Explore Serene Trails: Your Ultimate Guide to Glenariff Forest Park Hikes

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Nestled in the heart of Northern Ireland’s Antrim Glens, Glenariff Forest Park is a true hidden gem that beckons outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With its diverse landscape of rivers, forests, and waterfalls, this captivating destination offers a perfect blend of adventure and tranquility. Are you ready to embark on a journey through Glenariff’s enchanting trails and discover its unique beauty?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unravel the wonders of Glenariff Forest Park, the “Queen of the Glens.” We’ll explore its scenic trails, family-friendly walks, and picturesque picnic spots, while also suggesting nearby attractions and dining options for a well-rounded experience. So, lace up your hiking boots and let’s uncover the allure of Glenariff Forest Park!

Key Takeaways

  • Explore Glenariff Forest Park, “The Queen of the Glens”, for its diverse ecosystem and stunning rivers, forests & waterfalls.

  • Take on the Scenic Trail Adventure for a moderately challenging 5.9 mile (8.9 km) hike with awe-inspiring views or opt for family friendly trails like Rainbow Trail and Viewpoint Trail instead.

  • Enjoy a picnic surrounded by nature or explore nearby attractions such as Torr Head Scenic Route, Dark Hedges etc., followed by local restaurants to complete your trip!

Discovering Glenariff: The Queen of the Glens

Aerial view of Glenariff Forest Park with lush greenery and flowing river

Glenariff Forest Park, also known as the “Queen of the Glens,” is a true testament to the beauty of Northern Ireland’s landscape. With its breathtaking blend of rivers, forests, and waterfalls, the forest park Glenariff offers an idyllic setting for nature lovers and hikers alike. As one of the nine Antrim Glens, Glenariff boasts a rich history and diverse ecosystem, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking an unforgettable outdoor adventure.

Nestled along the picturesque Causeway Coastal Route, Glenariff Forest Park covers over 1,186 hectares and is home to the Glenariff River, which cascades through rocky gorges before meeting the sea. This stunning backdrop sets the stage for a series of scenic trails and outdoor recreation spaces, promising an adventure that will leave you in awe of nature’s beauty.

Essential Visitor Information

Glenariff Forest Park is located approximately 24km north-east of Ballymena, easily accessible by car, on foot, or by bicycle from the forest park Glenariffe Road, which is also known as the A43 Glenariff Road. For those relying on public transport, Ulsterbus service number 150 stops at the front entrance gate. Keep in mind that public vehicle access may occasionally be limited due to forest operations work. The park is open 24 hours a day for visitors to explore on foot. No need to worry!

Upon arrival, a modest fee of £5 for cars and £2 for pedestrians grants you access to this mesmerizing haven. The car park gates open at 8:00 am and are locked at dusk each night. Once inside, you’ll find:

  • A visitor centre

  • A tea house

  • Picnic and barbeque areas

  • Several trails to choose from

With these amenities at your disposal, you’re all set for an unforgettable day at Glenariff Forest Park.

Exploring the National Nature Reserve

Illustration of diverse wildlife and rare flora in the National Nature Reserve

Glenariff’s crown jewel is its National Nature Reserve, a haven for rare flora and diverse wildlife. As you venture through the park, you’ll encounter majestic oak trees, delicate wildflowers, and captivating mosses and ferns, all thriving within this protected ecosystem. Keep your eyes peeled for Glenariff’s resident fauna, including the red squirrel, hen harrier, and Irish hare, as they roam freely through their natural habitat.

One of the park’s most iconic features is the timber walkway, a boardwalk that traverses the glen and hugs the river gorge. This carefully reconstructed walkway provides an intimate experience with the cascading waterfalls and lush greenery that define Glenariff’s landscape, making it an essential part of any visit.

The Heart of Glenariff: Scenic Trail Adventure

Hikers enjoying the Scenic Trail with panoramic views of Glenariff

If you’re seeking a more challenging hike that showcases the heart of Glenariff’s beauty, the Scenic Trail is the perfect choice. This moderately challenging trail offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the park’s diverse landscape, from its enchanting waterfalls to its mysterious moorland lake. With its captivating sights and invigorating terrain, the Scenic Trail promises an adventure you won’t soon forget.

Spanning 5.9 miles (8.9 km) and reaching an altitude of approximately 300 meters, the Scenic Trail offers a rewarding and exhilarating experience for avid hikers. As you navigate the path, you’ll encounter a variety of terrain, from rocky gorges to lush woodlands, providing a true taste of Glenariff’s splendor.

Trail Snapshot: Distance and Elevation

The Scenic Trail offers:

  • 5.9 miles (8.9 km) distance

  • 300 meters altitude

  • Moderately challenging hike

  • Typically takes 2-3 hours to complete

While hiking boots or trail shoes are recommended, it’s also possible to undertake a shorter walk on the Scenic Trail by departing from the visitor centre to the Upper waterfall and retracing your steps.

