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Cannock Chase Forest: Adventures in the Heart of England (by a Local)

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Looking for things to do in Cannock Chase Forest Staffordshire?

Nestled in the heart of Staffordshire, Cannock Chase Forest is an enchanting escape into 6,700 hectares of woodland, heathland trails, and rugged natural beauty.

As a local who has endlessly explored every corner of this forest, let me give you the inside scoop on how to make the most of your visit to this Midlands gem.

Whether you’re an avid hiker, thrill-seeking biker, or simply searching for a scenic spot for a picnic, Cannock Chase has something special for everyone.

Planning your trip? Use my favorite resources!

🏨 Accommodation: I recommend Booking.com
✈️ Flights: for the cheapest flights, I use Skyscanner
🚗 Rental Car: I recommend Discover Cars
🛡️ Travel Insurance: for the best deals I rely on SafetyWing

General Information about Cannock Chase Forest

Cannock Chase Forest address:

Rugeley, Staffordshire, WS15 2UZ

Postcode for Sat Navs: WS15 2UQ

Cannock Chase Forest car park:

There are 3 car parks at Cannock Chase Forest and they are: Birches Valley Forest Centre car park (open 7:30am-9pm), Camp Field car park, and Nine Gates car park.

Cannock Chase Forest opening times:

Cannock Chase Forest is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day.

  • Winter (October-March): 10am-4pm daily
  • Summer (April-September): 10am-5pm daily
  • Weekends: 10am-5pm

Cannock Chase Map

Here is an overview map of Cannock Chase Forest showing some of the main hiking trails, biking routes, museums, cafes and parking areas.

Cannock Chase Forest Walks, Treks, Activities & More (a Local’s Guide)

All you need to know on Cannock Chase Forest things to do for families and couples. Best activities, where to stay, and more.

👉 Overview of Cannock Chase Forest:

From hiking to biking to stargazing, Cannock Chase offers endless active adventures surrounded by natural beauty.

Top Things to Do in Cannock Chase Forest:

📍Hiking & Walking – Over 100 km of trails from leisurely rambles to full day treks
📍Mountain Biking & Cycling – Dedicated routes for all skill levels across cross country terrain
📍Go Ape Adventures – Treetop rope courses, zip lines and climbing challenges
📍Segway Tours – Glide through forests and across heathlands on an electric Segway
📍Horseback Riding – Guided trail rides taking in scenic views atop horseback

Cannock Chase Forest Essentials Checklist:

✅ An excellent pair of walking shoes (for all that walking and trekking)
✅ A hoodie or warm sweater (for chilly evenings especially in winter)
✅ A decent raincoat (it rains a lot here)
✅ A good quality compact camera (for taking great pics)

Best walking trails in Cannock Chase Forest

Lace up your boots, grab your camera and take to foot – some of England’s best walking trails wind through Cannock Chase just waiting to be uncovered.

Cannock Chase Forest: Outdoor Adventures in the Heart of England

Here are 5 of my top route recommendations you don’t want to miss:

👉 Brocton Coppice (easy, 1.8 miles) – This scenic ramble loops through oak, silver birch and pine trees, past the historic Brocton Hall. Look out for crumbling ice house remains hidden in the hillside!

👉 Castle Ring (easy, 1 mile) – Trek uphill to this iconic Iron Age hill fort ringed with defensive ditches for panoramic views across the forest and beyond.

👉 Penkridge Bank (expert, 5.2 miles) – Follow the River Penk’s meandering curves through meadows, sandstone outcrops and peaceful woodlands.

👉 Hazel Slade (medium, 3.2 miles) – Traverse heather fringed paths around a Highland loch-like reservoir – a true hidden gem!

👉 Sheriff’s Piece (easy, 2.5 miles) – Ramble over the heights of Beaudesert taking in sprawling pastoral views and fern carpeted pathways.

From family friendly rambles to steady full day hikes, Cannock Chase has a trail for all abilities. Don’t forget to stop at one of the forest’s cosy cafes for a tasty treat along the way!

