Epping Forest Walks: Seven of the best day hikes near London + trail maps

Epping Forest is soaked in history and is rich in biodiversity and has been open heathland and woodland for over 10,000 years since the end of the last Ice Age. The oldest tree recorded in the area is around 240 – 250 years old and besides that, it’s also on a large scale and in fact the largest open space bordering London. Its main areas span from Epping, itself in Essex down to Chingford on the edges of London. From here the forest starts to create a green corridor moving through more urbanised areas such as Highams Park as far as Forest Gate. Within, there are absolutely thousands of Epping Forest trails to explore, each having its own unique feel and identity.

Seven of the Best Epping Forest Circular Walks Near London

Epping Forest is an adventure lovers paradise, with many of the circular walks in Epping Forest being a short journey time from central London and places like Liverpool Street, London Bridge and London Victoria. What’s more, these Epping Forest hikes are generally quieter than some meaning you’ll be able to get the most from your time outdoors. There’s also a lot more than forest alone to explore – within these Epping Forest walks you’ll find open heaths, rolling hills, ponds and lakes that’ll you won’t believe are right next to London. Living in London doesn’t need to mean going without time spent in nature, and the great thing about Epping Forest is there is something for everyone – from accessible trails to much longer routes and everything in-between you’ll be sure to find something to get excited about. These are some of the best Epping Forest walks away from the crowds.

Epping Forest Hiking Route name
Length
1. Epping North Circular Hike
14.5 km
2. Epping & Essex Bumbles Circular Walk
10.3 km
3. Queen Elizabeth 1 Hunter Tower to Barn Hoppit Circular Trail
3.9 km
4. Queen Elizabeth 1 Hunter Tower to Highams Park Circular Route
7.3 km
5. Highams Park to Hollow Ponds Walking Route
11.4 km
6. Wake Valley Pond Circular Route
4.8 km
7. Ponds and Loughton Camp Circular Route
8.1km

About our free downloadable trail maps: We use Outdooractive map plugins for all of our hiking guides to give you an interactive map that you can download and save offline for your hike. You can save and download all of the maps below by clicking on the map. On desktop, you can save this to your profile and then save offline on a device. On mobile, you can save this straight to your profile and download straight away. You do need an account with Outdooractive for this, but you can sign up for a free account (as well as various paid plans with added features) where you can save routes and download trails for free. We’d always recommend downloading the trails to your device before your hike as reception isn’t guaranteed!

Now, onto the walking routes, below you’ll find easy to navigate maps of seven of our favourite hiking routes in Epping Forest:

#1 Epping North Circular Hike

Starting point: CM16 4EL
Difficulty: Well surfaced trail in most places, some boggy sections in winter so footwear with good traction and waterproofing is advised. Minimal incline and decline, but decent length trail. Shade in forested areas but some open areas so take sun protection.
Length: 14.5km
Ascent/descent: 108 m/108 m
When to do it: All year round but can become boggy in places during winter in open field/health sections near Epping

One of the best Epping Forest trails to get away from the crowds. Once you’re through the early sections of forest, you won’t see many people and you’ll wonder if you’re even anywhere near London anymore. This is a spectacular long hike with wonderful views that vary throughout. You’re going to be treated to ancient forests, hills and open views across the countryside surrounding. It feels quite different to many of the routes in the forest, as this feels very much out in the open, even though there are still wonderful sections of forest throughout. Open sections can get very hot on summer days, so a hat/suncream is advised and be sure to take plenty of water. This hiking route can also be made shorter by cutting off the corner just after Copped Hall making roughly 10km in length instead. There are also plenty more trails in this area to explore too – so you can use this Epping Forest walking route as a starting point and explore on any of the marked trails.

 

trees in epping forest walking route


#2 Epping & Essex Bumbles Circular Walk

Starting point: EN9 2SD
Difficulty: Some incline in parts, mainly at the start and in the middle. Mostly well trodden trails, but with some that can become slippery when wet. Some sections can become overgrown in summer, so wear covered footwear, but trail is well defined
Length: 10.3km
Ascent/descent: 115 m/121 m
When to do it: All year round but can become muddy and slippery in places during winter and after heavy rain

This is one of the best walks in Epping Forest, although some may argue that it isn’t in Epping Forest proper – either way, it cuts into areas that open up places that you may never have known were there. Whats more, if you’re looking for a quiet walk where it’s entirely possible you won’t see many other people, even on a weekend, this walk is for you. On this walk, you’ll be treated to beautiful views of the open countryside as well as some of the highest parts of the area. It feels really varied and there’s plenty of time amongst the trees just as much as there are many other points of interest. Open sections can get very hot on summer days, so a hat/suncream is advised.Also keep in mind that parts of this trail can become a little overgrown in summer, but the path is always distinct. If you’re feeling inspired after walking this route and looking for other walks in this area, you might want to check out our guide to the best walks in Essex.

