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Updated: Aug 10


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 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.

What forest bathing isn't

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.


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 also 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.

Woman forest bathing in dappled light

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…


The following 9 great places to forest bathe in Minneapolis-St. Paul are sprinkled throughout the metro area. They are some of my 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 been updated since it's original publication with a few additional forests. Off we go…


6710 Lake Shore Drive, Richfield, MN 55423 | 612-861-9365

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.


917 Old Long Lake Rd, Wayzata, MN 55391

Path at Wood-Rill SNA

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.


1301 Theodore Wirth Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55422 | 612-230-6528

Path to the bog at Wirth Park

Theodore Wirth Park has some simply spectacular trails to discover within its massive 740 acres only 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. Paths are extensive and weave in and out of the forest (many are also mountain bike trails, so be careful if you choose to explore those particular paths), through the Quaking Bog, along lakeshores, and through the oldest public wildflower garden in the United States. The wildflower garden has a boardwalk through a wetland garden, upland Oak Savanna and Prairie plantings, woodland plantings, and great “woodsman’s shack” filled with programming and naturalists to answer your questions. I particularly enjoy the surprise of the natural amphitheater with a rim trail just south of the entry to Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Spectacular! There are further paved and unpaved trails between I-394 and the wildflower garden, so take some time to explore the nuances of this locale.


2060 County Rd 6, Long Lake, MN 55356

Wolsfeld Woods in the fall

If you are planning a trip to Wood-Rill (above), make a day out of it and head 10 minutes further west and visit Wolsfeld Woods as well. Another State SNA, this location is as similarly spectacular as Wood-Rill. However, it feels grander in some ways - more expansive. It is 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.

As you can surmise from my photo above, fall is glorious in these maple woods - the golds are immersive - I never wanted to leave. This site is also rustic. Make sure you check it out - you won't be disappointed.


2500 County Road E, St. Anthony, MN 55421 | 763-694-7707

Bridge to the island at Silverwood Park

Silverwood Park in St. Anthony used to be the old Salvation Army Silver Lake Camp. It was, according to the park’s website, a “fresh air camp”. This type of camp was created by the Salvation Army in the late 19th Century to get urban children out into nature and fresh air, experiencing the benefits of the woodlands.

Silverwood's previous iteration - Salvation Army Camp

I worked with Silverwood recently to install the State's first certified forest bathing trail! This trail includes invitation signs along its route for you to practice forest bathing individually, at your own pace. We also use the trail for guided walks offered from time to time on Silverwood's events website.

Silverwood’s trails wind through some pretty wonderful woods. A mile-long trail sprinkled with unique public art installations greets the wanderers. The park includes an island with many mature trees and room to sit in solitude, contemplating the canopy above and the water beyond. The park also has cultivated a unique Dyer’s Garden (plants that historically were used to dye cloth) to explore and learn from. The programs here are second to none. Pair a forest walk with one of their Date Nights for a special experience. Silverwood also hosts an amazing visitor center with a café/coffee shop, rental space for large events, a gift shop showcasing local art, and most important for those chilly days – a fireplace!


13351 Elm Creek Rd, Maple Grove, MN 55369 | 763-694-7700

Path through the prairie at Eastman Nature Center

Eastman Nature Center, part of Elm Creek Park Reserve, is another seemingly endless combination of ecosystems to experience as you immersive yourself in the simple joys of nature. It has floodplain forest, maples woods, and prairies. It has lots of wildlife to be seen and heard. It is also home to the award-winning podcast The Wandering Naturalist. Listen in as I take the hosts on a winter forest walk around Eastman. I love this park because it has many different locations where you can wander in close proximity to Rush Creek, which winds its way through the park.


7025 Victoria Drive, Victoria, MN 55386 | 763-694-7650

Grandmother Oak at Lowry Nature Center

If you live out west, or if you live in the city and want an enjoyable day in nature - head out to Victoria and experience the trails at Lowry, situated within the massive breadth of Carver Park Reserve. They have trails that focus on different species such as Aspen, Oak, Maple, and Cattails. I have spent most of my forest bathing time on the Oak and Maple trails, which are incredible. When you walk through these woods you feel like you are in another world, not like the city is only 30 minutes away.

Oh, and they have a pretty sweet sledding hill if you're feeling adventurous.


860 Cliff Road, Eagan, MN 55123 | 651-554-6530

Pedestrian Bridge at Lebanon Hills

With nearly 2000 acres, this park is one of the largest in the south metro area! It has miles and miles of trails, each offering a different type of woodland experience. My first experience here was in mid-winter and after wandering the trails for about 6 hours I felt that I was just beginning to scratch the surface of this park’s nooks and crannies.

If you like water, Lebanon Hills has fourteen different lakes to discover. The park also has this incredible bridge (seen above) and A-frame shelter designed by friends and fellow landscape architects Aune Fernandez Landscape Architects. Forest bathing experiences here are limitless, as there are often times (especially in winter) where solitude is your only companion for long stretches of time.

That brings us to the end of this particular list. 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 9 great places to forest bathe in Minneapolis-St. Paul whets your appetite for more. 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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