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The 12 Best Woodland Walking Trails In and Near Manchester

The 12 Best Woodland Walking Trails In and Near Manchester

Ready to swap your city strolls for some woodland wonders? We’ve got the ultimate guide to Manchester’s most magnificent walking trails, where nature’s charm is endless, and the tranquillity is unmatched.

Whether you’re a dawn-breaking bird watcher or a sunset saunterer, these trails offer the perfect mix of leafy lanes, historical haunts, and panoramic vistas. 

In this guide, we’ll trek through each trail’s unique allure, from the must-see landmarks to the hidden gems nestled in the foliage. We’ll also provide practical tips to enhance your walking adventure.

Drinkwater Park

Media credit: fried.sr1mp

Trail Length: 3.7 miles (loop)​

Distance from Manchester City Centre: 14.6 mi


Drinkwater Park isn’t just your run-of-the-mill green space; it’s a proper local hotspot for anyone looking to swap city streets for woodland beats. Sprawling next to the River Irwell, this park serves up a diverse landscape. 

You’ve got wide-open fields perfect for a bit of footie, wooded areas for a secluded stroll, and the river bank offering tranquil views and a chance to spot some local wildlife. 

It’s got history, too – keep an eye out for the remnants of old industrial structures giving a nod to Manchester’s past. It’s a reliable choice for joggers, families, or anyone looking to have a peaceful meander in a natural setting.

Pro tip:

For a quieter experience, hit the park early in the morning. The soft light and serene atmosphere are top-notch. And if you fancy a bit of angling, the river’s a decent spot for fishing.

Worsley Woods

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Trail Length: 3 miles​​.

Distance from Manchester City Centre: Approximately 6 miles west


Now, Worsley Woods is a proper treat; it’s a chunk of woodland that feels miles away from the urban sprawl but is actually pretty easy to get to. The trails here are well-maintained, winding through thickets of trees and alongside the historical Bridgewater Canal. 

It’s the kind of place that’s as good for a leisurely Sunday walk as it is for a more energetic jog. The Delph, an old quarry by the canal, adds a dash of intrigue and history to your stroll. 

Plus, the woods are connected to other local paths, so you can easily make a day of it if you’re in the mood for an adventure.

Pro tip:

If you’re up for a bit of fun, try geocaching – Worsley Woods has a few hidden caches. Also, spring’s bluebell season turns the woods into a sea of blue – it’s absolutely stunning.

Dunham Massey Ancient Tree Trail

Media from ntdunhammassaey

Trail Length: 2.5 miles​​.

Distance from Manchester City Centre: Around 15 miles southwest 


Dunham Massey’s Ancient Tree Trail is where you go to walk among giants – ancient trees that have been around for hundreds of years. It’s a tranquil path within the larger Dunham Massey estate, offering a chance to see some of Britain’s oldest trees up close. 

These old-timers give the place a unique, almost timeless feel. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, making it accessible to all. 

And it’s not just about the trees; the estate also features a deer park where you might spot some of the resident herd grazing. It’s a peaceful, picturesque spot perfect for a reflective walk or a family day out.

Pro tip:

Early morning or late afternoon is the best time to spot the deer, and the light’s just right for photography too. And keep an eye out for the ancient sundial hidden amongst the oaks.

Lantern Wood

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Trail Length: 3.2 miles (circular)​

Distance from Manchester: 17.4miles


Lantern Wood, while not sprawling, is a perfect spot for a quiet walk. It’s dense with ancient trees and has a network of paths that are well-trodden but still feel like a personal discovery. 

Each turn offers something a bit different, whether it’s a new cluster of wildflowers or a sudden view of the surrounding area. It’s especially popular with locals who know it’s the place to go for a bit of peace without travelling too far from the city. 

The wood has a bit of a mystical feel, particularly in the early morning mist or as the sun sets.

Pro tip:

If you’re into photography, the varied landscape here offers some great shots, especially in autumn. And, if you’re a bit of a nature buff, bring along a guide to British trees or birds to enhance your walk.

Alderley Edge Woodland Walk

Media from alderley_edge

Trail Length: 3 mile walk

Distance from Manchester City Centre: Alderley Edge is about 15 miles south


Alderley Edge is more than just a fancy village; it’s home to some of the area’s most scenic walks. The woodland walk here is diverse, with paths that take you through thickets of trees, across sandstone outcrops, and into areas with wide-open views. 

It’s a bit hilly, so you’ll get a good workout, but it’s nothing too strenuous. The Edge is shrouded in local legends, adding an element of mystery to your walk. 

It’s a popular spot, so you might not have the paths to yourself, but the views and the variety of the walk make it worth the trip.

Pro tip:

For a quieter experience, try visiting early in the morning or on a weekday. And don’t miss the ‘Wizard’s Well’ – it’s one of the many quirky features you’ll find carved into the rock.

Blackley Forest Nature Reserve

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Trail Length: 5 miles (loop)

Distance from Manchester City Centre: Approximately 5 miles north


Blackley Forest Nature Reserve is a slice of biodiversity in North Manchester. It’s not massive, but it’s packed with different habitats, making it a great spot for spotting a variety of wildlife. 

