Avatar 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 min 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Located on Pacheedaht First Nation land, Avatar Grove was discovered in 2009 by a group that included T.F. Watt, who later on 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.
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.
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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 .
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