Regardless of the route you choose, the Scenic Trail offers a journey through Glenariff’s beauty that will leave you in awe.

Navigating the Path: What to Expect

As you begin your journey on the Scenic Trail, you’ll find yourself traversing diverse terrain and marveling at the breathtaking vistas that unfold before you. From the edge of the planted forest to the mesmerizing river gorge, the path offers a captivating journey through Glenariff’s heart.

Along the way, you’ll pass by a shelter and eventually reach a fork in the road. Taking the left turn leads you to the Laragh Lodge restaurant/café, while the right turn brings you to the three waterfalls at the top of the valley.

The Scenic Trail not only showcases the park’s natural beauty but also provides a rewarding challenge for hikers. As you navigate the path, be prepared for steep climbs and uneven terrain. However, the effort is well worth it, as the trail rewards you with awe-inspiring views of the valley, the ocean, and the cascading waterfalls that make Glenariff a truly enchanting destination.

Glenariff’s Waterfall Walk Trail: A Journey Through Cascades

Cascading waterfalls along the Waterfall Walk Trail in Glenariff Forest Park

For a more leisurely stroll that still captures the essence of Glenariff’s enchanting landscape, the Waterfall Walk Trail is an ideal choice. This 3 km trail takes you on a journey through the park’s cascading waterfalls and lush greenery, offering a truly magical experience. As you traverse the boardwalk, you’ll be captivated by the sight and sound of the rushing waters, making for an unforgettable adventure.

The Waterfall Walk Trail, also known as “Little Switzerland” after the moniker assigned by author Thackeray, is a delightful journey through the river gorge. With its well-maintained boardwalk and awe-inspiring water features, the Waterfall Walk Trail is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience Glenariff’s captivating charm.

Preparing for the Waterfall Walk

Before starting the Waterfall Walk, it’s essential to come prepared. The trail features a steep descent along the path and steps to the bottom of the gorge, so hiking boots or trail shoes with good traction are recommended.

While the Waterfall Walk can be enjoyed year-round, it’s best to visit during the spring or autumn months when the weather is mild and the park is less crowded. With proper preparation, you’ll be ready to fully enjoy the enchanting waterfalls and breathtaking scenery of the Waterfall Walk Trail.

Memorable Sights Along the Waterfall Walk

As you journey through the Waterfall Walk Trail, you’ll be treated to an array of memorable sights and experiences. From the remarkable waterfalls to the wooden walkway that hugs the cliff, every step along the trail offers a new and enchanting perspective.

Perhaps the most striking feature is the resounding double drop of Ess-na-Larach, a powerful waterfall that provides a captivating focal point for the trail. With its enchanting cascades and serene surroundings, the Waterfall Walk Trail is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Family-Friendly Fun: Rainbow Trail and Viewpoint Trail

Family enjoying the Rainbow Trail with a charming river crossing

For families seeking a more accessible and leisurely experience, Glenariff Forest Park offers two family-friendly trails: the Rainbow Trail and the Viewpoint Trail. These shorter, less strenuous trails provide an enjoyable and engaging experience for visitors of all ages, making them perfect for a fun day out with the whole family. With their picturesque settings and captivating views, the Rainbow Trail and Viewpoint Trail are sure to delight both young and old alike.

The Rainbow Trail offers a short detour that still showcases Glenariff’s stunning landscape. With its charming river crossing and lush greenery, this trail is perfect for a leisurely stroll with the family.

Meanwhile, the Viewpoint Trail provides panoramic views of the Glen and the sea, making it an ideal spot for a relaxing walk and memorable photo opportunities.

Together, these walking trails offer a family-friendly experience that allows everyone to enjoy the beauty of Glenariff Forest Park.

Rainbow Trail: A Short Detour with Big Rewards

The Rainbow Trail, a 2.3-mile detour along the Waterfall Walk, offers a delightful woodland setting that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll with the family. As you meander through the lush forest, keep an eye out for the park’s diverse wildlife, from red squirrels to Irish hares. The trail also presents a beautiful array of woodland flowers during the springtime, adding an extra touch of enchantment to your walk.

With its pleasant scenery and engaging experience, the Rainbow Trail is a family-friendly adventure that’s not to be missed.

Viewpoint Trail: Panoramic Pleasures

The Viewpoint Trail, a 0.6-mile (0.9 km) trail with moderate difficulty, offers a leisurely walk with panoramic views that are sure to impress. As you meander along the trail, you’ll be treated to sweeping vistas of the Glen and the sea in the distance, providing a breathtaking backdrop for your walk.

The Viewpoint Trail is an excellent choice for those seeking a relaxed, scenic experience that showcases the beauty of Glenariff Forest Park from a different perspective.

