If you are staying in London and you need a break from all the hustle and bustle of the city why not go for a hike? You don't need to travel far or do a lot of hiking to find some stunning scenery, but you can make a day of it if you wish. Actually, with some of the trails, like the Thames Path, you could make it a few days.
Whether you are hiking near London or hopping on a train to one of the beautiful countryside walks, there are no shortages of hiking trails to choose from. And there is something for everyone, from the steep hills and chalk cliffs of Seven Sisters Cliffs to the gentle country walks in Epping Forest.
We've put together a list of the best hikes in London for you to consider. First, drop your heavy bags at one of our London luggage storage spots. Don some sunscreen and bring along a small backpack with essentials, including water. Remember that some of these hikes require a little travel and if you are on a budget, then London is where your walk begins.
Seven Sisters Cliff Walk
Hiking this trail is a six-hour or more workout with over thirteen and a half miles of going up and downhill. At certain parts of the Seven Sisters Cliff walk, you will need to be careful as the cliff drops can become very steep. But the views you get for the effort are incredible.
Starting at Seaford, you will have the English Channel as your partner on the right side. You will traverse the iconic chalk cliffs that were formed in the Ice Age. There are several drops down to beaches, including Beachy Head, for a chance for a refreshing dip.
Part of the journey will be on the South Downs Way Trail and will end at the promenade of Eastbourne Pier. There you can relax and grab some fish & chips before heading back to London. To get there is about an hour and a half train ride from London Victoria to Seaford (one switch in Lewes). For the return, there is a direct train to London from Eastbourne.
Chess Valley Walk
This nice and easy, just over ten-mile walk will take about four hours to complete. The route follows the River Chess and will take you past some great sights such as the first-century Roman farm-villa at Latimer. You will see a variety of birds, wildflowers (including orchids), and at the halfway point you can stop at the Chenies Manor for a rest in their public gardens.
The Chess Valley trail is popular not just for its beauty but because it takes less than twenty-five minutes to get here by train. That is what makes it one of the best hikes near London. Hop on the Metropolitan Line from London Marylebone to either Rickmansworth or Chesham and start walking.
Box Hill Circular
At just over nine miles, the circular route takes around four hours to complete. The hike contains a few strenuous spots that will get you working up a sweat so you do need to be in pretty good shape for this one. Once you reach the top, if you are not breathing hard the view will certainly take your breath away.
Box Hill was the site of the Road Race in the 2012 Olympics and the trail is very clearly marked as it wanders through the hills of Surrey. If you get tired halfway through there is a nice restaurant to relax at. To get there trains run from either London Victoria and London Waterloo to Box Hill Park.
Epping Forest Oak Trail
This easy two-hour six-and-a-half-mile nature trail is so close to London but feels lightyears away. The Oak Trail hike begins at Theydon Bois Station and meanders through open fields, Iron Age earthworks, and the Epping Forest. The Oak Trail leads through ancient woodland to a deer sanctuary and with great pubs for lunch at the end, this is one of the best hikes near London for the family.
It doesn’t take long to get there either, hopping on the Tube (subway) you take the Central Line to the Theydon Bois Station. So fast and easy the kids won’t have time to say, “Are we there yet?”
A relatively short hike, about three hours, the near eight-mile moderate trek is loaded with nature. Going from Ockley to the Leith Hill Tower you will want to make a stop at Vann Lake and really soak in the surroundings.
The lake was made in the 18th century for a mill. Although the mill was never built the spot has become a nature lover retreat that makes you feel you are nowhere near London. The area has a wide variety of dragonflies and damselflies, over one hundred species of birds, and ten different types of fish swimming in the lake.
On the way back down from Leith Hill change your route up a bit and go through the Rhododendron Woods. The area was created by Charles Darwin's oldest sister Caroline Wedgewood. It is home to some rather ancient species of Himalayan, Chinese, and Thai rhododendrons.
With regular trains from London Victoria to Ockley, getting there takes just over an hour. Don’t forget to climb the tower for an absolutely grand view of London, you might even see Big Ben.
This six-and-a-half-mile loop will take you around the perimeter of Hampstead Park in about two hours. It's an easy walk, but if you want to up it to a moderate hike make a side trip to one of the best views in the city of London, and head up Parliament Hill. As Hampstead Heath is in London itself, and easy to get to, it can be very busy especially on sunny days.
If you are not in a hurry to get home you may want to make a couple of stops like Highgate Cemetery (a top haunting ground for ghosts) then one of the many nearby pubs. Or if you have children they may want to hit the playground or pop over to the free zoo at Golders Hill Park.
