Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT)

Certify Your Trail, Place or Space

Managers and staff who are stewards of natural areas often embrace, as a core part of their mission, developing programs that attract people to the land. Most often, these programs are recreation activity based or designed to improve one’s scientific knowledge of the natural world. Forest Bathing and Relational Forest Therapy experiences offer another approach, encouraging participants to slow down and experience nature through their senses. Forest Therapy seeks to foster a deep, personal connection to the land, increasing the likelihood that visitors will repeatedly return to these places over and over again.

By certifying natural areas as forest therapy sites, we unlock a range of benefits for patrons, visitors, and land managers, along with the lands in their care.

Reciprocity: Reciprocity is an inherent value of certified forest therapy sites. These spaces encourage a reciprocal relationship between participants and the natural environment. As individuals immerse themselves in the healing power of nature, they develop a deeper appreciation and understanding of the interconnectedness between humans and the ecosystem. This understanding inspires a sense of responsibility to give back and contribute to the well-being of the natural world. Through Relational Forest Therapy, participants actively engage in reciprocity, recognizing that by caring for the environment, they enhance their own well-being and contribute to the flourishing of the larger ecosystem. This reciprocal relationship fosters a harmonious coexistence between humans and nature, benefiting both parties and creating a positive ripple effect in the broader community.

Community: Certified forest therapy sites strengthen the community fabric. These designated areas become gathering points for individuals who share a passion for nature and well-being. They create a sense of belonging and camaraderie among participants, fostering a supportive community where people can connect, share experiences, and spend time in nature together. This sense of community extends beyond the forest therapy sites, creating opportunities for collaboration, partnerships, events, and initiatives that promote overall well-being and environmental consciousness.

Engagement: Certified forest therapy trails, spaces and places offer innovative and unique opportunities for patron engagement. Forest Therapy invites participants to approach the land slowly and with curiosity. These designated spaces offer individuals seeking the healing benefits of nature, creating a platform for meaningful interactions and fostering a deep sense of connection. By working together, we can collectively advocate and strengthen our ability to meet the ecological and societal challenges we face today.

Consistency: Certification ensures a consistent and high-quality experience for participants and guests. This certification ensures that guides and practitioners can confidently lead their participants into environments that have been professionally assessed and deemed beneficial for the immersive experiences that characterize Forest Therapy. Furthermore, it allows guides to focus on their core practice of facilitating deep connections between individuals and the natural world, knowing that the trails meet the necessary criteria to support the therapeutic journey. This network, therefore, acts as a vetted resource, enhancing the credibility of the practice while ensuring consistent and high-quality experiences for those seeking the restorative benefits of nature

What types of locations or places are good candidates for certification?

A suitable trail, space or place is an area where people of a wide range of fitness levels can interact with nature, primarily through their senses. The following descriptions help illustrate the types of areas that the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy considers for certification.

Trails

Trails play a significant role in providing access to nature and providing pathways in wild spaces for many types of outdoor recreational activities. Simply put, a trail is a designated path or route, typically found in natural environments, that allows for people to walk, hike or paddle through. Consider all trail types when exploring opportunities for certification (i.e. Water Trails - routes along shorelines, rivers, creeks, etc.).

Spaces

Spaces refer to specific areas within a natural environment that are conducive to providing accessible, immersive, sensory experiences. Spaces that may be suitable for certification include pollinator gardens, courtyards, tranquil meadows, secluded groves, open clearings or other natural spaces that offer a sense of peace, tranquility, and connection with the natural world. Forest therapy practitioners often identify and utilize these spaces to guide participants in areas where a trail is not present.

Places

These locations encompass a diverse range of natural settings, such as entire forests, woodlands, parks, arboretums and botanic gardens, offering ample pathways and opportunities for participants to deeply connect with nature. Certifying "places" for forest therapy may involve identifying multiple trails and/or spaces within the site area with the potential to provide an ideal and supportive environment for forest therapy practices.

Ask yourself, "Is this a place where people can connect deeply with nature?" If the answer is yes, then the site is probably a good candidate for certification.

The process of exploring for and discovering a suitable trail, space or place need not be confined to wild areas. It may also include places such as urban parks, landscaped grounds of hospitals, community gardens, arboretums and botanical gardens.

We consider any trail or site that allows for and supports interaction between people and the more-than-human world of Nature. Certification is not based on how many of the criteria elements are met, rather we assess to what degree the criteria elements are present and how we may be able to nurture and enhance those elements. Any organization seeking to have a trail or site designated as a certified Forest Therapy site will receive a thorough assessment that includes recommendations to improve or enhance the Forest Therapy experience for participants and practitioners alike.

