The New forest is a National Park located in southern England, and where you find National park, you will most likely find great walks.
Covering an area of 219 square miles (566 square kilometres), it is home to some of the tallest trees in England, some of the wettest ground I have so far walked, and lots of wildlife. The New forest is also famous for the ponies (more on that later).
Every walk I will be talking to you about today is accessible by train or bus. No car needed. Actually, there is one which has no bus or train access, but I easily walked there. And by easily, I mean navigated through flood water.
What to expect when walking in the New Forest
You might think that as it’s a forest, it’s all forest woodland walks. Well, not exactly. Yes, there are a lot of scenic routes taking you through woodland, but there is also a lot of open space. The New Forest is made up of ancient woodlands, and open heathland and wetland.
Fun fact: It was established as a Royal Forest for hunting in 1079, by William the Conqueror. Back then it was called Nova Foresta. Then in 2005, it was granted National Park Status.
The New Forest walks I will be telling you about today cover all. Walks through dense forest, along tree lined trails, and through tree tunnels. Across large fields of heathland, wetland, and a golf courses. Walks to and around quaint villages. Long walks, short walks, circular walks and linear walks. Walks on dirt trails, grass trails, mud trails, bike trails, and asphalt.
Basically, there should be a walk for everyone.
Every walk I talk about will have a link to the full guide with more detailed logistics, a map, and a step by step route description with photos. Some of them are specific known routes, some I kind of made up.
When is the best time to go walking in the New Forest?
You can go walking in the New Forest any time of the year, but the best time would be when it’s not been raining. There is a lot of bog and marshland, which doesn’t just mean wet feet, but sometimes public footpaths can be completely flooded over.
Read more: Tips for hiking in wet weather
The summer months are the safest for no rain (in theory), and with the heat you will get some good shelter under the trees. Spring would also be lovely, as the flowers come into bloom.
Will I see the New Forest Ponies on any of these walks?
You may have already heard about the wild ponies of the New Forest. Well, technically they aren’t wild, they do have owners, but they are allowed to roam freely.
As such I would find it very very strange if you didn’t encounter some of these ponies when walking around the New Forest. They are everywhere. You will probably also see them just wandering down the roads.
How to get to the New Forest
You can get a direct train to the New Forest in 1.5 hours from London, which makes it the perfect place for a weekend getaway. It is served by the Great Western Railway line, and stops at Ashurst, Brockenhurst, Lymington, Beaulieu, and Sway. There is a bus network within the New Forest to get you around to the different villages.
Southhampton and Bournemouth are the main towns just outside the New Forest, which also have bus routes to get you in (or you can just get the train).
If coming by car, the New Forest sits on the south coast, smack bang in the middle of the bottom of England. From London you can jump onto the M3, and then onto the M27 which leads into the New Forest.
I have spoken enough now, so let’s get into it….
9 Best walks in the New Forest National Park
Starting from the shortest walk, and working up……
1) Tall Trees Trail – One of the most popular walks in the New Forest
Distance: 1.5miles Time: 30min Difficulty: Easy Type: Circular walk
As the name suggests, this walk is amongst very tall trees. The tallest trees in the New Forest, and some of the tallest trees in England. Lining the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, it’s quite a well known area, thus is the most crowded walk on this list.
I wouldn’t overlook it because of this though. Those trees are damn impressive.
It’s a very family friendly short walk, with an easy trail, information boards and a car park. There are other trails around this area such as the Aboretum trail. So there is more for you to do if you do drive here, and want to walk more than 1 mile.
This is the one walk on the list which doesn’t have public transport. If you have a car, you can park in Blackwater car park. If you don’t have a car, you could make it into a longer route, by walking there from Lyndhurst or Brockenhurst. I walked there from Brockenhurst, which I detail a bit further down
Read more: The tall trees trail – full guide
2) Hollands Wood walk – The campsite
Distance: 1.5 miles Time: 30min Difficulty: Easy Type: Circular walk
This walk takes you through a campsite. Something I didn’t realise until I got there. As I was there during winter, there were no campers, and I would probably recommend you do this one when the campsite is closed (the winter months).
Located just outside Brockenhurst Village, and full of well kept paths, this easy walk is perfect if you aren’t into big walks and want a bit of woodland vibe without getting your feet (too) wet.
It does run alongside a main road, but that’s the compromise made for accessibility.
If you want to move further from the road, and don’t mind getting your feet (more) wet, then there are options to walk out of the campsite and deeper into the woods, or out onto the grassy marshland.
Read more: Hollands Wood – full guide
3) Ashurst to Lyndhurst – A nice mixed walking route in the New Forest
Distance: 4.6 miles Time: 2h15min Difficulty: Easy Type: Linear walk
This is a great walk, taking you along grassy carpet like trails lined with some very tall trees, some open fields of marshland, a small amount of woods, and a golf course.
I would say it’s a very pleasant length. 4 miles is enough to feel like you have a good solid walk, but short enough that it doesn’t take up your whole day.
You can walk in either direction, but I would suggest starting at Ashurst in the morning, so you finish at Lyndhurst in time for a good lunch. Then you have the rest of the day to explore Lyndhurst, which is known as the capital of the New Forest, so there is plenty to see.
