The 10 Best Hikes In Cambridge
Cambridge, England is a modern city and technology hub that is known around the world for its famous Cambridge University. You may not know that Isaac Newton himself grew up in a nearby district and was attending this university at the time that he made his discovery of gravity.
Cambridge has much more to it than just its university, in fact, this city is where the current rules for football were created and the gorgeous town has also been used as a filming location in several blockbuster films. Some of the movies that were shot here include The Theory of Everything and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
This city is impressive in its establishments, landmarks and scenery, and if you are an active person you will be glad to hear that there are lots of urban and wilderness hikes that you can go on. Listed below are some of our top picks so if you are looking to spend some time out in nature then you should check these out. Remember to stop by a suitcase storage locker in Cambridge to stow away your extra things; bring the necessities but leave the unneeded gear behind in a safe spot. Lighten the load for a terrific trek!
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks in Cambridge
Cambridge to Grantchester
We will start our list with a hike through the greenspaces located directly inside the city. You can begin right here in Cambridge and follow the River Cam all the way to Grantchester Meadows Road, and the complete path is about 6 miles in length. Some of the parks that you will pass by include Coe Fen Nature Reserve, Sheep's Green, Skater's Meadow, the Eight Acre Wood and the Cambridge Backs.
This is a nice walk since it is surprisingly close to Cambridge but you won't feel like you are inside the city at all. You will most likely see other locals or tourists strolling along the river or you might even spot cows and other livestock! Afterward, you can head into town to grab a drink and snack at a tea room. It will take you just over 10 minutes to drive to this location, or you can walk there if you are up for it.
Barnack to Burghley House
The Barnack to Burghley House trail is a circular walk around a part of the city that will bring you through the streets and into the Hills and Holes Nature Reserve. The whole area is covered in trails that go over and around the hills of the park which was created in an ancient medieval quarry. Different flowers come into bloom each season so you can visit several times and experience new sights, sounds and smells every time.
The paths will take you to the old Roman road of the Burghley House which is quite an impressive home with big grounds that you can walk around. You will also pass through some small towns where you can stop for a break if you get tired. This hike is about an hour's drive away from Cambridge by car.
Paradise Local Nature Reserve
Paradise Local Nature Reserve is situated right by the city centre near the River Cam. It is home to several ecosystems for you to explore like wetlands, marshes and woodland trails. The area is decorated with boardwalks but it can get wet and difficult to navigate during the winter or spring, so make sure that you are prepared for the hike.
The park is dog friendly so if you are traveling with your four-legged family members they are welcome to join you. Just make sure that you stick to the paths and pick up after your dog, as well as carry out any garbage since the park is home to lots of wildlife. You can get here in under 10 minutes by car from Cambridge.
Houghton Mill to St Ives
Another beautiful urban hike is the one between Houghton Mill and St Ives. This trail will bring you through a small town and on paths following the River Great Ouse and the Ouse Valley Way bike path. This hike will allow you to see charming cottages and old historic churches like the All Saints Parish Church. The trek is about five miles long it is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Once you reach St Ives, you can take a break exploring the city which has narrow streets filled with markets and pubs. If you go the right way you can also explore the Hemingford Grey. You can get here quickly by car as it is just over a half-hour drive away.
Wicken Fen Nature Reserve
Wicken Fen Nature Reserve is owned by the National Trust and is the perfect place to go for some fresh air and a nice walk in Cambridge's surrounding countryside. This is more than a public greenspace but also a Site of Scientific Interest and Nature Conservation Review Site. Feel free to enjoy the walking routes at your own pace or grab a bike to peddle along the cycle path.
If you want to learn more about this conservation area, which is National Trust's oldest, as well as its wildlife you can stop by the visitor centre. Your hike will bring you through meadows, wetlands, lakes and reedbeds which are all important places for the local biodiversity. This is a great spot for bird watching and you will find lots of wildflowers and insects like colorful butterflies. This hike is about a 40-minute drive away from Cambridge.
If you want to go hiking but aren't much of a nature person you make your own trails in the historic streets of Cambridge. The impressive Cambridge University dates back hundreds of years to 1209 and over the years the campuses have grown significantly in size. You can take a delightful walk along the campus grounds or bring some food for a family picnic.
The hike is about 4 miles long and if you don't want to traverse it by foot you can always grab a bike. It is also good for sightseeing since you will pass by some of the city's main areas, like the train station on Station Road. You will pass by parks like the Jesus Green and the university's Botanic Gardens as well as the colleges and institutions like King's College found near Cambridge Station, Jesus College or Downing College.
