A Dog Friendly Holiday in Rothbury

Superworm Trail & Dog Walks at Hamsterley Forest

This post was last updated in January 2022. Please check with venue direct to any changes in facilities/parking etc.... as information may have changed since this post was published. The photos in this post are from various visits across the years. Superworm photos credit : Forestry Commision. 

Hamsterley Forest in County Durham is a fantastic day out for the whole family to visit with a dog in tow. It is a popular attraction and does get busy so please keep this in mind when planning a trip. There are large car parks on site but occasionally, they do get full to capacity and need to temporarily close. Please check the Hamsterley Forest Facebook Page for updates before setting off. 

Expect walking trails, a Viking themed adventure playground, lots of wildlife, a cafe, toilets, picnic areas, cycling and mountain bike trails, Gruffalo sculptures and more. 

This post will share some of the places and walks you can enjoy in the forest with your dog or your dog and children.

New Superworm Trail at Hamsterley Forest 

Photo credits: Forestry Commission.

From the creators of The Gruffalo, the hugely popular children’s picture book Superworm returns to Hamsterley Forest in January 2022 with a 
brand-new family activity trail. This route is fairly short (1.5 miles) and starts at the visitor centre so perfect to enjoy if you have both a dog and children with you and a nice idea for a dog-friendly afternoon. 

Superworm Trail & Dog Friendly Walks at Hamsterley Forest

Launching on 5 January 2022, the new Superworm trails follow the premiere of the animated special from Magic Light Pictures, which aired on BBC One on Christmas Day.

🪱 Please note - the Hamsterley Forest website states this begins on 19 Feb which is the official launch date but have confirmed it is available to enjoy now🪱


In the latest exciting partnership between Forestry England and Magic Light Pictures, the Superworm trail showcases the unsung heroes of the forest.

Based on the children’s picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the trail highlights the small but mighty creatures in the Superworm story, such as toad, beetle and Wizard Lizard, and shows their amazing abilities as they make their home in the forest.

The Superworm activity trail can be found at 26 of the nation’s forests across England and with lots of fun activities to complete, the new self-led trail will encourage children to become superheroes of the forest themselves.

Families will discover brightly illustrated panels, packed with amazing activities designed to get children thinking about these unsung heroes. Questions along the self-led trail will inspire children to think about the everyday heroic feats of the minibeasts of the woods and forests around them.  

The trail should keep the young ones entertained for around an hour leaving plenty of time to find more fun and explore the forest.

Special Superworm trail packs are available to buy from the visitor centre/info point for £3.50 with additional activities, including stickers, a superhero mask, creature fact cards, at-home activity sheet, pencil and crayon. Or you can enjoy without the activity pack if you prefer (which will make the trail FREE). Personally, I would prefer to do it with the pack. 

The trail is 1.5 miles (circular) in length, mostly on flat surfaced paths with a few mild gradients at the end. Wheelchairs and pushchairs should be able to access most of it. Dogs are welcome to join the family in this forest adventure. 

Hamsterley Forest - Location & Parking 

Hamsterley Forest is located in County Durham and is around a 90 minute drive from Newcastle. Sadly, the forest is not accessible by public transport. 

Superworm Trail & Dog Friendly Walks at Hamsterley Forest - location map

There are several car parks on site - follow sign posts on arrival and use postcode DL13 3NL. It is free to visit the forest but parking is chargeable. As of January 2022, parking charges for cars are £2 for up to one hour, £6 for all day or £10 per day if parking across bank holiday weekend. 

The forest car parks use number plate recognition and you do not require a ticket - simply head to one of the machines as you leave, enter your number plate and pay your charge. The barriers will then automatically lift as you leave. There are several machines and all of them take card payments but just one of them takes cash. Alternatively, you can use the 'Glide' parking app on your phone. 

The forest is generally open from dawn to dusk. 

If you are a regular visitor, it might be worth becoming a member of the Forestry Commision which entitles you to free visitor parking. Find out more about joining here. 

Is Hamsterley Forest Dog-Friendly? 

