Skip to Content

Explore Epping Forest With These (Rather Fantastic) Walks

Explore Epping Forest With These (Rather Fantastic) Walks

Love This? Save and Share!

Sprawling over a magnificent 2,400 hectares, Epping Forest is a walker’s adventure playground within easy reach of London. 

Starting in Forest Gate in London and stretching all the way to Epping in Essex, it’s little wonder that Epping Forest is a go-to sanctuary for those wanting to blow the cobwebs off with a good old ramble. 

We recently featured the forest in our guide to stellar walks in London – but, with any area this large, there’s so much to explore that it more than merits a walking guide of its own. 

Ready to explore? Discover the beauties of this rambler’s retreat with these Epping Forest walks. 

The Best Epping Forest Walks 

Beech Trail 

2.5 miles / 4 km 

This two and a half mile circular walk is a pretty perambulation from the Pillow Mounds car park and, as one of the forest’s official trails, is waymarked throughout for easy navigation. Follow the trail and it takes you through a stretch of the forest filled with the beeches after which it’s named. 

It is relatively uneven – so not a great choice if all you’re after is a flat stroll through the forest, but there are only a couple of really steep sections. 

Much of the trail’s attraction is walking through the forest itself, but don’t forget to scope out the Iron Age earthwork at Loughton Camp. 

Map and Detailed Instructions

Gifford Trail 

1.25 miles / 2 km 

The Gifford Trail is one of the newest trails in the forest – no surprise given the stretch of woodland it takes you through was only planted in 2013 by local volunteers and school kids who planted over 4,500 trees after the woods were bought by the City of London Corporation. 

Expect to see lots of fallow deer in the Deer Sanctuary, English Oak and other native tree species including alder, birch and beech. 


Chestnut Trail 

3.25 miles / 5 km 

Epping Forest

We hate to play favourites, but the Chestnut Trail is one of our favourite trails in this guide. It’s not that long – only 3.25 miles in total, but during the course of those three miles the trail wends its way between woodland, parkland and some rather pretty waterside views. 

Start at the Warren Road entrance to Wanstead Park, walk through Chalet Wood before emerging from the trees near Heronry Pond. 

From there, it’s a matter of skirting your way around the ponds and then the rather unimaginatively named (but beautiful nonetheless) Ornamental Water. 


Holly Trail 

2.5 miles / 4 km 

On the Holly Trail

One of two walks in this guide starting from Chingford, the Holly Trail is a classic stroll through the forest, forging its way across Chingford Plain and then taking you through Bury Wood. 

Unlike some of the other walks in this guide – this one is mostly through woodland (with the exception of the section on Chingford Plain) and clearly signposted throughout. It does get very muddy in the wetter months – make sure that you’ve got appropriate footwear. 


Oak Trail 

6.6 miles / 10.6km

Epping Forest

The Oak Trail is pretty much the closest thing in this guide to an epic hike, so well suited to those of you who love to tackle challenging terrain and don’t mind a steep hill or two. It’s also accessible if you’re arriving by public transport as it starts and finishes at Theydon Bois. 

We’ll be honest – at 6.6 miles, it’s still not that long but it is quite hilly and the variety of terrain more than justifies the effort. Kick things off at Theydon Bois, wander through Great Gregories Farm and northwards before swinging south through the wooded Epping Thicks and Amesbury Banks. 

Just before the end of the hike, you pass the Deer Sanctuary, which was created in the fifties to help protect the fallow deer that call the forest their home. 


Lime Trail

1.5 miles / 2.5 km

The Lime Trail is one of the shorter walks through Epping Forest and begins in Wanstead, which is easily accessible by bus and several train stations. 

Beginning at Harrow Road Sports Pavilion, the route takes you through grassland, skirting around the football pitches on Harrow Road Playing Fields and into Bush Wood.

At this point, you’ll see some of the sweet chestnut trees planted as part of Wanstead House Park. You’ll also likely hear the ‘kek’ call of the greater spotted woodpecker, and in the spring, the hammering of their beaks on the wood.

This walk is mostly level, with reasonably even terrain, although it can get wet and muddy during autumn and winter. 


Golden Hill Trail

1.6 miles / 2.6 km

Another of the shorter walks around Epping Forest, this circular trail begins and ends on Golding’s Hill, near the Broadstrood Car Park. 

The route takes you across some undulating and uneven terrain as you pass through the trees, including ancient pollards that date back several centuries. 

The Lost Pond is one of this trail’s highlights, a former gravel pit located on top of Blackweir Hill that became a pond after the Ice Age when an ice sheet surrounded Epping Forest. 

And if you’re walking this trail on a summer evening, watch for the stunning stag beetle.


Hornbeam Trail

3.5 miles / 5.75 km

If undulating up-and-down walks aren’t for you, check out the Hornbeam Trail, a mainly flat walk along tracks through the forest and across open grassland. There is one steep-ish climb between Canada Plain and Waterworks Wood, but most of the walk is even and flat.

Begin on Snaresbrook Road, a short walk from Snaresbrook station, and you’ll be surrounded on your ramble by one of the forest’s most plentiful species of tree, the Hornbeam. During spring and summer, the yellow flowers you’ll see in the grassland are bird’s-foot trefoil, a type much beloved by bees.

About a quarter of the way through the walk, you’ll find Hollow Pond, a gravel excavation that provided materials for road building in the 1800s. During the summer you can grab a rowing boat and let your kids enjoy one of the playgrounds.


Willow Trail

2.5 miles / 4 km

This beautiful walk begins at the beautiful Connaught Water, often frequented by anglers seeking a few hours of peace and quiet. Another mostly easy trail, the Willow Trail takes you across grassland and surfaced pathways, with one short, but steep incline up to the lake from Chingford Plain.

Along this route, you’ll see beautiful willow trees, competing with their male and female catkins at the right time of year, and Grimston’s Oak, thought to be around 350 years old. 

Look out for the great crested grebe on Connaught Water. If you see them come off the water and shake their head, they’re showing off to find a mate.


The Grand Epping Forest Circular Walk

15.7 miles / 25.4 km

We’ve saved the best (or at least, the biggest) walk ‘til last. This epic trail through Epping Forest is almost 16 miles, runs through various terrains and is an excellent option for those of you looking for a real day-long challenge. 

The trail takes you from Chingford, all the way up to Epping… and then back down again.

It sounds simple – and it is, though it comes with more than its fair share of hilly inclines. Much of the challenge is the distance itself – not to mention sticking to the trail, which can be difficult as it’s not formally marked. Be sure to download the map before you set off. 


Top Tips

  • If you’re driving, there are plenty of car parks located around the forest, however they do get busy, particularly at weekends. Arrive early to nab a space (and maximise your walking time). 
  • The quickest way to get to Epping Forest from central London is to hop on the Overground to Chingford from Liverpool Street. The journey is around 30 minutes and the station is only a short distance from the forest. 
  • Another alternative is to take the Central Line to Loughton or Theydon Bois stations, both of which are also within short distance of the forest. 
  • The forest is served by a number of local buses – the appropriate route is dependent on where you’re planning on walking to/ from. Be sure to check ahead for routes and timings and be aware that some routes can be infrequent, particularly at weekends and bank holidays. 
  • The forest does get very muddy, so you’re well advised to wear proper hiking boots if you can

Supperclub Tube
12 Best Restaurants in Walthamstow
Facts About London
64 Fun and Interesting Facts about London You’ll Absolutely Love