Family friendly traffic-free cycle routes in Hertfordshire

family bike ride on the Cole Green Way

One of the great things about living in Hertfordshire is the endless places to go for a bike ride. However, a lot of my favourite cycle routes in Hertfordshire aren’t particularly great for my kids – speedy cars and steep hills can be a bit off-putting to a young cyclist. So I’ve done a bit of research and discovered some brilliant family friendly traffic-free cycling routes in Hertfordshire.

There are no less than five former railway lines in Hertfordshire which have been converted into traffic-free pathways linking towns via a green corridor for walkers, cyclists and wildlife. And of course, since they were once used as railways, these cycle routes are relatively flat making them ideal for children. Some of these routes can be joined together – via a short distance on roads – to create a full day out for families with older children. I’m going to be updating this article over the coming weeks and months as I do a bit more hands-on research.

If you have any family friendly cycle routes in Hertfordshire which you’ve enjoyed, please do let me know in the comments below.

Looking for family bike rides elsewhere in the UK? Check out my guide to some of the best cycle routes for families across the UK.

And for family friendly pubs in Hertfordshire, take a look at my article on Hertfordshire pubs for families.

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Cycle routes in Hertfordshire for families

Cole Green Way, Hertford to Welwyn Garden City

  • 4 miles each way
  • Linear
  • Mostly flat
  • Links Hertford and Welwyn Garden City

This lovely well maintained traffic free trail is one of my regular Hertfordshire cycle routes. It runs along a disused railway line between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford. Part of route 61 of the National Cycle Network, this mostly flat path begins at the junction of Black Fan Road and Cole Green Lane in Welwyn and comes out at West Street in Hertford near the football club.

traffic free cycle route in Hertfordshire
Off road cycle routes in Hertfordshire: the Cole Green Way

From the exit point at Hertford, it’s a fairly easy route through town to Hartham Common where you can pick up the tow path to Ware (see below).

If you’re cycling with little children and you don’t fancy tackling the whole route, there is car parking and picnicking at the the former station of Cole Green, about half way along. You can also access the Cowper Arms pub here if you fancy something more substantial.

Where to park: Welwyn and Hertford both have plenty of town centre car parks with easy to navigate routes to the starts of the trail. Alternatively, park in the Cole Green car park near the Cowper Arms pub.

Find out more about the Cole Green Way

River Lee towpath Hertford to Ware

  • 2.5 miles each way
  • Linear
  • Flat
  • Links Hertford and Ware

This is a great little route for young children as the path is completely flat and if they can’t manage the return leg you can hop on the train from Ware back to Hertford East!

River Lee towpath for family cycle routes in Hertfordshire
Family cycle routes in Hertfordshire: the River Lee in Hertford

The route begins in Hartham Common and follows the River Lee (or Lea) through Kings Meads nature reserve until it reaches Ware. The path is sufficiently wide that you won’t feel that your children are about to cycle into the river – we used to do this route when our younger son was still on a balance bike and he managed it without any trouble.

Along the route there are house boats to admire and locks to watch – plenty to keep little ones entertained. And once you arrive in Ware, you’re close to the Priory playground – or the lido if you fancy cooling off (the lido is closed for a refurb in 2022 sadly).

Incidentally, if you do fancy an al fresco dip, the River Lee in Hartham has a great spot for a swim. It’s not ideal for little ones but older children will love the great expanse of water accessible via a wooden ladder some 100 metres downstream from Hertford Lock. Check out my guide to open water swimming in Hertfordshire for more information.

Find out more about the Hertford to Ware towpath

Ayot Greenway, Welwyn Garden City to Wheathampstead

  • 5 miles each way
  • Linear
  • Mostly flat
  • Links Ayot Green (near Welwyn) and Wheathampstead

Another disused railway line, this route originally linked Welwyn Garden City with Luton. The main route begins in Ayot Green where there’s a dedicated car park but you can also extend the route through Sherrardspark Woods into Welwyn Garden City by cycling along a couple of roads and taking a bridge over the A1.

The Ayot Greenway, part of Cycle Network route 12, takes in varied countryside with views of woodland and open fields. There is plenty to see along the way if you take a slight detour – the Arts and Crafts church at Ayot St Peter and the 16th century mansion of Brocket Hall. Also close by is the National Trust Shaw’s Corner (former home of George Bernard Shaw) in Ayot St Lawrence.

The route ends in Wheathampstead near to the ancient Devil’s Dyke – a defensive earthworks dating back to Celtic times.

Find out more about the Ayot Greenway

Alban Way, St Albans to Hatfield

  • 6.5 miles each way
  • Linear
  • Mostly flat
  • Links St Albans and Hatfield

Part of route 61 of the National Cycle Network, this traffic free trail in Hertfordshire links St Albans with Hatfield along a former railway line. There are plenty of access points along the way if you don’t fancy the whole route.

St Albans Cathedral
St Albans Cathedral, photo credit FlorioFlo on Pixabay

As well as epic history at either end of this cycle trail – namely St Albans Cathedral and Hatfield House – along the way there are plenty of other highlights to enjoy. There’s a nature reserve near the start of the route, river crossings and several play areas.

There is limited parking available at the former London Road train station in St Albans, not far from the start of the route as well as the former station at Smallford Lane and in Hatfield where the trail meets the A1057 near the station.