To get there jump on the North Line to the Hampstead underground station, a ten-minute walk and you are ready to start your hike. Depending on your starting in London it won’t take more than thirty minutes to get there.
Thames Path - Goring Gap
You could walk the one-hundred and eighty-four-mile path that follows the River Thames if you wanted to, it would be more than a day trip, but you don’t have to. Fortunately, the Thames Path is divided into smaller sections for everyone to enjoy. The entire length of the hike is very easy and can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter their age or fitness level.
If you decide to hike the entire length you will find many B&Bs and hotels to rest for the night. For those that want to start with a shorter hike, try the Goring Gap. Situated in the narrowest part of the Thames Valley is the quaint Oxfordshire village of Goring.
The walk will take you through the woods, meadows of wildflowers, and past the Hartslock Nature Reserve. Starting from the Goring & Streatley station it is only a five-mile stroll to Pangbourne train station. You can do this walk in the other direction too, as the train to and from London Paddington stops at both stations.
Mole Gap Trail
From all the hikes near London, this is a must-do! A nice leisurely six-mile hike that will take about three hours – that is unless you make a few stops along the way. This trail has outstanding natural beauty with nature reserves, water meadows, and downland. It will also take you past the largest vineyard in England, the Denbies Wine Estate.
If you get thirsty on the hike there are quite a few pubs for pit stops or drop in at the vineyard for some wine tasting and tour. Don’t stop for too long though you would not want to miss seeing the 18th-century manor at Norbury Park.
The hike is clearly marked by silver arrows that you will see when you step off the train at Leatherhead station. At the end of the hike, you will find yourself at Dorking where you can catch the train back to London Victoria.
There are a few routes that you can take, all starting from Hastings Old Town in East Sussex, which one you choose will depend on your adventure level.
The most popular is the six-mile East Hill and Ecclesbourne Reservoir, a moderate hike good for all levels. You will get beautiful views from the cliffside and pass the old castle ruins at Hastings. Two hours of hiking might make you break a sweat, which is a great excuse to hit one of the pubs at the end.
For more of a challenge try the Fairlight Glen Beach and Fireheights, an eight-mile grind that will get the adrenaline going. With four descents and ascents, it ends on the beach, a favorite spot for naturalists. If you are not up for the same challenge on the way back there are some easier trails to take, but you don’t get the views.
It is a bit of a ride getting to Hastings, one and a half hours from Charing Cross. So you may want to plan a day in this charming town, check out the amusement park, adventure golf, or grab a bite to eat before you head back to London.
Like other areas on this list, there are several hiking trails to choose from along the sixty-six-mile Kentish Coast. If you have a few days and a good set of hiking boots you will not be disappointed by the beautiful scenery that awaits you on the linear route from Ramsgate to Camber. But not everyone has that much time, so here is one that is a little shorter.
Starting the hike in Ramsgate you will travel just under ten miles to the town of Margate. There are two hiking trails to get you to your destination, both are nice and or not too strenuous. Walk the white chalk cliffs for absolutely stunning views of the English Channel. You will pass caves that were havens for smugglers, and now they are best for fossil hunting.
Walking along the beach promenade you will be filling your lungs with the fresh sea breeze as you walk past nine bays, scattered wildflowers, and past the town of Broadstairs. Either hike will take about four or five hours. To get to Ramsgate grab a train from St. Pancras International, Charing Cross, or London Victoria. Once in Margate, hop on a return train to the same stations.
Easy Hikes in London
Most of the hikes throughout London are actually on the easy side, flat meandering paved paths that make hiking any time of the year possible. But for the best walks with great scenery and that something special that makes you feel you have escaped the big city go for Epping Forest or the Thames Path.
Intermediate Hikes in London
To push yourself a little more and elevate the heart rate you need to at least head out to the city limits. Nothing will beat Leith Hill or Box Hill Circular, with nature at your fingertips and stunning views, these two hikes are just what the doctor ordered.
Difficult Hikes in London
Here is where you want to strap on a good pair of hiking boots, grab a packed lunch, slap on your fit-bit, and work up a sweat. The Seven Sisters or Fairlight Glen Beach and Fireheights at Hastings Circular will really get your adrenaline going. They offer not only a great workout for both legs and arms, but the rewards are so worth it.
Playing in the water at Beachy Head on the Seven Sisters trail or hanging on the beach with the naturalist in Hastings, are great ways to take a break during such strenuous hikes.
A Walk on London Bridge and a Hike Beyond
There are plenty more hikes out there to have a look at, but these ones are the best hikes you will find near London. And just remember that when getting to a lot of these hikes you will need to factor in the journey time. Some will be day trips others will only take a few hours of your time, but they are all well worth the time.