Running on forest trail
Photo credit: Getty Images

Stay active over winter

The unpredictable weather can make it tempting to stay inside during the shorter days, but it’s important for our wellbeing to stay active and get a regular dose of fresh air. Going for a run can be a perfect way to get outside, shake off the cobwebs, and reconnect to nature!

The mental health benefits

Running on trails outdoors can improve your mental wellbeing, social inclusion and help to alleviate the winter blues. Around 1 in 3 people in the UK suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that usually occurs during the winter months and can leave people with a persistent low mood (1).

Depression and anxiety cost the UK an estimated £70-£100 million a year [2], and studies have shown that spending as little as two hours a week in nature is an effective strategy for maintaining good mental health (3).

Ellen Devine, Wellbeing Projects Manager at Forestry England, said:

Skipping the gym in favour of a run or walk in the forest is a perfect opportunity to get on the path to fitness while also getting fresh air, recharging from the day and taking in the sights and sounds of nature. Spending time outdoors is a win-win for our bodies and our minds.

Why run in the forest?

Running in nature can give your mental health a boost and can also benefit your physical health. Our forest trails provide a softer surface for your joints, meaning fewer injuries, and they also keep you on your toes. With more natural obstacles, running in the forest means you need to concentrate more, watch where you go and keep good balance. These added elements will help you develop those much-needed leg muscles and help you tone and strengthen your legs.

Running outdoors will make your body work harder and will help you to get in better shape quickly.  It’s time to get off the treadmill and into the forest!

Our recommended trails

We’ve pulled together the top forest running trails to keep you moving this winter, as recommended by our Active Forest Coordinators. We have trails for all levels, so even if you're brand new to running, or returning to it after a break, our forests will provide the perfect backdrop.  

Bedgebury 5km running trail

Bedgebury (5K)

Recommended by Jo Pappenheim

This is the perfect circular 5K route for a run. Starting at our running map close to Go Ape, follow the pink waymarkers as the route takes you away from the busy Visitor Centre into tranquil forest. The trail mostly follows all weather forest tracks but there are a few muddy sections for added enjoyment.

Keep your eyes open for a glimpse of deer through the trees as you run under the canopy of sweet chestnuts and our native scots pine. There are some challenging up hills to begin with, but also some glorious downhill sections too and don’t forget to say hello to the Gruffalo as you finish.

Dalby (5K)

Recommended by Paul Ashford

The 5K Route starts at Adderstone field 4.5 miles into the forest from the Visitor Centre. It is a circular 5km loop that takes in a number of forest blocks from pine to birch, beech to fir.

It is an undulating course that uses footpaths, forest roads and grass rides, a trail runners paradise especially for those wanting to progress from couch to 5km and parkrun.

Dalby 5km running trail
Mallards Pike 2km running trail

Mallards Pike (2K)

Recommended by Clare Curtis

Beginning with the other waymarked running trails, the 2km route is a level and surfaced trail into the forest, returning along the Mallards Pike Family Cycle Trail link path. The route is a great step up from the shorter Lakeside path.

Sign up for our active updates packed with tips on staying active and finding forest adventures!

Whinlatter (5K)

Recommended by Sonia Dryden

A challenging circular route which has an additional mini loop at the top. You'll find yourself running mainly on wide forest roads with one short section on a forest path.

As you climb your way to 'Bob's Seat' you'll be rewarded with spectacular views to Derwentwater, Keswick, Skiddaw and the surrounding mountain ranges and you may even catch a glimpse of a red squirrel or roe deer. After all that climbing you will be rewarded with a long gentle descent all the way to the finish.

Whinlatter 5km running trail
Photo credit: Trail Running Magazine
Salcey 5km running trail
Photo credit: Rebecca Murphy

Salcey (5K)

Recommended by Demi Smith

A short run along the forest access road means a solid, flat surface underfoot to start, that later leads onto a beautiful tree lined avenue.

This route will also take you past the Elephant Pond – named after the giant creatures that used to bathe in the pond during World War II. For your final stretch you are back on the forest road with an opportunity for a final sprint to finish.

Keep exploring...

runner in autumn through woodland

Our new way-marked network of running trails from 1km to 10km have been designed for beginners and seasoned runners.

Search for dedicated running routes below, or run on any of our walking routes.

Runner on forest trail
Blog
17 January 2020
Are you bored of staring at the gym wall? Swap the treadmill for the trail this year, and try out these 13 forest running routes.
Forest Runner influencers group shot Alice Holt

The Active Forests programme, in partnership with Sport England, is here to support you to get back to nature and explore ways you can be active in the nation’s forests.

We offer some fantastic ways to improve your fitness and mental wellbeing, such as:

Running and cycling trails Yoga in the forest Wellbeing trails Orienteering

We know you’ll find what you need in the forest to get you feeling healthy and happy.

Woman doing Pilates pose in the forest

Looking for a different way to keep fit without the gym? Want to de-stress or just meet like-minded people? Discover a wide range of instructor led fitness and wellbeing classes that take place in the heart of the forest.

Whether your aim is to get active, improve your wellbeing or just try something new, there is something for everyone to get involved in.