Forest Bathing in Asheville North Carolina
Avid outdoor explorers are rapidly discovering the multitude of health benefits that can be gained by the practice of “shinrin-yoku” otherwise known as forest bathing. Originating in Japan, a forest bathing trip involves visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation. By breathing in wood essential oils (phytoncides) found in the trees, bathers enjoy the benefit of reduced stress, boosted immunity and even lower glucose levels for those with diabetes. By taking 30 minute walks, diabetic patients lowered their sugar levels by as much as 38% according to a study done in the late 90’s by the Department of Gerontotherapeutics at Hokkaido University School of Medicine. The tests demonstrated that spending time in a forest can significantly improve mental health and overall physical well-being. In 1982, the Forest Agency of Japan proposed adding forest bathing trips into maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
There is no better place to experience the benefits of forest bathing than the majestic region of Asheville, North Carolina. This quaint mountain city is ideally situated between the infamous Blue Ridge Parkway and the picturesque Great Smoky Mountains offering some of the most awe striking terrain in the world for outdoor exploration and activities. With a rich history, a happening art community, impressive eateries, local breweries, cultural events and beautiful scenery, Asheville has become one of the “hottest” places to experience a rich and fulfilling lifestyle. There are so many fun things to do in Asheville and the surrounding mountainous landscaping, that folks of all ages are being drawn to this spectacular outdoor playground. Health conscious Baby Boomers recognize this trend and are flocking to buy green conscious homes in the gated communities near Asheville.
Discovered by artists over a hundred years, the downtown transformation began in the mid 1980’s and today this historic town continues to evolve. One of the main attractions is the River Arts District which is located on a one mile stretch along the French Broad River featuring 22 historical buildings and impressive galleries from the over 200 artists who have made Asheville home. Restaurants continue to spring up offering a wide array of choices from “find dining” to farm-to-table choices. Local breweries create unique beer offerings and residents enjoy people watching while sipping cold beverages in this amazing Art Deco themed town. The diverse Asheville communities create a wide array of residents. College students, “hippies”, hikers, artists, and retirees all blend to provide the ideal coexistence of young and old which keeps the heartbeat alive in this scenic city. Outdoor activities in the surrounding national parks provide the perfect opportunity to enrich the soul and improve health through forest bathing trips.
Asheville has an average elevation of 2,165 feet above sea level and is close in proximity to three rivers, the French Broad, Nantahala and Nolichucky which has made it one of the most sought-after destinations for whitewater rafting. Staying active is the way of life and exploring the impressive preserved forestry and wildlife is only a short drive away from the center of town. Chimney Rock State Park is only 30 minutes away and is a popular spot to take in the impressive views and bond with nature. The central attraction is the jutting “chimney rock” that rises 315 feet above the ground. Adventurers are invited to climb the formation while others can rise to the top by a 26-floor elevator to experience the awesome views from this incredible vantage point.
With sweeping views of the Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure, this 3,260-acre state park has a wide variety of trails for exploration. Preserved forestry, cascading waterfalls and a wide array of wildlife species make this the perfect spot for a forest bathing trip. The Hickory Nut Falls Trail provides a moderate hike that leads to the base of the astounding 404-foot waterfall and is well worth the journey. Lake Lure is immaculate and considered the ultimate boating and fishing destination. With 21 miles of shoreline, anglers love to fish for the wide variety of species that inhabit the lake: Rainbow and Brown Trout, Large Mouth, Small Mouth and White Bass, Crappie, Bluegill and Sun perch provide the perfect fresh and healthy meal after a long day of hiking or mountain biking.
Driving through the mountainous terrain is quite the adventure as the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway provides the most awestriking views and is considered to be “America’s most scenic drive” in the country. The Parkway allows easy access to hiking trails, and campground sites as it meanders through the mountains providing captivating views of this panoramic region. Seasonal changes provide impressive kaleidoscopic views of the wide variety of mountain wild flowers and bright yellow and orange reflect the foliage in the fall. Once folks experience the awesome scenery they soon come to realize why locals call Asheville, the “Land of the Sky”. This is indeed a great place for active Boomers to shop for homes in the impeccably designed gated communities near Asheville that incorporate the environment into their master planned developments.
Another amazing place to explore is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which is the number one most visited park in the country with over 9 million visitors a year. Inhabited by the Cherokee Indians for more than 14,000 years, this massive 520,000-acre preserved park features 2000 acres of virgin forestry, 2100 miles of crystal clear mountain streams and rivers, cascading waterfalls, over 1400 varieties of wildflowers and lush towering woodlands providing the ideal place to plan a forest bathing excursion. There are 800 miles of hiking trails that meander through this magical mountainous region for avid outdoor thrill seekers to experience the most majestic landscaping in the country.
