Biking in the UK's National Forest

Biking in the UK’s National Forest

The National Forest offers a variety of biking opportunities for all types of cyclists, from mountain bike adventurers to family groups, road bikers, and e-bike enthusiasts.

With its diverse landscapes, well-maintained trails, and stunning natural scenery, the National Forest is 200 square miles spanning Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire and the perfect place to take your bike! This guide provides an overview of the best routes tailored to different biking preferences.

Best Routes for Mountain Bike Adventurers

Hicks Lodge – The Heart of the Forest

Hicks Lodge is a dedicated cycling centre located in the heart of the National Forest, offering a range of trails suitable for mountain bikers of all skill levels.

Wood Farm trail – circular, child friendly off road cycle trail: A great introduction to off-road cycling, this beginner’s mountain bike route leads you through the forest on specially built winding tracks. Suitable for all the family, this is a track that you will keep coming back to.

Shell Brook trail: Circular Forest cycle trail. Having mastered the shorter trails, this five-mile off-road route takes you around the whole site through a mixture of trees and woods.

Snibston Colliery Park

Embark on an adventure at Snibston Colliery Park, where the blend of challenging trails and skill-building areas creates the perfect mountain biking experience for riders of all levels.

For those looking to build confidence before hitting the main trail, Snibston offers a skills area designed to help you master the basics. Practice on jumps, navigate uneven terrain, and traverse boardwalks to improve your technique and boost your confidence. Then when you are ready, you can tackle the blue grade route below –

Mountain Bike Trail: Experience the thrill of mountain biking on a two-and-a-half mile trail that winds through the historic spoil heap of Snibston Colliery. This dynamic route challenges riders with physically and technically demanding tracks, featuring exhilarating jumps and rugged woodland terrain. The trail provides an unforgettable ride with the colliery’s mining heritage serving as a scenic backdrop.

Pump Track: Next to the play area, discover the pump track, perfect for younger riders. Designed for balance bikes, scooters, and pedal bikes, this track features a circuit of rollers and banked turns. It’s an excellent place for kids to develop their skills, gain momentum, and enjoy the thrill of riding in a safe environment.

Best Routes for Family Groups

Conkers Heritage Trail

The Conkers Heritage Trail offers a family-friendly biking experience through the scenic parts of the National Forest.

This seven-mile circular trail is mostly flat (but not totally – be ready for a couple of sneaky inclines!)  and traffic-free, making it ideal for families with older children. It passes through woodlands, meadows, and along canal paths, with plenty of picnic spots along the way.

Thornton Reservoir

Thornton lies in a quiet and picturesque valley, which first opened to the public in 1997. A surfaced track is ideal for cycling around the reservoir, stretching to woodland on the north shore.

There are more paths through the woodland, ideal for cyclists, with a sculpture trail designed to offer interests.

Thornton Reservoir, based near the Leicestershire village of Thornton, can be accessed off Reservoir Road.

Best Routes for Road and E Bikes

National Forest Trail Cycle Route

A figure of eight, 25-mile route (mainly on minor roads) around part of the National Forest from the visitor centre at Conkers taking in Moira, Donisthorpe, Acresford, Netherseal, Coton in the Elms, Rosliston, Caldwell, Catton, Croxall, Edingale, Lullington, Overseal and Spring Cottage.

If you fancy something a bit longer, then take a look at this Tour of the National Forest, which comes in at just over 62-miles. You’ll find scenic lanes that take in some the Forest’s prettiest villages as well as giving you the opportunity for a relaxing break at Calke Abbey.

Biking in the National Forest is a fantastic way to explore this beautiful region of the UK. Whether you’re seeking an enjoyable mountain bike adventure, a family-friendly outing, a scenic road bike ride, or a leisurely e-bike tour, the Forest has something to offer every cyclist. So, grab your bike and set out to discover the natural beauty and diverse landscapes of the National Forest.

About the National Forest

The National Forest covers 200 square miles of the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. Its creation began in the early 1990s, a radical vision to bring the benefits of trees, woodland and multi-use forestry to lowland England, where thousands of people live and work.  

The Forest provides a national demonstration of the value of the natural environment to drive regeneration and showcase policy and practice, research and development in the heart of the country. 

It was the first broadleaf forest to be created at scale in England for more than 900 years and is now seen as one of the boldest environmentally led regeneration initiatives in the country. It has transformed a post-industrial Midlands landscape – scarred by coal mining and heavy industry – from black to green. 

Year by year, the National Forest has been steadily turning what was once one of the least wooded areas of England into a multi-purpose, sustainable forest. Nine million trees have been planted so far. Forest cover has increased from 6% to 22%, approaching double the national average for woodland cover. The aim is to reach around a third forest cover.   

Trees have been the catalyst for change and transformation. The National Forest is a positive response to the climate crisis and is putting in place the building blocks to deliver mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Through partnerships the NFC is working to create wildlife habitats, reduce flooding, improve air quality, store carbon and create space for outdoor education, supporting the health and wellbeing of communities and enabling Forest-related businesses to thrive.

The National Forest Company (charity no: 1166563) leads the creation of the National Forest, working in partnership with landowners, local authorities, businesses and its communities. It has strong support from government, politicians and the public, and continues to be supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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