The Gruffalo Trail & Zog Trail - Hamsterley Forest, Durham

Thanks to our writer Gaia for helping with this post which was last updated in April 2023. Always check with venues direct for the most up to date info. 

The Gruffalo Trail & Zog Trail - Hamsterley Forest, Durham

Visiting Hamsterley Forest 

Hamsterley Forest is County Durham's largest forest. It's FREE to visit although car parking charges do apply (currently not accessible by public transport). There's lots going on for families and it's the kind of place you can easily spend a full day. 
The Gruffalo Trail & Zog Trail - Hamsterley Forest, Durham

Things to do include: 

Facilities at Hamsterley Forest include: 
  • Hamsterley Forest Cafe & Ice Cream Kiosk (check their FB page for opening hours and menus)
  • Visitor Centre 
  • Paid parking 
  • Toilets including accessible toilets (with adult changing table but no hoist) and baby change areas
  • Level access to the main toilet block, cafe, picnic area and Viking play area 
  • Bike hire 
  • Waymarked walking trails 
  • Dogs on leads welcome - water bowls available 

Hamsterley Forest Location & Parking 

You can pay for parking by phone, card or cash. Pay for parking just before you leave at one of the machines. Prices range from £2 - £10 per car per day depending how long you stay for / when you visit. Most people can expect to pay £7 to park. Find out more about parking here. 

Use postcode DL13 3NL for parking. There is currently no public transport available. 

Where to Eat Nearby

Credit : Cross Keys

If you're looking for a proper meal rather than a picnic / cafe lunch, most people recommend The Cross Keys Pub in Hamsterley Village (postcode DL13 3PX) We dined here back in 2016 before we visited the Forest and had a good exerience. They have a gorgeous beer garden with fire pits and offer vegetarian, vegan and GF options as well as a kids menu. 

Dogs are welcome in the bar area and outside (inc the snug area). Dog snacks / doggy beer are available to purchase. 

Zog trail at Hamsterley Forest

There is so much to do at Hamsterley forest, with loads of fantastic adventure playgrounds, walks, mountain bike routes and trails to keep the whole family entertained.

As well as the Gruffalo trail there is now also a Zog trail, featuring the adventures of the lovable dragon by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. 

🐉1.5 mile circular walk with fantastic play parks, obstacle course equipment, gruffalo sculptures, Zog activities, picnic tables, toilets, cafe, ice cream kiosk and more 

🐉Accessibility - most of the walk is quite flat and on a surfaced path so suitable for most pushchairs and wheelchairs however the last bit is a bit steep and muddy so wheelchair and prams might struggle. You can bypass this section (the last two activity boards) - ask staff in the visitor centre for the best way to do this

🐉The walk itself and all of Hamsterley is FREE (just pay for parking) with no booking required 

🐉 There is no formal finish date but this will run at least throughout 2023 (maybe a little beyond) and will then I imagine it will be replaced with another Julia Donaldson trail (in the past we have had Superworm, Stickman, Gruffalo, Highland Rat & more)

There's a free Zog app that you can download and scan images along the route to take AR pictures with Zog and friends. Make sure you download it ahead of time or use wi-fi in the cafe as there is no signal in the forest!

🐉You can buy a trail bag for £4 which includes an activity book, pencil, crayon for collecting rubbings, 3D glasses, Zog wings and stickers in a  colour in craft bag. Available at tourist information and the café. This is a nice addition but not essential 

🐉Dogs on a lead are allowed 

🐉 Parking is pay on exit (cash or card)

Zog Activities (Ad - contains affiliate links) 

Here are a few optional extras you may wish to purchase for the walk / car journey / to enjoy with lunch in the pub afterwards: 

Zog trail

On a sunny April day we headed to Hamsterley forest with our dragon-obsessed 5 year old, who was delighted when we told her we were going to do the Zog trail. 

The trail itself takes you over a bridge and past several assault courses and playgrounds so once everyone had enjoyed a play on those and a picnic lunch we got going properly. 

There are Zog activity boards to spot along the route with fun things to do that reference the story like flap your wings and try to Fly. "Now that you've been shown you can practise on your own" which Ada loved. 

