Best walks in New Forest National Park
The New Forest National Park in Hampshire is famed for its beautiful heathland and myriad forest trails – discover its beauty on foot with our favourite walks.
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.
New Forest walks
Denny Wood, Hampshire
3 miles | 1.5 hours | easy
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.
- 4.7km/3 miles
- 1.5 hours
Solent Way, Hampshire
9.7 miles | 5 hours | moderate–challenging
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.
- 15.7km/9.7 miles
- 5 hours
Rhinefield and Vinney Ridge, Hampshire
3 miles | 1.5 hours | easy
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.
- 4.8km/3 miles
- 1.5 hours
7 miles | 3.5 hours | moderate
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.
- 11km/7 miles
- 3.5 hours
Beaulieu Food Trail, Hampshire
4.4 miles | 3 hours | easy–moderate
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 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
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.
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.
Subscribe to BBC Countryfile
Get 6 issues for just £9.99 when you subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine | SAVE 70% today
Risk free, introductory offer