 

#3 Queen Elizabeth I Hunting Tower to Barn Hoppit Circular Trail

Starting point: E4 7QH
Difficulty: Narrow forest trails with uneven path and areas where branches are down/stubbing the earth. Low hanging trees to duck under
Length: 3.9km
Ascent/descent: 47 m/47 m
When to do it: All year round but can be slippery after heavy rains or in winter

This short trail gives you a good introduction to hiking in Epping Forest. It’s also very accessible from nearby Chingford overground station. From there, you turn right at the station, right at the end of the road and up the hill slightly until you meet the Hunting Lodge and the Butlers Retreat pub, where you meet the trail. So this is an ideal walk to take on after work (you can get from Liverpool Street to Chingford Station in 30 minutes). On this Epping Forest walk, you’ll be taken through Chingford Plain, with beautiful views following the course of the river Ching past Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. You’ll see ancient oaks, and have plenty of opportunities to explore. Due to the wealth of trails in the area, you could easily combine this route with others in the area for a longer hike. For example, you can easily reach nearby, and popular Connaught Water through the forest. Or, if you feel more like exploring and seeing how things take you, there are plenty of trails in this network to make a whole day of it. In the summer, Warren Pond, just down from the parking area is particularly nice to take a picnic or just relax.

person walking down a trail in epping forest near london

 

#4 Queen Elizabeth I Hunting Tower to Highams Park Circular Route

Starting point: E4 7QH
Difficulty: Narrow forest trails with uneven path and areas where branches are down/stubbing the earth. Low hanging trees to duck under and longer trail than the trail outlined above, to which this is a longer variant
Length: 7.3 km
Ascent/descent: 33 m/33 m
When to do it: All year round but be aware of slippery sections in winter down to Highams Park

This is one of the best more urbanised walks in Epping Forest and really shows you just how wild and rugged the forest can be right next to the edges of London. This is a continuation of the previous walk, and again takes you through a variety of different forest landscapes near Chingford Plain from ancient oaks to dense forest through to open plains with great way marked trails throughout. The mid point of the hike is a circuit of the Highams Pond boating lake, which is a rich habitat for water fowl. There is also the opportunity to extend the hike much further down to Hollow Ponds (routed below) for a much longer day on the trail. Again, this is a great Epping Forest trail to try within easy distance of the city (you can catch the overground from Liverpool Street to either Highams Park and walk or Chingford for this one) making it great for a mid week micro adventure.

 

#5 Highams Park to Hollow Ponds Walking Route

Starting point: E4 9LB – parking available along The Avenue
Difficulty: Longer route with some uneven forest trails, wide paths around one side of Highams Park lake and some wider trails towards Hollow Ponds
Length: 11.4 km
Ascent/descent: 137 m/137 m
When to do it: All year round, can be slippery in winter due to excessive mud from rainfall

The marked trail map below technically shows this as a linear route, but this becomes a circular or more of a there and back if you return on the same path. The reason we’ve marked this as a circular is because you can explore the network of trails all around you on your return and explore something a little different. If travelling by public transport, it’s also possible to keep this as a linear and return via the bus depot at Whipps Cross afterwards if you want something shorter. This is one of the best Epping Forest walks from a more urbanised area and really shows just what natural resources are available from East London. There are some parts that you’ll have to cross roads via bridges and underpasses, but even so, you never truly feel like you’ve left the forest. After crossing the A406, be sure to look out to the right for some fantastic views of the city and Canary Wharf. This walk is great for showing you what biodiversity can exist in such an urbanised area and you’ll be surprised at just how much you don’t feel like you’re a stones throw from busy London.

walking trail at highams park pond near epping forest london

 

#6 Wake Valley Pond Circular Route

Starting point: IG10 4AF
Difficulty: Shorter trail with some narrow paths at points, but also some wider paths too, can be slippery when muddy
Length: 4.8 km
Ascent/descent: 69 m/69 m
When to do it: All year round, can be slippery in winter due to excessive mud from rainfall

This is one of the best Epping Forest hikes for checking out some of the oldest ponds in the area, but again, without the crowds of some of the more trafficked nearby trails. On this trail, you’ll start off by walking along the side of Wake Valley Pond, before passing a few smaller ponds along the way. When you reach Wellington Hill, you’ll be in an area which is synonymous for bird sitings – its one of the best walks in Epping Forest for doing so (in fact, there is even Epping Forest Field Centre Bird Viewing Point just off the trail). The forest on this trail is diverse and takes in many wonderful areas and in spring and summer, the ponds are teeming with life, especially dragonflies. Its very possible to make this walk longer by taking in some of the other nearby trails and exploring where your curiosity takes you.