Cycling routes for beginners in Cannock Chase Forest

With gentle gradients, extensive off-road cycle paths and welcoming bike centres, Cannock Chase offers fantastic terrain for beginner cyclists and families.

cyclist on the cannock chase forest cycling trail

Here’s my pick of the top 3 routes to start:

👉 Follow the Dog Route (expert, 6.7 miles) – A smooth, wide track with fun trail features winding through pine forests.
👉 Way the Crow Flies (easy, 5 miles) – A flowing single track along sweeping heathland – access via Brocton Camp.
👉 Monkey Trail (expert, 14.2 miles) – Mixed surfaces traversing forest and meadows with great downhill sections.

The Cannock Chase Cycle Centre also offers trail guides, bike hire and route advice to help you make the most of the cyling. Just look for their logo brown tourist signs when visiting. Happy and safe riding!

Off-road biking trails in Cannock Chase Forest

Fancy more extreme riding? The forest ups the ante for experienced mountain bikers with fast, technical trails offering adrenaline-pumping downhill runs.

Top areas to check out:

Go Ape Trail (easy, 1 mile) – Purpose built flowy red route beside the forest ropes course
Seven Springs (medium, 4 miles) – A rollercoaster of rooty descents and banked berms
Wallows Loop (expert, 7 miles) – Fast paced with big drop offs amidst picturesque streams
Stilecop Bike Park – Pro level dirt jumps, drops and wooden features

Whizzing through the woods, the off-road biking trails promise mud, sweat and smiles! Just be sure to inspect routes prior and ride within your ability level.

🚗 Day trip from Birmingham:

Birmingham to Cannock Chase is just 35 mins by car (or 1 hour 12 mins by train). Here are all the best things to see and do in Birmingham.

Family-friendly activities in Cannock Chase Forest

It’s no wonder that Cannock Chase ranks as one of the top day trips from Birmingham for families. Beyond hiking and biking adventures, families will love the variety of family-friendly activities available across Cannock Chase.

woman zip wiring with her arms and legs spread out at go ape cannock chase

Here are my top things to do with kids by age range:

Ages 5-7:

Gruffalo Trail – Spot beloved characters on this interactive 1.5 mile woodland walk
Adventure play areas – Kingsley Wood and Milford Common have exciting equipment and trails
Birches Valley Forest Centre – Forest discovery rooms, crafts and play zones for little ones

Ages 8-12:

Go Ape Tree Top Adventure – 1,500 metres of tree-to-tree zip wires, obstacles and crossings to challenge older kids
Family cycle routes – Gentle paths ideal for honing bike skills
Zog Trail app – Interactive technology brings forest quests to life


Escape Rooms – Put your heads together cracking clues at themed Cannock Escape forest rooms
Geocaching trails – Find hidden boxes following GPS coordinates and clues
Forest Segway tours – Zoom between trees learning to master futuristic transport

With so many options, Cannock Chase might just be the perfect cure for kids bored indoors! Wrap up warm and unleash free play amidst natural worlds this weekend.

Zog Activity Trail at Cannock Chase

In partnership with Magic Light Publishing, the Long Forest Trail has been transformed into an exciting Zog-themed adventure! Families and kids can embark on their own interactive quest through the forest discovering eye-catching activity posts based on the beloved book character.

How it works:

  1. Download the “Zog: A Forest Adventure” app before arriving or connect to available wifi onsite
  2. Pick up a Zog pack from the Birches Valley visitor centre
  3. Follow the 1.2 mile trail finding markers and enjoying fun challenges

With prizes to be won, it’s a wonderful way to bring much-loved stories to life and explore Cannock Chase’s natural delights. Follow Zog’s trail this half term for magical outdoor fun!

Looking for quiet spots for picnics in Cannock Chase Forest? Pingle Slade is the perfect spot for picnics and ball games. It’s a large open area within the Pine Forest, and it’s just a short walk from the car park/main visitor area. So, if you’re looking for a spot to relax and have some fun, this could be a great choice.

