Vancouver Island Bucket List - What to do on Vancouver Island
VANCOUVER ISLAND - Where to Next?
Canadas gnarliest tree found after hiking up Upper Avatar Grove in Port Renfrew

Avatar Grove

Hiking Icon
big tree icon
Activity:
Walk, Hike
Difficulty:
Easy-Moderate
Location:
Port Renfrew
Time:
45min
Distance:
1.5km

Activity:

Hiking Icon
big tree icon

Accessibility:

Family access icon with child
Dogs on leash Icon

Highlights Include:

Info Map

Avatar Grove Home to Canada's Gnarliest Tree | Port Renfrew

Where to this weekend, Vancouver Island: Avatar Grove, Port Renfrew

Canadas Gnarliest Tree Upper Avatar GroveAvatar Grove is a wonderful experience any time of the year walking alongside giant red cedars and Douglas Firs.

The adventure starts in Port Renfrew, and the 17-minute drive includes logging roads and bridges just wide enough for one car.

Two short trails on either side of the logging road access some of the oldest trees in Canada. Follow the trail up the old creek bed with wild ferns, moss-covered rocks and fallen trees to view some of the last remaining giants on Vancouver Island.

**The well-used trails have seen better days. Plans are in place to repair stairs and walkways; please be careful when visiting the area.

 

Canadas gnarliest tree Upper Avatar Grove in Port Renfrew

The famous Cathedral Grove is found along the busy Highway #4 between Parksville and Port Alberni on the way to the Pacific Rim, heading to Tofino. Just pull off the road, and you are in the middle of Cathedral Grove, a flat-accessible area with large trees and a government-managed park, making it both beautiful and easy.

In contrast, Avatar Grove welcomes you to the “Wild Side” of Vancouver Island with a rugged glimpse into the Old-Growth forest.

Avatar Grove is over an hour from the closest chain food restaurant or luxury hotel. The route includes windy roads and one-lane bridges, logging roads and potholes.

The Avatar trails weave through the rugged hillside with slippery roots and beautiful scenery. The hikes are short, but the experience transports your mind into another world, hundreds of years old, with impressive Douglas Firs and Red Cedars trees.

Please note there are no amenities, and the area is not wheelchair accessible.

Tips and Suggestions

Be prepared – Cell service is non-existent past Port Renfrew.

Roads – As you get closer to Avatar Grove, the road can get rough, but most cars will be able to handle it.

Potholes – The biggest potholes are located before the bridges! Don’t be fooled by smooth sections. Large potholes can form where the gravel meets the bridge.

The Trail – Be careful on the boardwalk and the trail. The stairs can be slippery or completely missing. Caution is required while we wait for repairs.

Kids – It’s the outdoors. They may get muddy or slip, but they will have a wonderful time!

Amenities – There are none on-site or between Port Renfrew and Lake Cowichan.

DISCOVER MORE
the best spots directly in your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. For more details, review our Privacy Policy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Avatar Grove Open?
Avatar Grove has signs at the entrance that reads “temporarily closed due to safety and environmental upgrades”. The signs have been posted for over a year and it’s unknown when the construction will take place.

On our last visit to Lonely Doug, we passed Avatar Grove and noticed many visitors enjoying the trails on both upper and lower Avatar Grove.

Are there any amenities at Avatar Grove?
There are no washrooms, cell service or running water.

What’s the difference between Avatar Grove and Cathedral Grove?
Cathedral Grove is about convenience and accessibility located on the central island along a busy stretch of highway. Avatar Grove is out of the way and includes more adventure.

Do you need a 4×4 to get to Avatar Grove?
Access requires driving on logging roads; they can be rough, but most cars will be able to handle it.

