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12 GREAT PLACES TO FOREST BATHE IN MINNEAPOLIS - ST. PAUL

Updated: 2 days ago

*UPDATED - NOVEMBER 2023*


woman forest bathing under trees

FOREST BATHING – WHAT IS IT?

You may have been hearing a bit about a new wellness practice recently – it’s called forest bathing, or shinrin yoku. Forest Bathing is the English translation of the Japanese phrase 'Shinrin Yoku'. Shinrin means ‘forest’ in Japanese, Yoku means ‘bath.’ This translates as immersing yourself in the forest air or experiencing the forest with all of your senses.


What it’s not: donning your swimming suit and playing Marco Polo in the trees.


This is not forest bathing

You may be one of those on the vanguard that have already tried this powerful nature connection experience. If you haven’t, there are many certified guides right here in Minnesota who can take you on a transformative, immersive, and meditative journey into the forest.

WHAT MAKES A GREAT PLACE FOR FOREST BATHING?

One of the most exciting elements of taking forest bathing walks here in Minneapolis-St. Paul is the plethora of locations that allow you to disconnect with technology and surround yourself with the woodland air.

A place with good forest cover is a great place to start. But you can also experience the positive benefits in the middle of a native prairie. Here in Minnesota we have remnants of the “Big Woods” ecosystem – which were Maple-Basswood Forests and Oak Woodlands. Maple-Basswood forests tended to succeed Oak Woodlands, so you may find areas with large old oaks paired with smaller maples that outnumber them. This is the fun part of discovery – curiosity and wondering about what this place looked like when our ancestors saw it for the first time.

However, all forests are not created equal. Just because a place has trees does not necessarily make it beneficial for forest bathing. There may be beautiful woods nearby, but they might be located right underneath the airport landing approach, or next to a busy highway. While forest bathing encourages us to embrace all pieces of the human and more-than-human worlds as part of a larger whole, there are times when human sounds become too much of a hindrance to the meditative experience of forest bathing. So, if you find yourself in a place with overwhelming “human” noises it’s okay to look elsewhere.

Safety is very important, especially if you choose to go alone for an unguided sit spot experience or wander in the woods. Clear views and open trails are helpful in this regard. Never go into a locale that makes you feel uncomfortable.


Diverse ecosystems, and/or the ability to connect with water, make great places to forest bathe. Biodiversity is important for life on earth. This means different kinds of birds, small animals, plants, and trees all interdependent for their survival (and ours). This means more elements to hold your interest – birdsong, insects, flowers, fragrances, textures…

WHERE CAN I GO?

The following locales are amazing places to forest bathe in Minneapolis-St. Paul. They are sprinkled throughout the metro area. They are some of my personal favorites. Each location has unique elements, distinct to its sense of place. These elements may appeal to some people more than others; others may be drawn to an entirely different set of features. I encourage you to explore them all and find the location that speaks most deeply to you.


Supporting these wild places by our patronage is critical. We all need exposure to nature, kids especially. The more we bring our children and ourselves into the wilds, the better off we all are. The forest can bring us back to ourselves. This list has recently been updated since its original publication with some new forests. Off we go…


2060 County Rd 6, Long Lake, MN 55356

Fallen tree in golden autumn forest

Wolsfeld Woods feels grand. Every time I personally walk here, I feel I’m in the presence of sacred, ancient trees. It is a really special forest, and quite expansive. The ravines are plentiful and the way the trees move with the landscape is quite spectacular. There is a small lake, but honestly that’s less exciting for me than the woods. There are many different trails you can explore and directions you can go.  I love sitting under the trees in the fall – superb yellow sugar maples create a golden canopy overhead that brightens the surrounding air with a palpable energy.

 

The woods are accessed from the corner of Trinity Lutheran Church's parking lot at the intersection of N. Brown Road and 6th Avenue N. in Long Lake. This site is also rustic, aka no bathrooms (unless church is open). Make sure you put this high on your list to check out - you won't be disappointed. If you’re hungry afterwards, be sure to stop at either Red Rooster Bar & Lounge or Birch’s On The Lake.



917 Old Long Lake Rd, Wayzata, MN 55391

forest bathing path into the woods

If you are planning a trip to Wolsfeld (above), make a day out of it and head 10 minutes further east and visit this forest as well. Wood-Rill SNA is one of many amazing SNA's (Scientific and Natural Areas) in Minnesota. These spaces are overseen by the MN Dept. of Natural Resources and are used for research. Most of them are rustic - i.e. no bathrooms or other facilities. There are usually trails, but not always. Wood-Rill is one of my favorites for a few reasons: 1) it's close - the last exit on 394 - where Hwy. 12 begins and 2) it is a spectacular example of 'old growth' forest within the heart of the metro. Old growth means there are trees there over 400 years old. This land used to be owned by the Dayton family and was never developed because of all its hills and ravines. This topography made it difficult to farm, and thus it has remained, more or less, like it was centuries ago.


