The best walks in the New Forest

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Beech trees near Lyndhurst (Richard Loader/Unsplash)

With its patchwork of different ecosystems – including ancient woodlands, heaths, farmland and a stunning  stretch of coastline – the New Forest National Park is an excellent location for walking. Diverse landscapes, varied wildlife and a great network of public rights of way mean there are hundreds of options to choose from – we’ve selected a few of our favourites to help you get started.

The Best Walks In The New Forest

Lyndhurst to Brockenhurst Walk

A long but flat walk between two traditional villages, passing through typical New Forest landscapes.  

Start point: Lyndhurst

End point: Brockenhurst

Distance: 10 kilometres/6.2 miles

Jessica Burnett/Unsplash

Located in the heart of the New Forest, this walk connects the national park’s two largest settlements. Starting off in Lyndhurst, head south down peaceful Pinkney Lane until you enter the forest, where gravel tracks continue through woodlands and patches of heath. You’ll soon reach Bolderford Bridge, a popular bathing spot where you can sit and relax by the river. The last stretch, on the edge of Brockenhurst, takes you over an open area known as Black Knowl where New Forest ponies, donkeys and free-roaming pigs are often spotted.  

There are lots of places for refreshments in both Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst. It’s easy to get back to the start point at Lyndhurst thanks to Bluestar Bus number 6. Additional sightseeing buses also connect the two villages during the high season. Brockenhurst is also connected to the railway network. 

Wilverley Inclosure 

New Forest ponies enjoying the area’s expansive heaths

Start and end point: Wilverley Inclosure car park 

Distance: 5 kilometres/3 miles

This 500-acre inclosure is one of the oldest and largest in the New Forest – as the commemorative plaque near the car park states, it was ‘Enclosed AD 1775 and 1809, Thrown open AD 1846, Re-enclosed AD 1896.’ Shutting out horses and grazing wildlife has allowed a wide variety of trees to thrive here, including conifers, oaks and beeches. There are also several forest clearings along this circular route (which is waymarked for easy navigation), so you are likely to see wildflowers in the spring and summer. This is a moderate route on a well-made gravel path, and while there are several gentle hills involved, there are also lots of benches in case you need to take a rest. 

Wilverley car park has good facilities including a barbecue area and picnic tables. It is also just opposite Wilverley Plain, where you can extend your walk to see the ponies and donkeys that can nearly always be seen grazing there. The plain stands in stark contrast to the heavily forested inclosure, being much flatter and open to the sky, with just a few trees where wildlife seeks shade on sunny days. As there are no electricity pylons, it’s a great place to fly a kite in breezy weather. 

Keyhaven Marshes

Keyhaven, near Milford on Sea (Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

Start/end point: Keyhaven car park

Distance: 5.6 kilometres/3.5 miles

While it doesn’t have many sandy beaches, the New Forest’s coastline is rich in biodiversity. Make sure to bring your binoculars on this easy 3.5-mile route near Milford on Sea – dozens of different bird species live in these marshes, and there are also great views over the water to Hurst Castle, a coastal fortress established by Henry VIII and later expanded during the Napoleonic Wars. 

Starting at the car park, you’ll walk past the harbour and marina (where it’s possible to arrange fishing trips and ferry rides over to Hurst Castle). Follow the sea wall (following signs for the Solent Way) and you’ll see a number of lagoons on your left – these are a crucial habitat for the area’s birdlife. When you reach Fishtail Lagoon, turn left, then left again at the rewilded Efford Landfill Site, until you reach a single-track road leading back to the car park.

Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary

Deer at Bolderwood (Nick Fewings/Unsplash)

Start/end point: Bolderwood car park 

Distance: 2.7 kilometres/1.7 miles

This easy walk is sure to prove popular with wildlife watchers young and old. Bolderwood is located a couple of miles west of Lyndhurst in a stunning part of the national park. While it’s conveniently close to the A31 dual carriageway, it has a very natural feel and is very peaceful.

This flat waymarked trail is suitable for pushchairs and weaves through both ancient and ornamental woodlands. The highlight for most visitors will be the deer viewing platform, which overlooks a large meadow that is a popular spot for fallow deer. The deer can be seen here all year round and at various times throughout the day, but they are most likely to be spotted between April and September and during the hours around dusk. 

It is also possible to just do an out-and-back walk to the viewing platform from the car park, which takes about half an hour in total.

Tall Trees Trail

American redwoods on the Tall Trees Trail (Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

Start/end point: Blackwater car park  

Distance: 2.3 kilometres/1.5 miles

Located a short drive outside of Brockenhurst and next to Blackwater Arboretum, the Tall Trees Trail is a family-friendly stroll that is varied and well signposted. The tall trees in question include the tallest Douglas firs in the UK and two enormous California redwoods, which thrive in the area’s mild, wet climate. The paths here are on fairly smooth gravel and are almost totally level, with plenty of benches and picnic tables along the route if you need a place to rest. 

After the Tall Trees Trail, you can easily extend your walk with a visit to Blackwater Arboretum, where there are a number of wooden sculptures and hundreds of trees from all across the globe. The arboretum has lots of signs and interpretation boards telling visitors about the area’s flora and fauna, so this is a must-see for wildlife lovers looking to learn more about the local area.

Hatchet Pond

On the way to Hatchet Pond (Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

Start/end point: Hatchet pond car park 

Distance: 3 kilometres/1.8 miles

This pleasant circular walk encircles Hatchet Pond – quite large for a pond and yet not quite a lake, this peaceful body of water sits among heathland close to the edge of the Beaulieu estate. As swimming and boating are not allowed here (although angling is possible by arrangement), the pond is a haven for wildlife, so keep an eye out for ducks and waterfowl near to the path. In summer, dragonflies and damselflies can be seen buzzing over the water, while beneath the surface there are great numbers of fish, frogs and newts. 

It will take you about an hour to amble around the edge of the pond, which is the New Forest’s largest body of freshwater. After your walk, you may fancy a pint at the Turfcutters’ Arms in nearby East Boldre (a mile away) or feel like visiting Beaulieu’s many cafés, shops and visitor attractions (also one mile).

Can I walk my dog in the New Forest?

Dog-friendly camping in the northern New Forest

It is possible to walk your dog throughout the New Forest National Park, and four-legged friends can join you on all of the walks mentioned above. While there aren’t that many fields with cows and sheep, there are lots of free-grazing ponies, donkeys, deer, pigs and other animals, so it’s a good idea to keep your dog on a lead in areas where they are likely to be present. In addition, keep dogs on a lead or under close control when walking in heathland between March and August, as there are often nesting birds present throughout this period.

There are lots of options for dog-friendly accommodation in the New Forest, from luxury hotels to basic campsites. In terms of outdoor accommodation, Pitchup has a wide variety of options to choose from, from tent pitches to cosy glamping experiences. See our full range of dog-friendly New Forest accommodation here

Footpaths straight from your campsite to the forest

Looking for more information about outdoor activities in the New Forest? Check out our pages on New Forest hikes and the best places for mountain biking in the New Forest

For somewhere to stay in the middle of it all, check out Pitchup’s wide range of campsites, caravan parks and glampsites in the area. With great surroundings, varied facilities and fantastic rural locations, many are within easy walking distance of the New Forest National Park’s best walking trails.