Skip to content

Outdoor activities at Hatfield Forest

image shows a man in running gear running through the buttercups against a backdrop of trees
Enjoy a run along a forest trail | © National Trust Images / David Levenson

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.

the image shows a lone cyclist riding amongst the buttercups on Takeley Hill
Explore the Forest on a bike | © National Trust Images / Britainonview Rod Edwards

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.

Horse riding

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.

Visitor fishing at Hatfield Forest, Essex
Visitor fishing at Hatfield Forest, Essex | © National Trust Images/John Millar


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.

Water sports

The lake cannot be used for any form of water sports or activities such as wild swimming, kayaking or paddle boarding.

Group activities

For all organised group activities, please email us well in advance, so that we can help you to plan your visit.

Person walking a dog in a field at Hatfield Forest, Essex

Discover more at Hatfield Forest

Find out when Hatfield Forest is open, how to get here, things to see and do and more.

Our partners

Cotswold Outdoor

We’ve partnered with Cotswold Outdoor to help everyone make the most of their time outdoors in the places we care for.

Visit website 

You might also be interested in

View across the corner of the lake on a bright sunny day in summer, with rowing boats on the lake, a jetty and a backdrop of trees

Things to see and do at Hatfield Forest 

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.

Dog walking on the Holnicote Estate, Somerset

Visiting Hatfield Forest with your dog 

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.

Fallow deer (Dama dama) grazing peacefully at Crom Estate, Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

Deer at Hatfield Forest 

Hatfield Forest is home to an established population of both fallow and muntjac deer. Visit the coppices to see how many you can find.

Boy eating a sausage roll at Morden Hall Park, London

Eating and Shopping at Hatfield Forest 

The café at Hatfield Forest has views across the lake. You can also buy venison and firewood from the Estate Office when in season.

National Trust ranger cutting down trees in The Warren at Hatfield Forest, Essex

Our work at Hatfield Forest 

Learn about how the team at Hatfield Forest continue to look after this special place for everyone, for ever.

An aerial view of an adult and baby walking a dog along a path at Baggy Point, Devon

Staying safe at National Trust places 

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.

Visitors exploring the rocks in the Owler Tor area of Longshaw, Burbage and the Eastern Moors, Derbyshire

Outdoor activities 

Searching for a new outdoor activity to try? Discover the best places in our care for outdoor activities, including off-road cycle tracks, walking trails and lakes and coastlines for water sports.