Explore Hamsterley Forest
(Average user rating: 4 unrated 4/5)

Hamsterley Forest is a delightful 2000 hectare oasis, sprawling along the sides of a sheltered valley. Visitors to Hamsterley have no shortage of options when it comes to forest adventure or a tranquil getaway from the hustles of modern living. Go on, explore!

Hamsterley Forest is one of Durham's most popular visitor destinations. To ensure that this continues, the Forestry Commission has commissioned a report from independent consultants on the status and potential of Hamsterley Forest for visitors. Read more.

GruffaloOh help! Oh no! Its the Gruffalo!

We've teamed up with the Gruffalo to help celebrate his 15th birthday. Sign up to find out more about our celebrations which includes a visit from the Gruffalo on Sat 16 August.


The information point, where you can pick up maps and leaflets, is open 9am-5pm daily. The cafe will be open daily (10am-5pm) until the end of October, then weekends only during the winter. Wood n Wheels cycle hire is open daily until the first weekend in September (10am-5pm).

Had a fantastic time in the forest recently? Upload your photos of your day out for a chance to win a Durham VIP Pass!

Explore on foot

The walking trails will take you right into the heart of the forest for some spectacular wildlife watching opportunities. Early morning walkers may spot roe deer feeding, adders basking on rocks or even salmon leaping upstream on the beck.

Sky Rainforest Rescue trail

Try the Sky Rainforest Rescue Discovery Trail and learn more about the rainforest and how you can help protect it. Look out for the jaguar and listen to the sounds of the rainforest along the way.

Explore by bike

Hamsterley is one of the top destinations for mountain biking in Northern England. Hone your skills on our training loop before exploring the wide network of trails, from blue grade right up to extreme downhill trails at Descend Hamsterley.

Calling all young adventurers! 

Climb, swing, crawl, balance through the adventure play area before setting off on a real adventure in the wilds of the forest. Explore secluded dells, build a forest hideaway or a forest!

Explore on four legs 

Miles of waymarked horse riding trails through the high forest

What's on?

Check out what's happening at Hamsterley using our calendar of events in the forest over the coming months.

Food and drink

After all that exercise in the fresh air, why not sample some of Hamsterley Forest Cafe's famous cakes? Open from 10am to 5pm daily throughout the season (Apr-Sept), the cafe serves soup, hot and cold sandwiches, and a range of drinks and home-baked cakes. The cafe is open 11am to 4pm daily in October and at weekends throughout the rest of the year plus Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Education and Learning

Information for schools and groups on organising a visit to the forest. This year, OASES in partnership with Forestry Commission, will be running a full programme of school and group activities.  

What do other visitors say?

3 Stars 3 Stars

Managed a lovely walk, even though the signposts were not clear at all and there was absolutely no description of what each route consisted of! A good day out for ■3, however it would benefit greatly from some bins. In our two hours exploring we didn't see even a single bin, including in the picnic areas! Would have been more enjoyable if we didn't have to walk around with a full doggy bag for an hour. After searching and searching we had no choice but to throw the bag into bushes, much to our guilt. There were signs asking not to let dogs foul, but it wouldn't hurt having at least a bin at the end of the trail to put mess in if your dog just has to go.

Anonymous, 12/Aug/2014

Unlike a country park, Hamsterley Forest is a more wild landscape where bins dotted around would be out of keeping. Visitors are expected to help manage this habitat by following the Countryside Code which asks you to take all your litter home with you for disposal. By bagging your dog waste, this has created 'litter' which will not degrade naturally. We would ask that the forest is not littered in this way but you take it home - it is your dog after all! Bagging dog waste when out in the wider forest is not necessary - you can take a stick and flick it off paths and into deep vegetation where it will rot down naturally.

Forestry Commission Response
3 Stars 3 Stars

The signposting for the different routes is very limited making nearly impossible to find the dedicated off road tracks with no detailed maps to help but when you get there the tracks are very good just a shame there so hard to find

Anonymous, 5/Aug/2014
5 Stars 5 Stars

Great Forest for all ages and abilities, for dog walks and cycling. just please remember it is a forest, not a country park on the edge of town. I love this forest and think that the FC's common sense approach to rules and signage is spot on. The cycle trails are many and suit all abilities. I often do the blue route with my 8 yr old daughter, it takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hrs, signage is limited but obvious (its a forest after all), and if you do get a bit lost isn't that 1/2 the fun?. If anything some simple berms somewhere along the blue route, with a few flowing trail sections rather than so much forest road, would be a great addition, the red and black trails are great. Its a breath of fresh air the forest has a strong environmental policy and promotes users to take responsibility for the own rubbish or dog foul. Its your rubbish so take it home, don't leave it or get angry if there is not a bin on every corner. As for dog mess, flick it off the paths into the ditches and undergrowth, it will rot away, if you do want to pick it up and put it in one of those little bags, take it home, your dog made it. For ■3 for a day its amazing value for money. The only thing that occasionally lets the forest down is the irresponsible people, who are ill prepared, leave litter, and winge about what there should do with there own mess, thankfully they are few and far between. Keep up the good work FC , oh and my daughter loves the Gruffalo

Anonymous, 5/Aug/2014
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What's Here?

  • Baby Changing
  • Cycling
  • Mountain biking
  • Cycle wash
  • Horse riding
  • Information
  • Play area
  • Telephone
  • Walking
  • Visitor centre
  • Toliets (gents)
  • Toliets (ladies)
  • Cafe
  • Open 11am-4pm daily until 4 November, weekends and school holidays after this date until Easter 2013.
  • Cycling Hire
  • Information on opening times for WoodnWheels cycle hire, please call 0191 3783753
  • Dogs
  • There are no dog bins provided in the forest. Please take all bagged dog waste home with you or flick unbagged waste off the paths and into the undergrowth. Don't give your dog a bad name!
  • Easy Access
  • Riverside Trail from main car park to Low Redford picnic area falls within requirements for wheelchair accessibility in terms of gradient and surface.
  • Educational
  • Riverside Trail from main car park to Low Redford picnic area falls within requirements for wheelchair accessibility in terms of gradient and surface.
  • Forest drive
  • Toll Road
  • Orienteering
  • Permanent orienteering course with 28 control points available for educational use via a booking system. Maps are on sale in the tearoom priced at 1.25
  • Parking (easy access)
  • Designated parking bays at main toilet block, Bedburn car park
  • Parking (chargeable)
  • 3 per day per car (5 on Bank Holiday weekends), 8 minibus, 12 coach
More about what's here


OS Grid ref: NZ091312

Get directions


Hamsterley Forest

01388 488312

Opening & Parking

Opening Times:
From 1 April to 30 September, barriers on the forest drive and car parks are open from 8am-8pm and from 8am-5pm outside of these months. Access to the forest on foot 24 hours a day. Over Christmas period, car parks and toilets open as usual. Forest Drive closed 22 Dec-1 Jan inclusive.
3 per day per car (5 on Bank Holiday weekends), 8 minibus, 12 coach
Discovery Pass

Related documents

Useful sites

Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification certifiedenjoy England quality assured visitor attractionForest Stewardship Council certified