Kentucky’s Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is home to a new art installation-- GIANTS! We visited the wooden giants recently, and here’s what we thought.
by Nicole McKinney
Have you heard it?
All of Kentucky is abuzz with news of some distinguished visitors.
Visitors of uncommon stature, shall we say?
Their names are Mama Loumari, and her children Little Nis and Little Elina.
In fact, there are four guests if we count the little bun in the oven Mama Loumari is carrying. Or perhaps that is a giant Bun in the oven!
These overseas guests are WOODEN GIANTS, an art installation in residence at Bernheim Arboretum.
Want more Kentucky adventures? Check out the West Pinnacle and East Pinnacle Trails in Berea, Natural Bridge, and the 4C's trail and Three Bridges trail Carter Caves. Also, the Bourbon Trail is nearby, including distilleries like the Bardstown Bourbon Company with its fabulous restaurant.
What Are the Bernheim Forest Giants?
The wooden giants are part of a modern fairy tale told by artist Thomas Dambo.
Dambo created the giants with a team of around 15 people and a small army of volunteers from the local community.
The story, as Thomas tells it, is that these well-meaning and kind giants of the world are driven to desperation by humankind’s thoughtless treatment of planet Earth.
Want to visit? Bernheim Arboretum + Research Forest is located in Clermont, Kentucky, about 25 miles south of Louisville.
As of September 2019, there are 27 locations worldwide with creatures related to the fairy tale.
Many locations have multiple giants!
These locations are diverse and are all over the world.
In Puerto Rico, the first giant, Hector the Protector, was built in 2012, and then rebuilt in 2019 after Hurricane Maria.
Other locations include Australia, South Korea, Denmark (Dambo’s home base), and Kentucky.
All of the giants use zero-waste principles.
For example, the giants in Kentucky are built from bourbon barrels and pallets, along with clever accessories fashioned from fallen trees in the forest at Bernheim.
I love how they used found materials to create Mama Loumari’s kitchen!
My husband and I visited with the giants on a gorgeous spring weekend.
Even with a threat of rain, the giants don’t get much chance to be lonely: the park was fairly crowded.
As you drive into the park (before arriving at visitor center) you’ll find just a sneak peak of the treasures ahead in the woods — Little Nis is there, admiring his reflection while perched on the Two Ponds Loop trail.
How to Hike to the Bernheim Forest Giants
You can choose to walk from Little Nis toward his mother and sister, but I recommend going to the visitor center for information and maps first.
There are many interesting paths to discover, and not all of them lead you to a giant!
The giants are hidden in the forest, and finding them is designed to be a treasure hunt.
Bernheim Giants Clue: Lake Nevin Loop is the trail that will lead you to the girls.
You see, the giants have made their home among many other beautiful pieces of art, both natural and manmade.
Finding the giants (and the other artwork) is part of the fun! My personal favorite non-giant sculpture was this one, Emerging, by Meg White.
Can I Drive to the Bernheim Forest Giants?
Yes, you can!
If you prefer driving over hiking, you can drive around the park.
Signs will direct you to fairly easily accessible paths. We even saw one visitor in a wheelchair.
How Close Can I Get to the Giants?
You will find people of all ages happily exploring the giants, climbing around, over, and through them,with the exception of Mama Loumari’s pregnant belly.
That would be access denied.
Mama Loumari’s kitchen is a lot of fun to explore, however, and (like with the other scultpures) you can climb over parts of the kitchen!
The fascinating, detailed designs are also animal friendly.
They are in the woods after all, and if a bird braves the crowds to make its home in Little Elina’s nostril, nothing would please their creator more.
Are you ready for a giant adventure?
These giants will be here as long as they are in safe condition for visitors — at last estimate, the park suggests they may be around through 2024.
Make your visit long or short; there’s plenty to explore at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest!
Looking for a memorable meal after visiting Bernheim Forest? Try Lou Lou on Market in downtown Louisville, a wonderful New Orleans-themed restaurant.
About Nicole McKinney
Nicole McKinney is a photographer, rare tea enthusiast, and nature lover. She lives with her husband in Eastern Kentucky. Follow Nicole at Tea on the Trail.