Epping Forest Walks: A Guide to the Forest’s Best Trails

Epping Forest Walks

Spanning 8000 acres across London and Essex, the magnificent Epping Forest is an ideal location for city-dwellers seeking greenery and fresh air. It’s a truly ancient woodland, home to roughly 55,000 ancient trees — more than anywhere else in England. These ancient trees were around during the Spanish Armada, the signing of the Magna Carta, and some even during the Viking invasion of Britain. Yes, Epping Forest is old.

With 176 miles of walking trails crisscrossing its land, Epping Forest is fun and easy to explore on foot. This guide will showcase the best Epping Forest walks, from short circular loops to epic day-long hikes.

How to get to Epping Forest

There are lots of car parks scattered around Epping Forest, although they do get busy on the weekends. Some convenient car park locations include Bury Road, Buckhurst Hill Cricket Ground, Chingford Golf Course, Connaught Water, High Beach Visitors Centre, Jack’s Hill, Knighton Wood, Leyton Flats, Snaresbrook Road, Strawberry Hill and Warren Road. You can see more about parking in the forest here.

Epping Forest is also served well by the London underground. Loughton, Theydon Bois, Snaresbrook, Buckhurst Hill, Wanstead and Redbridge are all on the Central Line and within walking distance of the forest. You can also take the Overground to Chingford from London Liverpool Street.

Epping Forest Walks: Waymarked Trails

The Epping Forest and Commons Committee have done a great job of managing the forest and have put a lot of effort into making it easy for everyone to enjoy. This includes the development of 9 circular walking trails, which are all well sign-posted, simple to follow and start close to car parks and/or train stations.

The waymarked trails are beginner friendly and ideal for those looking to go for a morning or afternoon walk in Epping Forest. These are Epping Forest’s 9 waymarked trails:

  • Beech Trail: 2.5 miles
  • Chestnut Trail: 3.25 miles
  • Gifford Trail: 1.25 miles
  • Holly Trail: 2.5 miles
  • Hornbeam Trail: 3.5 miles
  • Lime Trail: 1.5 miles
  • Oak Trail: 6.6 miles
  • Rowan Trail: 1.5 miles
  • Willow Trail: 2.5 miles
Epping Forest Waymarker

Beech Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles
Start: High Beach car park
Public Transport: You can take the Central Line to Loughton, but it’s a 40-minute walk from there.

Starting from the High Beach car park, the Beech Trail will take you around the ancient mounts at Loughton Camp over surfaced forest tracks. As the name suggests, this trail will showcase some of Epping Forest’s beech trees, whose leaves are a vibrant lime green during the springtime. There are a few steep inclines, but nothing seriously strenuous.

Chestnut Trail

Distance: 3.25 miles
Start: Warren Road car park
Public Transport: Wanstead and Redbridge are the closest train stations.

Starting from Warren Road, the Chestnut Trail will take you along surfaced forest tracks and through open grassland. You’ll stroll past a few water bodies — Ornamental Water, Heronry Pond and Perch Pond — where you’re likely to spot some birdlife. The walk will also take you past The Grotto, an 18th-century ornamental boat house. This is an easy trail consisting of mostly flat grounds with just a few gentle inclines.

Gifford Trail

Distance: 1.25 miles
Start: Sergeant’s Green Lane
Public Transport: Buses C3 & 213 stop at Horseshoe Hill.

The Gifford Trail starts from Sergeant’s Green Lane and will take you through the newly planted forest of Gifford Wood and the Buffer Lands of Oxleys and Potkiln Woods. While the trail officially starts at Sergeant’s Green Lane, it makes more sense to start at the entrance opposite the Upshire Village Hall on Horseshoe Hill, as this is where parking and bus stops are.

Holly Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles
Start: Bury Road car park
Public Transport: Take the Overground to Chingford, and it’s a 5-minute walk from there.

Starting from Bury Road car park, the Holly Trail will take you through the open grassland at Chingford Plain, before meandering along surfaced forest tracks. This is an easy trail with a few gentle inclines. As the name suggests, you are likely to see holly during your walk, a resilient species that can grow through other foliage.

Holly Trail, Epping Forest
Open grassland on The Holly Trail

Hornbeam Trail

Distance: 3.25 miles
Start: Snaresbrook Road car park
Public Transport: Take the Central Line to Snaresbrook, and it’s an 11-minute walk from there. The W12 bus also stops on Snaresbrook Road.

