A guide to Grizedale Forest holiday cottages

A guide to Grizedale Forest

Ed / Julie 26 February 2020

Grizedale is a large forest park situated to the east of Coniston Water. Visitors can find a myriad of activities to undertake amidst fabulous swathes of conifer woodlands. 

The park is home to Grizedale Art’s expansive sculpture project that has been running constantly since the 1970s, so look out for some unusual structures along the walking and cycling trails. By proxy they also work as way markers and beacons along the trail to help walkers find their way easily. In addition to the sculptures there are frequent exhibitions of art and photography at the visitor centre. 

Grizedale Forest Wildlife

Grizedale Forest is home to an array of wildlife so you should always respect their natural environment during your visit and make sure you remove any rubbish before leaving. Amongst the creatures you can spot are butterflies, dragonflies, badgers, and foxes. We recommend keeping your eyes peeled for: 

Red Kites - reintroduced to Grizedale Forest in 2012 after an absence of more than 200 years. The majestic birds continue to thrive and you may well catch sight of a Grizedale Red Kite soaring high above you.  

Red Deer - Grizedale is home to England’s only indiginous red deer herd. They can be spotted in the forest throughout the year but outside of the summer months, their beautiful red coat turns to grey. 

Red Squirrels - though much rarer than their larger Grey Squirrel counterparts, there is a thriving population of red squirrels living within Grizedale Forest. Visitors are encouraged to report any sightings at the Visitor Centre of these beautiful native English creatures.

Grizedale Forest Cycling Trails

From mountain biking trails to more sedate cycling routes, Grizedale is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to get active on two wheels. Cycle hire is available at Grizedale Forest too if you aren’t able to bring along your own bike.

Here are some of the cycle trails worth tackling during your visit to Grizedale:

The Goosey Foot Tarn Trail is Grizedale’s shortest cycle route at just 2 miles long. The family-friendly waymarked trail passes by two tarns with a couple of gentle hills to tackle along the way. 

The Mushroom Cycle Trail is a great option for children who will love seeking out a collection of wooden mushrooms as they make their way around this gentle 3 mile route. 

The Hawkshead Moor Trail is a pretty 10.5 mile forest road route that will take you through the western side of Grizedale with fantastic views across to Coniston and the Langdales.

The North Face MTB Trail is Grizedale Forest’s dedicated red grade mountain bike route, which is made up of 9 sections covering 10 miles in total. The adrenaline fuel route is tough on the legs but riders can enjoy some spectacular views throughout the challenging terrain.


Grizedale is full of walking challenges, so from the mildest of tracks to full-on mountain trails, this forest park will have something for everybody. At the ‘rough’ end of the challenge scale there is the Silurian Trail; a loop that takes you to the summit of Carron Crag and up and down the Grizedale Valley. There are a few moderate trails and many easy ones for those that simply want a non-taxing stroll.

In total there are 10 walking trails and some of our favourites include:

The Ridding Wood walk - an easy access mile long trail that’s a great choice for families with younger children. You’ll pass through oak woodland and there’s a number of sculptures to spot along the way.

The Carron Crag circular - a challenging 3-mile route that includes a climb up to Carron Crag, at 314 metres it’s the highest peak in Grizedale.  You’ll be rewarded when you reach the summit with views out to the Howgills and the Lakeland Fells.

Machell’s Copice trail - a historic 1.5-mile lake walk with views out over Coniston. This is the Lake District landscape that inspired Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons and you can follow in the main characters’ footsteps on this steep waterside trail. 

Millwood Trail - a moderately challenging 1.5 mile loop that will take you underneath Grizedale’s Go Ape course and past some of the oldest trees in the forest.

If you're looking to explore this part of the Lake District on foot, read our guide to ten of the best Coniston walks.

Dark skies

A lack of light pollutants means you can regularly spot an array of stars under the dark skies of Grizedale Forest. There are regular stargazing events and you can find information to help you get started in the Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre. We recommend taking a blanket and a pair of binoculars but on a clear night you may be able to spot the Milky Way with the naked eye. 

  • August is the best month to spot the Milky Way - you should see a large swathe of light with darker lines running through it
  • Winter is best for spotting constellations such as The Plough and Orion
  • Go Stargazing is a good online resource which will let you know the best days each month for dark skies
  • Bring along some warm clothing and refreshments - evenings in the Lake District can get a little chilly

Family-friendly activities

We recommend heading to the Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre where you can find lots of information on the family-friendly adventures to be had amongst the trees.

Close to the visitor centre you’ll find an adventure playground with a range of wooden structures for children to climb up and walk over. There are also swings and slides with picnic benches and covered seating nearby so you can keep a close eye on your kids as they play. 

There’s a choice of Go Ape Treetop Adventures so that people of all ages can enjoy travelling through the trees. Adults and older teenagers can tackle the thrilling extra long zip wires and challenging obstacles of the high ropes course. A smaller child-friendly version has a series of bridges, climbs and crossings with a gentler zip wire at the end.  

Another fun way to travel through the trees is on a special Forest Segway. You’ll whizz along on a range of off-road tracks with a safari guide to lead the way over different terrains from smooth pathways to twisting tracks. 

Animal lovers can get up close to a friendly Fell Pony and walk one of these majestic native Cumbrian horses through the forest. Fell Pony Adventures will lead you on a trail through the trees before rustling up a hot picnic lunch, cooked for you over a charcoal fire.   

Pick up a waterproof orienteering map from the Grizedale Forest Visitor Centre and see if you can navigate your way between a series of control points.There’s a choice of orienteering trails that range from easy to expert and competitive families can split up into teams and see who can complete the course in the quickest time. 

Younger children will enjoy following the Shaun the Sheep Farmageddon Glow Trail which involves downloading a free app to solve various puzzles before you can take an augmented reality photo with Shaun to prove you have completed the mission. 

Explore the Lake District

The park is close to the town of Hawkshead for amenities and places of interest to visit. To the south is Lake Windermere with the main hubs like Ambleside and Windermere for an exemplary selection of restaurants, pubs, and independent shops. There are also some interesting theatres and cinemas in the region to enjoy of an evening.

Stay near Grizedale Forest

Waterfall Cottage is located on the southern edge of Grizedale Forest

If you're feeling inspired, take a look at our full collection of Grizedale cottages, perfect for visiting the forest, Lake Windermere and beyond. For more Lake District inspiration, read our guide to ten things to do at Lake Windermere.


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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