🦍 Go Ape Cannock Chase

Cannock Chase Forest hosts the longest continuous zip-wire of all the Go Ape locations in the UK!
Go Ape Cannock (Birches Valley Forest Centre)
Admission: £0 First 15 minutes free (dropping bike off/ quick walk of the dog or cup of tea), £3 up to 1 hour, £5 up to 2 hours, £8 whole day (until gates are closed), £8.00 for minibus, £10.00 for coaches
Opening times: 10am-2pm daily (closed on Mondays)

Educational activities for kids in Cannock Chase Forest

Beyond fun and games, Cannock Chase Forest offers fantastic opportunities for kids to learn hands-on about the natural world.

a stag looking to the left among the woodlands in the autumn sun

From Forest School sessions building shelters to nature detective quests, children can uncover forest secrets while building confidence and skills.

Some top programs on offer include:

📍Nature Tots Sessions – Forest-themed play and crafts for ages 2-5 years
📍Forest Rangers – Wildlife observation, tracking skills and survival for ages 8+
📍Pond Dipping – Investigate nearby ponds finding frogs, insects and larvae
📍Bushcraft – Learn campfire cooking, natural art and wilderness skills

Few settings make better classrooms than the outdoors – book an educational forest adventure this term!

🍁 Top Tip: head to Cannock Chase Forest in autumn: for some of the best views and activities when the leaves are golden hues of yellow, orange and brown!

Discover the Best Birdwatching Spots

With over 6,700 hectares of woodland and upland heath home to over 100 bird species, Cannock Chase attracts keen birdwatchers year-round.

tall trees on the upper cliff, Cannock Chase Forest
Upper Cliff, Cannock Chase Forest

Here are my top 3 favourite areas to spot feathered residents and seasonal visitors:

🐦‍⬛ Top 3 Birdwatching Spots in Cannock Chase

➡️ Sherbrook Valley – Far-reaching views attract birds of prey circling like red kites and buzzards.
➡️ Marquis Drive Visitor Centre – Feeder filled forest edge frequented by finches, tits and nuthatches.
➡️ Gatewings Lake – Spot waterfowl including herons, coots and cormorants.

For the best birdwatching, head out early morning or late afternoon when activity levels peak. And don’t forget your binoculars and field guide!

👉 Read more: Best way to get to Alton Towers from Birmingham

Best spots for Stargazing in Cannock Chase Forest

Coated in a blanket of trees by day, Cannock Chase transforms into a gateway to the cosmos once darkness falls. Having been designated an official International Dark Sky Discovery Site for its clear views, stargazing conditions are sublime.

starry sky at cannock chase forest star gazing

According to Go Stargazing, the forest is estimated to have light pollution levels similar to a semi-rural location, which means you’re in luck for some quality stargazing.

My top place to lay a blanket and get gazing is Brocton Coppice (Milford Car Park). With an open outlook across Strawberry Meadows to the south, it’s perfect for meteor spotting or picking out constellations. Connect lines between stars overhead to map out mythological gods and ancient heroes.

For excellent guided astronomy events, the annual Dark Skies Festivals are also held at various visitor car parks between October and March.

So whether you’re a hobbyist astronomer or just intrigued by the infinity above, don’t miss the stellar night skies shining over Cannock Chase!

🌌 More Stargazing Locations in Cannock Chase Forest:

> Brindley Bottom Car Park
> Camp Field Car Park
> Coppice Hill Car Park
> Penkridge Bank Car Park
> Seven Springs Car Park
> Stile Cop Car Park
> White House Car Park

Insider Tips From a Local

After sharing the best Cannock Chase walks, activities and history – I’ve saved the best for last! Here are my top insider tips to help unlock the most of your visit:

✔️ Pack Wellies & Woollies – Weather changes fast so dress prepared with proper footwear and layers
✔️ Go Off Peak – Avoid weekends and school holidays when car parks overflow
✔️ Download the App – Audio trails and AR bring new interactive elements
✔️ Grab a Map – Navigate beyond main routes to uncover hidden gems
✔️ Make a Weekend of It – Glamping, quaint villages and real ales beckon nearby
✔️ Look Up – Don’t forget to glance skyward for starry nights or aerial displays
✔️ Come Again – Return often and spot seasonal shifts across moody heathlands

Brief History of Cannock Chase Forest

Let’s take a look at Cannock Chase Forest’s history. This forest in Staffordshire has been around for a while and has seen its fair share of activity, becoming one of the best places to see in the West Midlands.