Starting from Snaresbrook Road, the Hornbeam Trail follows a mostly flat forest track through woodland and open grassland. There is one steep incline between Canada Plain and Waterworks Garden, but the rest is easygoing. Be sure to look out for hornbeam trees, which can be identified by their oval-shaped leaves with serrated edges.

Lime Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles
Start: Harrow Road car park
Public Transport: Take the TfL rail to Forest Gate and then a 58 bus to Wanstead Flats.

Starting from Harrow Road, the Lime Trail follows flat ground through open grassland and the woodland of Bush Wood. You’re likely to hear greater spotted woodpeckers in Bush Wood — listen for their distinctive ‘kek’ call or their drumming on the trees. This trail is one of the easiest to walk in terms of terrain, so is ideal for people with less mobility.

Oak Trail

At 6.6 miles, the Oak Trail is the longest of Epping Forest’s official walking trails. You can start the trail from Theydon Bois tube station, making it super accessible from central London. From Theydon Bois, the trail will take you through Great Gregories Farm and Bell Common, before heading into the Epping Thicks and onto Ambresbury Banks. Just before the end of the walk, you’ll pass a Deer Sanctuary, home to 100 fallow deer.

Distance: 6.6 miles
Start: Theydon Bois Underground Station
Public Transport: Take the Central Line to Theydon Bois.

Epping Forest Oak Trail
The Oak Trail

Rowan Trail

Distance: 1.5 miles
Start: Knighton Lane car park
Public Transport: Take the Overground to Chingford and then the 20 or 397 bus to Knighton Lane. Or take the Central Line to Buckhurst Hill and it’s a 20-minute walk from there.

Starting from Knighton Lane, the Rowan Trail is an easy stroll along flat surfaces. It’s named after the Common Rowan which fruits in July and August and can be found near the base of oak trees.

Willow Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles
Start: Connaught Water car park
Public Transport: It’s a 20-minute walk from Chingford Station or a 35-minute walk from Buckhurst Hill.

In my opinion, the Willow Trail is one of the best Epping Forest walks as it showcases the beautiful Connaught Water and its diverse birdlife. There are always lots of people out walking along the water, so it’s nice for the atmosphere. It’s an easy walking trail that will take you along surfaced tracks and grasslands.

Connaught Water, Epping Forest
Connaught Water on a warm winter’s day

Epping Forest Walks: Curated Trails

Of course, you don’t have to stick to the 9 waymarked trails outlined above. Epping Forest is a huge woodland, with over 176 miles of paths crisscrossing its 8000 acres. You can simply arrive and start walking! There are also some beautiful curated walks which are not officially waymarked but can be followed with a map. The Epping Forest Centenary Walk and the Forest Way Circular are two of my favourites:

Epping Forest Centenary Walk

If you’re up for giving your legs a serious workout, the 15-mile Epping Forest Centenary Walk should do the trick. Developed in 1978 to mark 100 years of the Epping Forest Act, this walk will take you from Manor Park to Epping via the locally-loved Wanstead Flats, Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, Highams Park Lake and lots of ancient woodlands.

Epping Forest Centenary Walk
Open grassland opposite Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge

Forest Way Circular

The epic walk is almost 16 miles and will loop you around almost the entirety of the forest. As the name might suggest, the Forest Way Circular is, well, circular. The trail takes you from Chingford to Epping and then back round to Chingford again. Get your map here.

Epping Forest Walk - Forest Way Circular
Ancient woodland on the Forest Way Circular

Want more inspiration for your Epping Forest walk? Have a look at some more curated trails here.

Tips for walking in Epping Forest

  • The Holly, Hornbeam and Oak trails are best for those who don’t have a car and will be coming from inside London, as these three trails are all within a 15-minute walk from a train station.
  • Epping Forest can get notoriously muddy, so be sure to wear your hiking boots.
  • Fallow deer, muntjac deer, bats, woodpeckers and 28 species of butterfly can all be seen in the forest, so keep your eyes peeled.
  • Epping Forest is a great place to see bluebells. Although it can vary each year, they usually bloom from mid-April to late May. For the best chance of seeing bluebells on your Epping Forest walk, head to Bury Wood, Chalet Wood or Strawberry Hill Ponds.

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