The only disappointing thing is that there aren't any many pictures of the other characters from Zog along the trail, it just focuses on Zog himself. We did pass a few of the Grufallo sculptures though which the kids enjoyed. 

Zog activity pack

I'd say the activity pack is worth buying especially for smaller ones at the Zog wings were really cute and made it more of an immersive experience for our 5 year old. 

You  use the 3D glasses to find letters which spell out a word if you've bought the activity pack (we just bought one pack for 2 children as our 8 year old wasn't too bothered). 

The 3D glasses were fun (although you can just about make out the letters without them). There were also loads of stickers, and who doesn't love a sticker?

Plus the activity book itself was nice to refer to during the walk and finish off at home.

But you can absolutely do the walk without the pack, maybe just bring some crayons and paper with you for the letters and rubbing at the end. 


The walk itself is quite doable for little legs although the boards are spaced quite far apart, but that makes it more fun when you do find one! 

For pushchairs/wheelchairs it's pretty flat and accessible except for the last two activity boards which are up a slightly steep muddy hill. This section can be bypassed on the low road - check with staff in the visitor centre for the best route / directions if needed. 

Zog App

There's an augmented reality app that you can download which has bonus activities for kids to complete - you can collect stars and take a photo with Zog at the end. 

If you want to give it a go make sure you download it before you leave home as there's no signal in Hamsterley forest (the cafe does have WiFi, which you can use if your a customer). 


We got coffees from the cafe and ate a picnic but their display cabinet was full of very tasty looking treats. They have plenty of options for breakfast and lunch too. There's also a food truck outside. Both serve ice creams which is ideal as the weather (hopefully!) gets sunnier.

Picnic tables

There are loads of picnic tables although it can get busy so you might want to bring a picnic blanket just in case. 

  • Trail Length - 1.5 miles circular
  • Accessibility - All surfaced paths, mostly level but with one moderate incline.
  • Is this trail for you? - This trail is aimed at families with children aged 3-9, but can be enjoyed by all

Looking for other Julia Donaldson Trails? Check out the following: 

There are also Zog trails at Dalby and Guisborough Forest. 

Hamsterley Forest Key Points 

  • The largest forest in County Durham with lots to do - you can spend a full day here 
  • Free to visit but car parking charges apply (most people will pay £7) 
  • Not accessible by public transport 
  • 2.5 mile Wellness Trail 
  • A brilliant place to meet up with friends and family 
  • Cafe, toilets, visitor centre, picnic tables and ice cream kiosk 
  • A few walking routes to try including accessible and more challenging options 
  • Mountain bike tracks of various levels 
  • Find sculptures of popular Julia Donaldson characters in the forest including The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo's Child, the Fox, the Owl and the Snake 
  • FREE 1.5 mile circular Zog trail (download the app before you visit) with activity boards and Zog themed challenges to try along the route.  You can buy an additional Zog activity pack for £4 from the visitor centre but this is not essential
  • The Zog trail is mostly pushchair / wheelchair friendly (you may need to miss the last two boards as there is a bit of an incline which can get muddy)
  • Fantastic Viking themed play areas / assault course style play trail running through the forest 
  • Use postcode DL13 3NL
  • Dogs welcome on leads 
  • If you fancy a pub lunch afterwards, we recommend the Cross Keys Pub in Hamsterley Village
  • Find out more: (or google 'North East Family Fun Hamsterley') 

The rest of this post was published in 2015 and updated in 2021. I don't want to delete it as it holds some lovely memories for us but do keep in mind that the info from this point onwards may be outdated. 

This post was last updated in April 2021. 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. 

The Gruffalo Trail - Hamsterley Forest, Durham

Hamsterley Forest in County Durham is a fantastic day out for the whole family. 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. 

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.

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.

🪱 Update - the Hamsterley Forest Website states this is starting on 19 Feb. This is the official launch date, it is actually open now if you would like to visit soon. 🪱


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 for £3.50 with additional activities, including stickers, a superhero mask, creature fact cards, at-home activity sheet, pencil and crayon.

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. 

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 April 2021, 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. 

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. 

At time of publishing, the Trail Pack (usually available to buy from the cafe/visitor centre) are not available but please check here for updates as I am sure it will be available soon once restrictions ease further. 