ANFT certified trails, spaces and places fall into three categories:

Guided

These locations are purposefully designed to support Forest Therapy guides and the individuals they lead, ensuring an optimal and enriching experience. Guided experiences do not include invitational signage and are not intended for self-guided forest therapy sessions.

Self-Guided

These locations leverage signage and/or other cues to enable visitors to replicate the transformative experience of a guided Forest Therapy session without the direct presence of a guide.

Hybrid

These locations cater to both guides and participants through the implementation of invitational signage, QR Codes, or other methodology. Signs and/or a Self-Guide (i.e. brochure, pamphlet, etc) must be provided to facilitate a fully self-guided experience when a guide is unavailable or not present.

How do I get a trail, space or place certified?

Step 1
Submit an Initial Inquiry

A landowner or land manager may express interest in certification by reaching out to the Association directly or by contacting an ANFT Certification Consultant in close proximity to the project location. ANFT Certification Consultants are highly qualified professionals who have undergone extensive training and earned certification through ANFT as forest therapy guides. In addition to their comprehensive guide training, they have also completed specialized training to enhance their skills in consulting with land use managers, assessing site locations and providing recommendations for certification to ANFT’s global network of certified Forest Therapy Trails, Spaces & Places. To find an ANFT Certification Consultant in your area, please utilize the directory below. Our directory ensures that you have access to highly skilled, experienced professionals who can guide you through the certification process effectively. If there is not a consultant in proximity to your location, please contact the Association directly.

Step 2
Assessment Application (Phase I)

During this phase, the primary objective is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the location, with a specific focus on safety, infrastructure, ease of access, design, ecosystem health, and management as it relates to the practice and experience of Forest Therapy. Together with your ANFT Certification Consultant, you or your designated land manager will undertake a thorough on-site evaluation to complete the assessment. To aid in documentation and effective communication of opportunities, photos and videos will be taken during this process. The consultant will subsequently offer recommendations that offer the potential to enhance the Forest therapy experience, address any safety related concerns and help to develop Forest Therapy invitations for specific locations within the site.

Upon completion of Phase 1, the Program Director will thoroughly review and assess the submitted documents and proposed recommendations/modifications. Subsequently, it will be the responsibility of the respective land managers/owners to address any safety concerns and/or recommendations outlined in the Phase 1 assessment.

Step 3
Essential Recommendations (Phase II)

Once any essential (safety related) recommendations have been addressed or mitigated, the ANFT Certification Consultant will revisit the site and collaborate with you or your designated land manager to conduct a comprehensive reassessment. During this process, any site additional improvements or modifications will be documented. In addition, your ANFT Certification Consultant will provide Forest Therapy invitations and placement guidance for any signage.

Step 4
Submit for Review and Endorsement

Once the assessment, supporting documentation and final recommendations are submitted by the consultant for review and approval by ANFT, the site will be granted the official status of an ANFT Certified Forest Therapy Trail, Space, or Place. Once a trail, space or place has been certified, the certification remains active in perpetuity.

STEP 1:
Submit an initial inquiry

Step 1

A landowner or land manager may express interest in certification by reaching out to the Association directly or by contacting an ANFT Certification Consultant in close proximity to the project location. ANFT Certification Consultants are highly qualified professionals who have undergone extensive training and earned certification through ANFT as forest therapy guides. In addition to their comprehensive guide training, they have also completed specialized training to enhance their skills in consulting with land use managers, assessing site locations and providing recommendations for certification to ANFT’s global network of certified Forest Therapy Trails, Spaces & Places. To find an ANFT Certification Consultant in your area, please utilize the directory below. Our directory ensures that you have access to highly skilled, experienced professionals who can guide you through the certification process effectively. If there is not a consultant in proximity to your location, please contact the Association directly.

STEP 2:
Develop the formal Assessment Application (Phase I)

Step 2

During this phase, the primary objective is to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the location, with a specific focus on safety, infrastructure, ease of access, design, ecosystem health, and management as it relates to the practice and experience of Forest Therapy. Together with your ANFT Certification Consultant, you or your designated land manager will undertake a thorough on-site evaluation to complete the assessment. To aid in documentation and effective communication of opportunities, photos and videos will be taken during this process. The consultant will subsequently offer recommendations that offer the potential to enhance the Forest therapy experience, address any safety related concerns and help to develop Forest Therapy invitations for specific locations within the site.