 

#7 Ponds and Loughton Camp Circular Route

Starting point: IG10 1JD
Difficulty: Longer trail with some incline and decline. Path can be slippery when muddy from rainfall. Well marked trails, but some more defined than others. Trails are well maintained and wide but in places become narrower with roots in the trail
Length: 8.1 km
Ascent/descent: 88 m/88 m
When to do it: All year round, can be slippery in winter due to excessive mud from rainfall

This Epping Forest walking route is again, another great opportunity to take in some of the historic ponds in the area – on this walk, you’ll actually get to visit five and each one has a very different feel. It’s also a great trail to extend and make longer by taking any of the intersecting paths you’ll find on the route. Meaning that if you fancy a longer walk on the day, there’s always the option. Similarly, it’s also possible to cut the length by taking some shortcuts, as you’ll see on the map below. As you wind through the forest, you’ll also visit the ancient Loughton Camp earthworks in relative proximity to Buckhurst Hill which are well worth it to go to. This really starts to give you an idea of just how old this area is and how Epping Forest is steeped in history.

walking trail in epping forest london

How to get to Epping Forest from London

Public Transport

There are plenty of ways to access the forest by public transport and in fact, one of the things that makes it a great resource is that some of the best walks in Epping Forest are just a stones throw from central London via the overground or underground. For example, walks 1, 3, 4 and 5 out of the 7 listed above can all be accessed via public transport with a few minor adaptations. Theydon Bois, Chingford and Highams Park have underground and overground options with direct links to Liverpool Street with frequent services through the day (Liverpool Street to Chingford takes just 30 minutes for example). It’s also possible to reach some areas by bus, but this can take much longer depending on where you’re travelling from. To plan your journey, you can use the TfL journey planner which allows you to put your start and end location in to see the best route and to check journey times. What’s more, this can be done within standard London zoning prices using an Oyster Card or a contactless debit card.

By car

One of the best ways to visit Epping Forest is by car. Pretty much all of the trails we’ve outlined above start from a car park or a parking area. This gives you the ability to explore trails deep into the heart of the forest that are much less close to the city and have more of a countryside feel. Most of the managed car parks have a parking metre which is managed by paying through an app on your phone. They don’t accept cash, so be sure to take your phone. This is managed by City of London and more information about pricing, concessions and other relevant information such as car park closing times can be found here on their website. Generally, most of the car parks are big enough for the number of people visiting, but you can expect some of them to be busier on weekends and bank holidays. Some areas it is possible to park by the side of the road, but always follow local restrictions and never park on a red route. If you don’t have a car, but want to give yourself more flexibility to explore the area but don’t have a car, there are numerous places in London you can hire a car from easily for the day. It’s possible to pick up a car from places like Euston Station, Stratford International Station, London Victoria, London Bridge and Waterloo to name a few with options for electric car rental too.

What to take with you for a walk in Epping Forest

Good Waterproof Hiking Shoes or Boots

Epping Forest can get muddy, particularly so in winter but if there is heavy rainfall, this can also be the case in summer. So its a good idea to wear comfortable walking shoes that are going to keep your feet warm and dry, we’d recommend choosing a pair of waterproof hiking shoes that are going to keep your feet dry. Check out our recommendations for the best waterproof hiking shoes here.

Waterproof Coat

Layers are a great idea for a walk in Epping Forest, but a good raincoat can be integral to keeping you dry from unexpected downpours or allowing you to enjoy getting outside in less than perfect weather. Something that packs down small into a backpack that you can easily get out would suit you well. We’d recommend the Columbia Rain Scape Waterproof Jacket, Columbia Hikebound Waterproof Rain Jacket, Mountain Hardwear Acadia Jacket Rain and the Regatta Birchdale Waterproof Hooded Jacket as great options.

Somewhere to store your maps offline

One of the great things about Epping Forest is that it can give you an Oasis away from the city – feeling like you really are in the countryside. Whilst there are some areas you’ll go through that have good phone signal, most areas, you’ll find this is patchy at best. So downloading your map and making sure you have access to it offline will avoid any problems on your walk. A good watch can also double as your tracking device; here are our recommendations on best watches for hiking.

Other essential items

  • Water: especially so in Summer, carry around 2 litres per person
  • Backpack: to store your layers
  • Suncream: It can get quite hot and some areas are open so always be protected in warmer months
  • Food and snacks: depending on the length of your walk, be sure to carry enough for your needs

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