We endeavour to make our facilities as accessible to as many people as possible. To help plan your visit, please go to our access page.
How much does it cost?
A £6 toll is charged for each car visiting the forest to access the Forest Drive and car parks (a short stay option of £1.50 for one hour is also available). On Bank Holiday weekends during Easter, May and August this toll will be £10 per car. A season ticket ('Discovery Pass') is available on-site from the information point, Hamsterley Cafe or online. The cost is £45 for one year and provides free parking. Visiting groups are also required to pay for parking at the rate of £12 per minibus and £18 per coach.
How do I pay?
The forest operates a 'pay and display' system. Tickets can be bought at car park machines using coins. If you require change, you can purchase a ticket from the information point or cafe. Currently, we have one car park machine which accepts card payment (one next to toilet block) or again you can pay by card at the cafe or information point. This is the only charge to visit the forest. Access to the trails and facilities is free.
When is it open?
The Forest is open for access on foot, bike and by horse 24 hours a day. The Forest Drive is open from 8am to 8pm (April to September) and 8am-5pm at all other times. Please note, the section from Grove Car Park to Blackling Hole is only open April to October 9am-4pm.
Outside these time, barriers restrict access to the drive and some car parks. However, the Forestry Commission reserves the right to close certain barriers outwith these times due to operational reasons. If accessing the forest outside normal Forest Drive opening hours, please park in the main Bedburn car park.
What facilities are there?
Facilities on offer include a cafe, cycle hire, picnic sites, toilets, adventure playground, forest drive and walking and horse riding routes. The forest is also a magnet for mountain bikers from all over the North of England, attracted by a wide range of cycling experiences, from the training loop and top quality off-road cycle trails, to the high octane four-cross and downhill mountain bike courses provided by Descend Hamsterley.
What should I expect?
Remember that Hamsterley Forest is big - 2000 hectares or 4000 football pitches in area. Immediately away from the main visitor centre area there are no facilities for litter collection, toilets or refreshments. If you are planning to venture further into the forest, you should be prepared to be self-sufficient with snacks, water and adequate footwear and clothing.
You will be expected to follow the Countryside Code and take your rubbish with you, disposing either in the bins at the Visitor Centre or taking home for recycling.
Finally, please remember you are not in a town park and access to mobile phone coverage is not possible across most of the forest. While this may be a pleasant relief for many, for some this may be an inconvenience. You should plan your visit accordingly, including provision for the event of an emergency (such as someone knowing where you have gone and when you are due back).
Can I bring my dog?
Of course - Hamsterley Forest is a version of dog heaven! There are miles of path and forest to explore and streams in which to splash We only ask you put your dog on a lead around the main visitor centre area and on the children's play trail. Outside of these areas your dog can have an explore off lead (but under control). There are dog bins provided on the children's play trail and main visitor area and here we ask you bag your waste and dispose of it in the bins provided. In the wider forest, please use a stick and 'flick' the waste off paths into deep undergrowth where it will decompose out of harms way.
Can I have a barbeque?
Yes, contained portable BBQs are permitted in picnic sites and car parks along the Forest Drive. Open fires are strictly prohibited. Please note, do not place disposable BBQs directly on picnic tables - wood burns!
How to get there?
Hamsterley Forest sits wedged between Teesdale and Weardale in the heart of beautiful Durham Dales, approximately 10 miles (16 km) west of Bishop Auckland.
By bike: The long-distance cycle trail 'W2W' (Walney Island to River Wear) passes through the forest. You can pick this trail up in Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland (via Willington) and Durham City.
By Public Transport: The forest is not served directly by public transport services. The nearest town on a bus route is Wolsingham, five miles north of the forest entrance. The 101 bus service at Wolsingham connects with Stanhope, Crook and Bishop Auckland. Bishop Auckland has a railway station that connects with the East Coast mainline at Darlington.
By car: The forest is signposted off the A68, north of West Auckland. Please note, vehicles are charged on the Forest Drive to access the Forest and it’s facilities (charging details above). There is no charge for visitors on foot.
Where to Stay?
With Durham Dales and North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the doorstep, you won’t be stuck for a wide range of good quality accommodation in the area; from camping and caravan sites to bed and breakfast and full board hotels.
Click here for a list of accommodation in the area or call 'This is Durham' visitor helpline on 03000 26 26 26.
Nearest Visitor Information Points:
The Town Hall, Market Place, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, DL14 7NP, Durham Dales Centre, Castle Gardens, Stanhope, County Durham, DL13 2FJ, The Witham, 3 Horse Market, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8LY, The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8NP
Where to Eat?
The forest has it’s very own refuelling point – the famous Hamsterley Cafe! Open from 10am to 5pm daily Apr-Oct (11am-4pm in Dec) and school holidays (weekends only Nov & Jan-Mar), the cafe serves soup, hot and cold sandwiches, and a range of drinks and home-baked cakes. Groups can be catered for outside these times by arrangement (01388) 488822.
Outside of the forest, there are a number of places locally to eat in Wolsingham, Witton-le-Wear and Hamsterley. The Visit Northumbria website lists a selection of eating establishments in the area.