Wellness in the Wild: How Forest Bathing Has Flourished in Vermont

Known as the Green Mountain State, Vermont is the perfect place to experience forest bathing
Known as the Green Mountain State, Vermont is the perfect place to experience forest bathing | © Riccardo Piazza @riccardo__piazza
Forest bathing, a Japanese ritual, has found a loyal following in Vermont’s Green Mountains, and it’s inspiring everything from spa experiences to the new syrups collection from Crabtree & Evelyn.

After months of being cooped up inside, it’s not surprising that people are spending more time outdoors. However, for Vermonters, being in nature is a way of life. The Green Mountain State is known for its lush, unspoilt landscape, and more recently, it’s become a hotspot for forest bathing. Known in Japan as shinrin-yoku (which translates as “taking in the forest”), forest bathing is a meditative experience that involves walking through greenery to relax, soak up the atmosphere and connect with nature.

Japan might have defined the practice, but Vermont residents have long been lovers of the great outdoors. “Vermont has 1.5 million acres of conservation land,” says Crabtree & Evelyn’s Ashley Souza. “The ease at which you can be one with nature is more than abundant. There are a plethora of wellness retreats, including hiking and yoga, but there’s really no need to pay to enjoy the beauty that is Vermont.”

Forest bathing has a loyal following in Vermont © Riccardo Piazza @riccardo__piazza

Locals and visitors can reap the benefits of forest bathing with expert guides like Duncan Murdoch, a Vermont native who lived in New York for 14 years before feeling the pull to return to his roots. In 2015, he received his nature and forest therapy guide certification from the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy and began leading forest-bathing experiences in Central Park. He has since returned to his home town to immerse himself in the practice and offer it to others fully.

“Our history as Vermonters is about having a relationship culturally with the land,” says Murdoch. “So, we’ve worked hard to preserve the beauty of the landscape, unlike any other place in this country. There are no billboards here. You can immerse yourself in nature very quickly. That’s what makes Vermont so special.”

So, how do people feel when they forest bathe? “Language is so limited when it comes to describing how you feel while forest bathing,” says Murdoch. “You drop into this zone where there is no time, or this time is not linear; it either flies or stands still. It’s this captivation and this fascination where you’re totally engaged with your surroundings, and you don’t feel like anything’s being demanded of you. You’re not being depleted, and your attention isn’t being grabbed. Your attention is being received.”

Forest bathing is perfect for Vermonters, who have always been in tune with nature © Riccardo Piazza @riccardo__piazza

For Souza, forest bathing was an opportunity to venture into the wild in the company of her beloved dog Bluto. It made her more sensitive to her surroundings, as she soaked up the ambience of the calm and quiet forest. “As we slowly explored our surroundings, sunlight peeked through the towering trees, like a spotlight on the beauty Mother Nature has created,” she recalls. “The lush moss, and grounding earth tones were a sight for sore eyes. We both stopped in our tracks when the soft, warm breeze brushed across our faces on a hot, humid day. The only noise we heard was that of the running river, which provided a cool moment for our tired feet. The forest has the ability to make you feel so small, yet more connected to yourself than anywhere else.”

Feel your stress fade away when you sync with nature © Riccardo Piazza @riccardo__piazza

Unlike other wooded destinations, Vermont goes through four distinct seasons, creating opportunities for drastically different forest-bathing experiences. “The diversity of the seasons here makes forest bathing particularly incredible,” says Murdoch. “I’ll walk through the same area and ask participants to focus on the sounds of birds chirping in the spring, the crystal sparkle of the snow in winter and the colors of the leaves in fall. It’s exciting to bear witness to the rhythms of the earth and acknowledge you have seasons within you as well.”

As forest bathing has become more mainstream, hotels in Vermont have started to promote the experience as a luxury offering, along with other amenities. The Lodge, at Spruce Peak in Stowe, runs a forest-bathing experience through the resort’s spa, and pairs it with another nature-inspired practice: earthing.

“We combined forest bathing and earthing for an enjoyable, meditative experience in the mountains of Vermont,” says Jessica Swartley, the spa director. “The benefit is twofold: to offer an eco-antidote to tech-boom burnout and to inspire guests to reconnect with and protect Vermont’s forests.”

It also takes mindfulness to new heights, and offers the chance to take a much-deserved time out in nature. “The only thing that is required is for you to observe, listen, feel and absorb all that is around you,” says Souza. “Lay in the dirt, climb a tree or run your fingers through the moss. Simply relish the quiet peace of the forest and forget about the chaos of the world for a few, sweet hours.”

You’ll learn how to reconnect with nature during a forest-bathing experience © Riccardo Piazza @riccardo__piazza

How forest bathing has inspired Crabtree & Evelyn’s new syrups collection

The Gardeners Syrups Collection is a range of ingestible syrups that have been tapped, crafted and manufactured at an organic maple farm in northern Vermont. “The forests of Vermont were the inspiration for our syrups line in The Gardener’s,” says Souza. “I have been fascinated with bringing syrup textures to life in personal care, as well as the wellness benefits of pure maple syrup used in my diet in place of refined sugar. Growing up in New England and having the artisan trade of tree tapping for syrup in my backyard, there was no better place for our products to be made, but in the forests of Vermont.”

© Crabtree & Evelyn 

Syrups can provide nourishment when they’re sourced straight from the tree – offering the power to transport you back to nature and the cool serenity of the forest-inspired the collection. Incorporating ingestible and topical products, it offers a holistic approach to nourishing authentic beauty from the inside out.

Indulge your senses and discover more at crabtree-evelyn.co.uk.