Poet Joyce Kilmer got it right in her poem “Trees.” Indeed, there is something about a “tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray. A tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair, upon whose bosom snow has lain, who intimately lives with rain […] Only God can make a tree.”
Spend time among the trees and expect the unexpected. The decades-long Japanese practice of forest bathing, known as shinrin-yoku, is the intentional act of being calm and relaxed within the forest. There’s something to be said for quiet time in lush greenery. The symphony of nature, birds singing, babbling water and the rustle of wildlife soothes the soul.
Forest bathing is having a moment. After pandemic-induced isolation at home, the great outdoors has new appeal. Outdoor Industry’s “Outdoor Participation Trends Report” found that in 2020, 53 percent of Americans over the age of six participated in outdoor recreation at least once, the highest participation rate on record. With so much disruption, the peace that is the forest is a center in an upside-down world.
If you’re ready to treat yourself to what you deserve, here are a few of the best places for forest bathing.
Less than two hours from New York City is another world. This lakeside resort in the Hudson Valley is surrounded by 40,000 acres of forest. Forest bathing is one of Mohonk’s signature outdoor experiences. Take the “Mindfulness in Motion” walk. It’s a private experience with the resort’s director of mindfulness programming. She’ll guide you through wooded trails, along cliffs and beside the lake. The benefits of forest bathing are enhanced by a meditative approach that focuses on well-being. Keep the good vibe going with time in the spa and a yoga session.
Relax as you wind your way through this 344-acre nature preserve that protects one of the last oak riparian forests in the San Joaquin Valley. Set your sights on over 300 plant and animal species like gray fox and Nuttall’s woodpecker among the grapevines, willow thickets and those amazing valley oaks. It’s like the land that time forgot. Much of it looks like it did more than a century ago. Discover how magical the quiet can be. Exeter is a 15-minute drive from Visalia. Less than an hour away is Sequoia National Park, where the giant sequoias are sure to wow you.
You know you’re in for a healthy adventure here as the resort is home to the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring at its core. There are 25 pools terraced along the San Juan River. When you’ve pampered yourself at the spa and participated in a yoga class in one of the resort’s geothermal pools, try forest bathing. Cherish nature as you hike up Reservoir Hill behind the resort. Take in the views of the Rocky Mountain range, leading up to the Continental Divide. Get even more outdoor therapy with horseback riding or white-water rafting.
There’s no shortage of forest reserves and parks in Hawaii. Some say the Ko’olau Forest Reserve on Maui should be at the top of your list. The large reserve is bordered by two more protected forests and offers a variety of beautiful woodland regions to explore. Find your zen in the tropical vegetation and waterfalls.
The Mindo Cloud Forest is a nearly three-hour journey from Quito. The setting is surreal, situated in a valley encircled by the Andes Mountains. The cloud forest is more than 100 square miles and is home to 450 different species of birds, exotic butterflies, animals and reptiles, and is created by rivers and high elevation. You ride a cable car across the forested valley to a hiking track that goes through vegetation full of flowers, leading to six waterfalls that cascade into quiet pools for swimming.
Finger Lakes Immersion has certified therapy guides to take you on a journey that is a full sensory experience of nature. Enjoy the images, sounds, aromas, breath, touch and wisdom of the forest—you never know what you might discover about yourself. End your walk with a tea ceremony of wild forest plants.
Stimulate all your senses as the resort’s nature guide leads you through a walking meditation that ends with a cup of hot tea of wild edible plants. You can also walk along the woodland trails with a certified herbalist to discover edible and medicinal plants. Learn how to spot, harvest and prepare them.
An hour outside of Atlanta you’ll find the Farmhouse Inn. It offers one of the first forest therapy trails in the U.S. You can take a two-hour self-guided walk—and make sure to grab a brochure to get the best results from your effort. You can also do the “Introduction to Forest Therapy Walk” with a trained forest therapy guide who will lead your journey and help you connect with the forest. Another option is the “Deep Immersion Forest Walk” with a guide for nearly four hours of meditating and taking in the deep, calming benefits of the trail. Finish off with a ceremonial tea.
If you can make the trek, go where the tradition began: Japan. It will be worth it to experience this otherworldly spot. Stand among the towering, densely packed grove of bamboo trees. Get hypnotized by the sounds of rustling sticks in the wind and glimmers of sun between all the trees as you stroll the paved walkway that is the “Bamboo Alley.”