Upon completion of Phase 1, the Program Director will thoroughly review and assess the submitted documents and proposed recommendations/modifications. Subsequently, it will be the responsibility of the respective land managers/owners to address any safety concerns and/or recommendations outlined in the Phase 1 assessment.

STEP 3:
Address any essential recommendations (Phase II)

Step 3

Once any essential (safety related) recommendations have been addressed or mitigated, the ANFT Certification Consultant will revisit the site and collaborate with you or your designated land manager to conduct a comprehensive reassessment. During this process, any site additional improvements or modifications will be documented. In addition, your ANFT Certification Consultant will provide Forest Therapy invitations and placement guidance for any signage.

STEP 4
Submit for review and endorsement

Step 4

Once the assessment, supporting documentation and final recommendations are submitted by the consultant for review and approval by ANFT, the site will be granted the official status of an ANFT Certified Forest Therapy Trail, Space, or Place. Once a trail, space or place has been certified, the certification remains active in perpetuity.

Get started today! Find a consultant or contact ANFT directly.

What is the certification criteria?

We consider any trail or site that allows for and supports interaction between people and the more-than-human world of Nature. Each site is carefully assessed utilizing criteria that evaluate the ecological health of the site, ease of access and safety. Additionally, we examine how infrastructure and signage can support both guided and self-guided Forest Therapy experiences.

Certified trails, spaces and places are specifically designated for their ability to provide interaction between participants and nature while promoting and fostering the ecological health and vitality of the site.

The evaluation and assessment encompasses six distinct categories: ecosystem health, safety, infrastructure, ease of access, design considerations, and management. Each category consists of multiple sub-scale elements that undergo thorough review.

Ecosystem Health – Assessing ecosystem health is of paramount importance in the certification process as it directly relates to creating a supportive environment for forest therapy. Evaluating the health of the ecosystem involves considering factors such as the presence of native plants and animals, tree diversity, the availability of access to water sources, a lush and diverse tree canopy and understory, impacts of human activities, including the presence of invasive species. Additionally, the assessment extends to factors like sound-scape and light pollution, which can significantly impact the overall experience. Certified sites foster a thriving and resilient ecosystem, providing visitors with an immersive and authentic forest therapy experience that nurtures their well-being and connection with nature.

Safety – Certification criteria for forest therapy sites not only focus on the therapeutic aspects but also prioritize participant safety. The assessment process involves thorough evaluations of site safety measures and infrastructure considerations. This includes inspecting the presence and stability of railings and barriers where necessary, ensuring that hazardous trees or limbs are promptly identified and removed, assessing shoreline access and stream crossing safety, evaluation of potentially dangerous flora and fauna, and assessing the responsiveness of local law enforcement and emergency medical response systems. By assessing these safety factors, participants can engage in forest therapy with confidence, knowing that the site has been thoroughly vetted for potential risks. Such measures foster a sense of security, allowing individuals to fully embrace the healing benefits of nature.

Infrastructure – Evaluating the infrastructure of potential forest therapy sites, such as roads, parking lots, shelters, and restrooms, is a crucial step in the certification process. Ensuring good road conditions and sufficient parking spaces helps participants easily access the site and focus on their experience, without logistical challenges. The availability of shelters provides protection during inclement weather, allowing sessions to proceed smoothly. Well-maintained, clean restrooms contribute to participant comfort and hygiene, fostering a positive atmosphere. By thoroughly assessing and addressing these infrastructure aspects, forest therapy sites support an environment where participants can fully engage in the transformative practice of forest therapy.

Ease of Access – Assessing a candidate site for ease of access is important to ensure that forest therapy practices and experiences are as inclusive and accessible as possible to all individuals. The evaluation process involves considering the availability of parking and restroom facilities, entry fees and any other potential barriers to access. By thoroughly assessing these factors, forest therapy sites strive to create an inclusive environment, allowing individuals with diverse abilities and resources to fully participate and benefit from the experience.

Design Considerations – A crucial step in the certification process is accessing existing site design features that have the potential to support optimal forest therapy experiences. This assessment involves evaluating various site design elements, including trail grade and width, identifying potential hazards, assessing the availability of gathering and resting places, considering scenic views, and examining the potential for off-trail access. By carefully evaluating these design features, ANFT can better determine if the site provides suitable conditions for visitors to engage in forest therapy, supporting a safe, comfortable, and immersive experience that maximizes the therapeutic benefits of the natural surroundings.