Rent this bright red pickup truck outfitted with a rooftop tent in an open field, the tent partially unfolded against a backdrop of forest and blue sky, with FarOut Wilderness branding and contact details on the vehicle
Discount Code - VIBL5 - Use our custom discount code to save 5% when booking your overland truck rental. Pick your dates for ...
d4
Vancouver Island’s south west coastline is a landscape of great natural beauty—with soft-sand beaches, rugged cliffs, and old...
Rent a motorcycle 3
The best way to immerse yourself in everything the area has to offer is to choose your own adventure on whatever style of mot...
Tubing in Lake Cowichan 3
Experience the ride of a lifetime with The Tube Shack, Lake Cowichan’s premier all-inclusive tubing adventure company! Tube t...

Upper and Lower Avatar Grove

Avatar Grove Trail Map including upper and lower Avatar Grove hikes Port RenfrewUpper Avatar Grove

The Upper Grove is the harder hike of the two, but it’s not difficult. You’ll travel a total of 500m round trip, and hike up 70 meters of elevation with the goal to reach the very large Red Cedar, due to its huge 10′ diameter burl it’s known as Canada’s Gnarliest Tree. This large burl is 10 feet in diameter and extremely rare and can only be found in old-growth forests in which not many remain on the island.

Making your way up the stairs, under fallen trees and over the slippery roots, you will find the tree with a handy bench and look-out platform to rest your legs while you marvel at the awesomeness of this wacky tree and look down at the forest below.

 

Lower Avatar Grove

The lower portion is simply majestic. Follow a short side trail to reach a giant Douglas Fir, then follow the boardwalk past a Red Cedar that’s as impressive as the one in Upper Avatar.

The 600-meter round trip has little elevation except for the first set of stairs off the road. This loop can be muddy, so watch your step.

Pathways and boardwalks are in need of some repair and plans are underway for renovations. Please be cautious and keep in mind that the purpose of these boards is to keep human feet away from the delicate root system, so stay on track for the whole loop.

GPS – Download before you go.

Cell signal on the island can be almost nonexistent in areas outside of major towns.

When hiking or visiting a new location, using AllTrials and downloading the map before you drive up will give you confidence during your visit: the Avatar Grove AllTrails link.

Visit Lonely Doug – 20min Drive.

Make it a full day exploring old-growth and visit Canada’s second largest Douglas fir, Lonely Doug, and another lesser-known old-growth grove called Eden Grove, which is only 20 minutes up the road from Avatar Grove. More info>

Port Renfrew – Must-see stops in the area

Botanical Beach – At low tide, Botanical Beach is one of the most unique places on Vancouver Island. Located only a few minutes past Port Renfrew, the 3km loop takes you to some of the best tide pools on the West Coast.

Sombrio Beach – Surfing, camping and hidden waterfalls. Sombrio Beach is 20 minutes from Port Renfrew and is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon on the Juan de Fuca.

Fairy Lake Bonsai Tree – One of the most photographed trees on Vancouver Island, a quick pullover on the side of the road to grab a photo of the small tree clinging to life on a submerged log in the middle of the lake.

 

"Beautiful and awesome! Some of the oldest trees in Canada! It makes you feel small and humble."

Tubing in Lake Cowichan 3
Experience the ride of a lifetime with The Tube Shack, Lake Cowichan’s premie...
d4
Vancouver Island’s south west coastline is a landscape of great natural beaut...
Rent a motorcycle 3
The best way to immerse yourself in everything the area has to offer is to ch...
Rent this bright red pickup truck outfitted with a rooftop tent in an open field, the tent partially unfolded against a backdrop of forest and blue sky, with FarOut Wilderness branding and contact details on the vehicle
Discount Code - VIBL5 - Use our custom discount code to save 5% when booking ...

The Road to Avatar Grove

The adventure starts as soon as you pass Sooke heading towards Port Renfrew. The road narrows and becomes windier the further you get. On one side, you will glimpse the Pacific ocean as the hillside opens up and on the other side nothing but wilderness for miles.