Find out more about the Alban Way

The Nickey Line, Hemel Hempstead to Harpenden

  • 7 miles each way
  • Linear
  • Mostly flat
  • Links Hemel Hempstead and Harpenden via Redbourn

This disused railway line, used as a cycle and walking trail since the 1980s, is part of route 57 of the National Cycle Network.

The Nickey Line passes through the lovely village of Redbourn where you’ll find the very appealing Enchanted Tea Rooms – perfect for refuelling if you haven’t left space in your paniers for a picnic. They do a delicious sounding afternoon tea.

In between the urban areas are some lovely stretches of countryside to explore – including the Rothamsted estate. This is a really lovely traffic-free cycle route in Hertfordshire covering a wide variety of habitats as well as attractive villages.

Find out more about the Nickey Line (downloadable map) or check out the Friends of Nickey Line website.

The Ebury Way, Rickmansworth to Watford

  • 3.5 miles each way
  • Linear
  • Mostly flat
  • Links Rickmansworth and Watford

Another former railway line, the Ebury Way is part of route 61 of the National Cycle Network. It is a good option for visitors coming by public transport as the trail starts just half a mile from the train station. And it ends at one of my children’s favourite parks – the Oxhey Activity Park in Watford.

Oxhey Activity Park in Watford, at the end of the Ebury Way cycle route in Hertfordshire
Oxhey Activity Park in Watford

The Ebury Way is a lovely Hertfordshire traffic-free cycle route taking in lots of water – it crosses three rivers (Colne, Chess and Gade) and the Grand Union Canal as well as passing through wetland areas. There’s also moorlands and woodlands to explore.

Find out more about the Ebury Way (downloadable map)

Grand Union Canal towpath from Rickmansworth to Watford

  • 5 miles each way
  • Linear
  • Mostly flat
  • Links Rickmansworth and Watford

This route – following the towpath of the Grand Union Canal – is a great alternative to the Ebury Way. They begin quite near each other in Rickmansworth and the paths do cross but then diverge and end in different parts of Watford – the canal in the north in lovely Cassiobury Park and the Ebury Way in the south close to the excellent Oxhey Activity Park. Together, these two Hertfordshire cycle routes make an great circular trail.

Canal towpaths are a fun destinations for family cycle rides – there’s always plenty to see including locks and narrowboats, perfect if your children need distractions to keep them pedalling that little bit further. Batchworth Lock Canal Centre is worth a look if you’d like to learn more about the area – it has a café too.

Find out more about the Grand Union Canal towpath

Letchworth Greenway

  • 13.6 miles
  • Circular
  • Mostly flat

We need more cycle trails through our towns and cities – I’ve yet to try this cycle route but as it’s not far up the road from me I’m definitely going to give it a try in the near future. The travel blogger Biggsy Travels has written a useful review of the route and the link below has a detailed map of the Greenway.

The Letchworth Greenway encircles the town, passing through a range of scenery – neighbouring villages, woodland and meadows. There are a few sections of the Greenway where you’ll need to cycle on the road – but children can still cycle on the footpath provided they keep a look out for pedestrians.

As well as woods to play in, the Greenway also passes play areas, pubs and the brilliant Standalone Farm which we used to love visiting when our kids were little.

You can join the route at any point – waymarker one is in the village of Willian where there is free parking at Manor Wood. Parking is also free at Radwell Meadows at waymarker 29.

Find out more about the Letchworth Greenway

Lee Valley Regional Park

  • Various routes ranging from 2 to 15.5 miles
  • Circular
  • Mostly flat
  • Bike hire at Broxbourne

The Lee Valley Regional Park is home to the London Olympic Velodrome as well as the mountain bike trails which were used for the Games.

Wooden sculptures Lee Valley art trail in Hertfordshire
Sculpture on the Lee Valley Artway cycle trail

Away from the Olympics, there’s a great network of traffic-free cycle trails to explore, ranging in length and mostly flat. We like the Artway routes which follow a sculpture trail through the park. The sculptures can be clambered on so this is a great destination for kids who might want a break from their bikes.

The park is also home to the Whitewater Centre where you can try canoeing and whitewater rafting. The centre has a cafe and toilets too plus there’s plenty of space for picnics.

Find out more about the Lee Valley Park

Woodlands for a family bike ride in Hertfordshire

If you’re looking for a suitable woodland for Hertfordshire cycle routes away from the roads, take a look at my guide to the best walks in Hertfordshire for families which includes some of our kids’ favourite bike rides. These are ideal for little kids who don’t want to pedal too far.

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

One of my sons loves Mardley Heath where some industrious souls have built some makeshift jumps and ramps in a clearing. It’s also home to the most magnificent tree with exposed routes – perfect for hiding in.

If you have really little children, one of the best woodlands for a family bike ride in Hertfordshire is Broxbourne Woods. The woods form part of a national nature reserve with miles of off road cycling. However, the best bit for young kids is the Broxbourne Sculpture Trail which is an easy one kilometre circular route with plenty of interesting artworks to discover along the way.

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For more information about the National Cycle Network and cycling in Hertfordshire, check out the Sustrans website.

Do you have a favourite place for family bike rides in Hertfordshire, or do you know a brilliant traffic free cycle route in Hertfordshire you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

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Hertfordshire bike rides for families
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