14 of the best walks in Hertfordshire for families

Pathway leading into woodland, best walks in Hertfordshire for families

Despite being close to London, there are plenty of beautiful rural spots in Hertfordshire. I’m lucky to live near to some of the best walks in Hertfordshire for families. We might not have any big hills to climb, but there are fabulous river walks in Hertfordshire, historic parklands and some stunning bluebell woods.

In this article I’ve put together a mix of places to walk in Hertfordshire – woodland walks, river walks and circular walks in Hertfordshire. Some of them are perfect for cycling too – lots of flat wide paths which children will enjoy pedalling along. I have also written a separate article about family bike rides in Hertfordshire – do take a look if you need more inspiration.

In this article I’ve detailed nearby pubs for most of these walks but for more choice, check out my article on the best pubs for families in Hertfordshire.

If you have a walk or cycle route in Hertfordshire for families, please do get in touch – I’m always on the look out for new places to explore. We live in East Herts so quite a few of the Hertfordshire walks I’ve detailed here are on our side of the county.

If you’re reading this in autumn, I also have an article about autumn walks in Hertfordshire which families will enjoy.

Woodland walks in Hertfordshire

Heartwood Forest – a new woodland in Hertfordshire

This amazing woodland – a mix of ancient and newly planted – is located close to St Albans. Some half a million trees have been planted on what was formerly arable land. Now, there’s a selection of walks through varying habitat – woodlands and meadows – lovely for wildflowers in early summer.

pathway with grass on either side at Heartwood Forest in Hertfordshire
Endless paths weave through Heartwood

One of the pockets of ancient woodland has an impressive display of bluebells and there’s a great area for den building.

  • Where to park: use postcode AL4 9DQ for the dedicated car park (no charge)
  • Length of walk: various, including the 1.5 mile “Magical Meander” for children
  • Refreshments: there are pubs in the nearby village of Sandridge, 2 miles away
  • Toilets: no, nearest are in Sandridge village
  • Buggy friendly: yes

Find out more about Heartwood Forest

Mardley Heath – our favourite Hertfordshire walk

This former gravel quarry turned nature reserve is located between Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth.

You know you’ve explored this woodland properly if you come across the brilliant monster tree at the far edge of the reserve. The tree sits on top of a slope and has exposed roots creating a magnificent natural climbing frame – you can clamber over the roots or hide in the cave-like space beneath them.

tree with exposed roots, best walks in Hertfordshire for families
The Monster Tree at Mardley Heath

Mardley Heath is great fun for cyclists – little kids will enjoy exploring the many paths while big kids will LOVE the open sandy space where some industrious souls have created some bike jumps – my children love racing over these.

  • Where to park: the free car park is on Heath Road, postcode AL6 0TP
  • Length of walk: various, it’s around a kilometre from the car park to the monster tree (see link below for more info)
  • Refreshments: no (we recommend the brilliant café at the Secret Truffletier for a coffee (an excellent chocolate shop), about a mile away.
  • Toilets: no
  • Buggy friendly: yes but it is very muddy after rain.

Find out more about Mardley Heath

Bramfield Woods – peaceful woodland walks in Hertfordshire

If you’re looking for pub walks in Hertfordshire, this woodland is perfect. Bramfield Woods is located between the villages of Datchworth, Bramfield and Watton at Stone, each of which has an decent pub. There are several informal parking areas – the best spot is on Winding Shott (see map below) if you fancy a short walk, or for a longer hike you can park in one of the villages and create a circular walk going between the villages.

Hertfordshire woodland in springtime with bluebells
Bluebells in Bramfield Woods in spring

If you opt for a walk between the villages, I would suggest parking in Watton at Stone and starting off on the Watton circular walk detailed below. After passing Watkins Hall Farm and the muddy dip in the walk, take the right hand turn onto Perrywood Lane which leads into Bramfield Woods. It’s a pleasant walk into Datchworth from here or (my preference) head for the Horns pub at Bulls Green before taking a more open return route along a footpath through wide fields with far reaching views over the countryside.

