpet the wet rainforest floor of Avatar Grove.

I visited the grove with a group of photographers on a Thomas Dawson weekend photography workshop. We spent quite a bit of time looking for scenes in the forest around the main attraction at the grove, “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree.” The big redcedar is definitely a must see, the huge burls on the trunk make the tree distinctive.

Side View of the Ancient Redcedar
Side view of the ancient redcedar at Avatar Grove.

It is a bit of a muddy walk up hill to the big tree (you also have the option to visit the lower part of the grove as well). The trail has been improved and there are stairs in sections, but there are many exposed roots and slippery sections. Listen for Pacific wrens and varied thrush as you make your way through this special place and try to minimize your impact.

Debris Choked Stream
Woody debris fills the stream that runs down past Canada’s gnarliest tree.

Your best option for visiting the grove is to overnight in Port Renfrew which makes getting to the grove early easy. It also gives you the opportunity to combine your visit with other local attractions like Botany Bay and Botanical Beach as well as several of the other beaches in Juan De Fuca Provincial Park between Port Renfrew and Sooke.

Getting There:

Rather than provide directions to Avatar Grove I’ve included several links to sites with detailed directions. Once you’re on the right logging road the signage is pretty clear.