It is also worth downloading the free Gruffalo Spotters 2 UK app before you visit. At time of print, Hamsterley Forest say that the spotters app trail is not available but I am sure it will be back soon so it is worth downloading and giving it a try. 

The app allows you to see different Gruffalo characters in the forest using augmented reality technology. You can take photos too, it's a nice little addition to your day out. Make sure you download before you visit the forest as phone signal is not the best. Find out more about the Gruffalo Spotters 2 app & where to download here. 

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. 

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. 

In normal times, BBQs are permitted in picnic areas and in car parks on the forest drive. However at the moment, visitors are asking to not bring a BBQ to respect Gov guidelines. I expect this may change soon so please check the Hamsterley Forest website for updates. 

Once BBQs are allowed, please use safely (ie not directly on a picnic bench / raise from the ground etc....)

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

Hamsterley Forest - Walking, Riding & Cycling

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. 

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)

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.  

Not all facilities are available depending on Government restrictions - please check what is available before making plans. 

There is a visitor centre next to the main car park / cafe which is home to lots of info / maps too. It is currently closed due to Gov restrictions but I do expect it to re-open soon. You can check what's open and available on the Hamsterley Forest website. 

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:

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Please follow social distancing rules & Government guidelines , respect the local area, leave no trace, take litter home, park responsibly and if somewhere is busy on arrival, please consider leaving and returning at a later date. 

Remember face coverings are required for indoor attractions / shops for those aged 11+ (usual exemptions apply)  

Check for local lockdowns / travel restrictions before visiting anywhere. 

Always check updated opening hours / protocols with venues direct before setting off as things may have changed after this post was published. 

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The Gruffalo Trail - Hamsterley Forest, Durham



  1. I adore Hamsterley, it's great for a cheap family day out, the food in the cafe is yummy and you can have an amazing family experience with loads of memories and all for next to nothing, even cheaper if you take a picnic but I'm only rarely that organised.

    1. It's great - we'll definitely be returning (with a picnic and flask of coffee) in the Summer

  2. We do like the Gruffalo trail, and so happy to see it nationwide. Ours at Delamere Forest, we had to double back too... not fun for little kids... We didn't go with the activity pack as read on another bog not to bother, so its interesting to say you did, when we return I will be trying it out. :-) #countrykids

    1. It was just such a great way to explore the forest in the Winter time. Can't wait to see what the superworm trail holds in spring x

  3. Wow you had me at FREE! Such a lovely place to visit and I think that the snow made everything more beautiful =) #countrykids

    1. It was a lovely day out - can't wait to return in Summer with a picnic

  4. We are huge Gruffalo fans in our house and we really must get to a trail, the kids would love it. Glad you had so much fun x

    1. We did! I don't think you're ever too old for the gruffalo as the grown ups loved it just as much as the kids

  5. These Gruffalo trails look great, I really must look out for one near us. It looks like a lovely family day out. Love all the pics

    1. They are fab - even better that they're free (or minimal charge for an activity pack). Definitely worth checking out before they end in February

  6. This place looks amazing and something I know my kids would love for sure. Just a shame we live in N.I! Great pictures!! x

  7. Lovely - I meant to go on one of the trails last summer and ran out of time. For some reason I thought they'd all finished so must check the ones near me.

    1. The original Gruffalo trails were replaced with Gruffalo child ones. They continue until the end of Feb so you'll need to be speedy x

  8. We visited our local Gruffalo Trail last year and loved it despite getting soaked, your post has inspired me to go back at half term with the children.

    1. Yes - it is definitely a good half term activity (cheap too!). I hope you don't get soaked this time!

  9. Lovely photos. I wish my little two were old enough to visit here x

  10. How amazing does this look for young ones. I loved reading The Gruffalo to my son when he was little!

  11. I love Hamsterley, not seen the Gruffalo yet though. He looks fab

  12. The Gruffalo trail sounds like great fun for both kids and adults alike. We are big fans of The Gruffalo. I wish it were closer too use, my guys would love it

  13. Hi is the gruffalo walk trail on?

  14. Is the gruffalo trail still on?

  15. l used to go there when I was 6


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