Parking is in a small dirt lot across the road from the trailhead. The trail winds around a bit before crossing a small plank footbridge, this brings you to start of the woods proper. From here you can enjoy multiple trails, ridges, a lake, and the glory of grand old trees.



15651 Skuya Dr, Prior Lake, MN 55372

sunlit forest in fall

I discovered this park only recently and was blown away! It is a stone’s throw from Mystic Lake Casino, but couldn’t be a more different environment.  The address that Google gives takes you to a weird location, that can be confusing – so make sure you type in SPRING LAKE REGIONAL PARK PICKLEBALL COURTS.  This will bring you to the right place.  Drive past the pickleball parking, continuing straight (don’t go to the dog park either) until the road dead ends in a small parking lot.  This is where you want to be!

 

A paved path curves to the left out of the lot, then comes to an intersection.  Go right and you will curve through beautiful, restored prairie and then you’ll hit a “Y” in the path.  Bear right again and the woods begin.  As you move along, the woods become better and better.


A short bit further, start looking for footpaths on the left into the woods.  This is the most amazing section of woods!  Find a tree and sit with it for awhile, taking in the spectacular maple forest around you.  If you keep on the paved path, it will ultimately keep curving left and will circle right back around in a loop and reconnect with the path at the original “Y”. Some side paths go down to Spring Lake if you’re interested in seeing some water.



5624 Shady Oak Rd., Minnetonka, MN 55343

fall forest in browns

I went out searching for some new locations recently and lo and behold discovered this gem!  Wow!  This may be my new favorite. Drop your kids at the playground or pickleball courts then head off on the path.  It is about a 1-mile loop.  The path loops up into a glorious maple/oak forest with a clear understory that lets you see the way the ground undulates and shapes the park.  The path comes down out of the trees and loops around a small prairie area and then returns to the parking lot. I cannot overstate how wonderful these woods are! The way the elevation changes, the way the lake comes in and out of view, the size of the trees – the way the place FEELS.  All of this makes this park a highly recommended option.



10320 Morgan Ave S, Bloomington, MN 55431

creek and bridge

I've hosted walks at this park for quite some time.  Moving from the upper part of the park to the lower part where the trail is can be achieved via stairs or a winding path. (In winter this gets incredibly slippery and hard to navigate. During the colder months, I suggest accessing the trail from the Harrison Picnic Grounds.)

 

Once at the lower level you are moving along a trail that parallels Nine Mile Creek. The trail crosses over the creek multiple times along it’s route.  You can take just a short hike, or walk for much longer if you feel up for it.  It is quite beautiful, trees arching over the creek, and sound of rushing water accompanying you along the way is something that’s not easy to find in the heart of the metro area.  Make sure you go back and experience this park in all seasons. Each one offers something new. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!


 

9653 Keats Ave S, Cottage Grove, MN 55016

pond and forest at cottage grove ravine

According to Washington County, “Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park consists of 515 acres of hills and dramatic, heavily-wooded ravines with occasional clearings of old field and prairie. Visitors can look for grouse, ermine, cottontail rabbits, deer, and a number of bird species, including the pileated woodpecker.

 

This place is huge!  It took me quite a while to explore the different nooks and crannies here and I know I didn’t even come close to seeing the whole thing.  I seem to be drawn to locations with ravines. I just love the aesthetic visuals that this type of landscape presents to the contemplative mind.  Having no ‘mountains’ here in MSP, ravines offer a sense of ‘prospect and refuge’, which is something humans are drawn to subconsciously.

 

The types of landscapes change often and are quite distinct in different parts of the park.  This park will take multiple visits to get deep into its 'genius loci'.  Be patient and you will be rewarded with some really amazing forest experiences.

 


5350 Union Terrace Lane N, Plymouth, MN 55442

boardwalk at three ponds park

This tiny little neighborhood park in Plymouth is just amazing!  True to its name, it has three ponds that are surrounded by walking paths.  I have done full moon forest walks at this location often. It is because you can sit on one of the boardwalks that cross the water and just stare at the moon as it reflects down in the pond, feeling like you’re floating in space.  Powerful!

