12 things you need to know about cycling in the Forest of Dean

Two seasoned mountain bikers stopped beside the trail for a drink. Covered in mud and exhausted from pushing themselves, they watched as a tiny tot pedalled past. The beauty of the Forest of Dean cycle tracks is that they really do cater for everyone. Here’s what you need to know before you pump up the tyres and head for the hills.

Forest of Dean | The Forest of Dean is a beautiful area of forestry commission owned land in Gloucestershire. It is also one of the best places in the UK to go cycling. Whether you enjoy mountain biking, downhill cycling, rode cycling or just a leisurely bike ride with the family, there will be a cycle trail for you in the Forest of Dean. Check out these 12 things that will make your cycling adventure even better. Then pump up the tyres, get outside into the fresh air and get riding!

1. Where to start

There are various locations in the Forest of Dean to pick up the cycle trails. Head to the tourist information website for links to the different routes. Alternatively, you can pick up a cycling guide map. Cannop Cycle Centre Near Coleford (see below) is a convenient starting point for mountain bikes, with both a café and parking. The tracks there offer a suitable challenge for cyclists of all abilities. For road cycling, you could head to Monmouth to pick up a 52Km route.

2. Bike hire

One of the things I love about the Forest of Dean is that not having a bike doesn’t have to stop you from cycling. Both Dean Forest Cycles in Parkend and Pedal a Bike Away at the Cannop Cycle Centre offer bike hire.

3. Something for everyone

I remember cycling in the Forest of Dean as a teenager and it was tough! There were some massive hills and challenging terrain, perfect for experienced cyclists. So you can imagine my surprise when my husband suggested taking our five and three year old for a bike ride there. The youngest has been able to ride a bike for less than a month.

And yet, the family cycle route from the Cannop Cycle Centre was perfect. This is a nice, easy route made up predominantly of flat, relatively smooth paths. It is eleven miles long, but we managed the whole route in an afternoon with plenty of rest stops.

Forest of Dean | The Forest of Dean is a beautiful area of forestry commission owned land in Gloucestershire. It is also one of the best places in the UK to go cycling. Whether you enjoy mountain biking, downhill cycling, rode cycling or just a leisurely bike ride with the family, there will be a cycle trail for you in the Forest of Dean. Check out these 12 things that will make your cycling adventure even better. Then pump up the tyres, get outside into the fresh air and get riding!

4. Look out for wild boar

This is a bit of a weird one isn’t it? Nevertheless, there are A LOT of wild boar in the Forest of Dean. You can find plenty of information about them on the Forestry Commission Website. However, the main thing to remember is never to approach them, particularly when they are with young.

They can’t see very well but will hear or smell you. If you move towards them, they may perceive this as aggression and charge you. Dogs have been attacked by wild boar in the forest so it is wise to keep them on a lead. It is rare to see wild boar as they tend to keep out of the way of humans. However, we were chatting to someone on our bike ride who had just seen a sow and ten hoglets crossing the path.

5. … and arseholes

I know, these are everywhere right? But in the Forest of Dean, they can be particularly dangerous. You will come across walkers, runners and cyclists of all different abilities on the trails. We’ve never encountered any unpleasantness or dangerous behaviour from any of them.

Sadly though, we did encounter people on off-road motorbikes going too fast along the family cycle route. They weren’t wearing helmets or paying any consideration to other trail users. Our advice would be that if you hear motorbikes coming towards you, get off the track and out of the way. They will doubtless end up killing someone, the best case scenario would be that it’s only themselves.

6. Cannop Cycle Centre

If it’s your first time in the Forest of Dean, I would probably advise heading to the Cannop Cycle Centre first. It is on Forestry Commission land on the site of an old colliery. You’ll find all the information you need about both the area and cycling as a whole. There is a café with good albeit somewhat overpriced food and plenty of seating.

They run regular cycle events and there are clubs for both children and adults there. It is the start for the family cycle route and there is plenty of car parking. There are several challenging routes there too, including downhill trails. For these, you can get a lift to the top rather than cycling up the route, which can be somewhat narrow in places. There is also a pump track and advanced skills area, both useful for coaching.

Forest of Dean | The Forest of Dean is a beautiful area of forestry commission owned land in Gloucestershire. It is also one of the best places in the UK to go cycling. Whether you enjoy mountain biking, downhill cycling, rode cycling or just a leisurely bike ride with the family, there will be a cycle trail for you in the Forest of Dean. Check out these 12 things that will make your cycling adventure even better. Then pump up the tyres, get outside into the fresh air and get riding!

7. Running and walking routes

I’m fully aware that mountain biking isn’t for everyone. So if you’re heading to the Forest of Dean with family members who aren’t cyclists, they might prefer to go for a run or have a stroll around the trails. The routes are just as suitable for running and walking as for cycling, you just have to be aware that you will be passed by cyclists.