Fen Drayton Lakes
The Fen Drayton Lakes are a collection of waterways like lakes, rivers, lagoons or ponds that were all connected to the River Ouse. You will have an impressive 25 miles of walking trails to explore and it is also one of the most beautiful countryside spaces in Cambridge.
Between the Fen rivers, you will find calm forests and woodlands and you can easily make a circular route to bring you throughout it all. This is an essential spot for the local wildlife and the area also serves as a bird sanctuary. Bring your binoculars and you might spot some endangered species on this circular trail. The lakes are just over half an hour away from Cambridge.
Heading North from the city you will find a huge nature reserve sized 157 acres. The hiking trails here are beautiful and there are lots of wildlife and gorgeous flowers growing along the beaten track. The main path here is only 2 miles in length but you can always add on to it with side trails.
The car park is small so you might have trouble finding a spot during the peak season, but the Monk's Wood is usually quiet so that shouldn't be an issue. This ancient woodland is a hidden gem and quite a spectacular place for a short stroll in Cambridge. The drive to Monk's Wood is just over half an hour away from the city centre. Take a trek here in the morning and head back into the city for a healthy brunch afterward!
Castor Hanglands National Nature Reserve
This park is one of the first National Nature Reserves in England and one of the best walks in Cambridge for nature lovers and amphibian enthusiasts. There is a certain point in the year, usually in March when the water meadows and forests of Castor Hanglands National Nature Reserve are filled with frogs and toads. An estimated two thousand of them gather here and it is quite the sight, especially if you aren't expecting it!
Other wildlife includes the great crested newts or even deer and wild ponies. During the spring and summertime, lots of wildflowers and rare plants bloom filling the meadow with colors and beauty. This is one of the top spots for a short walk and it is close to St John's Baptist Church which you should stop by if you get a chance. This hike is located about an hour away from central Cambridge.
Anglesey Abbey has some of the best hiking trails in Cambridge and is great for people who want some fresh air without venturing out into the wilderness. All of the paths here are landscaped and well maintained and the area is picturesque and pleasant. The whole of Anglesey Abbey, which was built on an old priory, is 98 acres large.
The area is decorated with statues and also a working mill, so you can learn a bit about the history of the city while you take a walk around the grounds. Stop by a picnic area for a snack if you get hungry on your stroll. You can reach this hike in under 15 minutes by car from Cambridge.
Easy Hikes in Cambridge
Most of the hikes around Cambridge are fairly easy and can be explored by almost anyone. The Anglesey Abbey is one of these hikes and it is a great place to start if you are not too experienced and want to try hiking for the first time.
The landscape around the Fen Drayton Lakes is not too challenging and is also a good choice for beginners. Take your time strolling by the meandering river or sitting by a lake to enjoy the nature and wildlife.
Historic Cambridge is the perfect spot for an easy walk around the city. It will bring you through many of the nice public greenspaces and they are all well maintained and easy to navigate.
Cambridge to Grantchester is another good path for new hikers to follow in Cambridge. The terrain is easy and you will be close to the city for most of the hike in case you need to take a break at a cafe or restaurant. These factors make this hike the ideal activity to do with the kids.
Intermediate Hikes in Cambridge
The Wicken Fen Nature Reserve is not too challenging but it is a bit more difficult than the hikes mentioned above. It is a great step up for beginners who want to go to the next level.
The landscape of the Houghton Mill to St Ives hike is not difficult but it is long, which is why it can be tiring. Remember that you can always take a break if you need to catch your breath.
Castor Hanglands National Nature Reserve is another intermediate hike in Cambridge and although it isn't easy the paths are not too difficult either. You can easily spend an afternoon exploring the places where the route takes you, even if you don't have much experience.
Difficult Hikes in Cambridge
It can be nice to challenge yourself sometimes and the Monk's Wood hike will do just that. It is more difficult than some of the others especially in the wintertime since the trails can get muddy.
The Paradise Local Nature Reserve is one of Cambridge's more challenging treks and is great if you are someone who has the experience and wants a challenge. Make sure to pack some water and snacks in case you need a break.
The Barnack to Burghley House trek is also a step up from some of the other hikes, mainly because it has small windy paths. Make sure that you are prepared if you want to try this hike!
Enjoying the Natural Beauty of Cambridge
Cambridge is beautiful, not only inside the city but also in its natural landscape. The city has wetlands and meadows as well as hills and valleys. The hikes listed above will bring you anywhere from the open countryside where you can admire the big skies and along a calm riverside path to into the streets of the city or a pretty village. No matter how or where you decide to explore Cambridge we recommend spending time outside to admire the city and the natural beauty of its greenspaces.