This is a popular area for dog walks in Hertfordshire but also cyclists and horse riders. Bramfield woods is great for den building, geo-caching and wild flower spotting – there’s an incredible display of bluebells in April and May. Bramfield is is one of our favourite country walks in Hertfordshire.

  • Where to park: Winding Shott or in one of the villages
  • Length of walk: various – Watton to Bulls Green and back again is around 8 kilometres
  • Refreshments: the Horns, the Bull and the Grandison are good village pubs nearby
  • Toilets: no (there are public toilets in Watton at Stone)
  • Buggy friendly: yes

Sherrardspark Woods

This woodland near Welwyn Garden City is a really fun place for families. There are lots of pathways through the woods and a brilliant shallow stream which little ones love playing in. There are trees to climb, dens to build and it’s great to explore by bike.

Autumn at Sherrards Park Woods in Hertfordshire
Sherrardspark Woods

We access Sherrrardspark woods from the car park near the B197 which runs parallel to the A1. However, you can also walk into the woods from Campus West in Welwyn Garden City.

  • Where to park: AL6 9AJ (left-hand turn onto Rectory Road before Red Lion pub)
  • Length of walk: various
  • Refreshments: the Red Lion pub is close by
  • Toilets: no
  • Buggy friendly: yes

Find out more about Sherrardspark Woods

Gobions Woods

This nature reserve is a mix of woodland, ponds and open meadowland. There’s a few elements hinting to Gobion’s history as an 18th century pleasure garden including a folly arch and huge ornamental cedar trees. Even more impressive are the rare mature elm trees.

There are two waymarked trails through the reserve – one is a mile-long bluebell walk which is very popular in the springtime.

There’s a dedicated car park on the north west of Gobions with a children’s play area next to it.

  • Where to park: Gobions Open Space car park is on Jonas Way off Moffats Lane, postcode AL9 7RW
  • Length of walk: one mile bluebell trail, 1.5 mile woodland walk
  • Refreshments: no
  • Toilets: no
  • Buggy friendly: yes

Sculpture trail walks in Hertfordshire

Broxbourne National Nature Reserve and sculpture trail

This is Hertfordshire’s only national nature reserve – and it’s a good one for families. On the edge of the reserve is a brilliant sculpture trail with carved wood art works depicting elements from local history – a Roman soldier, a herdsman, a majestic stag.

Metal stag sculpture at Broxbourne Sculpture Trail
Broxbourne Sculpture Trail

The sculpture trail is ideal if you’re looking for an easy walk in Hertfordshire with toddlers as the artworks entice little people along the one kilometre route.

For families with older children, the reserve has a range of habitats – woodland, heath and meadow – to explore. If you fancy a whole day out, there is a 17 kilometre trail forming a figure of eight – you can walk the whole lot or one loop. It’s also perfect for cycling as the pathways are fairly flat.

Read more about the Broxbourne Sculpture Trail here.

  • Where to park: there are two free car parks for the reserve – east and west – both of which work for the sculpture trail although the east car park is better if you have a buggy as the walk from that direction is slightly downhill.
  • Length of walk: one kilometre for the sculpture trail, up to 17 kilometres for longer trails
  • Refreshments: the Farmers Boy pub is the closest and offers a generous Sunday lunch.
  • Toilets: No
  • Buggy friendly: Yes

Find out more about Broxbourne Woods Sculpture Trail

Lee Valley sculpture trail – a great Hertfordshire walk on the edge of London

This is a a much longer trail than Broxbourne – we cycled it on our visit. And the sculptures are more robust – climbing on them is encouraged, our kids really enjoyed playing on them despite the rather dismal weather.

Best walks in Hertfordshire for families Wooden sculptures Lee Valley art trail in Hertfordshire
Lee Valley sculpture trail

The path runs through the River Lee Country Park. We stopped to watch paddlers tackling the rapids at the White Water Centre – there a café here and plenty of outdoor places to sit.