Ashurst has a train station with links to Southampton, Brockenhurst and Lymington. Lyndhurst doesn’t, however it is simple to get to by bus. There is also short bus journey linking Ashurst and Lyndhurst.
Read more: Ashurst to Lyndhurst – full guide
4) Brockenhurst Village walk – The one with donkeys in middle of road
Distance: 5 miles Time: 1h 45m Difficulty: Easy Type: Circular route
This walk takes you on a circular around Brockenhurst village. It’s a specific known route and is a mix of high street, woodland, and marshland. It’s a nice easy little walk, with pony and possibly donkey sightings. Actually, I think it’s the only one of these walks in the New Forest that I saw donkeys.
You will also get to see a phenomenon known as a watersplash ford, where you can watch the cars get scared away.
This walk has the benefit of starting and finishing at the train station near the village centre, so you could do it and then hop on the train to go and explore other areas of the New Forest…or you could just stay put and head to the pub.
Read more: Brockenhurst Village circular – full guide
5) Brockenhurst to Lymington walk – The one with risk of floods
Distance: 7 miles Time: 3h Difficulty: Medium Type: Linear walk
Of all the walks I have done in the New Forest, this was the wettest. With some sections of the trail completely flooded and impassable. I tried to pass by one section by climbing up the bank and got myself a big cut on barbed wire. Which then reminded me I wasn’t up to date on my tetanus shot. What I’m trying to get at is, maybe don’t do this one if it has been raining recently.
Read more: Tips for hiking in the rain and wet weather
Otherwise it’s a lovely walk taking you from a charming village to a port town, with woodland, fields, and ponies in between. Of all the walks I have done in the New Forest, it probably was the least foresty. A little more English countryside vibes.
This walk is the only linear one on the list. You could easily make it circular though, if you want to make a full day of it. You don’t even need to decide now. Go and do it, then see how you feel, as both Lymington and Brockenhurst have a train station with a direct link.
Read more: Brockenhurst to Lymington – full guide
6) Lyndhurst Parish walk – The one with the cutest homes in the New Forest
Distance: 9 miles Time: 3h 45m Difficulty: Easy Type: Circular walk
This walk in the New Forest takes you around the parish boundary of Lyndhurst Village. As such, you can easily shorten the walk to get back into the village centre. It is one of 2 official New Forest walks on this list (by that I mean, one that I didn’t make up).
You will walk through the usual woodland and open fields, and pass by surrounding hamlets with cute houses, giving a charming feel to the walk. There is a pub en route for a little refreshment break. The famous New Forest ponies will also most likely feature on this walk
Lyndhurst doesn’t have a train station, but you can get a bus with links to Southampton, Brockenhurst and Lymmington. Each of which have direct trains from London Waterloo.
Read more: Lyndhurst Parish circular – full guide
7) Brockenhurst to Blackwater and the Tall Trees Trail
Distance: 10 miles Time: 4h Difficulty: Easy Type: Circular route
This is an extension of the Tall Trees trail mentioned earlier. It’s a good way to see the tall trees if you don’t have a car. The tall trees section of the trail is quite popular (aka busy), so if you do this full walk from Brockenhurst, you will still get to experience nice quieter bits. Also, arriving at the tall trees after a bit of a walk is quite special.
It can be a particularly muddy and wet route, with some precarious log walking. All about adventure right?
8) Brockenhurst to Lyndhurst – The walk along bike track
Distance: 10.6 miles Time: 3h 45m Difficulty: Easy Type: Circular walk
Right in the heart of the New Forest, most of this walking route is along bike track. However, don’t be fooled into thinking it will be dry. If you do this walk in the winter, you will mostly likely be walking along a muddy path and then some very wet marshland.
Read more: Tips for hiking in rain and wet weather
The starting point for this walk is Brockenhurst, with Lyndhurst being the halfway mark. However, feel free to start at either end. Both towns are linked by a short bus journey if you end up deciding to walk just one way.
Whichever place you start from, you will be able to stop of in either of the villages for lunch and a bit of exploring, before heading back.
9) Brockenhurst to Beaulieu walk – The longest one in the New Forest
Distance: 17.6m Time: 7h Difficulty: Medium Type: Circular walk
This is a pretty long walk, and by far the longest of all these walks in the New Forest, and features a little bit of everything. Forest trails, marshland, ponies, the Beaulieu River and a 13th century village.
Of all the walks I did, this was the most magical fairytale like of them all. Think green carpet like trails, dense woodland with hanging trees and rays of light shining through.
If you choose to do this walk, you need to commit to it. Transport links are limited in Beaulieu. You can get buses from there, but they don’t go back to Brockenhurst.
Which of these walks is my favourite? I can’t pick one, but I would say it’s a toss up between Brockenhurst to the Tall Trees Trail, Lyndhurst to Ashurst, and Brockenhurst to Beaulieu.
Pin the best walks in the New Forest National Park for later:
If you would like to find other walks, and more information about the New Forest, you can check out the National Parks website.