Outdoor activities at Hatfield Forest
Explore the best surviving example of a medieval royal hunting forest. The forest trails are ideal for walking, running, cycling or horse riding, best enjoyed in the drier months of summer. You can also visit the lake for a spot of birdwatching or simple relaxation at the water's edge.
Walking at Hatfield Forest
The Forest is an ideal place for a quiet stroll away from the lakeside area. Wander along the main plains or head off into the wooded areas and explore the network of paths. If you're lucky, you may see some deer.
The gentle Tree Walk, which is buggy friendly, starts from the entrance car park and heads to the boardwalk, then across the end of the lake to the Shell House and café before returning along the access road. This walk is about 1.8 miles long and should take you between 90 and 120 minutes to complete.
For a longer walk, of 3.5 miles, head north from the entrance car park across Takeley Hill to link up with the Flitch Way, a disused railway track, at gate 21, and then head west for about 1 mile, before turning back through gate 16 into the Forest and heading south towards the lake.
Walking for health
Health walks start from the main entrance car park at 9.45am on Thursdays and take about 90 minutes. The walks use forest trails and open grassland. Please be aware that cattle are roaming free in the forest from May to October. Dogs are welcome on this walk if they are well trained and you can recall them in any situation at the first call.
These walks are a joint venture with Uttlesford District Council. They are free and led by a trained leader.
Running at Hatfield Forest
Tired of running along pavements and roads? Try trail running in the forest. The terrain is generally flat with broad grassy paths between the coppices. You can extend your run by venturing onto the Flitch Way at the northern end of the forest.
Cycling at Hatfield Forest
You are welcome to come and explore the forest on your bikes in summer when the ground has properly dried out. If cycling to the forest, you can enter through the main gate, through gates on the Flitch Way or through the South Gate just beyond Woodside Green.
There are no trails as such, only the open plains and grassed forest rides. An all-terrain or mountain bike is recommended, with heavy-duty tyres, as the ground is very uneven in places and there are plenty of thorns to cause punctures.
The Forest is home to 14 hidden geocaches. Please note that these are removed between November and March, to help protect the Forest, as part of our ‘Every Step Counts' campaign.
Horses are welcome in the Forest and also on neighbouring Woodside Green. Horse boxes can be parked here when ground conditions and parking space allows. Annual riding permits, running from 1 July to 30 June, and a limited number of day permits are available to purchase from the Estate Office.
The lake contains coarse fish such as carp, roach, perch and pike, including some large specimens. The closed season runs from 15 March to 15 June inclusive, whilst the pike season runs from 1 October to 15 March. A limited number of day permits and annual season tickets can be purchased from the Estate Office.
The lake cannot be used for any form of water sports or activities such as wild swimming, kayaking or paddle boarding.
For all organised group activities, please email us well in advance, so that we can help you to plan your visit.
Visit a royal medieval hunting ground with mighty ancient oaks, fallow deer and wildlife aplenty. Enjoy a walk followed by a treat from the Forest Café in the beautiful surroundings of the Georgian lake and Shell House.
Hatfield Forest is a two pawprint rated place. It's a perfect place for walking your dog, with 1,000 acres of woodland and open grassland to explore, trees to sniff and grass to roll around in. Professional dog walkers will need a National Trust license to walk a maximum of 4 dogs, up to three times a day.
Hatfield Forest is home to an established population of both fallow and muntjac deer. Visit the coppices to see how many you can find.
The café at Hatfield Forest has views across the lake. You can also buy venison and firewood from the Estate Office when in season.
Learn about how the team at Hatfield Forest continue to look after this special place for everyone, for ever.
The special places in National Trust care sometimes come with a few risks for visitors, be it coastline or countryside. Find out how to keep safe throughout your visits.