  • Where to park: Fishers Green car park, postcode EN9 2EF
  • Length of walk: 3 miles (longer versions also available)
  • Refreshments: there’s a café at the Whitewater Centre
  • Toilets: yes (at the car park and the café)
  • Buggy friendly: yes

Find out more about the Lee Valley sculpture trail

River walks in Hertfordshire

Waterford Heath – river, woodland and heath circular walk in Hertfordshire

We love walking the circular three kilometre trail through Waterford Heath. There’s enough variety to keep reluctant kids engaged – spring and summer offer impressive wild flower displays and there’s brilliant paddling in the River Beane. In winter there are flooded areas for wading through, there’s shelter in the woods during the rain and fantastic blackberries in the early autumn. We spent many hours wading through the River Beane during the unseasonably hot lockdown spring of 2020.

Children walking through woodland Hertfordshire family walks
Waterford Heath

The circular walk from the car park takes visitors through woods to the open heath area and then on down to the river. From there the path follows the Beane before passing through a field and onto Barleycroft, a small residential road. After crossing Vicarage Lane, the path continues along the river for quite a stretch (this is the paddling area) before taking a turn to the left under a railway bridge (sometimes flooded) and then through woodland back to Vicarage Lane which leads to the car park.

  • Where to park: there’s a dedicated car park on Vicarage Lane, post code SG14 3LU
  • Length of walk: 2 miles
  • Refreshments: no
  • Toilets: no
  • Buggy friendly: some areas of the reserve are fine for buggies, the walk described above has some inaccessible areas.

Find out more about Waterford Heath

Hertford to Ware riverside walk in Hertfordshire

We’ve only ever cycled this route – it’s perfect for kids who are fairly new to pedalling as it’s flat and you have the option of returning by rail from Ware to Hertford East.

The walk starts in Hartham Common and follows the River Lea (or Lee). If it’s a hot day, there’s a great little spot for a wild swim where the River Beane meets the Lea (you can find out more about wild swimming in Hertfordshire here), it’s quite deep there and better for older children, shallow water for paddling can be found further up stream near the tennis courts.

There are various car parks next to the common, the walk can be started next to Hertford Lock. From there, a towpath follows the river through Kings Meads nature reserve, runs beneath the A10 flyover and on to Ware Lock next to the GSK offices.

Wild swimming in the River Lea in Hertfordshire
Wild swimmers in the River Lea in Hertford

From there it’s an easy wander into Ware – there’s a lido and play area at Ware Priory as well as a little museum next to the library. Ware has a really good selection of independent cafes and restaurants.

There’s an alternative route back to Hertford which I’ve yet to try, away from the river. The link below has a map and full details.

  • Where to park: Hartham Common has all day parking (chargeable Mon-Sat)
  • Length of walk: 6 miles
  • Refreshments: lots of choice in Hertford or Ware, not on the walk. The Mexican in Ware or Zero Ristorante are both good for families.
  • Toilets: none on route – use the ones at Hartham before starting out.
  • Buggy friendly: yes

Find out more about the Hertford to Ware riverside walk

Hertfordshire town and village walks

I’ve just detailed a couple of walks here which we have enjoyed. If you’re keen to combine a walk and a village pub lunch, I have put together an article on the best family friendly pubs in Hertfordshire.

Watton at Stone village walk in Hertfordshire

This little village between Hertford and Stevenage offers various walks taking in stretches of new woodland and pathways along the River Beane.

country lane with tree and field in hertfordshire
Country lane in Watton at Stone

If you’re looking for circular walks in Hertfordshire, there’s also a decent 3.5 kilometre walk along farm tracks and quiet roads which takes visitors just outside of the village centre towards Bramfield Woods – it’s a lovely circular route in late spring and early summer when the hedgerows are alive with wildlife and there are countless wild flowers carpeting the verges as well as a couple of small bluebell woods.

  • Where to park: Watton high street, railway station (SG14 2RJ) or the community centre (SG14 3SF)
  • Length of walk: 3.5 kilometres
  • Refreshments: Crumbs bakery or the Bull pub
  • Toilets: at the community centre
  • Buggy friendly: mostly yes (you will need to lift the buggy through one muddy section if there has been rain)

Find out more about the Watton at Stone circular walk

Berkhamsted: castle and canal walk in Hertfordshire

We visited Berkhamsted after a particularly wet camping trip nearby. As it was still pretty wet we decided a wander around Berkhamsted would be a safe bet if we needed to escape the rain. There are plenty of narrow boats to admire along the canal – we love imagining what life would be like living in one of these slim line homes. Our kids enjoyed watching the boats travel through the locks. There’s a play area at Canal Fields.

