Where Can You Find Forest Therapy in the U.S.?

Last updated July 10, 2024

Discover these nine U.S. destinations perfect for forest therapy, where nature’s embrace rejuvenates the soul. 

Relaxing in a forest is widely considered to be super therapeutic. You’re encouraged to slow down, observe, listen, touch and smell the forest around you—engaging in a deep, contemplative interaction with nature. 

Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-yoku in Japanese culture, is a practice that immerses you in the natural environment through all the senses. Unlike traditional hiking or outdoor activities focusing on physical exercise or reaching a final destination, forest therapy focuses on a more mindful, intentional presence within the natural world. 

Benefits of Forest Therapy

Forest therapy was first developed in Japan in the 1980s in response to the increasing stress and health issues observed in the country’s urban populations. Since then, forest therapy has gained global recognition for its significant health benefits, which are many:

Stress Reduction. Forest environments have a natural calming effect on the human mind. “Bathing” in the forest can significantly reduce cortisol levels, a stress hormone, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Improved Mood. Regular forest bathing has been linked to improved mood and feelings of happiness and contentment. This is attributed to the serene setting and the disconnection from the hectic pace of modern life.

Enhanced Immune System Function. Some studies even suggest that forest environments can boost the immune system. This effect is partly due to inhaling phytoncides, natural oils produced by trees with antimicrobial properties. These oils can boost the activity of natural killer cells, which help fight infections and diseases.

Increased Focus & Creativity. Time spent in nature away from digital devices and daily distractions can improve concentration, problem-solving skills and creativity. The calming effect of the forest can also aid in restoring attention and mental energy.

Reduced Blood Pressure & Heart Rate. The tranquil environment of forests can lower blood pressure and heart rate, enhancing overall cardiovascular health.

Improved Sleep. People who engage in forest therapy often report improved sleep quality. This is likely due to the combination of physical activity, reduced stress levels and the natural circadian rhythm adjustments that occur with exposure to natural light and environments.

Deeper Connection to Nature. Forest therapy fosters a deeper, more meaningful connection to the natural world. This connection can increase environmental awareness and a greater appreciation for the planet’s ecosystems.

Top Nine U.S. Destinations for Forest Therapy

These destinations provide a sanctuary for those seeking to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature, demonstrating that forest therapy can be a profound journey of renewal for anyone willing to venture into the woods.

Let’s explore nine U.S. destinations where the forests beckon us to indulge in some serious forest therapy.

1. Redwood National and State Parks — California

Along the coast of northern California, the towering redwoods create an awe-inspiring and humbling cathedral-like atmosphere. The ancient, towering trees, some of which reach over 300 feet, have stood for centuries, offering a timeless space for those seeking quiet and reflection. Walking among these giants, you can contemplate nature’s majesty and your place within them.

2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park — Tennessee & North Carolina

Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains present a variety of forest experiences, from mist-covered peaks to verdant, old-growth woods. The park’s extensive trail system winds through diverse ecosystems, offering visitors intimate encounters with nature.

Whether you’re wandering through serene spruce-fir forests or lively deciduous woodlands, the Smokies provide an ideal setting for forest therapy.

3. Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park — Washington

Hoh Rain Forest offers an otherworldly experience with its moss-laden trees and a constant, gentle mist that seems to envelop the soul. This temperate rainforest—one of the largest in the U.S.—provides a unique setting for forest therapy, with ancient ferns and towering Sitka spruces. The lush, green canopy and sounds of the forest create an immersive environment for deep relaxation and rejuvenation.

4. Acadia National Park — Maine

Acadia National Park presents a rugged, Atlantic coastline alongside dense, woodland that invites those seeking solitude and natural beauty. The park’s trails offer scenic vistas, from mountain summits to fairy-like, forested valleys, allowing visitors to practice mindful walking and absorb the restorative powers of the forest. The juxtaposition of land and sea adds a unique element to the forest therapy experience.

5. Pisgah National Forest — North Carolina

Pisgah National Forest, with its rolling mountains, cloaked in hardwood forests, offers an escape into the Appalachian Mountains. The forest’s clear streams, waterfalls and lush vegetation provide a tranquil setting for contemplation and forest therapy. Trails like the one to Mount Pisgah’s summit immerse visitors in nature’s soothing sounds and sights, fostering a deep sense of peace and well-being.

6. Shenandoah National Park — Virginia

Just 75 miles from Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers a peaceful escape into the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. This park spans over 200,000 acres of protected lands, home to deer, songbirds and black bears, and features cascading waterfalls, stunning vistas and peaceful wooded hollows. Skyline Drive provides easy access to tranquil forests, perfect for forest therapy amid vibrant fall foliage or lush summer greens.

7. White Mountain National Forest — New Hampshire

White Mountain National Forest offers a pristine setting for forest therapy, featuring rugged landscapes, clear mountain lakes and dense forests. With trails ranging from easy walks to challenging hikes, including parts of the Appalachian Trail, the park’s trails cater to all skill levels. The tranquility of the wilderness, coupled with the sensory experience of diverse flora and fauna, creates an ideal backdrop for mindfulness and meditation in nature.

8. Aspen — Colorado

While Aspen is famed for its ski resorts and arts scene, the town also offers spectacular opportunities for forest therapy, especially during the warmer months when its mountains and valleys are covered in wildflowers. The Maroon Bells, two peaks in the Elk Mountains, are among the most photographed mountains in North America and provide a serene setting for contemplation amidst their reflective lakes and alpine meadows.

9. Sequoia National Park — California

Home to some of the world’s largest trees, Sequoia National Park invites awe and wonder with its giant sequoias. Walking through the Giant Forest offers a spiritual experience, naturally inducing mindfulness and a deep connection to the earth. The quietness and majesty of the forest environment make it an exceptional location for forest therapy.

Embracing Forest Therapy

Forest sanctuaries across the U.S. provide a potent remedy as we seek solace from modern life’s stressors. When we practice forest therapy, we open ourselves to nature’s healing power, bringing tranquility, wellness and wonder in the forest’s embrace.

So, lace up your hiking boots, leave the digital world behind and step into the therapeutic wonders of the forest.

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