In Vancouver, we are lucky to be surrounded by wilderness. A few hours drive out of the city will get you to rarely-explored nature (or just a ride over to North Vancouver). For most people, escaping to the forest brings a certain pleasure that isn’t experienced anywhere else.
In Japan, this feeling stems from a practice known as forest bathing (or shinrin-yoku). Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.
Forest bathing does not include exercise like hiking or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses and bridging the gap between us and the natural world. (Read more about the benefits of forest bathing here). Best of all, you can participate in forest bathing no matter what the weather is doing (trees act as natural umbrellas!)
So when you’re feeling stressed out about rent increases, wage decreases, traffic, pollution, or many of the other worries that cross our minds on a typical day, maybe it’s time to head into the forest…
If you are more the type who might enjoy a guided tour into forest bathing, check out Vancouver’s first certified ‘forest therapy guide‘, or wander through some of Vancouver’s quieter forests listed below.
If you don’t want to venture too far from the big city, why not venture into the trail system of Stanley Park? Easily accessible by transit, bike, or foot, Stanley Park is more than just the Seawall.
In fact, the many forest trails in Stanley park offer more than 27 km of quiet refuge, far from the maddening crowd, on the park’s more developed periphery. Click here to view a map of the park’s wide selection of trails.
Pacific Spirit Regional Park
Located near the UBC campus in Point Grey, the Pacific Spirit Regional Park is a stunning 874-hectare park located in the University Endowment Lands. The map of the park reveals just how large scale the area is, with over 30 separate trails interconnecting throughout the park.
If you want to maintain a level of peaceful reflection, maybe stay away from the bicycle-friendly trails. If you’d like to bring a dog along with you to enjoy the serenity, the park is very welcoming to dogs and boasts over 360,000 dog visits each year. However, watch the signs to make sure you’re on a dog-friendly trail.
Despite being so close to the Capilano Suspension Bridge and relatively easy to access via Transit, the trails around Capilano Canyon in North Vancouver are still relatively quiet. On a rainy day, you’re likely to cross paths with a few other joggers or dog walkers, but more often than not you’ll find the forest completely quiet for you.
There are several trail systems in the Capilano Canyon, including a longer loop that passes over the Cleveland Dam. There are lots of side trails throughout the park as well, so it’s fun to discover near areas close to the rushing river water. Visit the Vancouver Trails website for more information on the trails of Cap Canyon.
On a sunny, summer day it can be hard to find a parking spot for the Lynn Headwaters trail head, for good reason. The trails in Lynn Headwaters are long, quiet (despite the crowds) and offer excellent forest bathing opportunities. While the main trail is quite busy with dogs, head up to do the Lynn Loop for a more peaceful option.
After branching away from the main trail, it’s rare to run into anyone else other than small groups of hikers or the occasional trail runner. If you are feeling so inclined, the crowds disappear even more when the Loop Trail changes into the Headwaters Trail about 2km in. Take a look at the park map to plan your route.
Golden Ears Park
If you avoid the most popular trails in Golden Ears Park, it can seem like you’re in a whole different world, far-far away from the city. As one of the largest parks in the province, Golden Ears is a paradise for those on the quest for solitude in nature.
There is an extensive trail system that’s just waiting to be explored. Even the long drive into the centre of the park gives you the feeling that you’re leaving all your troubles behind as you glide through a tree-lined road deep into the forest. Because the park is so large, it’s a good idea to have some idea of where you will be walking, so make sure to study the trail map before you head out.