I didn’t take a bike when we went with the girls. This was for two reasons. Firstly, at the pace the girls cycle at, it was much more beneficial for me to have an 11 mile run than an 11 mile cycle. Secondly, my three year old hasn’t quite mastered using the brakes yet, so I ran alongside her on the family cycle trail. When she’s able to manage without so much input from me, I’ll probably start bringing the dog along for a run until my daughter is too fast for me to run with her.

Forest of Dean | The Forest of Dean is a beautiful area of forestry commission owned land in Gloucestershire. It is also one of the best places in the UK to go cycling. Whether you enjoy mountain biking, downhill cycling, rode cycling or just a leisurely bike ride with the family, there will be a cycle trail for you in the Forest of Dean. Check out these 12 things that will make your cycling adventure even better. Then pump up the tyres, get outside into the fresh air and get riding!

8. Beautiful scenery

Let’s face it, this is one of the main reasons for visiting the area. And yet, when you’re on a mission to cycle from A to B, it’s easy to forget to take in the beautiful scenery. The Forest of Dean is a stunning landscape with trees, undergrowth and water. The trails often run alongside the River Wye and it’s a lovely place to be. Sadly though, we did see quite a bit of litter along the route. Please remember to take all rubbish with you and leave it as you would like to find it.

Forest of Dean | The Forest of Dean is a beautiful area of forestry commission owned land in Gloucestershire. It is also one of the best places in the UK to go cycling. Whether you enjoy mountain biking, downhill cycling, rode cycling or just a leisurely bike ride with the family, there will be a cycle trail for you in the Forest of Dean. Check out these 12 things that will make your cycling adventure even better. Then pump up the tyres, get outside into the fresh air and get riding!

9. Take your time

If you’re cycling with children, they will enjoy it more with plenty of time to rest and catch their breath. We even took the time to stop and play along the route. They loved playing in this den and there’s even a park towards the end of the trail.

Forest of Dean | The Forest of Dean is a beautiful area of forestry commission owned land in Gloucestershire. It is also one of the best places in the UK to go cycling. Whether you enjoy mountain biking, downhill cycling, rode cycling or just a leisurely bike ride with the family, there will be a cycle trail for you in the Forest of Dean. Check out these 12 things that will make your cycling adventure even better. Then pump up the tyres, get outside into the fresh air and get riding!

10. Well marked track

The track is incredibly well signposted, perfect if you’re worried about getting lost. There are short deviations around the route that offer something a little more challenging. For example, you can deviate from the family cycle track to take in some small, bumpy loops. Each one rejoins the trail a short distance away, so more experienced riders can test themselves before catching up with the rest of the group.

Forest of Dean | The Forest of Dean is a beautiful area of forestry commission owned land in Gloucestershire. It is also one of the best places in the UK to go cycling. Whether you enjoy mountain biking, downhill cycling, rode cycling or just a leisurely bike ride with the family, there will be a cycle trail for you in the Forest of Dean. Check out these 12 things that will make your cycling adventure even better. Then pump up the tyres, get outside into the fresh air and get riding!

11. Where to stay

If you’re travelling from further afield, there are lots of great places to stay in the Forest of Dean. We tend to camp if we’re there for a few days, staying at the well-equipped Bracelands campsite. This has modern, clean toilet and shower facilities and welcomes cyclists. There are plenty of cycling trails that start near to the campsite and it accommodates both tents and caravans.

For a little more luxury, you could try Forest Holidays. Many of their luxurious log cabins have an outdoor hot tub. Perfect for relaxing after a hard day cycling!

12. Other activities

The Forest of Dean is one of the best places I know for outdoor activities. Forest Adventure is a great place to start. They offer everything from bushcraft to kayaking to caving and much more besides.

For something a little more sedate, you could try the Dean Forest Railway. They run both steam and diesel trains and even offer a day out with Thomas on particular dates. Other ideas include a maze, Gruffalo trail and Go Ape. There are lots of brilliant ideas on the Wye Valley tourist information website.

Forest of Dean | The Forest of Dean is a beautiful area of forestry commission owned land in Gloucestershire. It is also one of the best places in the UK to go cycling. Whether you enjoy mountain biking, downhill cycling, rode cycling or just a leisurely bike ride with the family, there will be a cycle trail for you in the Forest of Dean. Check out these 12 things that will make your cycling adventure even better. Then pump up the tyres, get outside into the fresh air and get riding!