Dogs are welcome at Hamsterley Forest and it is a popular spot for dog walkers. Here is their policy on leads: 

"We welcome dogs here in Hamsterley, but remember that they MUST be kept on their leads at all times around the car parks/toilets/Visitor Centre/Cafe and picnic area just below the Visitor Centre.

Also between both the bridges where we have a lot of childrens play equipment at the start of the walking trails/Superworm Trail.

Dogs are welcome off lead in other areas, but please keep them under control at all times - some folk (and other dogs) get nervous around dogs so please come and enjoy the forest, but obey all 'dogs on lead' areas."

PS the dog above is not our dog and shouldn't really have been off lead in that location. 

Please make sure dogs don't venture onto the bike trails and follow the correct routes. 

Superworm Trail & Dog Friendly Walks at Hamsterley Forest  - dog info

Hamsterley Forest - Dog Walking Trails

Hamsterley Forest is huge and covers 4900 acres. Phone signal is not the best and there are regular reports of search and rescue operations needed when people / dogs end up getting lost. Please familiarise yourself with maps and layouts on arrival, download the What Three Words app before visiting and stick to the main well-signposted routes if it is your first visit. 

Superworm Trail & Dog Walks at Hamsterley Forest  - dog walking routes
Credit : Hamsterley Forest 

There are four signposted walking trails around the forest. You can find out more and download walking maps/routes here. 

  • Riverside Walk (1.5 miles easy - blue route) 
  • Bedburn Valley Walk (2.5 miles moderate - yellow route) 
  • Three Becks Walk (4.5 miles moderate - orange route) 
  • Spurlswood Walk (4.5 miles moderate - green route)
Superworm Trail & Dog Walks at Hamsterley Forest

Hamsterley Forest - Playgrounds 

Hamsterley Forest has several pieces of play equipment and challenges throughout the woodland. There is loads to keep little ones occupied. The main adventure playground is their Viking Wildplay area which is a short, pushchair friendly walk (half a mile) from the visitor centre along Bedburn Beck. 

Expect forts, den building, boats, swings & climbing frames nestled amongst the ancient woodland. It's fantastic! There are picnic tables too. 

Credit : Hamsterley Forest 

Hamsterley Forest - Gruffalo Spotters App & Trail 

Close to the main adventure playground and in the surrounding woodland, you will stumble across a few Gruffalo Sculptures which are fab for a photo opportunity. We love the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo's Child. 

Hamsterley Forest - Cafe, Toilets, Picnics & BBQs

There is a cafe at Hamsterley Forest near the visitor centre / main car park offering cakes, sandwiches, kids lunches, light bites, ice creams and drinks. They are usually open from 10am but check out their Facebook page for up-to-date info.  

Doggy Pupcakes are available to takeaway too. 

There is outdoor seating and picnic tables where dogs are welcome alongside dog water bowls. 

Superworm Trail & Dog Friendly Walks at Hamsterley Forest  - dog cakes

The cafe also has its own cute little van that drives around the forest on busy days. 

Credit : Hamsterley Forest Cafe 

Credit : Hamsterley Forest Cafe 

Credit : Hamsterley Forest Cafe 

The main toilets at Hamsterley Forest are in the main car park so make sure you spend a penny before leaving the car park. On busier days, there are temporary portaloos at popular locations too. 

You can bring your own picnic to Hamsterley Forest and there are plenty of picnic tables and seating across the site. 

BBQs are not permitted on site. 

It goes without saying, but please respect the forest and take rubbish home with you or use the bins provided. 

The forest offers a wealth of activities including orienteering, running trails, horse riding trails, cycling trails, mountain biking trails and geocaching. Find out more about what's on offer here.  

There is a visitor centre next to the main car park / cafe which is home to lots of info / maps too. 

Is Hamsterley Forest Pushchair Friendly & Accessible? 

There is an accessible toilet and baby changing facilities at Hamsterley Forest. Some of the forest is suitable for wheelchair users and pushchairs and there is level access from the main entrance to the picnic areas and main Viking Play Area. 

The forest has put together a comprehensive accessibility guide which you can read here. 

Find out more about visiting Hamsterley Forest here: https://www.forestryengland.uk/hamsterley-forest