Being, Breathing and Forest Bathing in Canada’s Woods

Natural air purifiers, climate change fighters, and biodiversity protectors – forests have a lot of responsibility when it comes to safeguarding the planet and supporting human health and wellbeing. Forest cover: Over half of Canada is covered in forests, which are located in eight distinct regions. Some of the most well-known are the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia , a temperate region that sprawls across 6.4 million hectares; Happy Valley Forest in Ontario, which supports more than 110 bird species and a number of species at risk; and Green Mountains Nature Reserve in Quebec, the largest privately held conservation area in the province with 7,001 hectares (17,300 acres) of untouched wilderness. Critical connections: Canadian ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees are much more than they seem – they are social creatures that “speak” to each other, sharing information that supports the health of entire forests. “Underground, there is this other world – a world of infinite biological pathways that connect trees and allow them to communicate, and allow the forest to behave as though it’s a single organism,” said Simard in her TED talk. Good for the body, mind, and spirit: Forests also have cultural and social impact. They are essential to the livelihood of Indigenous Peoples, particularly since most Indigenous communities are located in or near forested lands. They also improve our quality of life by promoting physical and mental wellbeing and providing recreational and ecotourism opportunities. In recent years, forest bathing (derived from the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, which means “taking in the forest atmosphere”) has resurfaced as a way to reap the many health benefits of forests. Available to just about anyone, forest bathing involves mindfully walking in the woods and reaping the myriad benefits – a strengthened immune system, reduced blood pressure, increased energy, boosted mood, and improved focus. While the practice enjoyed renewed popularity during the pandemic, its core principle of cultivating a deep connection with nature has been practiced by Indigenous Peoples for millennia. Storyteller: Michela Carriere encourages visitors to Saskatchewan to forge deep connections with the wilderness. Through her business Aski Holistic Adventures, Michela guides visitors on herbal medicine walks, canoeing trips, outdoor adventures and nature therapy workshops, providing an Indigenous perspective of the Saskatchewan River Delta. Doctor says: The benefits of forests are such that doctors and other licensed healthcare professionals in select Canadian provinces can now prescribe time in nature as a way to manage anxiety and improve health. Referred to as PaRx, the nature prescription program was started by the BC Parks Foundation in November 2020. It recommends two hours a week in nature, for at least 20 minutes per session (tip: here’s how to transform your trip to the forest into a full-fledged spa experience). Parks such as the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Nitobe Memorial Garden in BC offer unlimited free admission to patients who show a copy of their PaRx prescription. Storyteller: Trained as an anthropologist and teacher, Candace Campo leads explorers through BC’s forested landscapes while sharing the culture and history of her people. In addition to her business Talaysay Tours, she is building an app that tells the stories of Stanley Park. Where to go forest bathing in Canada: British Columbia  Haida Bolton runs nature day camps for children, as well as indoor and outdoor reflexology, from Pender Harbour on BC’s Sunshine Coast. Certified by the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy as BC’s first Forest Therapy Guide, she offers guided forest therapy walks through her business Nature with Haida. Hundreds of forested trails weave throughout Vancouver Island, leading to scenic vistas, centuries-old trees, and wildlife sightings. From Cathedral Grove’s 800-year-old Douglas firs and fragrant cedars, to the crashing waterfall at Elk Falls Provincial Park, here’s where to soak in the forest’s healing powers on the island. Storyteller: Tom Benson, owner of WildPlay, is committed to protecting land in cities and greenbelts from development. He created WildPlay to encourage people and families to get outside and rebuild their connections with nature, each other, and themselves.  Breathe in the fresh ocean air as you wander through a fragrant forest of arbutus and Douglas fir at the Malahat Skywalk on Vancouver Island. Here, a leafy TreeWalk leads to a spiral ramp that ascends 32 metres to a sightseeing lookout, where spectacular panoramas of islands, fjords, forests and mountains await. Slide back to the base, or walk onto the Adventure Net for uninterrupted views of the forest.  Newfoundland and Labrador Wander along Steve’s Trail in Gros Morne National Park to experience “tuckamore”, the stu

Being, Breathing and Forest Bathing in Canada’s Woods

Natural air purifiers, climate change fighters, and biodiversity protectors – forests have a lot of responsibility when it comes to safeguarding the planet and supporting human health and wellbeing.