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23 Comments

  1. September 18, 2017 / 8:25 am

    Great tips! I’m so impressed that your girls managed an 11 mile bike ride at an age when most kids can’t cycle at all. I had to laugh at your ‘arseholes’ section, even though the message was serious.
    We attempted to cycle in the Forest of Dean just once! I can’t remember if we had two kids in the trailer and one cycling or two kids cycling and one in the trailer, but I do remember the kids were generally miserable, so we never did it again
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…My daughter’s 50th ParkrunMy Profile

  2. September 18, 2017 / 8:41 am

    I can remember cycling there on a school trip, having not been on a bike since I moved from Milton Keynes and finding it tough. Family cycle trail sounds fab 🙂 we have something similar at Bedgebury pinetum nearish us, the kids love it. Great post xxx
    Marianne Hopwood recently posted…Teach them what you love – face paintingMy Profile

  3. September 18, 2017 / 12:32 pm

    I’m really pleased I found this blog post as I’m looking for autumnal friendly ideas to get out on a bit of an active adventure before it gets too cold. Never been to the forest of dean… it looks gorgeous.

  4. September 18, 2017 / 1:35 pm

    Hi Nat, what a lovely place to cycle, run or walk and how fantastic that you were able to have a good family afternoon, bet the girls slept well after! Unfortunately, there will always be thoughtless prannies who don’t have an ounce of consideration for anyone. When we went walking on the mainland we were warned about wild boar and aggressive they can be, I would still have loved to have seen one, but would have used my zoom to get up close!

    xx
    Debbie recently posted…Monday Morning Blog Club 18/09/2017My Profile

  5. September 18, 2017 / 8:20 pm

    Great guide Nat! Dave and the kids have seen wild boar there, right by the path. Well done for doing the whole 11 miles. It’s quite a trek for little legs. Lou xx

  6. September 19, 2017 / 9:04 am

    Great tips! Although sorry to hear about the arseholes. I think your name for them is rather polite, all considering! I can’t wait till my boys are old enough to ride bikes – I imagine doing something like this almost every weekend 🙂 #familytraveltips

  7. September 19, 2017 / 12:51 pm

    Great tips. We live relatively close to the Forest of Dean but have never cycled there! #familytraveltips

  8. September 19, 2017 / 2:10 pm

    I had never even considered cycling there, but now I really want to. Loved your pictures of your little ones, they look very determined on their cycling missions! Here’s hoping some of those wildboar take on a few of the arseholes that endanger others, that would be karma wouldn’t it? #familytraveltips

  9. September 19, 2017 / 3:22 pm

    My family loves to go biking and we take our girls out almost every weekend. But we haven’t taken them trail biking yet so this post is quite inspiring. My husband used to be a big mountain biker so I’m sure we’ll be introducing it to our girls soon. Forest of Dean looks beautiful, despite the arseholes, which, yes, are everywhere! #familytraveltips

  10. September 19, 2017 / 7:30 pm

    Brilliant! We get arseholes on motorbikes round here too, but I’m more surprised they get as far as the Forest of Dean. And I never knew wild boar lived there! Great post. #Familytraveltips

  11. September 19, 2017 / 7:35 pm

    Great post full of useful tips. Sounds lovely apart from the motor bikes ruining it for everyone else. #familytraveltips
    Claire recently posted…Book themed fancy dress costumesMy Profile

  12. September 19, 2017 / 9:44 pm

    Love this as we have just discovered cycling as a family! Unfortunately there are always those idiots that take over the tracks. It looks a fab place though and stunning scenery ! #famtravtips

  13. September 20, 2017 / 8:54 am

    I love your pictures! Great tips, and so nice to get the kids outside before winter kicks in. Thanks for the inspo. #familytraveltips

  14. September 21, 2017 / 7:38 pm

    Great advice! We went for a walk recently and they had some great cycle trails, which I hadn’t thought about doing before. Now Holly has a bike, I can see these becoming in our life more x

    • monsterid October 5, 2017 / 10:42 pm

      Ah that’s lovely, it’s wonderful when they learn to ride a bike isn’t it?
      Nat.x

  15. September 22, 2017 / 9:38 pm

    Your girls are so good! My eldest has yet to learn *hides face* Great tips for the area and such a stunning place for a ride!

    • monsterid October 5, 2017 / 10:38 pm

      Ah never mind, it’s definitely something they need to do when they’re ready.
      Nat.x

  16. September 23, 2017 / 2:11 pm

    This isn’t far from us so it would be something we may like to do as a family when the girls can cycle. #MyFamilyTravelTips
    Helena recently posted…Embracing Autumn With KidsMy Profile

    • monsterid October 5, 2017 / 10:37 pm

      Oh that’s great to hear, it is a lovely day out.
      Nat.x

  17. September 26, 2017 / 5:35 pm

    Wow 11 miles that is impressive – well done to your girls. This is a great post – we just need to figure out how we transport 5 bikes now to get over. Is the hire of the bikes very expensive?

    • monsterid September 26, 2017 / 9:50 pm

      Ooh good question, I’m afraid I didn’t check. We have a bike rack you could use if you decide to go and want to collect it. It takes 4 bikes then hopefully one would fit in the boot?
      Nat.x

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