This month, millions of people across the country are celebrating the outdoors in honor of Great Outdoors Month 2017! How can you get involved? It’s simple: grab a pair of comfortable shoes, a pack with some water and snacks, and explore some of our local parks, trails, and greenways.
Why get outside? Because it’s good for your health!
Outdoor recreation has been shown to have positive neurological and physiological impacts. In fact, Japanese researchers discovered that just a 15-minute walk in the woods was associated with a 16 percent decrease in cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. A short walk in the woods also slightly decreased heart rate and blood pressure while making study participants feel more at ease.
Here are five ways to celebrate Great Outdoors Month, right here in Roanoke, Virginia:
1. Hit the trails on National Trails Day (June 3)
National Trails Day, which is June 3, 2017, encourages people across the United States to hit the trail and share their adventure with the hashtag #NationalTrailsDay. Roanoke has nearly 100 miles of natural surface and paved trails. Whether you mountain bike, hike, run, or ride horses, Roanoke has endless trail networks for you to play on. The most popular and most extensive local trails for hiking, mountain biking, trail running, and horseback riding are located in Mill Mountain Park and Carvins Cove Natural Reserve. If you love to hike, consider trying one of the Roanoke 7 Summits routes. Roanoke’s annual #7Peaks7Weeks hiking challenge starts in August this year, but you can enjoy the following trails year-round: Mill Mountain, Read Mountain, Poor Mountain, Sharp Top Mountain, Dragon’s Tooth, Tinker Cliffs, and McAfee Knob!
2. DO SOME WILDLIFE MEDICINE TRAINING (JUNE 6)
On June 6 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., we’re partnering with Carilion Clinic and the Appalachian Center for Wilderness Medicine to present a FREE wilderness medicine clinic to the public. The clinic will take place at the Mill Mountain Discovery Center and the surrounding park and we’ll discuss how to safely interact with common local wildlife, including bears, snakes, bees, and more! You can register in advance online here or register on-site.
3. Do some Volunteer Trail Work! (June 13)
We won’t sugar coat it: trail work is hard work. But somebody has to do it! If you love Roanoke’s trails and are looking for a rewarding way to give back to your community, consider joining us at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve on June 13 from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. You’ll meet like-minded nature lovers and learn about how we maintain and build new trails in the City. Can’t make it on the 13th? You’ll find a list of organizations that schedule trail work days throughout the month on our Volunteer Trail Work page.
4. Sleep under the stars (June 24)
Why is June 24th significant, you ask? Well, it’s National Great American Campout Day! This initiative not only encourages families to sleep outdoors, but it also helps protect wildlife. You can participate by pledging to camp this summer and those donations will fund the National Wildlife Federation’s Trees for Wildlife program. Need some more convincing before grabbing a tent and some marshmallows? Sleeping outdoors may be good for your health. In fact, recent studies connect sleeping outside with improved sleep quality!
5. Learn How to Orienteer (June 24)
Have you always wanted to know how to properly use a compass or read a topographic map? These tools come in handy when you’re adventuring in the hinterlands, which is why we’re offering an Orienteering 101 crash course at the Discovery Center at 10 a.m. on June 24! The course is just $6 per person and is intended for children over the age of 12 and adults alike.