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Explore Hamsterley Forest
(Average user rating: 4 unrated 3.9/5)

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!

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Choose from Gisburn, Grizedale, Hamsterley or Whinlatter.
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Your money helps us to look after our forest. We couldn't do it without you.

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 here until Sunday 8 March. Make sure you don't miss out! 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 weekends (11am-4pm) until 3 April, then daily from this date to end of October. Wood n Wheels cycle hire is open at weekends (10am-5pm), and then daily from the start of April. The toilet block is currently undergoing refurbishment and temporary toilets have been provided in the interim. Unfortunately, we have experienced delays in completing the work but it is hoped the new block will be opened by the end of March.


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.

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! From 28 February, come and have a go on our brand new activity trail and practice your own version of forest 'free-running'! Can you get from one end of the trail to the other without your feet touching the ground?

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 (1 March- 30 September), the cafe serves soup, hot and cold sandwiches, and a range of drinks and home-baked cakes. Winter opening: October daily 11am to 4pm (5pm at weekends); November weekends only; December daily up to the 20th and weekends at other times; January weekends only; February weekends and school half term week.

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?

4 Stars 4 Stars

With reference to my previous comment you still didn't answer the question , why the event wasn't listed ? I was there at 09.30 struggled to get parked

geoff, 24/Feb/2015

The event calendar is designed to promote FC and partner events for visitors to book onto. Where an event is anticipated to have a major impact on other visitors, such as car park or trail closures, we endeavour to flag these up in advance on a 'latest news' banner on the top of this page. Although the Duathlon event you refer to was not the only cause of the parking difficulties you encountered, we will review future timetabling of events to avoid potentially busy weekends such as February Half-term.

Forestry Commission Response
4 Stars 4 Stars

Not impressed today , not only was the event held in forest today. Not listed in events but sections of car park barriered off till 11 am , with the amount of cyclists walkers etc that come on a Sunday this wasn't very good , I use the forest at least twice a week , if I had known about the event beforehand I wouldn't have come today , adding to someone else's comment about events I would have thought you would have sorted this

geoff, 22/Feb/2015

Thank you for your comments. Sunday's event was a duathlon and had about 60 competitors. The event did not close any sections of the trail network. Only one section of the car park was closed to allow for a starting point for the race, covering about 25 car parking places. These were all available by 11am. The forest was exceptionally busy for a February weekend as it was half-term, and the majority of visitors were not associated with the event. For example, we have sold over 200 Gruffalo Child packs to families this weekend.

Forestry Commission Response
1 Star 1 Star

Absolutely fuming. Been to the forest today for my weekly ride here round red route. While i was on my way up to transmission via the popular short cut i noticed there was some sort of mtb race or time trials on. I rode past three marshals on my way to the top which is a decent climb only to be greeted by the 1st marshall at the very bottom of the hill who clearly had a very nice drive to the start of transmission only to tell me i cant use the track as its closed for time trails. She told me it was sign posted down the bottom. Bottom of what exactly? Needles to say i ignored her a went down anyway.

Would be helpfull to put notices up next to parking machines to alert people of whats going on.

You cant charge the parking fee if your going to close the majority of the red route or any other route.

Danny, 15/Feb/2015

Danny, sorry the information wasn't displayed more clearly. Occasionally sections of trails are closed for events and we endeavour to post this information in advance. This event was advertised widely by the local Trailblazers Mountain Bike group but this information obviously hasn't reached a section of visitors. We'll have better information posted next time.

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 (please note this will change to 4 per car from 1st April 2015), 8 minibus, 12 coach
More about what's here


OS Grid ref: NZ091312
Postcode: DL13 3NL

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 (please note this will change to 4 per car from 1st April 2015), 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