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Connect to the Restorative Power of Nature

Experience the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku in the beautiful Southern Appalachian mountain forests of Sylva, Cashiers, and Highlands, NC


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Hi, I’m Mark Ellison. I can help you experience the restorative power of nature through the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, also called forest therapy. I am certified as a forest therapy guide and forest therapy trail consultant by the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.

My walks are in Pinnacle Park in Sylva, NC which is the only certified forest therapy trail in North Carolina and one of 20 in the world, and in Highlands and Cashiers on public properties of the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. Located in Jackson County, we are in the epicenter of wellness and adventure experiences in the Great Smoky Mountains region of Western North Carolina. 

Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is simple: by spending leisurely time in nature, we achieve scientifically-demonstrated health benefits and we connect with the natural environment. Guided walks facilitate sensory awareness, invite you to slow down, and open the door for nature to heal.

Walks are approximately 2.5 hours and are not strenuous. I will offer several invitations for you to experience nature through your senses. The walk ends with a relaxing tea ceremony.

I earned my doctorate in adult education and human resource development from North Carolina State University, focusing my research on the restorative benefits of hiking in wilderness solitude, which is when I learned about shinrin-yoku. This, combined with my love of helping people experience and learn about the natural environment through walks, help me provide a unique sensory experience in the lush forests of Western North Carolina. 


I helped introduce shinrin-yoku to the United States in January 2012 in an article I wrote for my blog, and followed up several months later with an interview of Dr. Qing Li, who helped develop the practice of shinrin-yoku in Japan in the 1980's. I began to teach about shinrin-yoku in my nature and human health classes and offering forest therapy walks in 2012 as well.


I met with Dr. Li in 2013 to learn more about the practice and to assist him with a presentation about shinrin-yoku at the joint conference of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations and the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals in Traverse City, MI.  

In October 2023 I visited Japan and was guided on the trails where shinrin-yoku originated and learned more about how it is practiced there.

My walks have been featured by: 

-Smoky Mountain News

-National Geographic

-Garden & Gun

-Orlando Magazine

-The Laurel Magazine (Highlands & Cashiers)

-This Working Life (2022 Australian Career Book of Year)

-North Carolina Travel Guide 2023

-South Magazine (magazine of the coastal south)

-First Presbyterian Church Sylva, NC

-Plateau Magazine (Highlands/Cashiers)

-Spectrum News North Carolina

-National Geographic:1000 Perfect Weekends Book

-Eating Well Magazine

-Our State Magazine

-North Carolina Travel Guide 2021

-O Magazine (Oprah)

-Birmingham Home & Garden

-Mountain Xpress 

-Ocala Style

-A Plus (Ashton Kutcher’s digital magazine) 

I am also a contributing writer for The Appalachian Trail Conservancy's website and Journeys Magazine on topics related to the importance of dark night skies, healthy forests,  what inspires us to be in nature, and conservation.

I am an experienced public speaker and experiential learning  facilitator developing and delivering virtual and in person wellness, self care and nature/forest therapy programs for medical centers, chambers of commerce, colleges, retirement communities and corporate clients.

My commitment to practicing a Leave No Trace philosophy in my outdoor adventures was highlighted by the State of North Carolina on VisitNC.


Schedule a walk to experience the restorative power of shinrin-yoku in the beautiful Southern Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. Grab a cool t-shirt to remember your time in this amazing place-proceeds help me offer free walks to the community.

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With singer/songwriter Amy Grant on her farm near Nashville, TN guiding a music and forest therapy experience for senior adults for the Trails Please Foundation.

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Photo by Ryan Donnell
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