Details of the best place to mountain bike near London. Look through the capital's urban sprawl and you’ll find plenty of little gems hidden away..
Looking for the best place to mountain bike near London, both within and around the blessed M25 orbital? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We give you 12 great places to check out on your mountain bike.
London is famous for many things: culture, business, food, architecture, art — but not really mountain biking. The country’s capital won’t ever appear on a list of the UK’s top riding destinations, but look a bit closer through the urban sprawl and you’ll find some little gems hidden away.
Best place to mountain bike near London
In no particular order, here are some great places to ride near London. Full details and GPS downloads below.
- Epping Forest
- Dorking, Surrey
- Glatting Beacon
- North of the Thames
- Wendover and the Icknield Way
- South of the Hog’s Back
- Lordship Loop
- Aston Hill
- The Chilterns
- Hadleigh Park
- Swinley Forest
- Surrey Hills
1. Epping Forest
Need to know: 45min ride from city centre. Twisting and weaving singletrack that makes good use of the available terrain and is rideable from the city centre.
While some trails put the ‘mountain’ into mountain biking, Epping Forest manages to make the most of very little altitude with miles upon miles of fast and twisting singletrack. It’s a small oasis in north-east London and does a surprisingly good impression of escaping the tentacles of the urban sprawl.
Navigation can be very difficult due to the maze of trails and most of them are unmapped. It’s really useful to follow a GPS route (see our route map below), or join a weekend club or shop ride.
It’s possible to head out with no map, as the forest is only 4km wide and 19km long, and hemmed in by roads at its perimeter. So get out and explore — you’re never far from a road or landmark.
The trails can notoriously transform into a bog after heavy rain and due to the heavy traffic (mountain bikers, runners and horses) the ground quickly gets churned up. Drainage isn’t good and it can take some time for the trails to dry out, so don’t forget your skinny mud tyres.
Ploughing through the mud will at least ensure a good workout and more than makes up for the lack of hills — the highest point is Pole Hill at 91 metres.
It’s easy to get to and there are several car parks located on the edge of the woods, plus residential streets that offer free weekend parking.
2. Dorking, Surrey
The best riding destination in the south? Very probably, and made all the better because it’s accessible by train, making it perfect for real urbanites without private motorised transport.
Start from Dorking train station, cross the dual carriageway and head up the hill past the school, before joining the A25 heading west. Don’t worry, the road section is over soon and you’re climbing up to Leith Hill on the Greensand Way – climaxing with a techie climb to Leith Hill Tower, the second highest point in South-East England. A fast descent drops you into the village of Peaslake for tea and cheese straws. The return leg covers the same hills but with decent single track popping up. The final hurrah is now superb from Leith Hill, taking in the new Summer Lightning trail from the National Trust tower, right down to join the Greensand Way again and the A25.
3. Glatting Beacon
You know what you’re going to get with the South Downs, and this little clover-leaf shaped loop out of Amberley is no exception. Big skies, big ups, big downs, and plenty of opportunity to spin the pedals and get some miles under your wheels.
You could start from the station, but if travelling by car, there’s a car park on the hill W of this (Landranger 197/TQ008112). If you start climbing from here, you can follow a bridleway W to the A29 and cross this to hook up with another BW leading N to the join the South Downs Way. Now follow this W to the car park at SU973129 and now break NW to Glatting Beacon and continue N over Barlavington Down then W, across the A285, to climb to the SDW again. Cross this and drop S then SW, back across the A285, to a junction with the ancient road of Stane Street. Take this NE to the Glatting Beacon car park and then drop SE on the Dentures, following the Monarch’s Way markers all the way to the finish.
4. North of the Thames
Bags of fun and in easy reach of the capital, on the outskirts of Reading! Pangbourne makes a good starting place – it’s easy to reach and has plenty of parking.
River Meadows is probably the best bet (Landranger 175/SU635766). Cross the river and break L along the riverside bridleway that leads NW to Gatehampton Manor. Follow lanes and BWs NE to Coldharbour, then head W on more BWs, cutting back E on a lane, then NW on more BWs to Wroxhill Woods. Head E into Woodcote, sneak around the village then follow BWs SE from Greenmoor Hill to Cross Lanes. Head NW to Goring Heath and loop around to come back SW on lanes and BWs that lead to Mapledurham. Now just cruise back W to the bridge and the finish.
5. Wendover and the Icknield Way
The Chiltern Hills are jam-full of fun wooded trails that make the short drive or train ride out of London a complete no-brainer.
