What is forest bathing?
It doesn't involve a bath. It doesn't need to occur in a bona fide forest. "Hinrin Yoku," appearing first in 1982 in Japan, is translated as "forest bathing" - a term encouraging individuals to spend time in nature. Grab a special someone, your kids, or a friend, and make plans to bask in the great outdoors! Plan to spend 1-2 hours engaged in nature; bringing a chair or blanket with food, drinks, or snacks can enhance an outdoor nature session.
Journalist Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative wrote that people need to spend time in a natural environment to improve their physical and mental health. According to a Business Insider article from July 22, 2018, research and correlated studies confirm that spending time in nature improves memory, and focus, reduces inflammation, fights depression and anxiety, and improves the immune system. Huntsville has transformed into a life-giving chromatic palette of lush greens. The eye-pleasing foliage beckons one to spend time in nature; here is a list of lush, green spots to absorb the great outdoors!
Tips to maximize time in nature
- Limit screen time as much as possible, put away phones, and silence notifications.
- Let yourself wonder about minute details in nature; for instance, become intrigued by the design of a plant, fascinated by the tree roots, and engulfed in the bird's and squirrels' movements.
- Engage all five senses and practice mindfulness by bringing each senses perception into your thoughts; what do I see, smell, hear, feel, or taste right now?
- Deep breathe, pray, or meditate to bring a sense of calm and increased relaxation.
Madison County Nature Trail
5000 Nature Trail Rd SE, Huntsville, AL 35803 | Phone: 256-883-9501 | More info here
The proper name is Madison County Nature Trail - those are the words you'll see when driving under the arched entrance. In our home, we call all of it "Green Mountain," as it's located on Green Mountain and accessible from South Huntsville's Bailey Cove road. The trail is enjoyable every season. That's the beauty of living in a four-season state; the mountain manifests newborn green in Spring, Winter is monochrome browns, grays, and blacks following Fall's brightly painted leaves – and summer is in full bloom! Every season is a sight to behold, and every time of day has a surprise.
The trail is light treading and great for families, circling a pond with a historic log cabin, chapel, and a covered bridge. We prefer to take our older parents to walk this trail; the land trust does a fabulous job keeping the paths smooth and safe for walkers of all ages. Streams add a relaxing water sound while minnows and frogs hunt for food and splash in the pond. Every time we go, our kids pick a different sitting spot; our favorite is midway through the trail on a bench to watch the ducks and fish while the dancing sunlight bounces between the trees and water.
Good to Know:
The trail is 1.5 miles long and takes 45 minutes to walk. It is open to the public from seven in the morning to thirty minutes before sunset. There are accessible public bathrooms, a water fountain, picnic tables, and swings.
Big Spring International Park
200 Church St SW, Huntsville, AL 35801| Phone: (256) 883-3754 More info here
Big Spring International Park, located in the heart of downtown, is the crown jewel of Huntsville. Once Huntsvilles original water source, John Hunt, Huntsville's founder, sought the spring as a prime spot for a new settlement in 1805. It became a lifeline to the settlers and continues to be a treasured spot for Huntsvillians. The Indian Creek canal runs through the park linking to the Tennessee River ten miles southward.
The spring is nestled under the steps leading down to the park on the east side. Lush green grass and shady trees are interspersed throughout the east side, providing the most shade for favorable picnic conditions. Follow Indian Creek down to Church Street SW, cross over to explore more of Big Springs Park, feed the fish and ducks explore the international installations. This side of the park is wide open and expansive, offering room for kids to run and play; follow the spring through Monroe Street past the Von Braun center as if meanders along walkways and fountains. Lush green spaces are all around for ball games, frisbee, picnics, or reading.
Good to know:
you'll want a few quarters on hand to purchase pellet food for fish and ducks. Wear comfortable walking shoes, a hat, and sunscreen on hot Summer days.
Huntsville Botanical Gardens
4747 Bob Wallace Ave SW, Huntsville, AL 35805 | phone: (256) 830-4447 | More info here
Thoughtfully laid gardens, paths, ponds, fountains, and green spaces connected with themed areas. Walking trails with serene streams running throughout, and swinging rope beds, hammocks, and sitting spots are nestled throughout the park. The Damson Aquatic Garden mesmerizes - the formal circular garden and pavilion are ideal for viewing the water lily pool. Relax on the swinging rope beds in front of the stately green lawn for a tranquil experience. The thoughtful detail put into every square foot of this garden is apparent; from stunning florals to wooded paths and grassy meadows, every course provides serenity. There are ample possibilities to explore aquatic habitats and diverse ecosystems, and the opportunity to find adventure is at every turn.
Good to know:
There are entrance fees, but the best bang for your buck is the yearly family membership. The gardens have bathrooms, water fountains, a gift shop, and an eating area.
Burritt On The Mountain
3101 Burritt Dr SE, Huntsville, AL 35801 | Phone (256) 536-2882 More info here
Huntsville newspapers from the 1900s touted Dr. Burritt as one of Huntsville's most colorful figures. He was undoubtedly one of the most generous, leaving his Round Top mountain mansion to the city of Huntsville to be used as an outdoor healing space for gardens and the greater good. Today, Burritt on the Mountian is a museum where Dr. Buritt's x-shaped mansion can be toured, and the grounds are thoroughly enjoyed. There is a colonial replicated village, schoolhouse, and barnyard with animals. Huntsville residents can enjoy the breathtakingly gorgeous view of the deck. When you visit, please make a point to learn the museum's purpose and the many enriching programs they feature throughout the year. I recommend a yearly pass so you can go to a picnic, read, or bask in an elevated world of greenery whenever you like!
Good to know:
there are bathrooms, light snacks, and drinks for purchase, and programming, so be sure to visit the website or call before visiting.
John Hunt Park
2151 Airport Road | Phone (256) 883-3296 More info here
John Hunt Park caught my eye while traveling Memorial Parkway, the rows of beautiful trees and trails that weave in and out of lush mounds of greenness with the sunlight hitting it just right, stunning from the road! Take a moment to drive around - it's a colossal park. If you go to an event at the park, ensure you know the exact location because it's easy to get lost.
This park has trees on the outer edges around the walking park side, but most are open and expansive. There are the softball, baseball, and soccer fields and traditional complexes. My recommendation for a lush green space is the Russell Brown Entrance. Amenities include a walking trail that weaves in and out of tree-lined paths with grass-covered mounds and fascinating shaped man-made lakes. It is lovely when you get deep into the exercise courses at the Russell Brown Entrance.
Good to Know:
It is more of an expansive space with the open skies illuminating the green grass and provides proximity to bathrooms, tables, and covered areas for gatherings. Take the kids to ride their scooters along the pavement or go with a friend to enjoy the exercise options at John Hunt Park.