Forest Bathing in Indy


One of the great pleasures I have always enjoyed—and one that is still available and fully amazing to do during the coronavirus pandemic—is the act of “forest bathing.” This is the English translation of “shinrin-yoku,” a Japanese phrase that means taking in the forest through all the senses. Forest bathing means uncovering the restorative power that comes from immersing oneself in nature.

As many readers of this blog know, I am new to Indy. At first, I thought I would have to travel outside the city to find these opportunities. Though I have enjoyed hiking in places like Cataract Falls in Owen County, it has been a true delight to discover the amazing urban forests within Marion County. This summer, my daughter Eden and I discovered two trails that were immediate favorites to which I will return many times in the months and years to come.

The first is in Holliday Park. There is a small parking lot just East of Meridian, where 64th Street turns into Arden Dr. There a trailhead leads you into the Park underneath Meridian, with multiple trails to explore. A few steps into the woods, and you leave the traffic and city noises behind, replaced by the sounds of bird calls and distant laughter from the small groups of other park visitors. The trees envelop you while  the path stretches forward, meandering through the woods. Venture down along the White River, and you can even take off your shoes and splash around if you want. Each of the trails is numbered, with numbers etched into rocks at places where paths cross. The signage is a little confusing, but it’s pretty easy to find your way around. (You can also cheat a little, and put a pin in Google Maps where you park, and then find your way back to the pin.)

A second great spot we found was up in Eagle Creek. Eagle Creek also sports a number of different trails, each marked by color, and with tree blazes and a few signposts identifying the routes. It was joyous to follow a trail along the reservoir, the air scented with the smell of that large body of fresh water. Etiquette this summer during the pandemic has been good. People are either wearing masks, or if not—because you are outdoors and with family—as you pass another group, people tend to first smile and wave, and then give each other wide berths, and turn faces away from each other as you pass by. It felt very safe.

If you’re looking for a nature fix, these are just two great options available to us right here in Indy! If you haven’t been yet, you are in for a treat. I emerged from both trips feeling restored, happy, and calm. And we can all use a little bit more of that these days.

Here’s an article from a couple of years ago in Time magazine about the art of forest bathing. There’s also a book entitled Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, if you want to go even deeper.

While we do not often have the opportunity to create entire urban forests like these, we are in the business of finding parts of Indy that have fewer trees and can use more. If you would like to apply for trees in your neighborhood, we’ll come and plant them for you, for free! To find out more, click here.