Over 8 miles wide, magnificent Epping Forest is London’s biggest stretch of ancient woodland and perfect for a long day out for fabulous walks and cycling both with kids and without.
Sheer size makes Epping Forest one of London’s best woods and forests for a fun day out but also means you need to do a bit of planning to make the most of it, especially with kids.
So I’ve got for you here everything you need to plan a great day out in Epping Forest as a family with both little kids and older children.
I do hope this guide helps you enjoy a great day out in Epping Forest. It truly is one of the best days out in London. For more great days out do check out my other posts on Fun Things To Do In London.
Epping Forest With Little Kids
The great oaks, beech, hornbeam and silver birch trees of Epping Forest loom magnificently tall even for us adults. As a child they must seem to reach the sky and when visiting Epping Forest with little kids we really do need to remember just how huge the forest is.
There are 9 main walking trails through Epping Forest but in my experience they are far too big for very small children – even in a child carrier – who will be much happier pottering and playing near the visitor centres.
- High Beach Visitor Centre : the High Beach Visitor Centre is the easiest way to access the heart of the forest with small kids. It has toilets & shop (Covid permitting) and the paths are pretty accessible with buggies. The Kings Oak pub by the visitor centre has a kids menu.
- Chingford Visitor Centre : the Chingford Visitor Centre is the best way to visit Epping Forest with small kids via public transport as Chingford overground station is just 10 mins away. The Butler’s Retreat is 100 yards from the Visitor Centre and Holly Trail Cafe is 5 minutes walk.
The best way to see the deer in Epping Forest with little kids is the Deer Sanctuary on the Theydon Bois side of the forest. It’s a mile from Theydon Bois station on the Central Line or you can park at Jack’s Hill Car Park.
The Oak Trail map covers the deer sanctuary.
If you do want to see more of the forest with little kids, Go Further Cycling near the Chingford Visitor Centre has trailer and tag-along bikes to hire.
Epping Forest With Older Kids
The sheer size of Epping Forest makes it brilliant for older kids as they can really let off steam running wild and enjoy serious off road cycling.
The visitors at Epping Forest are useful – especially with little kids – but they can get busy so with older kids make use of the car parks all the way up the Forest including Epping Forest New Road, Mount Pleasant, Wake Valley, Goldings Hill & Jack’s Hill to get into the heart of the forest.
If you’re looking for food and pit stops away from the Visitor Centres try the Original Tea Hut a hundred year old favourite with hungry cyclists on the Centenary Route (see below).
If you come into the forest via the Chingford Visitor Centre check out Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge a Tudor building from 1543 with Tudor exhibits.
Family Walks In Epping Forest
There are an enormous range of great family walks in Epping Forest. Some of these have been mapped into trails by the City Of London who manage Epping Forest. They are useful starting points but it is fun to go off piste and really explore so I do recommend taking a proper map or using an OS mapping app like View Ranger.
With little kids or anyone less mobile the three most useful trails are these running from the two visitors centres:
- Holly Trail : a pretty gentle 2.5 mile route the Holly Trail starts near the Chingford Visitor Centre & Holly Trail Cafe,
- Willow Trail : another gentle 2.5 mile route the Willow Trail also starts from the Chingford Visitor Centre.
- Beech Trail : a 2.5 mile route from the High Beach Visitor Centre & Kings Oak pub the Beech Trail has some steep bits but mostly easy access for younger kids.
For older kids make use of these routes for much more adventurous family walks in Epping Forest.
- Oak Trail : a 7 mile route from Theydon Bois the Oak Trail covering deer sanctuary & the Iron Age Ambresbury Banks earthworks gets you into wilder parts of the Forest. It can easily be split in half to cover either the deer sanctuary or earthworks and I would leave off the loop through Theydon Bois.
- Green Ride : a long route (also marked as the Centenary Walk) up the length of the forest you can join from Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge up towards the High Beaches Visitors Centre and then all the way up to the Ambresbury Banks fort and back down the other side of the forest past the Loughton Camp Iron Age earthworks
Cycling & Cycle Trails In Epping Forest
You can cycle on all of the trails above of except:
- easy access paths marked in orange dashes on the maps
- around the Iron Age works at Loughton Camp & Ambresbury Banks
- around Loughton brook
You can hire bikes for cycling in Epping Forest from Go Further Cycling which is barely 5 minutes walk from Chingford overground.
They have a wide range of bikes for kids and adults including trailers and tag-alongs and some electric bikes. They are quite pricey for a day’s hire and you need to book in advance so its worth remembering you can take non-folding bikes on the overground to Chingford station outside rush hour.
Epping Forest By Public Transport
The easiest ways to access Epping Forest by public transport are via:
- Chingford Overground : on the Liverpool St line just 5 minutes walk from the Chingford Visitor Centre. If you’re coming from the Islington to Croydon & Clapham lines you can change lines by walking between Whitechapel and Bethnal Green stations. You can take bikes on the Overground outside rush hour.
- Theydon Bois Tube : to explore the north east of Epping Forest – on the Oak trail – take the Central line tube to Theydon Bois. It’s about 15 minutes walk from the station.
- Debden Tube & the D87 bus : alternatively you can get the Central line to Debden and catch the D87 bus that stops at various points through the forest including Ambresbury Banks
Days Out Near Epping Forest
You can easily spend a whole day in Epping Forest but if you want to combine walking and cycling with other activities you could visit:
- Waltham Abbey : the resting place of King Harold so a good place to visit for any kids who have been studying the Saxons.
- Epping & Ongar Railway : the loveliest of London’s steam railways running on an old branch line from Epping at the north tip of the forest.
- Copped Hall : one of the most beautiful historic houses in London and now being restored to its former glory. You can visit the house and gardens at Copped Hall and join the archeological dig.
More Family Days Outs In London
For more fun things to do in London check out these guides :