Forest cover: Over half of Canada is covered in forests, which are located in eight distinct regions. Some of the most well-known are the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia , a temperate region that sprawls across 6.4 million hectares; Happy Valley Forest in Ontario, which supports more than 110 bird species and a number of species at risk; and Green Mountains Nature Reserve in Quebec, the largest privately held conservation area in the province with 7,001 hectares (17,300 acres) of untouched wilderness.

Critical connections: Canadian ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees are much more than they seem – they are social creatures that “speak” to each other, sharing information that supports the health of entire forests. “Underground, there is this other world – a world of infinite biological pathways that connect trees and allow them to communicate, and allow the forest to behave as though it’s a single organism,” said Simard in her TED talk.

Good for the body, mind, and spirit: Forests also have cultural and social impact. They are essential to the livelihood of Indigenous Peoples, particularly since most Indigenous communities are located in or near forested lands. They also improve our quality of life by promoting physical and mental wellbeing and providing recreational and ecotourism opportunities. In recent years, forest bathing (derived from the Japanese term shinrin-yokuwhich means “taking in the forest atmosphere”) has resurfaced as a way to reap the many health benefits of forests. Available to just about anyone, forest bathing involves mindfully walking in the woods and reaping the myriad benefits – a strengthened immune system, reduced blood pressure, increased energy, boosted mood, and improved focus. While the practice enjoyed renewed popularity during the pandemic, its core principle of cultivating a deep connection with nature has been practiced by Indigenous Peoples for millennia. Storyteller: Michela Carriere encourages visitors to Saskatchewan to forge deep connections with the wilderness. Through her business Aski Holistic Adventures, Michela guides visitors on herbal medicine walks, canoeing trips, outdoor adventures and nature therapy workshops, providing an Indigenous perspective of the Saskatchewan River Delta.

Doctor says: The benefits of forests are such that doctors and other licensed healthcare professionals in select Canadian provinces can now prescribe time in nature as a way to manage anxiety and improve health. Referred to as PaRx, the nature prescription program was started by the BC Parks Foundation in November 2020. It recommends two hours a week in nature, for at least 20 minutes per session (tip: here’s how to transform your trip to the forest into a full-fledged spa experience). Parks such as the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden and Nitobe Memorial Garden in BC offer unlimited free admission to patients who show a copy of their PaRx prescription. Storyteller: Trained as an anthropologist and teacher, Candace Campo leads explorers through BC’s forested landscapes while sharing the culture and history of her people. In addition to her business Talaysay Tours, she is building an app that tells the stories of Stanley Park.

Where to go forest bathing in Canada:

British Columbia 

  • Haida Bolton runs nature day camps for children, as well as indoor and outdoor reflexology, from Pender Harbour on BC’s Sunshine Coast. Certified by the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy as BC’s first Forest Therapy Guide, she offers guided forest therapy walks through her business Nature with Haida.
  • Hundreds of forested trails weave throughout Vancouver Island, leading to scenic vistas, centuries-old trees, and wildlife sightings. From Cathedral Grove’s 800-year-old Douglas firs and fragrant cedars, to the crashing waterfall at Elk Falls Provincial Park, here’s where to soak in the forest’s healing powers on the island. Storyteller: Tom Benson, owner of WildPlay, is committed to protecting land in cities and greenbelts from development. He created WildPlay to encourage people and families to get outside and rebuild their connections with nature, each other, and themselves. 
  • Breathe in the fresh ocean air as you wander through a fragrant forest of arbutus and Douglas fir at the Malahat Skywalk on Vancouver Island. Here, a leafy TreeWalk leads to a spiral ramp that ascends 32 metres to a sightseeing lookout, where spectacular panoramas of islands, fjords, forests and mountains await. Slide back to the base, or walk onto the Adventure Net for uninterrupted views of the forest.

 Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Wander along Steve’s Trail in Gros Morne National Park to experience “tuckamore”, the stunted trees growing along the coast and in alpine areas. Walk through the tuckamore forest and emerge at a seaside meadow, where you can breathe in the scent of conifers, hear waves lapping at the beach, and soak in the stunning views of the park’s northern coastline. For more forest wellness activities, refer to Gros Morne National Park’s “Healthy Parks Healthy People” initiative.

