4 Forest Bathing Spots in San Diego

4 Forest Bathing Spots in San Diego

Even just a few minutes in nature can do wonders for our health. Read on to learn about its many health benefits plus a few favorite forest bathing spots in San Diego County.

The waves of green, the leaves shuffling through the wind, the sound of your feet gently striking a dirt path. The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, aka “forest bathing”, is the quiet observance of taking nature in through all of our senses.

Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.

Dr. Qing Li

Forest Bathing And Its Health Benefits

Research conducted by Dr. Qing Li, a Japanese shinrin-yoku scientist, demonstrated that Forest Bathing increases the NK, or Natural Killer cell activity in people which helps to bolster the immune system and fight disease. This is part due to increased exposure to phytoncides – a natural substance emitted by trees and plants.

Forest bathing has been found to offer many health benefits, including:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced stress and cortisol levels
  • Improved immune system & accelerates recovery from illness
  • Alleviated symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Increased creativity

How do you “Forest Bathe”?


Forest bathing is not a hike. Instead of an outdoor adventure with a destination, forest bathing is all about tuning into your present moment and soaking in the beauty, sounds, smells and sights of the nature surrounding you.

  • Find a place in nature that speaks to you.

    While the Japanese phrase uses “forest” , you can activate health benefits when immersed in any spectrum of nature. So whether it’s a beach, forest, mountain, desert, a field of wildflowers, even your backyard or a local park – head to whatever is calling your name.

  • Go alone, or if you’re with others, consider walking in silence.

    Being alone will allow you to focus on the present moment and tune into your own senses and activate your own energy. If you’re out with others, agree on walking together in silence and if walking apart, connect on a meeting time.

  • Leave your phone and camera in the car. Completely unplug.

    We all know the value of unplugging from our devices – it helps to reduce anxiety, eliminate distractions and help to rewire your brain in positive ways. However, if the idea of leaving your phone behind would create additional anxiety for you, place it in the Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode to turn off notifications.

  • Improved immune system & accelerates recovery from illness

    Be intentional and mindful as you walk. Pay attention to how nature activates all of your senses.
    Sight: Allow your eyes to rest and relax as it scans nature. The color green is restorative and simply entering a path filled with lush, green trees can calm your nervous system.
    Touch: Placing your hand on a tree, touching a leaf or holding a rock in your palm can center you and connect you to the present moment
    Hearing: The first human languages may have, in fact, been derived from birdsong. Listen to hear the language of nature and what messages it might be sending to you.
    Smell: There’s more to smell in nature beyond flowers. Explore the natural scents of moss, mud, fallen leaves, streams, bark, pinecones.
    Taste: Eating unidentifiable berries and plants is not a wise idea. Instead, try sticking out your tongue and seeing how the air can activate your tastebuds.

  • Take time to be still. Sit, observe and soak it in.

    Nature often gifts us with a place to sit and pause like a large rock, fallen tree stump or patch of grass. Sit down and try closing your eyes or even putting your hands over your ears to see what it’s like to experience nature with one of your senses muted.

  • Write down what you experienced.

    Bring along a journal or sketchbook to translate your forest bathing session into words or images. This will help to anchor the experience in your mind and you can use it as a way to activate your senses at a later time.

Forest Bathing Spots in San Diego


Even just a few minutes in nature can do wonders for our health. So check out a few favorite spots in San Diego County for immersive nature bathing:

San Diego Botanic Garden

The San Diego Botanic Garden is an awe-inspiring ecosystem of 35 acres featuring plants from around the world. From bamboo gardens and ponds to tropical rainforests and waterfalls, the Botanic Garden is a perfect spot to spend a day soaking in a nature bath.

If you’re bringing kids and family with you on this experience there are two dedicated children’s garden areas, one on the southwest corner of the garden and the other in the northeast. Even little ones can benefit from all that nature has to offer.

300 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024.

Open Wednesday – Sunday, 10:00am-5:00pm.

Visit sdbgarden.org for admission information.

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve

The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve is full of natural, rugged beauty in its native plants, oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub and chaparral.

8833 Harmony Grove Rd, Escondido, CA 92029.

Open 8:00am – 5:30pm.

Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Offering over 100 miles of trails, beautiful Cuyamaca Rancho State Park is an idyllic place for nature bathing. There’s acres of oak woodland forest, creeks, cascades and camping. Head up the mountains for wildflower season during April-July for an extrasensory experience.

13652 Highway 79, Julian, CA 92036.

Open dawn until dusk.

Balboa Park

Get a dose of forest bathing, right in the heart of the city. Bypass the Zoo and museums and head to Balboa Park to access one of many trails traversing through the park.

Visit balboapark.org to pick a trail head starting point nearest you.

San Diego, CA 92101.

Virtual Forest Bathing

Can’t make it outdoors or stuck at work? Bring nature to you through virtual web cams or videos of famous San Diego nature spots:

Mission Beach Cam


Forest Holidays – UK


MIT News

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