Driving past some of the most famous beaches on the island over one-lane bridges and roughly paved roads, you will reach Port Renfrew. After a quick flash of civilization, you’ll quickly find yourself travelling along logging roads. Google Maps Link 

🚘 From Port Renfrew – 12 km (17 min)

Head north on Deering Road, and cross the long one-lane bridge at the mouth of Mosquito Creek, follow it around until you reach Pacific Marine Rd. Turn left on the Pacific Marine Rd, and follow it as it turns from pavement to mixed gravel and asphalt. All signs of asphalt end when you reach Gordon River and cross the narrow bridge. The logging road continues on for 1.8km until you reach Avatar Grove.

🚘 Downtown Victoria – 119km (2 hr drive)

Highway 1 > Westshore Parkway > Highway 14 (Sooke Road/Westcoast Road) In Port Renfrew, turn right and head north on Deering Road, cross the long one-lane bridge at the mouth of Mosquito Creek and follow it around until you reach Pacific Marine Rd. Turn left on the Pacific Marine Rd, and follow it as it turns from pavement to mixed gravel and asphalt. All signs of asphalt end when you reach Gordon River and cross the narrow bridge. The logging road continues on for 1.8km until you reach Avatar Grove.

🚘 Lake Cowichan – 65 km (1.1hrs)

Head south out of town on South Shore Rd and then make a left on Pacific Marine Road. Follow it down 55km until Pacific Marine Road comes to an end as it turns from pavement to mixed gravel and asphalt. All signs of asphalt end when you reach Gordon River and cross the narrow bridge. The logging road continues on for 1.8km until you reach Avatar Grove.

Road condition map to Avatar Grove Port Renfrew

 

Pacific Marine Circle Route

See more of South Vancouver Island on the Pacific Marine Circle Route. Drive from Victoria, Sooke, Port Renfrew and Cowichan Valley. Discover all the great places to visit along the way.

DISCOVER MORE
the best spots directly in your inbox

Unsubscribe anytime. For more details, review our Privacy Policy.

History of Avatar Grove

Located on Pacheedaht First Nation land, Avatar Grove was discovered in 2009 by a group that included T.F. Watt, who later started the Ancient Forest Alliance in 2010 which is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting British Columbia’s old-growth forests and ensuring sustainable forestry jobs in the province.

A two-year campaign that included the PortRenfrew Chamber of Commerce and a grassroots movement ended in success after the BC government declared the area off-limits to logging.

Gear Tips For Vancouver Island

THE NORTH FACE women's waterproof antora jacket sq
THE NORTH FACE Women's
Waterproof Antora Jacket
North face mens antora Rain Hoodie black sq
THE NORTH FACE Men's
Antora Rain Hoodie
Helly Hansen Mens seven J waterproof rain coat sq
Helly Hansen Men's
Breathable Rain Coat
Polygon 32 oz waterbottle sq
32oz Water Bottle
for Fitness and Outdoor
Osprey Sportlite 20 Hiking Backpack sq
Osprey Sportlite 20
Hiking Backpack
adventure first aid kit
Adventure Medical Kit
Ultralight and Watertight

When you’re gearing up for an outdoor adventure on Vancouver Island, the key is to dress in layers, no matter the season. The island’s weather can throw curveballs, with conditions varying significantly from the sheltered forests to the breezy coastlines.

For those cool winter escapades, your go-to should include quality rain gear, topped off with a cozy beanie or toque, and a pair of light gloves to keep the chill at bay.

Summer explorers, don’t be fooled by the warmer temps; that same waterproof shell that kept you dry in the winter will be your best friend against the cool ocean breezes.

Remember, the right clothing and gear can make or break your outdoor experience on Vancouver Island, ensuring you enjoy every moment, come rain or shine.

Photo Gallery:

Vancouver Island Guides & Maps
snorkelling Adventures Vancouver Island
Snorkelling Adventures Around Vancouver Island
lonely planet
Vancouver & Victoria - Lonely Planet
adventure road map
Vancouver Island Folded Map
Back road maps
Backroad Map - Vancouver Island

Discover new places and find your way around Vancouver Island. Many areas do not have cell service so maps and guidebooks can be very helpful for the curious.

FAQ:

Is Avatar Grove Open?
Avatar Grove has signs at the entrance that reads “temporarily closed due to safety and environmental upgrades”. The signs have been posted for over a year and it’s unknown when the construction will take place.

