Hike the Capital: What are the best hiking spots near London?

London’s enchanting urban landscape might not immediately conjure images of hiking adventures, but believe it or not, we actually have quite a few hidden gems for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.    

We’ve donned our hiking boots, scoured the countryside, and traversed the city’s outskirts to bring you an insider’s guide to the finest hiking spots near London. So, tighten your laces and get ready to embark on a journey that will reveal a whole new side of this historic metropolis!

The Oak Trail, Epping Forest

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Distance: 10.3 km from central London

How to get there: Take the Central Line to Loughton Station, exit Loughton Station and head northeast and then follow signs or directions to the Oak Trail

Time to complete: 2.5 hours

The Oak Trail itself is a marvel. It’s a well-marked path that winds its way through the ancient woodlands of Epping Forest. 

Towering oak trees, some of which have been around for centuries, create a natural canopy that provides shade on a sunny day and shelter from the rain on a drizzly one.

What makes The Oak Trail truly unique, though, is its rich history. Epping Forest has been a place of recreation for Londoners since Queen Victoria’s time, and The Oak Trail has been an integral part of that tradition. 

Box Hill, Surrey

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Distance: 14 km

How to get there: Catch a train at London Victoria and London Waterloo to Boxhill & Westhumble Station. 

Time to complete: 4 hours

The chalk grasslands at Box Hill are home to a remarkable variety of plant and animal species. 

If you’re a keen observer, you might spot rare butterflies like the Adonis Blue or the Chalkhill Blue flitting about. And if you’re really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the elusive Peregrine Falcons that call Box Hill home.

The Zig Zag Road on Box Hill is an iconic feature, and it’s not just for cars. Hikers love it too! The steep climb may sound intimidating, but it’s a challenge worth taking on.

Seven Sisters Cliffs, East Sussex

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Distance: 5.3 km 

How to get there: Catch the train at Victoria Station bound for Brighton Station. Once you arrive at Brighton, proceed to the nearby bus stop. From there, board a bus that will take you to the Exceat Bridge

Time to complete: 4 to 6 hours

The Seven Sisters Cliffs are a jaw-dropping spectacle of nature’s beauty. The chalky cliffs rise dramatically from the English Channel, creating a mesmerizing landscape that’s truly Instagram-worthy. 

If you’re up for a challenge, this is the place to be. The undulating terrain and steep ascents and descents will put your hiking skills to the test. It’s like a natural stair-climbing workout, but with views that make the effort totally worth it.

North Downs Way

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Distance: 246 km 

How to get there: Choose a beginning point and catch a train from either St. Pancras or Waterloo, depending on your starting location

Time to complete: 12 days (if you do it all)

The North Downs Way takes you through some of England’s most picturesque landscapes. Think rolling hills, lush green valleys, and charming woodlands. It’s Mother Nature at her finest.

One of the coolest things about the North Downs Way is its varied terrain. From chalk downs to dense forests, you’ll experience a smorgasbord of landscapes that keep the hike interesting from start to finish.

And if you’re an animal lover, you’re in for a treat. This trail is a hotspot for wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, butterflies, and a plethora of bird species. It’s like a mini safari – but without the lions!

Leith Hill 

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Distance: 15 km 

How to get there: Board the train at Vauxhall Station, and it will take you to Holmwood Station, where your trail adventure commences

Time to complete: 4 hours

At 965 feet above sea level, Leith Hill boasts the title of the highest point in Southeast England. What does that mean for you? Panoramic views that will make your heart skip a beat. On a clear day, you can spot the London skyline from the top.

At the summit of Leith Hill, you’ll find a Gothic tower known as Leith Hill Tower. Climb its spiral staircase (not for the faint of heart) to enjoy even more jaw-dropping views. It’s a historic gem with a view to match.

Oh, and here’s a fun fact: did you know that Leith Hill was once home to the great composer Ralph Vaughan Williams? You can explore his childhood home nearby, which adds a touch of cultural richness to your hiking experience.

Ashridge Estate

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Distance: 15 km 

How to get there: Catch a train from Euston to Tiring, and from there, it’s about a half-hour walk to the Ashridge Estate Visitor Centre, where your walk begins

Time to complete: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Ashridge Estate is tucked away in the Chiltern Hills and labelled an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. That name isn’t just for show – it’s seriously stunning. The undulating hills and lush woodlands create a scene straight out of a fairytale.

If you time your visit right, you’ll be treated to a kaleidoscope of autumn colours. The beech trees here create a fiery spectacle in the fall that’s practically begging to be Instagrammed.