The paths are well-maintained, making it accessible for all ages and abilities. There are plenty of spots to sit and just enjoy the sounds of nature, making it perfect for a lazy afternoon stroll. 

The forest is an example of successful urban conservation, showing how nature can thrive even near the city. It’s a calming, welcoming place, ideal for when you need a break from the hustle and bustle.

Pro tip:

Keep an eye on the notice boards at the entrance for information about guided walks and other events. These can give you a deeper understanding of the area and its wildlife.

Chorlton Ees

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Trail length: 2.2 miles

Distance from Manchester City Centre: About 4 miles southwest


Chorlton Ees Nature Reserve is a well-loved local haven, known for its varied landscapes including woodlands, meadows, and riverbanks. It’s a relatively flat area, making it easy for walkers of all abilities to enjoy. 

The paths are well-marked, guiding you through the different environments. It’s not uncommon to see local wildlife, especially by the water. 

The Ees is a popular spot for dog walkers and families, but it’s usually easy to find a quiet corner to yourself. It’s an ideal place for a leisurely stroll or a brisk walk, with plenty of natural beauty to appreciate as you go.

Pro tip:

Visit after it rains to see the wetland areas come to life, but wear good boots as it can get muddy. Early morning is the best time to spot birds and other wildlife.

Philips Park

Trail length: 400 miles

Distance from Manchester City Centre: 2 miles east


Philips Park is a bit of an all-rounder, offering woodland walks, open grassy areas, and even a historical hall to admire. The woodlands here are well-managed, with clear paths that are easy to follow. It’s a great place to visit if you want a variety of scenery on your walk. 

The park also has a community feel, with regular events and activities. It’s large enough that it never feels too crowded, even on sunny weekends. 

Whether you’re after a short, scenic stroll or a longer walk, Philips Park provides a pleasant and versatile setting.

Pro tip:

Check out the park’s community orchard and vegetable gardens. It’s a nice change of pace and offers a different type of natural beauty. Also, keep an eye on local listings for events and activities in the park.

Daisy Nook

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Trail length: 5 miles

Distance from Manchester City Centre: Approximately 7 miles east


Daisy Nook Country Park is a charming spot, offering 40 hectares of varied landscapes, including woodlands, waterways, and open fields. The park has a network of paths, making it easy to explore. 

It’s particularly picturesque in the spring when the wildflowers bloom, and in autumn, when the trees show off their fiery colours. The park also has a bit of history, with old colliery sites dotted around, now reclaimed by nature. 

It’s a popular spot, but with so much space, it’s easy to find your own peaceful path.

Pro tip:

Bring some change for the visitor centre; they often have maps and leaflets with interesting information about the park’s history and wildlife. And if you’re into fishing, the canal is a popular spot.

Colliers Wood

Trail length: 2.7 miles

Distance from Manchester City Centre: 24.7 miles


Colliers Wood is a local favourite for a reason. This site, once a colliery, has been transformed into a flourishing woodland. The trails here weave through young and mature trees, with clearings and ponds sprinkled throughout. 

It’s a place that feels far from the city, offering a real sense of escape. The paths are well-maintained, making it accessible for most walkers, and there are plenty of spots to stop and enjoy the surroundings. 

It’s particularly beautiful in the spring when the wildflowers start to bloom and in autumn when the leaves turn a vibrant mix of reds and yellows.

Pro tip:

The woodland is home to a variety of birds, so bring along a pair of binoculars if you’re a budding ornithologist. And if you’re visiting with kids, the open areas are great for a game of frisbee.

Rochdale Woodland

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Trail length: 3.5 miles

Distance from Manchester City Centre: About 12 miles northeast


Rochdale’s green spaces offer a variety of woodland walks, with Healey Dell Nature Reserve being a standout. It’s a picturesque area, known for its dramatic woodland and the River Spodden flowing through it. 

The reserve has a mix of easy and more challenging paths, allowing you to choose your own adventure. The historic Healey Dell Viaduct adds a touch of grandeur to the landscape. 

It’s a peaceful place, where the sound of the river and the rustle of leaves create a tranquil atmosphere. Whether you’re looking for a gentle stroll or a more vigorous hike, Rochdale’s woodlands provide a beautiful backdrop.

Pro tip:

The viaduct and river make for some fantastic photo opportunities, especially in the morning light. Also, the area is known for its wildflowers in the spring and summer, so keep an eye out for those.

Horrocks Wood

From wanderingbrown

Trail length: 3.1 miles

Distance from Manchester City Centre: Approximately 15 miles northwest 


Horrocks Wood is a bit of a hidden gem, offering a tranquil retreat with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The area is a mix of open fields and woodlands, with well-defined paths that are perfect for a leisurely walk or a more energetic ramble. 

The wood is particularly lovely in the late afternoon when the light filters through the trees, creating a serene atmosphere. It’s usually quiet, making it a great spot for those looking to enjoy some solitude in nature.

It’s important to wear appropriate footwear for the sometimes uneven paths, and bringing a map or using a GPS app can help in navigating the area. Parking is available nearby, and while there are no on-site facilities, the local town provides amenities a short drive away.

Pro tip:

If you’re visiting on a clear day, bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the higher points. The views are worth it. And if you’re into birdwatching, the varied habitats attract a wide range of species.

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