Are you looking for a unique adventure for the weekend ahead? How about taking a gander at some of the largest trees (Douglas Fir and Western Hemlock) in the Coast Range Mountains of Oregon? The Bureau of Land Management’s Valley of the Giants Outstanding Natural Area is a beautiful place to visit if you are looking to see nature at its finest. Here you will see ancient forests, beautiful wildlife, and green as far as the eye can see. The area features many of the types of things that you would expect to find in an old-growth forest, such as large trees (both standing and fallen), understory plants, fungi, wildlife, and mosses. All of these features can be seen along the Valley of the Giants trail.
Some of the trees found at Valley of the Giants are up to 20 feet around and up to 200 feet tall. There are trees here that are close to 500 years old! A windstorm in 1981 blew down a monster of a tree that was approximately 600 feet tall and had a circumference of 35 feet! This tree was lovingly named “Big Guy” and is believed to have been the second-largest tree in the entire state of Oregon.
Walk Among the Giants at Oregon’s Valley of the Giants
Valley of the Giants was originally a 51-acre area that was dedicated as an Outstanding Natural Area and an Area of Critical Environmental Concern in the early 1970s by the BLM. In recent years, the BLM has expanded the area to include another 1500+ acres surrounding the original 51. Due to its ecological importance, the area continues used heavily by educators and researchers.
Where is Valley of the Giants?
The BLM Outstanding Natural Area is located in the Oregon Coast Range mountains, roughly 30 miles west of the small town of Falls City. These miles are traveled via gravel and unnamed logging roads, not necessarily suitable for all passenger cars.
If you have ever driven any mountain or back roads in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll know that your car is going to get dirty on this drive so prepare yourself for that.
Is The Valley of the Giants Trailhead Open Year Round?
This area is great for hiking much of the year, but it is hard (sometimes impossible due to road conditions) to get to during the snowy winter months and the logging roads are also often locked during fire season. The peak periods for visiting are spring, early summer, and fall. I personally feel that early summer is the best time though.
The surrounding forest land is private timber company owned and they have the ability to lock the gates during inclement weather or if there is a fire risk. It is best to call the BLM Northwest Oregon District Office (Salem blm office) in advance to find out road information and if the area is open or not. You can also check out their website to view a blm map of the area.
How Long is the Valley of Giants Hiking Trail?
The main walk trail at Valley of the Giants is a 1.3-mile-long hike that takes you across a wooden walk bridge at the start. In inclement weather, you might find that the trails are slippery. It is also important to watch for fallen limbs and trees along the trail and on the forest floor.
There are also some unofficial trails in the area as well. Hikers are warned that the entire area is hiked at your own risk.
What Should Visitors Know Before Visiting These Giant Trees?
There are some things to keep in mind before you head to VOG:
It’s Not a Quick Trip
VOG is located 14 miles as the crow flies from Falls City and 30 miles by road. However, due to the nature of the drive, you can expect it to take longer. Expect it to take roughly 90 minutes to travel from Falls City to the Valley of the Giants.
It Can Be Dangerous in Stormy Weather
Be sure and avoid the area in stormy weather. Not only is the trail slippery when wet, snowy, or icy, but you have to watch out for falling trees and limbs. High winds can be especially dangerous up here.
Do Not Go Around or Climb Over Any Locked Gate
Do not pass a locked gate. I know it may be tempting when you are exploring these gigantic trees and this magical area, but don’t do it. Remember that much of the surrounding land is privately owned. You can be cited for trespassing if you pass these gates.
Keep an Eye Out for VOG Signs
If you are feeling like you are lost on your travels to get to Valley of the Giants, keep an eye out for small signs that say VOG. On my last visit there I kept wondering if we had lost our way until I started seeing these small signs along the road.
Avoid Going Off Trail
Remember that this forest area is used for research purposes and it is imperative to not impact the area. Do not go off trail. Instead only use areas that are dedicated to hiking/walking.
Bring a Lunch
There is a picnic table area available for you to bring lunch and relax a bit after your hike. Or, if you need to power up, before your hike.
Be sure not to leave anything behind from your picnic though. Due to its location, there is no garbage service available here, so don’t expect trash cans, etc. Whatever you pack in, needs to be packed out.
Are There Guided Walk Tours of Valley of the Giants?
While I haven’t seen any tour companies offer a guided walk, I have seen posts advertising group visits to VOG. I have spotted these in the past on local community pages on Facebook. If you are feeling too nervous to try this adventure on your own, this is an option. You may find like-minded explorers ready to take on this next adventure with you.
If you love hiking in Oregon, be sure and check out Blue Pool!