Visit the Forest Giants of Bernheim Forest in Kentucky!
Mama Loumari, pregnant with giant child, is resting under the trees with our Wheat twins! She’s fenced off to stay safe due to COVID, but still a delight to touch and see!
“Still a young giant, only 700,051 years
Already a father to two, full of eyes, full of tears
Full of love he was, but felt alone on the mountain
He walked down to the forest, in the forest he found them
His two beautiful children, little Elina and Nis
And their mama Loumari, a hug and a kiss.”
– excerpt from ‘The Great Story of The Little People & The Giant Trolls, While The Weather Got Better’ by Thomas Dambo (giants sculptor)
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The Forest Giants at Bernheim Forest in Kentucky
There’s magic in the forests of Kentucky, magic and giants at Bernheim Forest! Just a half hour outside of Louisville sits 16,137 acres of woods, habitats, wildlife and lakes… and giants. The Forest Giants of Bernheim Forest are the jewels among beautiful, manicured woods with hiking, biking and scenery loops that will feed your soul. These beloved giants have lived there since 2019 but are only scheduled to stay here for 3-5 years, so your time to see them is narrowing! A mama giant lives at Bernheim, Mama Loumari, pregnant with giant child. Also her two giant children, Little Elina and Little Nis. Mama Loumari, pregnant with baby giant boy, Little Nis, her son, and Little Elina, her daughter all live in this giant forest. Behind Mama Loumari is their giant lair with her collectibles she’s saved. It includes a dragon’s skull, a unicorn horn, and many other cool treasures! Little Elina is near her rock garden of boulders filled with fossils. They’re fun to walk and climb and super interesting to inspect and check out. Your kids will love them! Their daddy, Loumari’s husband Isak Heartstone, is currently away in Breckinridge, Colorado. Other giant relatives live throughout the states and even across the world (listed later).
A famed Danish artist, Thomas Dambo, created them like he does all his giants. With local recycled wood and the creativity and love of a uniquely gifted artist. The giants are expected to live here for 3 years, till 2022, so, sadly, they won’t be there forever. They’re well worth the drive, social distancing outside to see them is easy and very safe, so visit them now, before they roam away!
Little Nis is Mama Loumari’s son and Little Elina’s little brother. He enjoy looking at his reflection in the pond, wearing his giant mask for COVID.
The arboretum was designed by famed landscape designer, Frederick Olmsted (designer of NYC Central Park, the US Capitol grounds, Stanford University, the Biltmore, and more). We went in Fall with the leaves turning. It was gorgeous and peaceful and lovely at every turn. The ponds and lakes are brimming with turtles. Watch for their little heads peeking up at you as you walk across the Lake Nevin bridge. There are many benches and quiet spots to take in some relaxing moments and rest, and absorb the peace and natural beauty. You’ll walk through the holly collection of the woods with hundreds of giant holly trees, which was really cool because it felt like we had shrunk! They were blooming with berries which remind me of Christmas. Walking through the giant holly reminded me of Buddy in the Elf movie talking about walking through the candy cane forest. I’ve only seen small holly shrubs before so to see them up to 20 feet tall was quite a sight!
We really enjoyed Bernheim, but the the jewel we were there to see was the giant family and they didn’t disappoint! The giants will delight the whole family, young and old. And the beauty and nature you get to enjoy with it makes for a lovely day.
Some Bernheim Forest Highlights:
- Hiking– We came for the giants, so this was our top must do! The Forest Giants Trail is a 2 mile loop to see all 3 giants. You can backtrack to each for less walking and parking is available by each for those who want to skip the hike. It’s an easy hike, sometimes paved, and relatively flat. The trail passes along the Olmsted Ponds, crosses the Big Prairie, and goes to Lake Nevin and the cypress tupelo swamp. Make sure you look for the fossils in the boulder garden by Little Elina! There are 8 other trails in the main forest park. A dozen more are along Forest Hill Drive. The trails range from a 10 minute hike to all day, so there’s something for everyone. Some are handicap accessible and paved ones allow biking.
- There is a Visitor Center and wildlife and nature Education Center, however both are closed at the time of this writing (& our visit), due to COVID19. These always round out your visit and give you a richer appreciation, so we hope to visit, again, sometime.
- Art Sculptures– Bernheim has a variety of sculptures and art from artists around the world. Not just stone statues, some are oversized, whimsical works that make for fun family pictures!
- Children’s Play Garden is a playground specifically designed for creativity. Includes both traditional equipment like swings and slides, as well as nature-based features like rolling hills, fossil-filled rocks, and a dry creek bed. Bernheim launched its Children at Play Network to build similar playgrounds in other areas, too.
- Playcosystem is a new 10-acre natural playground that’s challenging and unstructured for good, old rough and tumble play!
