Top winter running trails to keep you moving into 2024

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

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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...

A woman in running clothes and a pink hat running along a forest path in winter

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

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

Women cycling in the forest

Family friendly off-road routes in the forest

Discover green spaces, dedicated cycling trails, skills areas and beginner mountain bike trails perfect for starting your children on their cycling journey. So, grab your helmet and head out for a beautiful cycle ride.

A man with his back to the camera, wearing walking boots, jeans, coat and hat, walking through the forest in winter.

Walking in the forest is the perfect way to improve your health and explore England's most beautiful habitats.

With stunning viewpoints, sculpture trails and wildlife hides, to Nordic Walking events, quiet riverside strolls and leg-stretching hikes, our woods and forests are the perfect place for a woodland walk.  Search for a walk at a forest near you.

Friends cycling in the forest
There's activities for everyone in the forest, find a cycle trail, running track, walking trail or try something different.