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

Latest News (15/04/2015 16:38)

Please note from 1 April, daily charges for car parking and forest drive access will change to: £4 per car, £8 per minibus and £12 per coach. There will be a new one hour (flying visit) rate of £1.50 per car. The cost of an annual Discovery pass will remain unchanged at £40.      

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.

Superworm is here!

Superworm text copyright © Julia Donaldson 2012. Superworm illustration copyright © Axel Scheffler 2012If you enjoyed the Gruffalo and Gruffalo Child's trails then you'll love the new Superworm trail, based on the children's book by Julia Donaldson. Activity packs to go with the trail can be bought onsite at the cafe (£3.50 and include a special edition book). The trail starts on Saturday 14th March and runs to the end of October.


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 refurbishment is now completed and the new toilets will be up and running from Thursday 1 April. 

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. Bikes available to hire from Hamsterley Forest Cycle Centre.

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! 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 (14 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

LOtC-site-logo.jpgHamsterley Forest has been awarded a CLOtC Site Provider Award. The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) is the national voice for learning outside the classroom. This award recognises organisations which actively welcome schools onto their site/s for self-led visits and ensure that the sites and any other services provided meet the needs of schools. 

Led sessions for schools and other groups are also available to be booked with our learning partner OASES.  


What do other visitors say?

4 Stars 4 Stars

We love the Forest and really appreciate being able to walk our dogs so freely. 40 a year is well worth it.

We are however sad to see bike inner tubes discarded, energy drink bottles thoughtlessly floating in pools and full dog poo bags hanging from trees. Thoughtless people won't disappear but perhaps volunteer litter picking sessions widely advertised might raise awareness amongst all user groups.

KEEP our Forest CLEAN!

Sara Jenkins, 12/Apr/2015

Area was enjoyable, but the total lack of dog waste bins is unacceptable. This shows the forestry commission to be totally ignorant towards some of the persons who pay to visit this area. Why not display that bins are not provided before you take our money. The comments on here and other persons we spoke to on our visit show that you could do a lot better .

John Cockroft, 10/Apr/2015

The reasons why there are no bins in Hamsterley Forest has been covered on previous posts, but in summary Hamsterley Forest is a countryside site, not a town park so the level of facilities you may expect to find are different. We operate following the Countryside Code which states visitors should take their waste home with them. We do not provide bins for litter, BBQ waste or dog waste. Bins for specific purposes, such as dog bins, would attract everyone else's rubbish and be expensive and intensive to manage. To help us manage the forest we hope that dog owners take responsibility for their own dog's waste by either bagging and removing for disposal at home or if in the wider forest, flick the waste off paths and into deep undergrowth (such as nettles) to decompose.

Forestry Commission Response
4 Stars 4 Stars

We have had a lovely day here today with the children and our dog on a wonderfully warm spring day as we followed the Superworm trail. It was a lovely surprise to see the wooden Gruffalo too which is still hiding in the deep dark wood. We read on the website that it had now gone. My one big shock and disappointment was the total lack of a dog waste bin. As a responsible dog owner I cleaned up my dog's waste from the footpath near the car park but found no where other than the cafe bin to put it. A member of staff explained there are no dog waste bins. As a publicly funded body that actively encourages families to use this forest, it is just one of the first basic things to do in an area heavily used by children playing and families having picnics. To have a policy that expects the visitors to store dog waste in their warm car all afternoon is totally unacceptable.

Jo, 8/Apr/2015
More user comments

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What's Here?

  • Baby Changing
  • Cycling
  • Mountain biking
  • Horse riding
  • Information
  • Play area
  • Telephone
  • Walking
  • Visitor centre
  • Toliets (gents)
  • Toliets (ladies)
  • Cafe
  • Open daily 10am-5pm March to end October; 11am-4pm weekends only in November, December daily until weekend before Christmas, then weekends only until end February (in addition, open February half-term holiday week).
  • Cycling Hire
  • Information on opening times for Hamsterley Forest Cycle Centre (operated by WoodnWheels), please call 0191 3783753
  • Cycle wash
  • Tokens available from Wood n Wheels and Hamsterley Cafe
  • 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)
  • 1.50 one hour short stay (car/motorbike only); All Day rates - 4 car/motorbike, 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.
1.50 one hour short stay (car/motorbike only); All Day rates - 4 car/motorbike, 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