From semi-secret suburban nature reserves to brooding evergreen canopies stretching over miles of rolling Lancashire hills, the forests and woodlands around Manchester offer some of the most magical walking trails in the country.

Here are seven of the best.

Blackley Forest

Located to the north of the city, Blackley Forest is easily reachable from central Manchester, making it one of the most accessible green spaces for city dwellers. The River Irk runs through the west side of the forest in the direction of the city centre, and the forest itself is ideal for outdoor recreation — you can enjoy walking, fishing and birdwatching.

Blackley Forest, Victoria Avenue, Manchester M9 0PL
Delamere Forest

Delamere is located southwest of Manchester and features a variety of beautiful hikes and trails for all abilities. There are a number of easy trails if you’re just looking for some gentle exploring, or you can attempt a more ambitious hike and take in Liverpool’s skyline from the top. There are cycling and mountain biking trails for the active and intrepid, while the wondrously tranquil lake provides the perfect landscape in which to ponder nature’s inconceivable majesty or frantically catch your breath.

Delamere Forest, Frodsham CW8 2HZ
Ivy Green & Chorlton Ees

You’ll find Ivy Green & Chorlton Ees not far from the heart of Chorlton proper, just on the banks of the Mersey. The woods are maintained by Manchester City Council, and the well-kept pathways take you on a journey through dense, beautiful forestry and a variety of wildlife.

Ivy Green, Manchester M21 9FU
Worsley Woods

As with Worsley, Salford’s surreally gorgeous time-locked rural enclave, there is plenty to discover in Worsley Woods, with miles of trails and treks appropriate for both walking and biking. There’s also a huge array of flora and fauna – it was declared a local nature reserve in 2006 – in a blissfully serene atmosphere which feels counties away from the roaring M60 nearby. All the paths are well maintained and easy to navigate — but if it’s been raining, make sure to wear appropriate footwear, as it can get muddy.

Quarry Bank

Located in Wilmslow, National Trust site Quarry Bank is one of Manchester’s best nearby scenery spots with one of Britain’s greatest industrial heritage sites at its centre. If you follow the paths to the bottom of the valley, you’ll discover caves, cliffs and ancient trees, and there are also a number of maintained gardens which you can explore. The woodlands of Quarry Bank transform into a fiery New England blanket every autumn, and an English pastoral dream with the arrival of Spring — just make sure to book before your visit.

Quarry Bank, Styal Road, Wilmslow SK9 4LA
Forest of Bowland

Described as ‘The Switzerland of England’ for its lush trails, picturesque villages and grand, sweeping vistas, Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland comprises 312 square miles of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as a number of rewarding climbs, including Pendle Hill, and some of the darkest skies in England, with a number of Dark Sky Discovery Sites accredited by the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. Situated mostly in northeast Lancashire, the forest is accessible via Clitheroe.

Macclesfield Forest

One of the UK’s more underrated natural landscapes, the unassuming Macclesfield Forest brims with staggering scenery, endless trails and ancient, ecovatively gnarled vegetation. The last remnant of the original Royal Forest of Macclesfield, the area is now home to a herd of red deer and a variety of other wildlife.

Amy Callaghan
Published on:
Mon 18 Sep 2023