 

The trails wind back and up into the forest – my favorite part.  Many views take in the surrounding water and there is a fantastic arched bridge you can lean on and watch the wildlife that wanders by.  I’ve seen Snowy Egrets, Albino Squirrels, and Muskrats.  This is definitely a hidden gem.



18106 Texas Ave, Prior Lake, MN 55372

textured wood stump in winter

This park has become one of my favorites due to its Maple/Basswood/Oak forest section that surrounds Poplar Creek.  Entering into this space it feels like you’ve discovered a magical glade that resides at the heart of the best fairytales.  The creek winds through the center of this segment, offering some places to ford it, if you’re brave.  Otherwise, the trail – the Poplar Creek Trail – is a loop trail and will get you back to where you started, so you can see the creek from both sides.

 

I love this small area because it is quite different from the larger swaths of forest that surround it, the trail slowly opens to reveal this glorious space, making it feel even more like a secret discovery.  Oh, and there’s also a golf course at this park if you want to mix it up!

 



1456 W 78th St, Chanhassen, MN 55317

winding path under green forest canopy

This is another new park in my repertoire.  I was introduced to it by a client and it most definitely lives up to Chanhassen’s moniker of “premier community park”.  Bring your swimming suits if you’re going in the warmer weather, as there is a fantastic beach with which to take advantage of Lake Ann, a large, non-motorized lake. If you want to bolster this wander with some music, this park is right across the highway from Paisley Park.

 

Immediately to the left as you enter the park is the forest.  Another beautiful maple/basswood/oak forest that beckons you to explore its hills and dales, great views of the lake, and spectacular trees.  Fall is my favorite time to visit these types of woods. The smells of the fallen leaves, the crispness of the air, the way the sun shines through the autumn colors…it’s quite inspirational.  I feel very contemplative in these types of forests and seek them out as much as possible.  Take advantage of my research and get thee to this park! 

 


100 85th Ave NW, Fridley, MN 55432

fall oaks in forest

Head to the northern side of the metro and wander the trails at Springbrook.  There is a wonderful, short, paved loop trail immediately adjacent to the visitor’s center that gives a great overview of the experience of this forest.

 

My favorite trails for forest bathing are the Oak Savanna and Creekside Trails – and as a bonus, they connect!  There’s a great kid’s play area too.  Overall there are 3 miles of trails here, which will give you a few great hours to intentionally observe and interact with the forest. You’ll feel relaxed and calm after wandering these paths.



6710 Lake Shore Drive, Richfield, MN 55423

Bench overlooking Wood Lake wetland

Wood Lake is a wonderful location close to Minneapolis. Tucked between I-35W and Lyndale Avenue, its 150 acres host 3 different ecosystems – forest, wetland marsh, and prairie. While there is some traffic noise, it tends to blend into the background – like a hearing a rushing river in the distance. The sounds of wildlife often blot out human sounds. It has 3 miles of trails and boardwalks to explore. The number of birds that are present is almost overwhelming – spring birdsong is spectacular! There are many other species that also call Wood Lake home – deer, coyote, muskrats, turtles, and more. Wood Lake also has extensive programming for adults and children, as well as rentable indoor space for various activities.



8300 W. Franklin Avenue, St. Louis Park, MN 55426 | 952-924-2544

Stairs at Westwood Hills Nature Center

Westwood Hills is a 160-acre hidden gem directly west of downtown Minneapolis. With stunning woodlands, a lengthy and amazing boardwalk through the marsh, a restored prairie, and a brand-new sustainably-designed visitor center this nature center is one of my favorites. It’s gorgeous in every season and if you’re lucky you might even see deer, turtles, fox, mink, and owls.

It’s quiet. It used to be a golf course, then a camp, before its present incarnation. You’d never guess that by wandering underneath the woodland boughs; a testament to the tenacity of nature. It’s also in the middle of a residential neighborhood, so don’t be confused when following directions, you’re going the right way.



 

Hopefully you’re now excitedly making your list - which forest to visit first? One thing I know, it is not exhaustive by any means. There are so many amazing places in Minnesota where you can immerse yourself in woods, bluffs, and prairies. I hope visiting these 12 great places to forest bathe in Minneapolis-St. Paul whets your appetite for more.


While you’re at each place, be sure to slow down – be intentional about what you notice, and take some time to just be still under the canopy of these glorious trees.  You’ll go home feeling incredible.


Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you find somewhere you think I should know about. I look forward to guiding you on a forest walk sometime soon.





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Oct 05, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Absolutely amazing!!

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