Management – For land managers or agencies responsible for managing a certified trail, space, or place, their approach is vital in supporting forest therapy and creating a conducive environment for visitors. A committed land manager or agency recognizes the value of forest therapy and incorporates it into their programming when possible. They prioritize establishing partnerships with various stakeholders, including local communities and government agencies in support of providing recreational and nature programming that supports the health and wellness of visitors and the site alike. Additionally, the land manager or agency provides consistent site maintenance and upkeep, ensuring that the area is well-maintained, safe, and welcoming for visitors. By stewarding these sites, land managers and agencies help create an environment that supports forest therapy, enhances visitor experiences, and fosters a lasting connection between people and the natural world.

These criteria strive to provide a consistent standard for both forest therapy practitioners and participants. Certified forest therapy trails and sites provide an optimal environment for experiencing the therapeutic benefits of nature.

What is the cost of certification?

The cost of certification is dependent on several key factors. In general, land managers can expect to invest approximately $1500 – $3000 for the certification of a trail, space or place. The total investment that the land manager will make will largely depend on the type/kind of signage or installations (sit spots, landscape features, safety enhancements, etc.) the land manager chooses to include and/or what is deemed essential to meet baseline certification standards.

The costs associated with certification include:

Consultant Fees
– The certification of a trail, space or place requires a thorough assessment by an ANFT Certification Consultant to determine how and to what degree the site meets the standards and criteria identified by the ANFT. ANFT Certification Consultants are certified Forest Therapy Guides that have undergone additional training and certification to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to guide and support land managers through the certification process. ANFT Certification Consultant fees are are dependent on the following factors:

  • Proximity to the project location
  • Number of site visits needed (or the number of hours expected to spend on the project)
  • Level of involvement and/or the development of a self-guide and invitations (if certifying a self guided or hybrid -guided and self guided experience)
  • Potential travel and/or lodging costs*

Typically ANFT Certification Consultants charge between $500 – $750 for phase 1 and $500 – $750 for phase 2 -OR- $100 – $150 per hour (average consulting fees in the US) plus any travel or lodging that may be required.

*Travel and/or lodging only applicable when an ANFT Certification Consultant is not geographically located within proximity to the Land Manager.

ANFT Certification Sponsorship Fee – The certification sponsorship fee to be paid by the land manager to ANFT is $1000 USD. 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are eligible to receive up to a 30% DISCOUNT depending on the organization’s needs. ANFT provides full support and guidance throughout the certification process, including but not limited to review of all required site assessment and application documentation. This includes site photos and video documentation, proposed invitational signage (or other media type), self-guides, brochures and site maps.

ANFT will also provide graphic design files for signage. Certification logos will be provided during Phase I of the project. A low-resolution version will be shared initially and can be used for drafting proposed signage. A high-resolution version for printing/production will be shared upon certification. In addition, ANFT certified trails, spaces & places are featured prominently on ANFT’s website (on our Global Network of Certified Trails, Spaces & Places Map), announced in our monthly newsletter reaching over 25,000 individuals and shared on our multiple social media channels.

Signage – A sign indicating that the trail, space or place is an official ANFT certified Forest Therapy site will be required at the trailhead or near the entry to the site. Signs should stand a minimum of 4 feet above ground level with dimensions of no less than 16″ wide and 16″ high. QR codes should be placed on this signage to guide visitors to more information about Forest Therapy. Invitational and interpretive signage may also be utilized.

* For invitational signage, alternative and potentially more economical options are also acceptable (i.e. brochures, QR Codes, virtual guides, etc). Your ANFT Certification Consultant can provide options that will support and reflect your specific site character and personality.

Recommendations (essential and non-essential) 
- Recommendations will be provided by the ANFT Certification Consultant upon completion of the initial assessment (Phase I).

Recommendations are either “essential” or “non-essential”. Essential recommendations are typically improvements to safety. Examples of essential recommendations may include the removal of a hazardous tree or branch, a sign or indicator alerting visitors to a patch of poison oak or other poisonous plants, the installation of a guard rail or barrier when the risk of a serious fall or injury is likely. When a recommendation is deemed essential, the site cannot be granted certification until the recommendation has been addressed.

Non-essential (optional) recommendations may include the construction of a small tea hut, the installation of water features, the planting of fragrant herbs and flowers, installation of spaces where rocks can be moved freely, the installation of sit spot benches or inclined benches, trail modification to provide access to water or inner forest, and many more.

Once a trail, space or place has been certified, the certification remains active in perpetuity (forever). When the land manager establishes a certified site, they are agreeing to ensure the trail and/or designated site is maintained in accordance with the standards established during the initial review and designation process, promptly making any necessary repairs when needed.

Additional Resources & Information

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