This one kicks off at Wendover. From the station, (Landranger 165/SP865077), head down South Street to a roundabout on the A413. Now follow the Icknield Way through Dunsmore to Little Hamden. Head S to Hampden Bottom, SW towards Great Hampden, then at Hampden House, head NW along the drive. At Green Haliley, head N to rejoin the Icknield Way and follow it up onto Pulpit Hill. Head NW to drop to the A4010 and turn R and R again to climb back up, heading roughly W to Buckmore End, then N to Low Scrubs. Here, drop N then NE to descend back to Wendover.
6. South of the Hog’s Back
We’re always blown away by just how much fun the trails to the west of the Surrey Hills are. It’s undulating more than hilly, but the trails are great and we always come away smiling.
From the car park (Landranger186/SU920463), head N then E on bridleways then NE to hook up with the North Downs Way in Puttenham. This is the followed E, eventually under the A286. After this a lane leads NE to a BW that descends sweetly S. At Compton Common further BWs lead SW through Hurtmore and on to Eashing. Lanes lead S to Mousehill, where abridge hurdles the A286 and leads onto an excellent succession of BWs that continue SW to Warren Mere, then W through Truxford to a x-roads of trails. It’s worth looping S over Houndown to Pitch Place, then N over Kettlebury Hill and Hankley Common to Tilford, via Stockbridge Pond. Lanes and BWs now lead NE through Charleshill, Fullbrook Farm and Rodsall Manor to return to the finish.
7. Lordship Loop
Need to know: 40min ride from city centre. Improve your skills on London’s brand new pump track, located close to the city centre.
Address: Broadwater Farm Community Centre, Adams Road,Tottenham, N17 6HE
Opened in late 2011, the new Lordship Loop is one of the most exciting developments to hit London. It’s a fairly typical pump track, similar to a BMX track but with smaller jumps, leaving the emphasis on momentum and smooth riding.
Nestled in a corner of Lordship Recreation Grounds in north-east London, overlooked by council flats and Alexandra Palace, it’s the ideal place to hone your jumping skills on a track that suits all ability levels. It was built by renowned trail sculptor Rowan Sorrell, so you know it’s going to be good.
It’s 391 metres long and makes good use of the space, and features berms, rollers, doubles and step-up jumps from start to finish. It’s rideable on any bike, but a hardtail is probably ideal. It’s a good place to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon, and best of all, the skills you learn here can be transferred directly to the trails.
The Trax off-road cycling club has been set up to oversee the loop and runs regular rides throughout the year with youth training sessions at weekends. It’s completely free to ride and is open year round, and it’s easy to find from the centre of the city if you know your way around London.
8. Aston Hill
Need to know: 1hr train from city centre. North London’s nearest trail centre with a choice of XC and DH routes, including the new Surface to Air downhill track. Post code: HP22 5NQ
- Ricochet DH
- Red DH
- Black DH
- Surface To Air (aka S2A)
- Root Canal DH
- Cross Country loop
- Pump track
Just an hour north of London, Aston Hill is a well known dedicated riding spot and has been catering for riders of all abilities for many years. The park sits on the side of a steep hill and offers several downhill tracks of varying difficulty. There’s also a cross-country loop.
There’s a lot going on there at the moment, with a recently opened Surface to Air downhill track tripling the number of people visiting since it opened back in 2014. There’s also continual work going ahead to update the cross-country trail, as well as on some of the longer established downhill tracks, so there are plenty of reasons to visit.
There’s ample car parking, or Aston Hill can be reached by train or the Underground, but it costs £7 for a day permit to ride (£?6if bought online). More economical if you’re planning to ride there often is to become a member. This gives you full access for the year, as well as CTC third party insurance. Opening hours are 8.30am till 30 minutes before dusk.
9. The Chilterns
Aston Hill is adjacent to the Chilterns. Download the route above and zap it into your GPS or smartphone and you’re away.
10. Hadleigh Park
Address: Hadleigh Park, Chapel Lane Car Park, Chapel Lane, Hadleigh, Essex, SS7 2PP
Putting London on the world mountain bike map, Hadleigh Park was the most talked-about mountain bike trail in 2012 due to the Olympics. The course designers produced a tough yet rewarding course — despite the lack of elevation (70m top to bottom) — and this delivered a thrilling race, even if the natural landscape didn’t promise much.
11. Swinley Forest
Post code: RG12 7QW. Check out Swinley’s mountain bike trail maintainance team for all the latest updates on trail conditions and trail developments and changes.
12. Surrey Hills
There’s an incredible amount of riding on offer around Peaslake in the Surrey hills, but unless you know where you’re going, you’re going to miss out. To ride Britain’s Best Singletrack around Peaslake and the Surrey Hills: download our free GPS route above and head for the hills. This route is perfect for the first timer and links together the official trails across Holmbury hill and Leith hill.