Little Vikings is an award-winning print and online guide to the best of York (and beyond) for kids, independently run by a York family. Read their guide to the family walks in the North York Moors: Dalby Forest and beyond!
Despite the cooler weather and falling leaves, it's the perfect time for some exciting family adventures in the North York Moors. After a busy start to the school year, we anticipated some reluctance for a weekend family walk, but our children (13, 11, and 8) were eager to hop in the car and escape to Dalby Forest.
A few hours later we returned home with rosy cheeks, throbbing feet (really must invest in some proper walking boots) and lungs full of fresh Yorkshire air. We’d spotted a deer, clambered over rocks, followed a walking route without getting lost (a first!), collected sticks, climbed trees, paddled in streams, skimmed stones and had a good laugh. And the whole day cost us just £10 (for parking) and the price of a picnic.
We’re already planning our next trip, and might just bring the bikes next time. Here’s what you need to know if you fancy a family walk or cycle ride at Dalby Forest (and the wider North York Moors) with your kids.
Where can we walk? The North York Moors has such a dizzying array of places to walk that it can be hard to know where to start. Tempting as it might be to channel your family’s inner Bear Grylls and head off-grid, you can’t go wrong by keeping things simple and heading for a well-known route, ideally with a print or online map you can follow. We chose Dalby Forest as our base, knowing that we’d be grateful for the loos, cafe and play area at the end of our stroll. Dalby has a variety of walking trails, from gentle meanders through the woodland to more challenging hikes. They’re all graded and signposted, although we would definitely recommend a map to follow. Download the trails from the Dalby Forest website before you set off. It’s worth mentioning that Dalby has excellent cycling trails for all abilities, too.
In the mood for a bit of a challenge, we did the Bridestones walk at Dalby Forest. Although it’s only 1.5 miles long, it’s steep in parts so it certainly got our legs - and hearts - pumping on a hot day. It was well worth the effort, though, with beautiful scenery and wildlife galore. As well as spotting - and clambering on - stunning rock formations (the Bridestones) just like those at Brimham Rocks, we spotted deer frolicking through the woods and all sorts of birds too. It was a wonderful way to see the seasons change, from the last of the purple heather to the burnt orange of the fern and a much-needed escape from reality.
What about younger children? Dalby Forest has specially designed family-friendly walking trails that are so fun that your little ones might not even notice they’re getting some exercise. Julia Donaldson fans will love Dalby’s mile-long interactive Zog Trail. We downloaded the app at home - where our Wi-Fi is more reliable than the forest signal - and picked up an activity pack at the Dalby Forest Visitor Centre (a small charge applies). Our children loved the augmented reality aspect of it, collecting golden stars along the way and even having their photo taken with their favourite dragon at the end. Much like Dalby’s Gruffalo Orienteering Trail - another Little Vikings family favourite - there were lots of laughs and none of the usual complaining that accompanies what’s meant to be a nice walk.
Are there any accessible routes? The Zog Trail is flat, easy and accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs, but the Gruffalo Orienteering Trail is only accessible on foot. The Lakeside trail around Dalby’s Staindale Lake is made up of buggy-friendly boardwalks and surfaced paths and is very beautiful (we ended our Bridestones walk with a little lakeside breather). There are more accessible routes available too - ask at the Visitor Centre for more details.
What will it cost? For access to incredible walking and cycling routes, epic countryside views, the most scenic adventure playground and much more besides, it’s just £10 to park at Dalby Forest. We always stay for hours and can never believe how little we’ve spent to have such a lovely day. We’ve even invested in Dalby Forest membership (£60 for the year) because we know we’ll be back several times during the year.
Where can we eat? It’s a matter of Yorkshire pride for us to keep costs down on a day out, but when entry to Dalby Forest is just £10 a day to park, we can justify splashing out a bit on something nice to eat and drink. We’d packed a picnic to eat during our walk but rewarded ourselves with ice cream and coffee from the lovely Dalby Forest cafe in the Visitor Centre afterwards. The Visitor Centre is also home to a well-stocked shop with tasteful souvenirs and outdoor essentials, and you can usually pick up one of our Little Vikings Family Guides to York from the leaflet stands too!
What’s nearby? The pretty town of Pickering is just along the road from Dalby, so we popped in on our way home for another refreshment stop at Botham’s tea room (after all that walking, we’d worked up an appetite). Just across the road from Pickering Station and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, it’s a pretty little vintage cafe serving gorgeous Botham’s baked goods, from fruity Yorkshire tea loaves to tempting chocolate cakes, all washed down with lashings of good strong tea. We even picked up a packet of delicious Botham’s biscuits (or three) to take home. The perfect souvenir of a pretty perfect family day out in the North York Moors.
For more inspiration for days out in the North York Moors National Park, visit the North York Moors website.
Little Vikings is an award-winning print and online guide to the best of York (and beyond) for kids, independently run by a York family. For more recommendations of the best things to do with children in York throughout the year, visit the Little Vikings website (https://little-vikings.co.uk/) and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, X and TikTok.