Mindful Travel Experiences in Western Canada
Most people connect to the forest through an activity like hiking, biking or skiing. But Forest Bathing is an accessible way to experience nature for people of all abilities, ages and busy schedules—no actual bathing required. Find out what it is, where to do it, and the benefits of guided forest bathing sessions.
Forest bathing is a form of ecotherapy using nature to improve mental or physical health. The Japanese term ‘shinrin-yoku’ means ‘forest bathing’ or ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’. It is the practice of walking mindfully in the forest and using all five senses to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention.
ORIGINS OF FOREST BATHING
Forest bathing emerged in Japan in the 1980s as physiological and psychological exercise in response to the tech-boom burnout. It quickly caught on as a form of ecotherapy and means to inspire residents to reconnect with and protect the country’s forests.
Health Benefits of Forest Bathing
We all know the importance of dropping the tech gadgets, disconnecting from devices and ungluing from the TV to spend time outdoors. But the health benefits of spending a minimal 10 to 20 minutes a day outdoors can lead to increased well-being and happiness and reduced amounts of stress.
The more disciplined practice of forest bathing has been found to lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful hormones, like cortisol, which is produced under stress. Trees emit oils called phytoncides as protection from germs and insects. These oils can also help naturally strengthen our immune system. Spending time in a forest can also reduce anxiety, depression, and anger, and improve cardiovascular and metabolic health.
WHERE TO GO FOREST BATHING
The first step of forest bathing is to find a location. A nearby park or your favorite local trail are viable options. But for an experience reflective of the name of this practice, a trip to these forested destinations is a must for guided or independent forest bathing opportunities.
Forest Bathing in LAKE LOUISE
Stunning turquoise waters, majestic mountains and fragrant forests. Lake Louise is a place of healing and wellness surrounded by nature’s calming effects. It is a prime forest bathing destination that engages all five senses year-round. It’s easy to venture off the beaten path and find yourself alone and susceptible to distractions from others on the trail.
For your first forest bathing experience, we recommend going with a guide to orient yourself with this simple yet powerful practice. This practice is different from hiking or walks with a naturalist. Local wellness facilitators like Ronna Schneberger can help you reap the full benefits of the woods by slowing down and tuning deeply into your senses. When you go with a guide, you learn a deeply nourishing process which most people have not experienced. You can then go out on your own to experience the benefits of this practice, any time anywhere.
Bathe in Banff’s forest atmosphere
Breathe in the crisp alpine air and feel the healing powers of the alpine forests of Banff. Slow down and tune deeply into your senses with the help of a local guide. Switch off trains of thought to focus on the present moment. Unlike an interpretive nature walk, the guide’s role is not to explain the flora and fauna but help you interact with the forest in a meaningful and healing way. For example, your focus may be guided to your sense of touch with the soft moss growing on the forest floor, or your sense of smell with the fragrant Subalpine Fir and Angelman Spruce trees.
LOCAL TIPSome people benefit from a guide in the same way others might benefit from a personal trainer at the gym. Book a private forest bathing tour in Banff to connect deeper with nature with a heightened state of mindfulness. These two hour sessions for 1-4 people include are led by a certified Forest Bathing Guide and tea ceremony to complete the experience of bathing in the atmosphere of the forest.
FOREST BATHING VS. HIKING
The main difference between forest bathing and hiking is the goal. Unlike nature walks and hikes, forest bathing does not follow a defined route to reach a destination. The goal of forest bathing is not physical fitness and exercise, rather mindfulness and connecting with nature in a slow, natural pace through the woods.
Leisurely Hikes in Whistler
There are plenty of ways to soak up the stunning mountain scenery in Whistler at your own speed. It’s easy to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere at Lost Lake. With scenic trails and inviting water, it’s the perfect place for forest bathers and hikers alike. Continue onward to the Fitzsimmons creek loop, and you have a spectacular 9km hike.
For those looking to speed up the pace, another recommended route off the beaten path is Whistler’s Train Wreck. Add an artistic flair to your hike and spark additional creativity from your walk in the woods. If the goal is to see, do, and feel, this trail will move you in more ways than one.
LOCAL TIPVenture further into Whistler’s woods with Whistler Experience Guides. From family-friendly strolls, to waterfall hikes and the Whistler Train Wreck, see the forest highlights from a new point of view.
Connect with Nature in the Wild Heart of Jasper National Park
LOCAL TIPGet inspired by nature year-round in Jasper. Browse our seasonal guide to discover Jasper throughout the year.
Roaming wildlife, lush forests and rugged mountains aplenty in Jasper National Park. If stunning views are the goal, the Old Fort Point Loop delivers excellent views of the area. Start at The Boathouse at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Take the wooden stairs to the first lookout and enjoy the view from iconic red Adirondack chairs. Try and spot a wild local or bring along your binoculars for birdwatching. Then loop back down through the woods to round off this 3.8km loop.
If a leg-burning workout is what you seek, the 8km Sulphur Skyline trail is equally challenging and rewarding with Mother’s Natures beauty. This 4 to 6 hour hike in the Miette Hot Springs will work your muscles right to the top of the mountain until they are rewarded with a little rest while you take in the sweeping mountain views.
More Outdoor Inspiration
However you choose to connect with nature, there’s no better place than Western Canada to experience the benefits of ecotherapy the great outdoors. Check out our suggested hikes and trails to elevate your wellness routine in Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise and to get moving in Whistler.