If the title hooked you with thoughts of swimming in beautiful mountain streams, let us explain what forest bathing really is and why it's allowed at the Ramapo Valley County Reservation in Mahwah, New Jersey - even in cold weather. "Forest bathing" is a Japanese-inspired concept of losing yourself in the beauty of nature and reaching a higher level of self-awareness and calm by becoming "one" with the trees and plants around you. We found that a short day trip to the Ramapo Reservation with its 4,000 acres of trails was the perfect place to get "lost" in the woods. During this Covid-era, the parking lot is often full early on weekend days, but we found that on a beautiful fall weekday, there were plenty of spots available even at noon. The first signs that we saw before starting our hike were a little intimidating.
Throwing caution to the wind, we set out on our walk. We actually took the warnings seriously, and focused on our surroundings. On our hike, we saw nothing more dangerous than a group of high school girls doing exercises by the lakeside with their instructor while we let ourselves bathe in the autumn colors all around us.
We followed yellow trail markers on a gentle climb up to a waterfall. Along the path we passed several people with their very well-behaved dogs on and off-leash.
Children and adults can enjoy the trails with plenty of space for social distancing.
Stone steps lend a sense of fantasy to the "forest bath".
Fishing is allowed with a license. No license is necessary for those under 14.
In addition to free parking and hiking, there is camping, fishing and cross country skiing in season. Bus transportation from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan brings visitors to nearby Ramapo College (a short walk from the reservation entrance).