History buffs will enjoy The Little Cataloochee Trail which is a steep 5.2-mile trail that passes by turn of the century log cabins, a church and a cemetery. The Park is recognized as an “International Biosphere Reserve” and is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Besides hiking; tubing, fly fishing, swimming, camping, bird watching, foraging and mountain biking are all favorite past times at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Elk Reintroduction Program in the Cataloochee Valley was started in 2001 in an attempt to regain the fading population and today elks can be easily spotted throughout the region. Black bears (over 1500), white-tailed deer, raccoons, bobcats, beavers and chipmunks are only a few of the species found residing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are 200 bird species, 66 mammals, 50 fish, 39 reptiles, and 43 amphibians who reside in the park according to park officials. Other species reintroduced are River Otters and Peregrin Falcons.
For the perfect view, Clingmans Dome sits at an elevation of 6,643 feet and is the third highest elevation in the Appalachian Mountain Range with views expanding over a hundred miles. You can also access the Appalachian Trail at the base of the lookout. This is truly a “one-of-kind” adventure that keeps visitors coming back and Asheville communities thriving. That is why Asheville is quickly becoming one of the happiest places to live in post-retirement. With all the incredible natural amenities encompassing the area, a healthy active outdoor lifestyle and all the fun things to do in Asheville, Baby Boomers love living in this paradise found.
Another great park located only 40 miles northeast of downtown Asheville, is the 500,000-acre Pisgah National Park that boasts hundreds of miles of trails, impressive waterfalls and inviting swimming holes. Situated along bubbling whitewater rivers, this park provides a multitude of outdoor excursions to satisfy the soul and enhance well-being. Biking, hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, rock climbing and horseback riding are all favorite activities that take place here. Imagine breathing fresh mountain air while taking in the captivating scenery at an elevation of 6,000 feet which is the highest point in the eastern United States. There are 3 areas designated by the National Wilderness Preservation System.
For waterfalls visit the Pisgah Ranger District; for a challenging hike try the Grandfather Ranger District; and equestrians will find the Appalachian District horse friendly. There are also great fishing spots, picnic coves and campgrounds for family fun and entertainment. Trails provide the perfect retreat, great exercise and the ideal escape from the stress of everyday living. Mountain biking is highly popular here and expert tour guides are available at the Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventures to customize the ideal ride. The park is accessible off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 408.6 or by taking Interstate 26 north of downtown Asheville.
Within the borders of Pisgah National Park, gardeners and green thumbs will find enchantment with a stroll through the 434-acre campus of the North Carolina Arboretum located at milepost 393 off the infamous Blue Ridge Parkway. Strolls along the 10 miles of lush forests include biking trails, garden tours, Art Walk, and a must see Bonsai Exhibition Garden. Cultivated gardens grace 65 acres and provide some amazing views of flora, including the Nation Native Azalea Collection. There are also nature activities, cultural events, an impressive café and gift shop for visiting guests. This is a great place to step back and “smell the roses”. Culture radiates throughout the diversified Asheville communities and has driven discerning home shoppers to discover the exceptional properties that are available around in and around Asheville. Sophistication bonding with nature is the theme of living in this trendy, free-spirited mountain oasis.
Another day trip less than an hour south of Asheville (between Hendersonville and Brevard) is the incredible DuPont State Recreational Forest. Here folks will find 84 miles of superbly maintained trails through some awestriking topography that includes waterfalls, easy access paths strategically laid out upon this 10,400-acre retreat. There are four waterfalls including the Triple Falls on the Little River, and the Grassy Creek Falls that provide the perfect backdrop for a photo op.
Inside the city, the George Washington Carver Park, once a pile of waste, now has an incredible collection of edible fruits and nuts. Over 40 varieties grow here including figs, paw-paws, apples, pears, peaches and even chestnut, pecan and hazelnut trees. A vegetable garden provides exceptional produce and the butterfly garden compliments the boardwalk that meanders through this distinctive and enticing downtown venue. Established in 2001, this was one of the first “edible gardens” created in the country. History, innovation and beautiful scenery have definitely put Asheville on the map of places to be and live in North Carolina.
Eating healthy is a priority for folks who live in Asheville. There are so many wonderful restaurants to choose from after working up an appetite on the hiking trails. Farm-to-fresh eateries and regional favorites are readily available featuring some of the best restaurant choices in North Carolina. “No Taste Like Home” is a unique forage-to-table experience that allows visitors the chance to pick their own ingredients from the surrounding forestry guided by experts who identify the edible roots, berries and mushrooms. The fun part of the journey is eating the treasures collected meticulously prepared at one of six local restaurants. This is a great way to learn about healthy food choices readily available in the region plus enjoy a fabulous meal. Ranked as one of Fodor’s ‘best food experiences in the world’,” No Taste Like Home” is a must-try when visiting Asheville.
There are so many things to do in Asheville words can’t get near expressing the beauty of this one-of-a kind landscaping and the exciting culture that radiates within this quaint mountain town. It is truly exceptional. For the best of both worlds, and of course the ultimate forest bathing experience, Asheville is indeed the city to visit in North Carolina. Properties found within the gated communities near Asheville are a smart investment in your health and wellbeing. Plan a visit today, it is truly mesmerizing.
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