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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.

Gruffalo’s Child Trails Gruffalo's Child Trail at Hamsterley!

If you enjoyed the Gruffalo Trail, you'll love the Gruffalo Child's Trail, which will be coming to our forest from Friday 3rd October. Sign up to hear more about our plans.


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), then weekends thereafter.

Christmas Holiday period: Please note, the Forest Drive will be closed from 24 December through to 4 January 2015 (inclusive). Bedburn car parks will be open as usual during this period. The information point will be closed 24-26th December and 1st January. The Cafe will be closed over the Christmas period and re-open on the weekend of 3rd/4th January. Wood n Wheels Cycle Hire will be open daily over the holiday period except for 25/26 December & 1/2 January.

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 summer season (Apr-Sept), the cafe serves soup, hot and cold sandwiches, and a range of drinks and home-baked cakes. Winter opening: The cafe is open daily 11am to 4pm (5pm at weekends) in October and December up to the 21st. The cafe is open weekends at other times.

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?

1 Star 1 Star

I used to come here a lot, but don't come any more because of the amount of dog dirt left around. I queried this and was told that it was acceptable for owners to flick the dog dirt into the bushes as there are no bins. With young children exploring off the path, that's just asking for trouble. We won't be back until the park addresses this in a more appropriate way. What a shame this has happened to what is otherwise a lovely area and a great family day out.

Jo, 22/Nov/2014

Sorry to hear you have decided not to visit the forest. I would just like to clarify the policy towards dog mess. We expect owners to be responsible and bag and remove waste from car parks, trails (including open verges) and picnic areas. There are no dog bins, but owners are expected by law to be responsible owners and take away all they bring in (including their own dog's mess). In the wider forest, owners are required only to ensure the mess is flicked into deep undergrowth, such as bramble, nettle or similar. There is huge amounts of this cover where children are unlikely to want to play. Please remember this is a forest and not a country park and our management reflects this principle.

Forestry Commission Response
5 Stars 5 Stars

Spent a great morning on the bike trails. My first mountain bike adventure was extremely enjoyable due to the great trails. I have nothing to benchmark against but the more accomplished and experienced in the group agreed that the routes are superb. I'm hooked and will be back again.

Kevin, 2/Nov/2014
1 Star 1 Star

Oh my goodness. This is a dumping ground not a forest. Visit with the children on Sunday and it was appalling! Everywhere we stepped was just cans, packets, everywhere! You seriously need to get cleaning up, as a keen walker I have never seen a place like this. Shocking, will most certainly not return.

Gillian, 30/Oct/2014

I'm sorry you did not have a good experience on your last visit to the forest. Somewhere is the region of 200K visitors use the forest each year and while most are very conscientious and follow the Countryside Code, undoubtedly there are some who discard their litter in the forest. The main visitor areas are litter picked every day, so please let us know which particular areas you felt were not up to standard so we can get these cleaned.

Forestry Commission Response
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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