Believe it or not, today’s carefully conserved habitat bursting with leisure activities has a long and storied past. Here’s a brisk history recap:

– 8000 BC – Nomadic Mesolithic tribes inhabit the area during the post ice age reforestation
– 800 BC – Hill fort built at Castle Ring during the Iron Age marking Celtic tribal boundaries
– 70 AD – Roman roads are built crossing Cannock Chase enroute from Letocetum to Pennocrucium
– 800 AD – Saxon settlements spring up nearby including Huntington, later renamed Penkridge
– 1000 AD – Land used as a royal forest and hunting ground under King Canute
– 1600s – Trees coppiced on rotation to produce charcoal and wood
– 1878 – Over 75,000 trees planted to restore diminishing woodlands
– 1900s – Area developed for military training trenches during WWI with WWII structures still evident
– 1958 – Designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
– 2005 – Receives European Special Area of Conservation (SAC) status

Layer upon layer of history reveals itself at Cannock Chase! Keep your eyes peeled while wandering through the forest today.

The forest has since been home to military camps and air bases during both World Wars. But it’s not all ancient history – the forest is still used for active mining, quarrying, and forestry operations today.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Cannock Chase Forest, be sure to keep your wits about you and watch out for those active mining areas!

👉 Read more: 130+ Witty & Famous Quotes about England

The Cannock Chase Forest Murders

With such a long history, it may be no surprise that Cannock Chase forest has seen tragedy and sinister dealings. In the 1960s, the forest gained notoriety as the site of heinous child murders.

fog among the tall trees in cannock chase

Between 1965-1967, three young girls aged between 5-7 years old were abducted from the area, sexually assaulted and murdered. Despite public outcry and appeals, the perpetrator evaded authorities for decades.

Nearly 50 years later in 2015, Raymond Morris was finally convicted and brought to justice as the Cannock Chase murderer.

A memorial on Station Road offers a place of remembrance for the three young victims: Christine Darby, Pamela Parker and Margaret Reynolds. Hopefully they can now rest in peace.

Read More: 23 Wonderful Things to Do in Stoke, England

Cannock Chase Forest Map:

Looking for directions? Use this map of Cannock Chase Forest as a guide – it features some of the highlights mentioned earlier in this post.

📍dark blue pin = museums/landmarks

📍light blue = car parks

📍orange pin = activities

📍green pin = camp sites/lodges

📍red pin = cafe

📍purple pin = visitors centre

Food and Drink: Cannock Chase Forest Cafe

Grounds Cafe is located at Birches Valley and provides a high-street cafe experience to walkers, cyclists, families, and all who enjoy the countryside.

Alternatively, stop for a quick cuppa at the smaller Brindley Heath Visitor Centre Cafe or the seasonal Stanley Cycles Cafe at Marquis Drive.

Accessibility features in Cannock Chase Forest

If you’re looking for a fun day out in Cannock Chase Forest but need some accessibility features, don’t worry, the forest has got you covered!

According to Accessibility Guides, the forest offers a variety of activities and amenities suitable for all ages and abilities, including level access to the main entrance of the forest, a children’s play area, and woodland walks.

