I had heard about the Bernheim Arboretum & Forest through a friend of mine that also has a blog.
She had blogged about it and I thought it sounded like a really cool place to visit and since it was located less than 2 hrs from my house, I decided to check it out!
Since I’m off of work two days a week, I decided to go during the week when it would be less crowded.
I had asked my sister to go with me so we left my house around 8:30 am on Nov. 10th.
After driving for about 2 hrs, we finally arrived to the arboretum.
However, it’s located in KY and they were one hour ahead of us so we lost an hour!
Tip: There is a $10 per car recommended donation to enter the gardens
The Bernheim Arboretum and Forest encompasses 16,137 acres or more than 25 square miles. That is larger than the island of Manhattan in New York City.
It is the largest privately held contiguous forest block in the Eastern United States, dedicated to conservation and education.
Once we arrived, we headed straight to Isaac’s Cafe for lunch.
The cafe is opened daily from 10-4.
See their menu here
Their menu online showed they had a lot more than what they offered when we were there. They had a very limited menu.
I ended up ordering the chicken salad sandwich with a side of veggies and a water to drink and my sister ordered the lunch combo that included a sandwich, chips and a drink for $8.50.
The food was very average but we didn’t expect too much.
After we ate, we walked around the gift shop for a few minutes before heading outside to walk the gardens.
After leaving the gift shop, we walked outside to walk the Forest Giants Trail.
The trail is 2 miles round trip and starts behind the Visitor Center …you just follow the Giant footprints and it will lead you to all three of the Forest Giants.
The first section is flat and mostly paved following along the Olmsted Ponds.
The ponds were designed by the Olmsted Brothers in 1939 as part of the original Bernheim Master Plan. The firm’s involvement continued the legacy of their father, renowned Landscape Architect, Frederick Law Olmsted.
The Olmsted family has played an important role in designing many of our nation’s notable destinations, including the White House grounds, New York’s Central Park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and many of the prominent parks and parkways of Louisville, including Cherokee and Iroquois Parks.
As we were walking, we passed the sign for the Two Ponds Loop hike.
The pond is where you will see the first of three giants.
The giants were created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo who crafted the trio of woodland creatures from recycled regional wood to help Bernheim celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2019.
He has created many of these giants and they are scattered all throughout the world!
Click here to see a map of the location of his other giants
The first giant is called Little Nis….this giant is the smallest of the three giants.
Tip: According to the Berheim Forest’s website, the giants are not a permanent fixture and are expected to stay at the forest only through 2024.
These giants are huge and are only made from recycled wood from the region!
After leaving this area, we continued along the trail and it took us through the extensive holly collection!
The holly collection has evolved into one of the finest in North America. At the present time, the collection contains over 400 specimens representing more than 200 individual taxa from all across the northern hemisphere.
I had never seen a holly with yellow berries!
Tip: Be sure to have plenty of water! It was very hot the day we went and there was little shade!
The trail continued through a field..
If you don’t want to walk to each of the giants, you can drive and park closer to them.
The next giant that we came to was called Mama Loumarie.
She is the mom to the two other giants and is expecting another baby. 😉
Tip: You’re not allowed to climb or stand on the giants.
A few shots of Mama Loumarie!
Next, we continued along the trail to the next giant.
We passed the Sun & Shade Loop hike ….
This way took us through the cypress tupelo swamp.
After a short distance, we finally arrived to the last giant called, Little Elina.
You can see just how big these giants are when you see someone standing beside them!
A shot from the back
Nearby, are the Whippoorwhill installations that were created by Kentucky native, Justin Roberts.
Justin created these installations by using harvested invasive plant species throughout the forest and then wrapped them with native willow saplings.
The trail continued around the pond….there are over 40 miles of trails in the Bernheim Forest.
We decided to turn around and go back the way we came since the trail around the pond offered no shade and it was so hot!
We passed these art installations on the way back.
After arriving back to the Visitor’s Center, we headed back to the cafe to purchase a baked good and some water.
I ordered one of their pumpkin spiced cookies and it was delish!
After our snack, I decided to purchase a shirt at the gift shop because I had overdressed and was so hot!
The story of Isaac Wolfe Bernheim was hanging on the wall.
He made his millions in the distillery business.
Isaac Bernheim died at the age of 96 after falling from his 8th floor apartment window in Santa Monica, CA. His death was ruled a suicide.
After purchasing my shirt, we headed back to the car so we could drive the Forest Hill loop drive to the Canopy Tree Walk.
We passed this art installation on the way to the car
This drive is really pretty but would be even prettier in the fall!
The Canopy Tree Walk is a very short walk to a boardwalk that extends into the canopy of the forest. It is 75 ft above the forest ground.
The views were nice but again, during the fall, it would be a lot nicer!
After finishing the canopy walk, we continued our drive.
We came up on another art installation called Oxygen.
Created out of steel and American beech branches collected from Bernheim’s forest, this breathtaking piece depicts the silhouette of a human face looking up to the sky.
Tip: Click here to see the Spirit Nest art installation …we missed it.
The forest has been home to migrating Golden Eagles since 2015.
As we were driving, we came to the area where Mr. & Mrs. Bernheim are buried.
He and his wife’s graves were moved from Cave Hill Cemetery to Bernheim Forest in 1956. They rest on a hillside overlooking the Great Meadow with a beautiful sculpture standing watch over them.
After this stop, we exited the forest and headed back towards home.
On the way, we stopped in Elizabethtown, KY to have dinner.
Read about the history of the town here
The town has a cute little historic square so we parked there and got out and walked around.
There were a few historical markers scattered throughout the square.
We ended up eating at Papi’s Tacos & More on the square.
I ordered a burrito and my sister ordered a quesadilla….the food was average.
After we ate, we headed back home.
We witnessed a beautiful sunset on the way!
Thanks for reading!
Here are some other things you can do in/around this area:
Click here for 73 free things to do near Clermont, KY
10 Free things to do at or near the Berheim Forest during the Fall
Amish businesses in the area