Leafy surroundings, hidden landmarks and beautiful views await on these forest walks in Yorkshire.
Yorkshire’s forests provide the perfect setting for a series of wonderful walks that show off the area’s natural beauty. From exploring one of the biggest forests in the region to discovering a man-made woodland that’s full of unusual surprises, the next time you fancy a ramble through the trees, get those walking boots on and head into the forests of God’s own county.
The Strid Circular
The Strid at Bolton Priory is one of the best family-friendly forest walks in Yorkshire. It’s just 4.7-miles long and follows the course of the River Wharfe through the heart of Strid Wood. It’s filled with ancient oaks, so take the time to appreciate them as you weave between the trees and across the picturesque fields until you reach Barden Bridge. You can soak up the spectacular views in both directions at this point, then cross to the other side and back through more trees to the Priory.
The Strid Circular starts at the Cavendish Pavilion, Bolton Abbey, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 6AN.
The Hackfall Explorer
The Hackfall Explorer is just 4.7-miles long, but it’s one of the best forest walks you can do. You’ll take on tricky, hilly trails through a part of Yorkshire that isn’t quite what it seems. It’s totally unique, because although the beautiful woodland scenery looks like it’s been there for centuries, it’s actually man-made. It was designed by the Aislabie family in the 18th century and this walk is the best way to see the wonders they created. Head through the steep woodland paths to discover beautiful gardens, follies, waterfalls and an ornate fountain.
The Hackfall Explorer Walk starts at the Thorpe Road car park, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 3DE.
Fountains Abbey Ancient Trees Circular
This easygoing woodland wander through the ancient trees that surround Fountains Abbey is perfect for a quick escape into nature. It takes you from the Visitor Centre and up through the Deer Park – see if you can spot the sika, fallow and red deer as you go. There are plenty of chances to stop and admire the forestry as you make your way across good-under-foot bridleways and footpaths. The impressive mix of oaks, sweet chestnuts, cherry trees and lime trees make Fountains Abbey the perfect day out for nature-lovers.
The Fountains Abbey Ancient Trees Circular starts at Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 3DY.
Dalby Forest Walk
If you want to go on a long, leisurely walk through the woods, take this 7.5-mile walk around Dalby Forest. You’ll make your way along well-kept, easy-going paths, like the famous Shoulder of Mutton, which will lead you right across Thornton Dale. Along the way, you can see Ellerburn Pond, The Bird Hide and an artificial bat cave so you have plenty of chances to spot different species of wildlife. Bringing the kids? They have activity trail packs for the little ones to complete as you walk through the trees.
The Dalby Forest Walk starts at Low Dalby car park, Pickering, North Yorkshire, YO18 7LT.
Clay Bank and Greenhow Plantation
It’s short at 3-miles long, but this woodland route in the Cleveland Hills is a must-do. There are incredible views and swathes of greenery in every direction as you tackle forest tracks which open up into dramatic views across the Cleveland plain. You’ll spot landmarks like Roseberry Topping and the Captain Cook Monument in the distance, before you head back through the trees at the largely shaded Greenhow Plantation. The bridleways are all easygoing, but be prepared for a few calf-stretching climbs along the way.
The Clay Bank and Greenhow Plantation walk starts at Clay Bank Car Park, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, TS9 7HX.
Otley Chevin and the Surprise View
Otley Chevin Forest Park is one of the best places for walks in Yorkshire and this short 2.7-mile route has plenty to offer. You’ll start at the Surprise View where you can appreciate the views across the valley before you make your way to the top of the ridge. From here, you can see for miles to Simon’s Seat, Almscliffe Crag and the White Horse. Then you’ll walk through a series of pretty woodlands, passing a thin white beach coppice wood, before you head through Yorkgate Quarry and into the nature reserve.
The Otley Chevin & the Surprise View Walk starts at Yorkgate Road, Otley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS21 3DG.
Hawksworth Wood Circular
A pretty 6.7-mile jaunt around North West Leeds, the Hawksworth Wood Circular starts right where you want it to – the woods! Just over the road from Kirkstall Abbey, it’s one of the best forest walks in Yorkshire, absolutely packed full of trees and wildlife, but this is just the start. You’ll join on to the riverside paths alongside the Aire and up towards Newlay Bridge in Horsforth, where you’ll follow the Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath to Calverley Bridge. There are three more tree-covered landmarks to pass through at Hunger Hills, Haigh Wood and Oil Mill Beck before the end.
The Hawksworth Wood Circular starts at Hawksworth Wood, Rein Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS18 4TA.
The Richmond Circular
You don’t just go through one forest on the Richmond Circular, you go through three. Head to Green Bridge where Richmond Castle provides quite the view. Then it’s time to delve into the trees as you climb up a series of ascents through Billy Bank Woods before you move on through Round Howe and Hudswell Woods. Once you get to the River Swale, you can cross the footbridge to the riverside trail to appreciate the views over the water. Then it’s time to walk back to the start via a mix of clearings and tree-lined paths.
The Richmond and the River Swale Walk starts at Market Place, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 4JJ.
Newtondale is covered in tall, majestic trees as far as the eyes can see and this 6-mile walk shows it off at its very best. You’ll start at Levisham Station, the home of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and head north. The fairly well-kept trails will take you past The Grange, through Yorfalls Wood and into the trees next to Pickering Beck, before you tackle a series of steep and uneven climbs. They’re worth it – the upper section of this walk offers a deep woodland full of mosses, ferns and grasses. You’ll then head back along Waterpale Slack.
The Newtondale Circular starts at Levisham Station car park, Levisham, North Yorkshire, YO18 7NN.
Kilburn Forest Circular
The Kilburn Forest Circular is one of the longest, but most rewarding forest walks in Yorkshire. It’s 10.6-miles long and ideal for more experienced ramblers. Start in the quaint North Yorkshire village of Kilburn and make your way through the countryside to reach the historic Byland Abbey ruins. From here, you’ll weave in and out of nearby forests like Abbey Bank Wood and Cockerdale Wood, which open up to incredible sights like Roulston Scar, Gormire Lake and Ivy Scar. You’ll even get up close to the famous White Horse, a figure cut into the side of a huge hill.
The Kilburn Forest Circular starts at High Kilburn, North Yorkshire, YO61 4AJ.
How to enjoy the outdoors safely
The good news is, you can still enjoy the great outdoors during lockdown – you just need to take a few extra precautions.
- You can exercise or meet in public, outdoor spaces with people you live with, your support/childcare bubble or with one other person
- You should stay two metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times – where this is not possible, you should stay 1 metre apart and take extra precautions, like wearing a mask
- You shouldn't leave home if you or someone you live with has a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss of/change in your normal sense of smell or taste – please self-isolate.