Visiting the Bernheim Forest Giants
Y’all know I love a good day outside. Luckily, I live a little over an hour away from one of the coolest spots in Kentucky: Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. Last year, the arboretum became home to the Bernheim Forest Giants, a sustainable art instillation that everyone is raving about!
Danish artist Thomas Dambo constructed three giants to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of Bernheim. Dambo created the massive sculptures using wood and a variety of other sustainable materials. The giants rest along a two-mile loop trail encompassing the arboretum. Visitors are allowed to take pictures, touch, decorate, and even climb on the giants.
About the Giants
The giants were created as a family and each has its own unique name: Mama Loumari, Little Nis, and Little Elina. The father of the little giants, Isak Heartstone, can be found along the Trollstigen Trail in Breckenridge, Colorado. The giants even have their own fairytale called The Great Story of the Little People and the Giant Trolls: While the Weather got Better.
The first giant you’ll come across when trekking through Bernheim is Little Nis. Basically, you’ll walk out of the Visitors Center, down a hill, and around the lake and BOOM: there’s Little Nis. He’s decided to take up home by the water, where he can splash around, play with the ducks, and stare at his reflection all day long.
You’ll stroll through the prairie (hello native plants and butterflies!) and walk on into the trees a little bit before stumbling upon Mama Loumari at the family’s home. She’s pretty pregnant, so she’s laying in the grass by their kitchen and relaxing. Be sure to look around the home at alllllllll the amazing details! If you’re like me, you’ll be in awe of it all.
Finally, you’ll follow the path on along a little ways through a swampier area, across a bridge, and into a clearing to Little Elina. She loves art and has shown off her skills by arranging a bunch of natural materials into a giant feather. Little Elina is my favorite, since so many folks have understood her love of art and fashion and have crafted jewelry for her to wear! I may even make my own piece to take her on my next visit.
After you see Little Elina, you have two choices: turn around and follow the same path back, or continue on a lengthier trail around Lake Nevin and back to the Visitors Center. We chose to double back so we could see the Giants again!
Visiting the Bernheim Forest Giants
Thomas Dambo loves hiding his giants in nature so that folks kind of have to go out of their way to find them (like Leo the Enlightened, who only a handful of people have stumbled upon). I have some awesome news for you: this isn’t the case with the Bernheim Forest Giants. In fact, visiting the Bernheim Forest Giants is SO easy! Each of the three giants stands along a fairly-flat, easily accessed trail that begins at the Visitors Center. The trail is about 2 miles total, so wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather! The folks at Bernheim have even insured that you can’t get lost along the path by marking it with giant yellow footprints.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is only open for folks with reservations at this time. Make a reservation here.
Visiting the Bernheim Forest Giants is free, but there is a suggested $10-per-vehicle donation. On the day we visited, though, the “donation” didn’t exactly seem optional. We were more than okay with this, though, as we were very excited to check out the giants.
Parts of the trail to see the giants are covered, while other parts aren’t. I really recommend wearing sunscreen cause it can get quite sunny for long-ish sections (plus, it helps prevent wrinkles – which never hurts). Chunks of the trail pass by water, over a marshy area, and through tall grass which means, while gorgeous, the trail has bugs – think ticks and mosquitoes. Definitely wear bug spray because bug bites are never fun to deal with.
I loved the day spent with the Bernheim Forest Giants. I can’t wait to head back to Bernheim and see them again soon.