Nova Scotia

  • The Hemlocks and Hardwoods trail at Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site offers a stress-busting journey among some of Nova Scotia’s oldest trees, including 300-year-old hemlocks. The five-kilometre loop encompasses front country, back country and seaside trails that pass through a startling variety of scenery and ecosystems, leading wanderers through fascinating tableaux of cultural and national significance. The park is also the province’s only Dark Sky Preserve, which means plenty of opportunities for stargazing.
  • Forest bathe at Trout Point Lodge, a luxury wilderness resort located in the heart of the Tobeatic Wilderness – the largest wild area in the Maritimes. The property sits on 40 hectares (100 acres) of forest with ample opportunities for guided walks in the woods, which can be complemented by forest-side massages and foraging walks. There’s also stargazing, nature hikes, canoeing and kayaking, and a host of other wilderness adventures. Storytellers: Patrick and Pamela Wallace, owners.
  • Spend five days wandering the wilderness with Bootprints Hiking Tours’ Bay of Fundy and South Shore Tour (offered between June and October 2023). Along the journey, guests soak in the sights and sounds of peaceful forests, lakes and rivers, and view the remnants of glaciers from 10,000 years ago. Days are spent hiking next to the ocean, marveling at the highest tides in the world, and exploring seaside cliffs and sea stacks. The tour also pays a visit to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the picturesque town of Lunenburg and the Landscape of Grand Pré. 

 Prince Edward Island

  • Treetop Haven in Mount Tryon welcomes guests to atmospheric TreePODS that hover over the forest. The property features designated trails and areas for forest bathing, and yoga instructors and massage therapists are available on request to enhance spiritual and bodily rejuvenation. Guests can trek along Craig’s Way trail, a leafy paradise boasting plenty of birdwatching opportunities. At day’s end, retreat to a geodesic dome and settle in for a snooze soundtracked by the soothing sounds of the wilderness. 
  • Grab your walking shoes and prepare for the ultimate trek – the Island Walk, a 700-kilometre journey around the whole of Prince Edward Island. The walk is divided into 32 sections with varying points of interest, terrain and amenities, as well as plenty of forested trails. For a more structured foray, choose a self-guided itinerary from the Island Walk website.
  • Situated on an ocean lagoon surrounded by dense forest, Nature Space Resort is surrounded by one of the most diverse ecosystems on Prince Edward Island. Here, guests can pursue meditative walking along the Dragonfly Labyrinth – a serpentine path that leads to a central garden used for prayer and reflection. The forest is safe to explore day or night – in the evenings, the resort runs a five-senses experience that helps guests appreciate the quiet beauty of the starscapes and stillness of the woods. There’s also kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, yoga, mindfulness programs and other wilderness-oriented adventures. Storytellers: Heather and Jarrod Gunn McQuillan, owners.

Manitoba

  • An hour outside of Winnipeg, Nibi Miskwaabik Kwe – Water Copper Woman – leads cultural forays into the Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve (offered between May and October, 2023). Rooted in Anishinaabe knowledge, the two-hour tour journeys among a calcareous fen – one of the rarest wetland types of North America. Leading through boreal forest along the edge of the fen wetland, the tour shares Anishinaabe knowledge and discusses the historical and cultural importance of the land. Tours are led by Tanis Thomas, the Indigenous jewelry designer behind Boreal Workshop.

 Alberta

  • Forest Fix invites visitors to immerse themselves in a sensorial experience in the heart of Banff National Park, Alberta while embracing mindfulness practices inherent in the Japanese art of forest bathing. The family-owned business offers EcoYoga, where participants hike and practice yoga amid spectacular mountain landscapes; forest bathing (or Shinrin Yoku), a Japanese concept that urges mindful immersion in the healing atmosphere of the forest; and, for those who can’t readily access the forest, virtual forest therapy that quickly and effectively soothes body, mind and soul. Storyteller: Ronna Schneberger, owner, guide, and coach.
  • In Banff, take a different spin on forest bathing along the Art in Nature Trail (offered between July and September, 2023). The outdoor exhibition features over 65 art pieces by Bow Valley artists displayed throughout the forest, including a river pathway, across the Nancy Paw bridge, toward Bow Falls, and back through Central Park. Each piece pays homage to the revitalizing power of the wilderness, offering a fresh perspective of the transformative energy of the Rockies. 

Ontario

  • Scandinave Spa in the Blue Mountains is situated in a peaceful pocket of forest that overlooks views of the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Niagara Escarpment. Throughout the 25-acre parcel of Ontario birch, maple and pine trees, guests will find a forest bathing trail, wildlife ranging from turtles to wild turkeys, and outdoor baths featuring views of the Blue Mountain Resort ski hill.