Looking to lace up your boots and go on some long walks and hikes around the city? We asked Mike from Hiker Hero to share a few of his local favourites...

Some parts of Bristol are hilly enough that a walk to the shop feels like going on a hike. That said, there’s no better feeling than leaving the city behind and feeling mud underfoot and seeing leaves overhead.

Fortunately, Bristolians are blessed with an abundance of scenic hikes all within an acceptable distance of the city centre. Just another reason why this city constantly ranks as one of the happiest in the country. Here are five classic Bristol hikes for starters. 

Leigh Woods

Let’s kick off with a perennial favourite amongst Bristolians, and take a wander westward from the city centre across the River Avon to Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve. 

Sitting on a plateau overlooking the famous Avon Gorge, Leigh Woods is 2-square-kilometres of leafy goodness, threaded by trails weaving under the canopy of lime, elm, and veteran oak.

All of this soul-enriching greenery is managed by the good folk at the National Trust, and better still is set against a backdrop of the magnificent architecture of Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge. You don’t get any more Bristol than that, do you?

View of Clifton Suspension Bridge from Leigh Woods
Image: Clifton Suspension Bridge viewed from Leigh Woods

Ashton Court Estate

Another westward stroll over the Clifton Suspension Bridge will take you to the sprawling Ashton Court Estate. A big ol’ country manor house sat on 850 acres of fabulous woodland and grassland.

A full loop of the grounds is about 4 miles, about 90 minutes. On your hike you’re guaranteed to be blessed by beautiful leafy vistas and if you’re lucky you might also catch a glimpse of red and fallow deer, Eurasian skylarks and rare Violet Ground Beetles.

Keep an eye out for six particularly venerable-looking trees in particular. These half dozen are reckoned to be over 900 years old, Imagine the things they’ve seen. One of these old-timers has been given the affectionate name “The Fattest Tree”, which seems a little bit disrespectful. Although to be fair it is quite a chunky chap! 

Ashton Court Estate walk - CREDIT Angharad Paull
Image - Ashton Court Estate, credit Angharad Paull

Conham River Park

Conham River Park is a few miles east of the city centre and is less visited than its two western cousins. Admittedly it’s smaller and less flashy than the big two and a little further out, but the trip is still well worth making.

There’s a great 90-minute hike along the riverside and up through Hencliffe Wood. What’s more, if the weather is warm, then the River Avon here is gentle and inviting, making it an ideal spot for a little wild swimming. 

If the greenery doesn’t entice you then maybe Beese’s riverside bar will. A well-known secret, if such a thing exists. Beese’s has been providing refreshments to travellers and workers waiting to catch the Conham River Ferry since way back in 1846. 

A view of the Beeses riverside pub on the banks of Conham River Park in East Bristol - credit Paul Box
Image - The River Avon Path and Beeses Pub in Conham, credit Paul Box

Bristol and Bath Railway Path

Get those arms swinging on the 13 miles of traffic-free goodness that is the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. Don’t worry, you won’t have to hop out of the way of oncoming trains, they are long gone. It’s now just happy hikers and contented cyclists nipping between two of the region’s most iconic cities.

Fuel up on a fancy breakfast feast in one of Bristol’s trendy cafes before strolling over to Bath and then soaking your bones in the thermal waters that gave the city its name. 

The hike between Bristol to Bath should take 4-5 hours but don’t fear if the prospect of walking 13 miles makes you hungry, there are nice places to stop for snacks and drinks at ​​Bitton and Warmley Stations, or along the Saltford section of the route. 

Cyclists on the Bristol & Bath Railway Path - credit Sustrans
Image - Bristol and Bath Railway Path, credit Sustrans

Hanham Mills Trail

Bristol and the River Avon are entwined; the history of one is the history of the other. 

If you have the energy and free time, you can hike almost the entire length of this majestic river from its source in Wiltshire, through Bath, through Bristol, before hitting the Bristol Channel at Pill or Portishead

But that's a hefty 75 miles, which would take most people a couple of weeks to complete—a little ambitious, maybe. So let's focus instead on a great Bristol section of the river.

A little further east from Conham River Park is the Hanham Mills area, known for its scenic nature reserves, the river's constant gentle presence, and several waterside pubs, such as the Old Lock & Weir, Chequers Inn, or Lock Keeper, any one of which makes for the ideal post-hike pint. 

Warning: this hike, in particular, can get muddy in wetter months. But what's a walk without a little bit of slipping and sliding, eh?!

A view of Chequers Inn and Hanham Lock in East Bristol - credit Shonette Laffy
Image: The Chequers Inn next to Hanham Lock, credit Shonette Laffy

Well, there you have it, five reasons to get your boots on and suck in a good helping of fresh air. All five are within a few miles of Bristol City Centre, so you’ve got no excuse. Go and hike! 

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