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Explore Wellness in the Harrison River Valley

By Tracey Rayson

Healing Your Body in Nature

If you’re looking for something close that feels far and away, specifically for a mind and body reset, an easy 1.5-hour drive along Highway 7 from Vancouver puts you in the centre of soul-connecting adventure. Well, just off-centre. As in, off the beaten path. But you will definitely feel centred.

Situated within a collective of communities spanning Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs, and Harrison Mills, the region is ringed by rich agriculture-fertile farms and fields, and the alluring recreational pursuits of Harrison Lake with stretches of inviting sandy beach, where the Cheam Mountains rise up as a spectacular commanding backdrop.

Unplug and discover the simple beauty and benefits that is the Harrison River Valley. Yes, they’re renowned for the world-famous hot mineral springs, but they also have so much more. Think healing in nature. “Breathe in the Wild,” as their slogan aptly suggests, for a breath of fresh valley air in the solitude of unspoiled wilderness.

Photo Credit: Tourism Harrison

“Our ‘Heal in the Wild’ opportunities showcase all the different things you can do to get outside and tap into the wellness movement that has really become dominant in the past couple years, especially as we’ve dealt with the physical and psychological stress of COVID-19 and the difficult weather events,” says Robert Reyerse, executive director, Tourism Harrison.

Forest Bathing

The effects of deep breathing can’t be understated. Coupled with a walk in the woodsy goodness of a forest, experience the heady wet moss, the fluttering sweet whistles of birds in harmony – like a flute and piccolo melody, the twigs and pine needles that crunch underfoot, and the crisp cedar and fresh rain scent. As the sunlight dapples through the tree canopy, your senses can’t help but feel completely cloaked in immune-boosting properties.

As you step in, you’ll feel the earth give you a big hug. The forest is poised to anchor the area as a wellness centre, that is, when you partake in the practice of forest bathing. Consider it Mother Nature’s air purifier, but on another level. Entirely. It’s not simply a stroll through the forest.

“The practice was developed in Japan (shinrin-yoku), accompanied with very solid science behind it,” explains Reyerse. “Just 15 minutes in the forest will bring a lot of your stressor markers down, like cortisone and those things, for a number of reasons: it’s an immersive experience, it’s peaceful, and because the air itself is different in a forest, it’s got all these phytochemicals—mainly released by trees—that stimulate the immune system and relax the body.”

“Fresh air can help support healing for your body,” he adds. “That’s something we embraced a few years ago.”

Harrison has Yadoma Nature and Forest Therapy, where founder Kim Verigin creates slow mindful guided walks designed to connect you to nature. She’s a certified forest therapy guide, one of the few in the province, with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.

“You don’t need to go out on a guided walk to have those benefits, but it’s something we focus on,” says Reyerse.

Hikes, Bikes & Circle Farm Tour

Photo Credit: Tourism Harrison

In addition to forest bathing, there are an abundance of diverse trails throughout Harrison Valley for all levels, from easy and moderate to difficult (like mountain-top hikes). Whether you embark on foot, bicycle, or mountain bike, it’s all about embracing the adventure, experiencing the fresh air, and soaking up the spectacular scenery, not to mention activating those feel-good endorphins.

Considered an easy route, take a 35-minute flat terrain hike on the Greenpoint Trail (great for birding) in Agassiz, which winds its way around the lake, through forests, and features beach stops to enjoy the solitude and admire the view. The Spirit Trail is equally easy, a flat one-kilometre forest loop trail accessible from the Village of Harrison Hot Springs, with a magical twist. Watch for hand-crafted clay and wooden masks that beautify several cedars, donated by a local artist, Ernie Eaves.

A little more challenging and nearly 7.5 kilometres, you’ll encounter an elevation gain on Denham’s Trail, with views of Weaver Lake, which it circles, plus you’ll trek under and around moss and lichen covered trees.

“We have quite a range of hikes—there’s a pretty good variety,” reveals Reyerse. “Some novice, other advanced, like our more difficult, but equally rewarding hikes, Bear Mountain and Slollicum Peak. If you’re new to hiking we recommend taking a guided tour with one of our local Hiking Guides.”

Photo Credit: Tourism Harrison

Discover an array of area parks like Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, where an easy, short trail leads to cascading veil-like falls that radiate calmness. Be rewarded with falls in Sasquatch Provincial Park, too. Explore Cheam Lake Wetlands Regional Park and enjoy some picnic pleasures and meditative birdwatching, which can help alleviate anxiety and stress. Don’t miss the annual viewing of Bald Eagles in October through early November, where counts up to 10,000 have been recorded on the Harrison River, the salmon spawning grounds that attracts the massive gatherings.

Photo Credit: Tourism Harrison

After working up an appetite, take comfort knowing you have a bounty of fresh local products to nosh and nibble, prepared by chefs at bakeries, casual eateries, fine dining establishments and everything in between. For an up close and personal look at producers, fruits and vegetables, artisan products, and garden and home goods, cycle the scenic country roads of the self-guided Circle Farm Tour, starting from the Harrison Visitor Centre & Sasquatch Museum. For an eco-friendly boost, check out an E-bike with Harrison Eco Tours.

Photo Credit: Tourism Harrison

“After one kilometre on Hot Springs Road, you’re in farm country, where you can go from farm to farm, visit some great cheese producers, plus a couple restaurants that serve almost exclusively local product,” says Reyerse. “It’s a good way to enjoy the farm-to-table experience, where you can see where the food is made and then go to one of the restaurants and enjoy it.”

Lakes, Rivers & Watercraft

Photo Credit: Tourism Harrison

The Harrison River Valley is rich with bodies of uninterrupted waters, be it rivers, streams or lakes, which attract many activity-seekers for some restorative energy, like the Fraser River, Harrison River, Harrison Lake, Hicks Lake and Weaver Lake, just to name a few.

Take a kayak for a leisurely paddle on Harrison Lake or find your balance (literally) with a windsurfing outing. Experience canoeing and boating excursions, or take on the relaxing efforts of reeling in your potential dinner (patient anglers hook salmon, steelhead trout, and white sturgeon). The region’s waters provide one of the most alluring area attractions – tranquility.

“Harrison has been this healing centre for more than 100 years and there’s a good reason for that,” admits Reyerse.

“We’re surrounded by incredible nature accessible right from the village and literally across the street from any lodging. Whether you bike, hike or paddle, it’s the perfect place to get in touch with nature, relax, and rejuvenate your body and mind.”

When You Go

For more information, visit, or call 604-796-5581, or email

All photos courtesy of Tourism Harrison.

Tracey Rayson is a freelance writer and editor who divides her time penning travel, business and lifestyle articles. Passionate about local travel, she’ll take the road less travelled, the direct route or busy ferry passage, as long as she ends up somewhere uniquely BC. Learn more at