- Canopy Tree Walk– A must see view, especially in Fall! It’s a short drive within Bernheim Forest grounds. A short boardwalk extends into the forest canopy, suspending you 75 feet above the forest floor, over a steep hollow for gorgeous views. You access it off the Iron Ore Hill Loop, but if you don’t want to hike it, you can drive there and park in the lot. A short boardwalk, about 50 yards, takes you from lot to the overlook. It’s completely enclosed, safe with a sturdy rail. Great selfies and family pictures here. Don’t miss it!
- Fire Tower– There are always incredible sky high views atop a historic fire tower. Go 961 feet up a series of flights of stairs for one of the best views in the state. You can sometimes catch sight of Louisville on a clear day. This is only open when volunteer naturalists are available.
- Edible Garden is a 4 acre site across from the Visitor Center. Learn how the garden makes the environment healthier with its rigorous green design standards.
Little Elina is playing with rocks and has a giant rock garden full of fossils behind her. Walk across the tops, lie on them for awhile, and examine the thousands of fossils in each. Whimsical sculptures are on the path just ahead.
Where Else Can You See Giants?
Thomas Dambo has created many lovely giants, not only in multiple states in the US, but throughout the world! They are such a joy to see and a Must See Gem, in our opinion. Wherever you live, they’re absolutely worth a trip and are sure to put a smile on your face. You can’t help but fall in love! ❤️👣 Dambo writes a whimsical poem about each giant family that he creates. Read the story of the Heartstone giant family at Bernheim here. Here are where some of the other members of this growing giant family live:
- Morton Arboretum in Chicago, Illinois
- Isak Heartstone- husband to Bernheim’s Mama Loumari and Little Nis & Little Elina’s dad, Breckenridge, Colorado
- Blackberry Mountain- Walland, Tennessee
- Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, Florida has monsters during their annual Hulaween event.
- Joen And The Giant Beetle in Wynwood, Miami
- Terje & Bertha in Pinecrest Gardens, Miami
- Hector El’ Protector in Culebra, Puerto Rico
- 7 Trolls & the Magical Tower in De Schorre, Boom, Belgium
- Anna of Green- MS ARTVILLE, Hamburg, Germany
- Scandanavia- 10 different locations, including The 6 Forgotten Giants. During the summer of 2020, he hid 10 new troll sculptures in secret locations around Denmark, in a giant sculpture treasure hunt. The project is called “The Journey to The Giant Troldefolkefest”.
Some other unique Dambo installations using local resources, even waste, include:
- The HAPPY WALL(S) in Las Vegas, Canada, Chile & China, and The Happy Forest in Denmark, to name just a few.
Dambo has many, many other incredible, creative installations around the world, including many that are not giants, at all. See all of his sculptures here.
What the Wheats think of the Giants at Bernheim:
Over half a million visitors come to Bernheim every year, for good reason. But with over 16,000 acres, you’ll often feel as if you have it to yourself. Bernheim Forest is lovely and worth your time and support if you’re ever in Kentucky. The giants are magical and a delight for any age. You’ll appreciate the craftmanship. Will have to remind yourself they’re not real. And the kid in you will want to come out and play! We drove out of state just to pay them a visit and made it a whole weekend trip. I hope to do it, again, and visit their relatives in other forests! The giants are Must See Gems that you should not miss! Hurry before their time is up and they roam away! 👣
It’s obvious that the forest was designed and curated for maximum beauty, but it’s not overdone to seem unnatural. It’s lovely and to go to one of Olmsted’s creations, in the middle of Kentucky, is a treat!
Good to Know:
There is a Visitor Center with trail maps (also at the main gate), Gift Shop, and wildlife and nature Education Center, but both are currently closed due to the COVID19 pandemic.
- Food- Isaac’s cafe is on site, but is temporarily closed during the COVID19 pandemic. They use herbs and vegetables from Bernheim’s Edible Garden in their fresh salads, soups, sandwiches, children’s meals, and desserts. They try to accommodate dietary needs and have gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.
- Hours vary by season and Bernheim is closed major holidays, but they are currently open daily 7a- 5p. The giants and forest are quite popular. Avoid the crowds by going before 11 a, after 3p, or weekdays.
Guerilla Hollow: 7 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Forest Hill Drive: 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Admission– As of 2020, a $10 suggested car donation is requested for non members.
Memberships are available and sponsors and donations are gratefully accepted for conservation and education efforts, and feeding the giants!
- Time– Take your time, enjoy nature, explore. You could make a quick trip just to see the giants, but it’s well worth your time to spend several hours or even make a day of it.
- They have annual festivals, special events and programs throughout the year.
- Nearby adventures, dining and lodging in Bullit county are here
2075 Clermont Rd
- 🚴♂️ Check out our other articles for Active Travel
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