Belchamp Brook Walk

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Distance: 14 km 

How to get there: Board the train at London Liverpool Street and transfer to the Sudbury train at Marks Tey

Time to complete: 5 hours 

If you’re seeking peace and serenity away from the hustle and bustle of London, you’ve hit the jackpot. Belchamp Brook Walk offers a tranquil escape where the only soundtrack you’ll hear is the rustling of leaves and the gentle gurgle of the brook.

Along this delightful trail, you’ll encounter charming English villages straight out of a storybook. Think thatched cottages, ancient churches, and quaint village greens. It’s like stepping into the heart of rural England.

And if you have a doggo itching for an adventure, good news – this trail is dog-friendly, so your four-legged companion can join you on this countryside escapade.

Southease Circular

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Distance: 8 km 

How to get there: Ride a train to Southease Station from London Victoria and London Bridge (change at Brighton)

Time to complete: 3 hours 

This circular route, which starts and ends at the Southease train station, takes you through some of the most idyllic landscapes in the South Downs National Park. Rolling hills, lush green meadows, and meandering rivers create a postcard-worthy backdrop for your adventure. 

Southease Circular also boasts some fascinating historical sites along the way. You’ll have the chance to explore the mysterious Lewes Brooks, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. 

This wetland area is not only a haven for wildlife but also hides ancient relics of human activity dating back to the Bronze Age. 

Ankerwycke Park Circular Walk

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Distance: 1 km 

How to get there: Ride a train from Waterloo Station to Wraysbury, then take a bus to Magna Carta Lane. 

Time to complete: 3 hours 

One of the standout features of this trail is the Ankerwycke Yew, a tree that’s been around for over a thousand years. That’s right, you read that correctly – a millennium! 

This ancient yew is steeped in legend and lore, and it’s said to be where King Henry VIII courted Anne Boleyn. It’s a living testament to the passage of time and a must-see on your hike.

But let’s focus on the main thing here, the walk. The walk offers a serene ambience, making it an ideal escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. Birdwatchers will be in their element here, as the park is a haven for various bird species. 

The Roehampton Gate Trail

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Distance: 4 km 

How to get there: Take the District Line to East Putney Station, exit East Putney Station and head to the nearby bus stop, take bus route 265 or 85 and get off the bus at the Roehampton Lane stop

Time to complete: 2 hours 

The Roehampton Gate Trail is like the crown jewel of Richmond Park, offering you a tantalising blend of nature, wildlife, and historic intrigue. The trail itself is a 7-mile loop that takes you on a captivating journey through one of London’s most beautiful green spaces.

Now, here’s a tidbit you might find fascinating. Richmond Park is a former royal hunting ground, dating back to the 17th century. It’s not every day that you get to hike through history!

Anyway, the Roehampton Gate Trail offers a little something for everyone. It’s a relatively easy hike, making it perfect for families, casual walkers, and even your four-legged friends, as it’s dog-friendly.

Hampstead Heath Extension

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Distance: 4 km 

How to get there: Ride the Northern Line train to Golders Green Station and then walk to the Hampstead Heath Extension

Time to complete: 2 hours 

This sprawling green oasis is an extension of the larger Hampstead Heath, a place with a history as rich and layered as the city itself. Dating back to the 13th century, it’s been a haven for Londoners escaping the urban hustle and bustle for centuries.

But what truly sets Hampstead Heath Extension apart is the breathtaking panoramic views it offers. Head to Parliament Hill, a prominent hilltop within the park, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best vistas of London’s skyline.

Practical tips when hiking

1. Plan your route in advance

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Planning your route ahead of time ensures you know exactly where you’re headed and how to get there. Trust me, the last thing you want is to be stuck in Piccadilly Circus when you’re really aiming for Primrose Hill!

2. Check the weather forecast

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Checking the weather forecast can save you from getting drenched on your hike. Knowing what’s headed your way helps you pack essential items like a waterproof jacket, extra snacks, and even a handy map (just in case your GPS decides to take a rain check).

3. Inform someone of your plans

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Let’s face it, even with the best trail maps and navigation apps, it’s easy to take a wrong turn. When you’ve informed someone of your plans, they can help track your progress and guide you back on the right path if you stray from it.

4. Carry a fully charged phone

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Nature can be unpredictable, even in a city. From minor scrapes to unexpected changes in weather, having a charged phone means you’re just a call or text away from help if needed. 

5. Stay hydrated and take breaks

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Hunger and irritability can sneak up on you, even during a leisurely city hike. Having regular breaks to refuel with snacks or a sip of water can keep those hunger-induced grumbles at bay. Plus, you’ll be in a better mood to enjoy the sights and sounds of London.

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