Children playing at Berkhamsted castle
Berkhamsted Castle

The town’s motte and bailey castle is fun to explore – there’s lots of space for children to run around and the outer earthworks offer an elevated walkway all the way round the site with good views.

Find out more about Berkhamsted Castle

Find out more about the Grand Union Canal

  • Where to park: plenty of town centre car parks, we parked at Canal Fields
  • Length of walk: various
  • Refreshments: plenty!
  • Toilets: public toilets at Water Lane car park
  • Buggy friendly: yes

There are several family-friendly walks in and around Berkhamsted, find out more here.

Hertfordshire walks in parklands

Panshanger Park – a beautiful parkland walk in Hertfordshire

This great expanse of woodland, wetland and open fields offers something for everyone – there’s even a park run if you fancy a little challenge. This is one of the best parks in Hertfordshire if you fancy a decent stroll with the kids.

When our children were little, we used to just visit the woods next to the car park – great for den building, bluebells and blackberry picking. For longer walks, the parkland is lovely – it’s a great place for bird watching and the water is teaming with dragonflies in the summer months. Our children love playing next to the River Mimram – a chalk stream which runs through the park.

Bench overlooking parkland at Panshanger Park near Hertford
Panshanger Park

A great challenge for kids is to track down the ancient oak tree at Panshanger. Some say it was planted by Elizabeth I. Whether you believe this or not, it’s a useful history lesson for the children and a great spot to head for.

The Wildlife Trust organises walks and events at Panshanger.

  • Where to park: Thieves Lane car park, postcode SG14 2WN – there is a charge for the car park but please check as this is new and changeable.
  • Length of walk: various
  • Refreshments: no
  • Toilets: no
  • Buggy friendly: mostly yes

Find out more about Panshanger Park

Ashridge Estate

This lovely National Trust Estate consists of 2,000 hectares of woodlands, chalk hills and open meadow areas. The estate is brilliant for walking, cycling and horse riding. There’s a range of waymarked trails ranging from one to eight miles as well as a longer 17 mile hike for those who fancy a challenge. Rangers also lead walks if you’re interested in learning more about the estate.

Ashridge is very popular in spring for its bluebell display.

There’s a shop and café and events are organised for families in school holidays.

  • Where to park: use postcode HP4 1LT for the free car park
  • Length of walk: various waymarked trails from 1-8 miles
  • Refreshments: yes
  • Toilets: yes
  • Buggy friendly: yes

Find out more about the Ashridge Estate

Disused railway line walks in Hertfordshire

There are so many old railway lines in the UK which now make excellent walking and cycling routes. We fell in love with the Meon Valley Trail in Hampshire on a recent half term visit. Cycling along flat, car free routes is perfect for building up stamina and confidence in young cyclists.

We have several former railway line routes in Hertfordshire. I’ve just included a couple here but I hope to add more in the future.

Cole Green Way

This is our local railway route. It runs from Welwyn Garden City to Hertford and there are various extensions including the towpath from Hertford to Ware which I’ve detailed in the Hertfordshire river walks section here. If you choose to cycle this route with children, I’d recommend doing it from Welwyn to Hertford as it’s slightly downhill and you can really whizz along it – the journey in reverse might be more of a struggle for little cyclists.

disused railway line walk in Hertfordshire
An abandoned railway platform on the Cole Green Way

There are hints along the way of the path’s previous life – a lonely platform sits in the woodland, all that remains of Cole Green station. The station at Hertingfordbury is now a private residence – any train loving child would love the idea of living in a former railway station!

