England’s Top 10 forests for family cycling

Here at Cycle Sprog we believe cycling is a brilliant way to experience the outdoors and is such great fun for the whole family.

We are so lucky to have 1,300km of off-road trails in England's national forests - with lots of them suitable for family riding.

One of them, Cannock Chase, has been chosen as the venue for the Commonwealth Games Mountain biking competition!

To celebrate this fact, Forestry England have released a Forest Rider pack which has been designed to challenge children to complete a series of off-road rides, to help build their confidence and to enjoy the fantastic network of trails the nation’s forest have to offer.

They've also announced their Top 10 family routes.

Is your favourite included?  And how many have you ridden? 

Forestry England Rider Pack

Forestry England have kindly sent us a  Forest Rider pack for a sneak peek!

It contains a colourful mountain bike themed buff for use on or off the trails.

There's also a rider log book for recording up to 5 forest rides. It's up to you whether you try and do all different forests, or return to your favourite each time.

Also in the log book are some fun colouring and sticker activities and you get three sheets of stickers for this purpose.

Finally there's five skills cards which explain how to do various mountain bike techniques.  Don't worry, you don't need to be able to do any of these to enjoy one of the family rides, but if you want to progress onto the more technical trails these will be very useful).   Each card also has a QR code which links to a video demonstration of the skill in practice which is very helpful.

All this is packed in cardboard with a small wooden pencil, so there's a low impact feel to the entire thing.

You can buy the Forest Rider pack from any Forestry England Centre for £5.  You can also buy online for £6.50.

The pack also contains the chance to solve a puzzle to enter a prize drawer to win £350 Halfords voucher, a family experience with Go Ape, a Forestry England Membership and more.

Forestry England say the pack is aimed at ages 7-12. Personally I feel children younger than 7 will really love this pack too - especially with all the stickers and activities.  A more cynical 12 year may just grab the buff and ignore the rest (although I'm happy to be proved wrong - let me know in the comments below or tag #CycleSprog and @CycleSprog on Instagram).

England's Top 10 Forests for Family Cycling

Foresty England have also released this list of their top routes across the country to enjoy a great, family day out on your bikes.

Is your favourite included?

  1. The Borderline Trail, Kielder Forest, Northumberland - This flat and easy to ride trail runs alongside a former railway line and is the perfect trail for families looking to build confidence off-road.


  1. Adderstone Trail, Dalby Forest, Yorkshire – Fun for all the family, this trail provides a gentle route around the top of the forest. Perfect for improving those off-road cycling skills while taking in the amazing views of Yorkshire.


  1. Wood Farm Trail, Hicks Lodge, Leicestershire – This trail is a great introduction to off-road cycling, this beginner's mountain bike route leads you through the forest on specially built winding tracks and provides twists and turns which will be fun for the whole family.


  1. The Adventure Cycle Trail, Sherwood Pines Forest, Nottingham – A great choice for intermediate riders and families looking for a longer ride. This train includes natural terrain, uneven surfaces and fast flowing corners with berms, so keep your eyes on the trail!


  1. Family Trail, Fineshade, Northampton – This trail is a great option for families with a variety of skill levels, offering a beginner’s route with optional blue grade taster loops that runs alongside, so it's up to you which you ride.


Forest riders pack - photo credit Forestry England/Crown copyright

6) Blue Trail, Hamsterley Forest, County Durham – Stepping up a notch from beginners cycling, this is the perfect trail to get to grips with off-road cycling at a safe and leisurely pace. You will be riding some purpose-built single-track trails and some much wider forest roads.


7) Family Trail, Salcey Forest, Northampton - Perfect for family cycling and spending some quality time in the great outdoors together! This route is relatively flat, wide, smooth and a safe and is a relaxing way to pick up confidence, develop cycling skills and enjoy a great day out.

Child cycling - forest rider pack - Photo credit Forestry England/Crown copyright


8) Family Trail, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire - A popular, circular trail, mainly on former railway lines which has connecting routes to villages and picnic sites making it the perfect day out for families who like to enjoy the fresh air and a bite to eat along the way!


9) The Shephard Trail, Thetford Forest, East Anglia - A quiet family trail, offering relatively flat, wide-open forest road, tracks and rides perfect for families just starting out, those wanting a peaceful cycle ride will love this trail.


10) Family Trail, Alice Holt, Surrey – Leading you through ancient mighty oaks as well as floral open spaces, this trail is the perfect way for the whole family to see the wider forest and beyond.

My own Cycle Sprogs have ridden at 4 of these forests, so we've now got another 6 to add to our "must ride" list!!

It's so hard to choose our favourite forest, but I do have a soft spot for Dalby Forest on this list.   But then again, Keilder..... oh, but wait.....

Our most frequented forests are Whinlatter and Gisburn which are missing from this list, but I suspect that's because they're a bit on the steep side and not as suited for families starting out mountain biking.

I'd love to know how many on this you have ridden, and is your favourite included or not? Do drop a comment in the box below, or tag #CycleSprog and @CycleSprog on Instagram for a share.

You can find more information here about cycling in England's forests.  Enjoy! 

Photo Credits:  All photos in this article are Forestry England/Crown copyright with the exception of the photo of the Forest Rider pack, which we took ourselves.


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