Outdoor Recreation Spaces and Picnic Perfection

After exploring Glenariff’s captivating trails, take some time to relax and unwind in the park’s beautiful outdoor recreation spaces. With a variety of picnic areas and barbeque facilities available throughout the park, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to enjoy a leisurely meal surrounded by nature. Whether you’re picnicking with family or grilling with friends, these outdoor spaces provide a serene setting for a delightful day out.

Glenariff Forest Park’s outdoor recreation spaces are thoughtfully designed to accommodate visitors of all ages and abilities. With picnic tables, benches, and toilets conveniently located throughout the park, you’ll have everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. So, gather your loved ones, pack a delicious meal, and head to Glenariff Forest Park for a day of relaxation and rejuvenation amidst the park’s enchanting scenery.

Beyond the Trails: Nearby Attractions and Dining

To round out your visit to Glenariff Forest Park, consider exploring some of the nearby attractions and dining options that Northern Ireland has to offer. From the natural beauty of the Torr Head Scenic Route to the enchanting Dark Hedges, there’s no shortage of exciting experiences to enjoy. In addition to these attractions, you’ll find a variety of restaurants, cafes, and takeaways in the surrounding area, providing plenty of options for a satisfying meal.

Whether it’s a hearty meal at a local pub, a delicious dish at a nearby restaurant, or a refreshing beverage at a cozy café, you’re sure to find something to suit your palate. After a day of exploring Glenariff’s beautiful trails, there’s no better way to refuel and unwind than by indulging in the culinary delights of the surrounding area. With a range of delectable dining options at your fingertips, you’ll have everything you need for a well-rounded and memorable experience.

Culinary Delights Close to Glenariff

For a satisfying meal after a day of exploring Glenariff’s trails, consider visiting some of the nearby restaurants and cafes. Options include the Glenariff Beach Cafe or the charming villages of Waterfoot and Cargan, which feature food stores, restaurants, and bars.

Another option within the park itself is the Glenariff Forest Park Teahouse or the Laragh Lodge for a convenient and delicious dining experience. With an array of culinary delights close to Glenariff, you’ll be able to savor a delightful meal while reflecting on your adventures in the park.

Attractions Worth Visiting

To add even more excitement to your visit, consider exploring some of the nearby attractions that Northern Ireland has to offer. The Torr Head Scenic Route, a stunning 45-minute drive featuring narrow roads and picturesque views, is an excellent choice for those looking to experience the region’s natural beauty. For fans of the popular television series Game of Thrones, a visit to the enchanting Dark Hedges is a must.

Other nearby attractions include:

With such a wealth of attractions close to Glenariff Forest Park, you’ll have plenty of options for a well-rounded and unforgettable Northern Ireland experience.


In conclusion, Glenariff Forest Park offers a captivating blend of adventure and tranquility that is sure to delight outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With its diverse landscape, enchanting trails, and family-friendly activities, this hidden gem in the heart of Northern Ireland’s Antrim Glens provides the perfect setting for a memorable outdoor experience. From the scenic trails and enchanting waterfalls to the panoramic views and tranquil picnic spots, Glenariff Forest Park truly has something for everyone.

So, whether you’re an avid hiker seeking a challenging trek or a family looking for a leisurely stroll through nature, Glenariff Forest Park awaits you. Lace up your hiking boots, gather your loved ones, and embark on a journey through this mesmerizing park to discover the beauty and charm of the Queen of the Glens.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is waterfall walk at Glenariff?

The Glenariff Waterfall Walk is a 3 km long trail through the tranquil surroundings of the Glenariff Nature Reserve. It opened 80 years ago and has been upgraded over the years, providing an unforgettable experience for visitors.

How much is Glenariff Forest Park?

Visitors to Glenariff Forest Park must pay a £5 fee per vehicle for entry. Pedestrians will need to pay £2, while children aged 5-16 will need to pay £1. Dogs must be kept on leads at all times.

Is Glenariff Forest free?

Glenariff Forest is free to enter on foot and there is an additional fee for overnight touring vehicles, although visitors can also walk and dine at Laragh Lodge Restaurant located in the park.

Are dogs allowed in Glenariff Forest Park?

Yes, dogs are allowed in Glenariff Forest Park and there are a variety of trails available for them to explore. Amenities such as bins have also been provided.

What is the best time of year to visit Glenariff Forest Park?

The best time to visit Glenariff Forest Park is in the spring or autumn, when temperatures are milder and crowds are smaller.

About the author

Originally from Scotland, Colin now resides near the beautiful seaside town of Portstewart on the Causeway Coastal Route. By day he works in IT and by day off he spends much of his time travelling around the Island with his young family, writing about his experiences for many sites both locally and nationally.