The Valley of the Giants makes you feel small in a secret place that lets your heart soar as tall as the giants that live there.
I recently joined a small troop of travelers led by retired BLM Forester, Walt Kastner.
We traveled for hours deep into the Oregon Coast Range to explore a unique 51-acre grove of old growth Doug fir trees.
Kastner pulled a the metal tape from its spring-loaded container to measure the circumference of a nearby giant – he stretched his arms and pulled the tape all the way around the huge tree and after a few minutes:
“Finally, “27 feet! Wow!” noted Kastner. “By my formula that’s a nine foot diameter – and perhaps 450 years old – at the least – probably older.”
The giant tree was but one of scores that you will see along the 1.5 mile long forest trail that meanders through the Valley of the Giants.
Kastner advised us to pause often and admire the valley’s diversity of trees – not just their size but also their placement in the valley.
“If you stop and look around, you can see you’ve got some very large trees that are deep and complex. Look at how variable the spacing is between the trees – some are clumped up, others far apart, plus there are standing dead trees and downed trees. There’s just so much diversity and complexity in here.”
The Valley of the Giants is a small snapshot of what much of Western Oregon’s fir forests may have looked like – perhaps 150 years ago.
It is so special a place the BLM has protected the public parcel since 1976 as an Outstanding Natural Area for study and research.
“Forest scientists can come here to study and learn how these types of stands developed and by knowing that, you can incorporate what they find into the management plan for some of our younger stands where you might want to manage for older forest characteristics…it’s kind of a living laboratory,” said Kastner.
The North Fork of the Siletz River bisects the valley in classic “pool and drop fashion,” noted BLM staff member Trish Hogervorst.
A hiking bridge allows you to access the trail and gain entry into a lush forestland that receives nearly 200 inches of rain each year.
“The music of the water is such a wonderful secret in some ways,” added Trish. “Not many people make it out here and you’ll often be the only one out here. It’s just beautiful!”
The Valley of the Giants is remote and access is limited because private timberland surrounds this public island of old growth trees.
The BLM offers a free brochure with a map and mileage directions.
Still, BLM Recreation Planner, Traci Meredith, noted that it’s a challenging route – even under the best of conditions.
“You can make a wrong turn pretty easily if you’re looking the other way, so stay alert and follow directions on the map.”
There is no camping in the Valley of the Giants – no campfires are allowed and you must stay on the moderately graded trail. There is a picnic table along the route, so you are able to stop for a time and enjoy the experience with friends or family.
Still, given its remote location, you should plan on a full day to reach and hike through the valley.
Traci added, “I love it out here, it’s big, open, quiet. It’s not considered a wilderness but people sure feel like they’re in a wilderness out here.”
Dan Wood and Mari Kasamoto were enjoying the giants for the first time and agreed they’d never seen anything like the grove of ancient trees before. They didn’t know that Doug fir trees lived so long.
“These big trees are amazing when they’re up in the air,” noted Wood. “But you can’t tell how tall they are until the fall – and in here you have soaring trees but also the fallen ones and you can actually see how big and wide and tall they are at the same time.”
“It’s very peaceful and relaxing,” added Kasamoto. “I would definitely come here again. It’s so special a place.”
Call the BLM (503-375-5646) to receive a copy of the recommended driving directions.