  • Where to park: there are lots of chargeable car parks in central Hertford and Welwyn with cycle paths linking them to the route (see link below). There’s also a car park half way along the route at Cole Green.
  • Length of walk: approximately 6 kilometres
  • Refreshments: Lots of options in Welwyn and Hertford, en route the Cowper Arms pub is about half way, at Cole Green where there is also a picnicking spot.
  • Toilets: in the town centres
  • Buggy friendly: yes

Find out more about the Cole Green Way

The Alban Way

Another great route linking two Hertfordshire towns, the Alban Way runs from St Albans to Hatfield. This walk / cycle route has something for everyone – great views of St Albans cathedral, a spot of retail therapy at the Galleria shopping centre and lots of history at Hatfield House. And of course, there’s plenty of nature and wildlife to enjoy en route too.

The Alban Way officially starts at Cottonmill Lane in St Albans and finishes at Wrestlers Bridge in Hatfield but there are numerous places to park along the way if you only want to follow a certain section of the trail. There are several play areas along the route as well as a sculpture trail.

  • Where to park: various, see link below
  • Length of walk: 6 miles
  • Refreshments: various
  • Toilets: various
  • Buggy friendly: yes

Find out more about the Alban Way

For family friendly bike ride ideas, check out my article about the best cycle routes for families across the UK.

Great walks near Hertfordshire

Although there’s an endless supply of great places to walk in Hertfordshire, we often pop over the border when we’re in need of a steep hill to climb or a different landscape to explore. Here are some of our favourite walks near Hertfordshire:

Wendover Woods

We love this vast Forestry Commission woodland in the Chiltern Hills. Apart from lovely walks and good trees for climbing, there’s play equipment, Go Ape and a good café.

Boy climbing tree at Wendover Woods near Hertfordshire
Tree climbing at Wendover Woods

If you fancy a weekend away, I’d recommend Hill Farm Campsite which is within walking distance of Wendover Woods. There’s a choice of tent pitches, ready tents and glamping. For more information on this and other glampsites in the area, check out my guide to Hertfordshire glamping.

Find out more about Wendover Woods

Hatfield Forest

Hatfield Forest in just over the border in Essex. Run by the National Trust, this is a great place for walks and bike rides. As well as the woodlands to enjoy, there’s a lake to walk around with hides from which to watch the birds. And there’s a decent café too.

Find out more about Hatfield Forest

Wimpole Estate

Close to Royston but actually in Cambridgeshire, is another National Trust estate – and this one’s a biggie. Wimpole has a huge country pile surrounded by miles of woods, fields and parkland.

Sheep in field with blue sky in background at Wimpole Estate
Wimpole Estate

There’s a dedicated cycle trail which we’ve yet to try but we loved the walk across the fields to the ruined folly – a great spot for kids to explore and let their imaginations run wild.

Find out more about the Wimpole Estate

Barton Hills National Nature Reserve

Literally a few miles over the border into Bedfordshire is the very lovely and aptly named Barton Hills nature reserve. We parked in Barton-le-Clay and enjoyed a circular walk taking in a big hill climb (starting near the church), stunning views, silver birch woodland and a fun stream where we all got rather muddy.

Barton Hills great for walking near Hertfordshire
Barton Hills

Find out more about Barton Hills National Nature Reserve

Dunstable Downs

The ultimate kite-flying destination, the skies around Dunstable Downs are always filled with colourful fluttering shapes whenever there’s a hint of a breeze. Even on a dull day the views are pretty spectacular.

Find out more about Dunstable Downs

Map of walks in Hertfordshire

As with other Hertfordshire themed articles on this blog, you’ll notice that many of the walks in Hertfordshire I have detailed here are on the eastern side of the county – I’m hoping to explore a bit more of the countryside in west Hertfordshire in the coming year.

Useful resources for walks in Hertfordshire

Ordnance Survey

Ordnance Survey

Hertfordshire Health Walks

Hertfordshire heath walks

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Woodland Trust

Woodland Trust

RSPB Nature Reserves

RSPB Nature Reserves

The National Trust

The National Trust

English Heritage

English Heritage

Do you have any favourite walks in Hertfordshire? Let me know in the comments below.

If you’re looking for other things to do in Hertfordshire, check out my bumper article all about the best Hertfordshire attractions.

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