The New Forest is anything but new. It was created by William the Conqueror in 1079 as a place where he could hunt deer and wild pigs – the so called ‘beasts of the chase’. Nowadays, the landscape's use has change dramatically, largely thanks to the designation of the New Forest National Park in 2005.


From vast heathland hills and ancient trees, to butterflies, reptiles, wading birds and wild ponies, the national park is a vital refuge for some of Britain's most precious species.

The New Forest is also one of the largest remaining wildwoods in Western Europe, famous for its abundant wildlife and birds. Here, in 220 square miles, animals are free to roam and wander. There are over 3,000 native ponies, donkeys, cattle, pigs and deer around the forest.

Discover all this and more with our guide to the best walks in the New Forest, from food trails and woodland rambles, to an enthralling section of the 60-mile Solent Way.

Flowering bell heather and bracken on Rockford Common in the New Forest National Park, Hampshire, England
Flowering bell heather and bracken on Rockford Common in the New Forest National Park/Credit: Getty

New Forest walks

Denny Wood, Hampshire

3 miles | 1.5 hours | easy

Deer sitting down
The New Forest's beech woodlands have changed little since William and his nobles hunted there over nine centuries ago/Credit: Getty

An easy three-mile walk through Denny Wood in the middle of the glorious and historic New Forest National Park. In autumn, listen out for herds of bellowing “belling” red and fallow deer stags as they start their annual rut.

The route
  • 4.7km/3 miles
  • 1.5 hours
  • Easy
Route and map.
Denny Wood map

Solent Way, Hampshire

9.7 miles | 5 hours | moderate–challenging

Lymington Marshes
All of the walk is level and is either on rights of way or quiet lanes. Note that after heavy rain the path next to the river can get muddy/Credit: Getty

The Solent Way is a 60-mile coast path, which starts in Milford-on-Sea and ends in Emsworth Harbour, and a large part of the route goes through the national park. Discover a new side to the New Forest with this 10-mile section from Lymington to Beaulieu.

The route
  • 15.7km/9.7 miles
  • 5 hours
  • Moderate/Challenging 
Route and map
Solent Way map

Rhinefield and Vinney Ridge, Hampshire

3 miles | 1.5 hours | easy

Rhinefield Forest Drive, Hampshire
Alongside the oak, ash and beech, non-native trees are an outstanding feature of the park/Credit: Getty

A pine-scented route that sweeps through the heart of the New Forest National Park, Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is home to some of the tallest trees in England.

Alongside the oak, ash and beech, non-native trees are an outstanding feature of the park. Lining the Drive are 50-metre-tall redwoods and mighty Douglas firs that were planted by the Victorians in the 1850s.

Easy to follow, with interactive boards along parts of the route, this gentle walk makes for a fantastic family outing with young tree-lovers. If the weather’s wet, wear wellies for the Blackwater ford crossing.

The route
  • 4.8km/3 miles
  • 1.5 hours
  • Easy
Map and route
Rhinefield Forest map

Fritham, Hampshire

7 miles | 3.5 hours | moderate

Thorns Inclosure, Hampshire
A snow covered track at Islands Thorns Inclosure in the New Forest/Credit: Getty

Explore the lesser-known paths and woodlands around the village of Fritham in the north of the New Forest on this 7-mile ramble, before relaxing in a pleasant pub for a well-deserved pint.

The route
  • 11km/7 miles 
  • 3.5 hours
  • Moderate
Map and route
Fritham, Hampshire map

Beaulieu Food Trail, Hampshire

4.4 miles | 3 hours | easy–moderate

Cistercian monks founded an abbey in 1204, naming it Beaulieu, meaning beautiful place/Credit: Getty

Explore the beautiful Hampshire village of Beaulieu before following the Beaulieu River south to the shipbuilding village of Bucklers Hard. The Beaulieu Food Trail is 2.2 miles each way, but your day out can be as long or short as you like.

Avon Valley Path, Hampshire/Wiltshire

34 miles | 2–3 days (or several day walks) | easy

The town of Fordingbridge sits ten miles south of Salisbury on the Avon Valley Path/Credit: Getty

The 34-mile Avon Valley Path runs north to south from the Cathedral city of Salisbury along the border of the New Forest National Park to Christchurch on the south coast. Walk a small section of this historic waymarked path, or take on the whole lot over several days.

Brockenhurst to Lyndhurst, Hampshire

9 miles | 5 hours | moderate

Spot ponies alongside the path/Credit: Getty

This 9-mile walk starts at Hollands Wood in Brockenhurst, winding through wildlife-rich forests to Beechen Lane in Lyndhurst. Look out for deer and ponies as you make your way north towards the 'capital' of the New Forest.


Daniel Graham of COuntryfile magazine on a hike with wet hair and blue coat and hills in background
Daniel GrahamOutdoors editor, BBC Countryfile Magazine

Danny is the outdoors editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine, responsible for commissioning, editing and writing articles that offer ideas and inspiration for exploring the UK countryside.