Tempted to venture out on a woodland walk near York? You’re not the only one. Over the twelve months or so that we’ve been mostly confined to our own postcodes and exercise has often been limited, more and more families have been discovering the joy of walking. It wasn’t just a one-lockdown-wonder, either, with most people continuing to build a walk into their week. For parents it’s a godsend: not only will get kids get some much-needed screen-free time, but they’ll get some exercise while they’re having fun without even noticing.
Here in York, we’re lucky to have lots of great options for places to walk, as a family or on our own. York itself is a very walkable city – all of the main attractions, from York Minster at one end to the JORVIK Viking Centre at the other – are a short stroll apart, giving visitors the perfect excuse to ditch the car. The iconic 3km walk around York’s city walls is a unique experience, too, and completely free of charge.
For the ultimate recharging experience, though, a walk in the woods can’t be beaten: fresh air, oodles of space, interesting things to discover, wildlife to spot and more sticks than you can, well, shake a stick at, it’s a paradise for kids in particular. There are lots of excellent woodland walks near York, some within a short drive and others slightly further afield. All of the ones we’ve picked are well worth travelling for – here are our best woodland walks in and near York. If you have another one to tell us about, or want to let us know how you got on, get in touch through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
The nine best woodland walks near York
Knavesmire Wood is a magical place to escape to that children love, and it’s one of the closest woods to York city centre. It’s not big but it’s beautiful, with towering trees, greenery galore and lots to explore. Look hard enough and you’ll find dens, rope swings and plenty of trees to climb. Right on the edge of York Racecourse, we often combine a visit with a bike ride around the racecourse. Knavesmire Wood is a Woodland Trust place that’s free to enter. If you’re lucky, you might spot a woodpecker too. No parking, no loos, no cafe!
Address – Knavesmire Wood, Dringhouses, York YO24 1JX
More info – Visit the Woodland Trust website here
Moorlands Nature Reserve
Moorlands Nature Reserve might not be as well known as other green spaces in York, but it has a large and loyal fan base among Yorkshire families. Those who are lucky enough to live in nearby villages use this Yorkshire Wildlife Trust place as their second garden, and it’s not hard to see why. This little woodland punches above its weight, with a stunning collection of trees and wildlife that are a pleasure to wander through at any time of year. It’s a nature spotter’s paradise, too, so pack binoculars or a bird-spotting book and see what you can find. If you’re looking for a short but beautiful walk just outside York, Moorlands is a great option. Read our five reasons to visit Moorlands here.
Address – Moorlands Nature Reserve, Moor Lane York North Yorkshire YO32 2RE
Northwood Trail – England’s Fairy Sanctuary
The Northwood Fairy Sanctuary is a new, family-run woodland attraction new York that’s intended to delight adults as well as children. It is set within 100 acres of glorious woodland with 1.5km of imaginative nature trails winding through. Be inspired by a willow walled maze, a large collection of fairy doors on trees, fairy treehouses connected with rope bridges, a tree stump village, giant mushroom ring, Elven thrones and a natural play area, with sandpit, mud kitchen and den building. It is a natural rustic attraction, sympathetic to its woodland surroundings and perfect for reconnecting children and adults to the freedom and magic of the natural world, all year round. This is a paid woodland experience that needs pre-booking.
Address – Northwood Trail, Buttercrambe Moor Woods, Buttercrambe, York, North Yorkshire, YO41 1AP
If it’s some fresh air and exercise in a beautiful setting that you’re after, but you don’t want to travel far from York, Askham Bog is just the place. A stone’s throw from the city, it’s an easy circular walk with plenty to see. Askam Bog is looked after by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, so it’s no surprise that it’s host to a huge amount of wildlife. If you’ve got a little one or just have time for a short walk, stick to the path. For older kids in the mood for adventure, climb over the stiles and see what you can discover. Parking is free, as is admission. No loos or cafe! Find our five reasons to visit Askham Bog here.
Address – Just off the A1036 York North Yorkshire YO23 2UB
Hagg Wood is an ancient wood just outside Dunnington, and it’s somewhere we’d wholeheartedly recommend for a trip with kids. It’s beautiful: tall trees, massive ferns, an abundance of wildlife and an interesting history. If you want to let your kids run free, make dens, collect sticks and get some fresh air, it’s a brilliant option not far from York city centre by car. There’s some local debate over parking, so you’re best off parking in the village and walking.
Address – Hagg Wood, Dunnington, York YO19 5NY
If you’re looking for woods to escape to near York, Dalby Forest is a brilliant destination. It’s one of Yorkshire’s most stunning spots and one of our favourite places near York for a walk. In under an hour from York, find yourself embarking on a bike or walking trail (all abilities; clearly marked) or enjoying an amazing adventure playground that’s suitable for all ages. The themed kids’ trails, like the Gruffalo Spotters’ Trail and Gruffalo Orienteering, are great fun and reduce the moaning that a long walk usually brings. Exercise, fresh air and a pocket full of sticks to take home are all guaranteed. You only pay for parking, making this a brilliant value day out. Don’t miss the adventure playground, but do venture beyond it as there are lots of things to do in the forest itself. Keep an eye out for special events throughout the year.
Address – Dalby Visitor Centre, Low Dalby, Thornton-Le-Dale, Pickering YO18 7LT
The Yorkshire Arboretum
Just over the road from Castle Howard, The Yorkshire Arboretum is a brilliant place for a family walk in the woods near York. There are 120 acres to explore, with ponds, lakes and woodland galore. It’s home to an amazing collection of trees of all shapes and sizes from across the globe, perfect for inspiring the imaginations of little explorers. There’s a flat path that makes for very easy walking terrain, or you can veer off the beaten path and explore it however you like. During non-Covid times, there’s a cafe serving drinks and homecooked food too. There’s an admission fee, and you’ll need to book your tickets in advance.
Address – The Yorkshire Arboretum, Castle Howard, York, YO60 7BY
Sutton Bank and the White Horse at Kilburn
Sutton Bank is one of the most popular spots for a walk in the North York Moors, and just a short drive from York. Park at the Visitor Centre (fee applies) and do the circular walk that takes in the White Horse at Kilburn and a walk through the woods. You’ll find a cafe, shop and helpful info at the Visitor Centre, and there’s bike hire too. A short walk from the car park you’ll find ‘England’s Finest View’ – cameras at the ready! Read our review of a walk at Sutton Bank before you visit here.
Address – Sutton Bank National Park Centre, Sutton Bank, Thirsk YO7 2EH
More info – Visit the North York Moors website
Falling Foss and May Beck
Falling Foss is a magical place for a woodland walk, just outside Whitby. If you’re looking for a really pretty walk that isn’t too taxing for younger children (and has the prospect of caffeine en route), then this is a good option. Reward your walking efforts with refreshments at the Falling Foss Tea Garden (let’s face it – the prospect of a cake and juice by the stream is a great incentive for even the most reluctant walkers). It’s hard to think of a more idyllic spot to sit and watch the wildlife go by. It gets busy during peak times, like the summer holidays, so we’d always advise arriving early if possible. Here are our five reasons to visit Falling Foss with kids.