If you’re interested in biking, the Cannock Chase Cycle Centre is also accessible, with a 2000mm wide route and 750mm wide door.

cannock chase forest autumn leaves

The Cannock Chase Code

As a visitor to this precious landscape, adhere to the Countryside Code respecting habitats, local residents and other forest lovers:

⭐️ Stick to footpaths – avoid trampling sensitive vegetation
⭐️ Carry out litter – leave no trace behind
⭐️ Keep dogs under control – livestock graze these fields
⭐️ Plan safe fires & BBQs – take care with naked flames
⭐️ Follow signs and advice – for a better experience all round
⭐️ Protect wildlife – do not touch or feed deer and other residents
⭐️ Share friendly greetings – to fellow ramblers and riders

Treating Cannock Chase with care means generations more can enjoy its splendours. Tread lightly and leave only footprints!

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Cannock Chase Forest FAQs:

Now that we’ve gone over all the things to see and do at Cannock Chase, below are some commonly-asked questions:

Is Cannock Chase the biggest forest in the UK?

No, at over 6,700 hectares Cannock Chase Forest is expansive but doesn’t rank among the largest in the UK – those include Forest of Dean, Kielder Forest and Grizedale Forest.

What is Cannock Chase famous for?

Cannock Chase is famous for its rugged natural beauty and wealth of outdoor recreation like hiking, biking and horse riding across heathland trails and forested landscapes.

How much is it to park at Cannock Chase?

Parking fees at the main Cannock Chase car parks are typically £3-8 per day, with options like Birches Valley being more expensive and Nine Gates free.

Is there an entry fee for Cannock Chase?

No, there are no Cannock Chase entry fees and the public has free access to explore the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty year-round. There are parking charges at some car parks.

What is the largest wild forest in the UK?

The New Forest established in southern England is the UK’s largest area of unenclosed pasture land and heath, covering about 220 square miles.

What is the largest forest in the UK?

Kielder Forest edged out Forest of Dean to be considered the largest woodland forest in the UK, covering approximately 250 square miles in Northumberland.

Are there wild boar on Cannock Chase?

Yes, a small population of wild boar roam Cannock Chase Forest, descendants from escaped farmed boars in the 1990s. They are rarely seen by hikers.

🏨 Where to Stay in Cannock Chase Forest and Nearby:

Rest yourself in the forest by staying overnight in Cannock Chase AONB. From camping to glamping, there are plenty of accommodation options nestled amongst the trees. Here are my top recommendations:

The Coach House (deluxe double room) $ – Exceptional 9.9

Silver Trees (Apartment. 1-2 Bed House) $$

The Old Smokehouse (holiday home) $$ – Exceptional 9.7

Detached Bungalow (3 bed villa w/jacuzzi) $$ – Superb 9.0

Nearby Forests to Also Explore

Once you’ve uncovered Cannock Chase’s many delights, nearby forests beckon offering yet more woodland wandering and cycling adventures:

Rosliston Forestry Centre (10 miles) – Family oriented trails with natural play areas, a cafe, and cycle hire facilities.

Dimmingsdale (14 miles) – Ancient woodland renowned for its rare plant species, rock formations, and charming ‘fairy glen’.

Blithfield Forest (15 miles) – Waterside walking and cycling paths encircle the glistening Blithfield Reservoir.

Seale Wood (18 miles) – Peaceful trails under mature pine tree canopies just outside Ashby-de-la-Zouch.

Hicks Lodge (20 miles) – Part of the National Forest with scenic lakeside bike trails and family activities.

Venture to new landscapes blanketed in woods where adventure awaits! Each forest has its own unique character and hidden gems to uncover if you just know where to look. With picnic blanket and backpack in tow, a revitalising escape into nature is never far away.

Wrapping up

Cannock Chase Forest is a true gem waiting to be uncovered in the Heart of England. With endless trails traversing sweeping heathlands, soaring pine forests and dramatic rock formations, it’s a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers.

As a local, I feel so fortunate to have this incredible landscape as my playground and I hope my insider tips help you make the most of your visit too!

Just an hour from Birmingham, I highly recommend adding this Staffordshire escape to your travel bucket list. A revitalising retreat bursting with discovery and enriching experiences awaits at Cannock Chase Forest – see you in the woods soon!

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