The capital of the West Midlands region and the second-largest city by population in the UK, Birmingham is a huge and cosmopolitan city with plenty to do. Offering great shopping, fun things to do with kids, and excellent food, there's no chance you'll run out of things to do here. And although Birmingham doesn't show up on the radar of tourists as much as cities like Manchester and Liverpool, let alone London, Birmingham is coming into its own as a destination for visitors both from across the UK and from abroad.
By UK standards, Birmingham isn't a particularly historic city. It wasn't until the Industrial Revolution that Birmingham really started to expand. However, during that crucial period, Birmingham grew into the major city it is now, and that industrial legacy can still be seen throughout the city.
Therefore, it often comes as a surprise for people to learn that Birmingham and its surrounding landscape offer plenty of open green space. Get out of the city center, and you'll be able to take walking trails through ancient woodland and over rolling hills while you enjoy what hiking in Birmingham has to offer. Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Birmingham, and you'll be ready to explore the fascinating environment of the West Midlands and see another side of an area that is usually associated with heavy industry.
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks in Birmingham
Lickey Hills Country Park
A favorite of Birmingham locals, Lickey Hills Country Park gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature without straying too far from the city. Just 10 miles from the city itself and New Street Station, Lickey Hills Country Park covers over 520 acres and is a phenomenal place to spot wildlife, have a picnic, and enjoy the view.
Lickey Hills Country Park has been awarded Green Flag status for its well-preserved natural environment. The park offers plenty of walking trails, so you can take your pick at this popular visitor attraction. The Lickey Hills trail starts at the visitor center and takes you on a 1.5-mile loop which lets you explore the nature of the park on an interpretive trail that's great for families. It will also take you to Beach View, the highest point in the park which offers a commanding view over Birmingham. Once you've visited this park, you won't have a hard time seeing why it's one of the most popular attractions near the city.
For natural beauty without going too far from the city, Sutton Park is hard to beat. Known for the Sutton Park wetlands, this park covers 2400 acres, making it one of the largest urban parks in the UK, and contains numerous walking and hiking trails to enjoy. The park even contains seven man-made lakes, a visitor center, and a golf course, making it a superb place to take a break from the busyness of the city.
As you'd expect from a park of its size, Sutton Park has plenty of hiking trails to choose from. One of the most popular is a five-kilometer trail that begins at the visitor center and winds through the park, visiting many of the lakes as it trails its way through the woodland back to the starting point. The terrain is fairly easy, so it's a great route for beginner hikers and families to enjoy.
Shire Country Park
Thanks to the films of Peter Jackson, one of the most beloved books in English literature, the Lord of the Rings, has become associated with the scenery of New Zealand. However, author JRR Tolkien spent his childhood in Birmingham, and locations in and around the city inspired many of the landscapes of his fictional Middle Earth.
The Tolkien Trail includes ten locations spread across the city that have links to the famous author and his work. One of those is Sarehole Mill, one of Birmingham's only remaining working watermills. This mill is located in Shire Country Park, and from it, you can take a walk along the River Cole. This five-kilometer circular walk will bring you to Moseley Bog and its two burnt mounds dating back to the Bronze Age, a location that was inspirational to a young Tolkien and that may well inspire your own fantastical tales as you explore.
Cannon Hill Park
Another of Birmingham's outdoor highlights, this Green Flag awarded park is one of the best known in the city and has been a fixture of Birmingham since the 19th century. The Victorian bandstand that remains in the park is a tribute to the importance of Cannon Hill Park in the recreational life of this industrial city.
There's also an impressive wildflower meadow that makes a great place to visit in spring and the Queen Mother's Woodland, which has a tree for every year of the Queen Mother's long life. The park also contains the Midlands Art Center, a theater that often hosts plays and other performances. From the arts center, you can set out on a five-kilometer walk past the boathouse and see how many of the more than 100 species of trees this park is reputed to contain you can find for yourself. There's also a kid's play area in the park and sports facilities for older kids and adults, making this easily one of the best free things to do in Birmingham while you visit the UK's second city.
Sandwell Valley Country Park
Sitting to the north of the city, Sandwell Valley Country Park is one of the best places to experience the wildlife of the area. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds operates a hide here where you can observe hundreds of different species of birds, and the surfaced paths offer plenty of options for a gentle walk. There's also a farm in the park where you can meet less wild but friendlier animals than you will at the birding location, making this an excellent place to visit with the family.