On our last visit to Lonely Doug, we passed Avatar Grove and noticed many visitors enjoying the trails on both upper and lower Avatar Grove.

Are there any amenities at Avatar Grove?
There are no washrooms, cell service or running water.

What’s the difference between Avatar Grove and Cathedral Grove?
Cathedral Grove is about convenience and accessibility located on the central island along a busy stretch of highway. Avatar Grove is out of the way and includes more adventure.

Do you need a 4×4 to get to Avatar Grove?
Access requires driving on logging roads; they can be rough, but most cars will be able to handle it.

Experience The Area
Looking across the top of the open air Malahat Skywalk. Two people with backs turned looking out over Saanich Inlet
View point icon
walk icon

Malahat SkyWalk

An easy family experience that won’t be forgotten. The Malahat Skywalk on Vancouver Island will take your breath away with these views!
Fisgard Lighthouse from Fort Rodd Hill
lighthouse icon
Museum icon
walk icon

Fort Rodd Hill

Fort Rodd Hill was an artillery fortress on active duty from 1895 to 1956 with an operating lighthouse straight out of a Nancy Drew story
A group of smiling women posing for a photo on a sunny day with the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel and Victoria's Inner Harbour in the background
walk icon
icon-single-HISTORY-H
icon directory shopping
icon directory food

Victoria in a Day

The best of Victoria in a day, the ultimate self-guided walking tour is a wonderful choice, allowing you to connect with the city at your own pace
Rent a motorcycle 3
The best way to immerse yourself in everything the area has to offer is to choose your own adventure on whatever style of mot...
d4
Vancouver Island’s south west coastline is a landscape of great natural beauty—with soft-sand beaches, rugged cliffs, and old...
Rent this bright red pickup truck outfitted with a rooftop tent in an open field, the tent partially unfolded against a backdrop of forest and blue sky, with FarOut Wilderness branding and contact details on the vehicle
Discount Code - VIBL5 - Use our custom discount code to save 5% when booking your overland truck rental. Pick your dates for ...
Tubing in Lake Cowichan 3
Experience the ride of a lifetime with The Tube Shack, Lake Cowichan’s premier all-inclusive tubing adventure company! Tube t...

Did we miss something?
Have more to add?

Original Author:

Modified: February 15, 2024
Last Visit: March 20, 2023

Thank you for visiting – I hope you found the information you were looking for at VIBL (Vancouver Island Bucket List) please continue to discover all of the great places that makes Vancouver Island so great! 

Where to Next?

Join Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Includes lesser known hikes, stories & more

Unsubscribe anytime. For more details, review our Privacy Policy.

Pack Out:
We love Vancouver Island and want to keep the natural beauty. Please respect the places you visit and pack out what you pack in and leave the area better than when you arrived. We all know how much trash can spoil an experience and the environment, so please help us keep it clean!

Wildlife:
Vancouver Island is a land of natural beauty and abundant wildlife. Please be aware of your surroundings and take the usual precautions for personal and wildlife safety.
Black bears, cougars and even wolves are common on Vancouver Island for more on Wildlife Safety Click Here 

Tide and Seasonal Safety:
Changing seasons and tides can have a drastic effect on most locations on Vancouver Island. Please be cautious as the information in this post may vary depending on the time of year and weather. Make sure to check for current weather and tide information before you make your journey! Click here for the tides in your area. 

Be aware of ocean currents before swimming, paddle boarding or kayaking.

Land Acknowledgement:
We would like to acknowledge the land we appreciate daily within the 50 First Nations that make up the traditional territories of the Coast Salish, Nuu chah nulth, and Kwakiutl–the first peoples of Vancouver Island .

Disclaimer:
The information on this website should not be taken as accurate, complete or up-to-date. Please check and look into the information yourself. We do not assume any liabilities for the use of this information. It is unreasonable to rely solely upon the information from this website. 

Submit a change suggestion:

max of 4 images
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Email