Plus, if you don't feel like walking alone, or you'd just like to meet some locals, the park operates group walks three times a week. The Forge Mill Health walk covers 2.3 miles of gentle terrain, and the Sandwell Valley Trails route takes you past Forge Mill Park and the Swan Pond for a longer challenge. This park is easily reached by public transit from Birmingham, making it an excellent thing to do while in the city.
Moseley Old Hall
The ancient woodland paths of Moseley Old Hall offer more than just some gentle exercise. Located outside the city in nearby Wolverhampton, the ruins of the now-demolished Moseley Court, dating back to the Tudor period, make for an atmospheric place to visit near Birmingham. The walk from Northycote Farm past Moseley Old Hall covers three miles of generally flat terrain, though you may well encounter some muddy paths, so designer shoes are not recommended. The ruins of the hall are reputed to be haunted by a phantom horseman and a love-stricken farmhand, among others, and while sightings of paranormal activity can't be guaranteed, the stories do make for an entertaining bit of local color while you enjoy a nice walk.
Clent Hills is another of the most popular beauty spots in the area around Birmingham, and you'll find plenty to keep you occupied here. Starting at the Nimmings Wood Car Park, you can take a path that leads past St Leonard's Church and the Beacon Hill Toposcope, which offers an incredible view that stretches all the way to the Welsh Black Mountains. This castle was once part of a chain of beacons used as an early signaling system, and readers of Lord of the Rings may be reminded of the beacons of Gondor in Tolkien's book that may have been inspired by this area that the author knew so well.
Along the way, you'll also encounter The Four Stones, a formation of ancient standing stones of mysterious origin that speak to the long history of this wild part of the West Midlands. In short, this is a fascinating place to go for a hike and explore not only the natural beauty but also the rich and fascinating history of the area.
Saltwells Local Nature Reserve
This large nature reserve was created back in the 18th century to restore land which had been polluted by mining. You'd never know it to look at the area today since nature has rebounded here in a spectacular way. There are three trails in this park that allow visitors to enjoy hundreds of wild orchids and the impressive cliffs of Doulton's Claypit. The ancient bluebell woods are also a highlight of this popular park and make for great photo opportunities in the spring.
The Sculpture Trail covers half a mile of paved path with no steep slopes. The Doulton Trail is only a little more challenging, covering one mile that includes a flight of stairs. The Murray Grey Trail is the longest and most challenging at 2.5 miles with several ascents, including one steep one. Therefore, this last trail is a better option for more experienced hikers.
Birmingham is located in a landscape of forests and fields and isn't generally known for its dramatic scenery. Therefore, if you want to challenge yourself as a hiker, you'll need to be willing to travel a little. Around an hour outside of Birmingham, you'll find the Malvern Hills, and this more mountainous area offers plenty of gorgeous scenery and challenging terrain for more advanced hikers.
Try the 3.5-mile circular route from British Camp to Swinyard Hill, and you'll climb to the Iron Age fort of Herefordshire Beacon, giving your thighs a workout along the way. Or for a real challenge, you could walk along the top of the Malvern Ridge from Chase End to North Hill, taking in the biggest peaks in the region along the way. This route covers 9.3 miles with some fairly extreme elevation along the way, but it also offers breathtaking views and a chance to see the wilder side of the heart of the country. Fuel up for this incredible walking trip with the best brunch in Birmingham before you go.
Easy Hikes in Birmingham
Most of the walks and hikes in and around Birmingham are rated as easy thanks to the gentle terrain of the West Midlands. Sutton Park offers gentle but interesting walks without leaving the city, and Lickey Hills Country Park is a great place for novice hikers to get a few miles under their belt. For historical interest, Shire Country Park is also an excellent choice and is a must-visit for Tolkien fans.
Intermediate Hikes in Birmingham
In the flat terrain of Birmingham, more strenuous hikes can be hard to come by. Murray Grey Trail in Saltwells Local Nature Reserve offers something of a challenge as it winds up and down hills, but if you want something more substantial, you may have to travel to the Malvern Hills and take on the Herefordshire Beacon.
Difficult Hikes in Birmingham
If you really want to test yourself, you'll have to leave Birmingham itself. But heading west of the city will bring you closer to Wales and the mountains of the Cotswolds and the Welsh Marches. The End to End trail in the Malvern Hills presents enough of a challenge for even the most avid hikers and offers stunning views as a reward for tackling so many hills. If you're not up to doing the whole walk in one go, you can break it up into sections and explore it on different days.