Box Hill has some of the best walks in Surrey, with a huge variety of route lengths and difficulties. This guide contains everything you need to plan the perfect day, including which trails to tackle, how to get here, where to park and options for pubs and cafes.
Box Hill makes for a great day trip from London since it’s an easy 40-minute train ride or hour’s drive from the capital. A National Trust managed area in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Box Hill’s network of walking trails makes for a great choose-your-own-adventure day in the great outdoors.
And I know this because we were forced to choose one when we took a wrong turn and ended up waaaaaaay off track. Containing some of the best Surrey walks, his post has been created from my mistakes!
An icy headwind attacked us for much of the way, but the bluebells were out, the sun did her best against the clouds, and birdsong accompanied us as we sweated our way up some of the steeper areas.
And, of course, we rewarded ourselves in classic British fashion, with a visit to a local pub.
My friend Stephanie and I first met in Sydney thanks to Instagram. She’s since relocated to London, and when she suggested a walk at Box Hill during my unexpectedly prolonged stay in England, I jumped at the chance. Although I grew up here in Surrey, I’ve not visited Box Hill in years.
When the May Bank Holiday Monday in the UK failed to deliver the dodgy weather usually saved for public holidays I really shouldn’t have been surprised. It has, after all, been an unpredictable time. It sadly meant a fail for the planned moody photos, but a win for staying dry.
You’re spoiled for choice if you’re looking for a picturesque walk in Surrey, but Box Hill is a local favourite for a reason. This short guide covers everything you need to know to plan your own day out in this beautiful little corner of the UK, from the top walks complete with distances and difficulties, to how to get there, where to park, what to take and more.
Your Guide to the Best Box Hill Walks
BOX HILL ESSENTIALS
LOCATION | 25miles / 40km south of London
COST | Box Hill is free to visit
WALKING DISTANCE | 1-8miles (1.6-12.8km)
WALKING DIFFICULTY | easy to moderately challenging
TRAIL CONDITIONS | well maintained, muddy after rain
ACCESS | car or public transport
FACILITIES | parking, toilets and on-site cafe
A Quick History of Box Hill
Box Hill is called Box Hill not because of its shape, but because of the ancient box forest that grows there. For those of you who’ve been to any sort of stately home in the UK, a box is probably best known to you as that bush that people chop into crazy shapes.
Don’t expect any apiary swans here though, the trees are about as wild as they come!
There’s evidence that this area was in use in the Bronze Age, and the Romans even built a road along the hill. Box Hill has been increasingly popular as a day trip since Victorian times, and you may well know it as the site of the picnic scene in Jane Austen’s Emma.
The majority of the area was donated to the National Trust by Leopold Salomons in 1914.
Box Hill is 224m high, and its chalk downland supports up to 40 different species in a square metre, which is pretty astounding. There are orchids, bluebells and wild garlic amongst other wildflowers that are obviously great for bees, butterflies, moths and other insects. They, in turn, provide food for some of the resident bat colonies.
If you’re worried about the bats, don’t be. They won’t bother you at all, particularly during the daytime.
The Best Walks in Box Hill
In my opinion, these are the best 6 Box Hill walking routes, in order of distance.
All of them are circular routes and some can be tackled from multiple entry points, depending on how you get here. The easiest is a 30 minute, fairly flat stroll. The hardest is 8 miles of ascents and descents with the odd never-ending staircase thrown in for fun.
1. The Hilltop | 1 mile (1.6km) | Easy | 30 mins
Best for // A gentle stroll
The route starts from the Visitor Centre car park.
Cross the road to the Visitor Centre and bear left, aiming for the Salomon memorial where you should stop to enjoy the beautiful views. On a good day, you’ll have the hills rolling out before you and can see all the way to the South Downs.
From here, you’re going to head right, below the viewpoint. Ignore the steps to your left since, if you’ve opted for a gentle stroll, you definitely don’t want to be taking the 275 steps down to Box Hill’s Stepping Stones.
After turning right, go straight on, and you’ll find yourself at the top of a gentle slope. This is the Burford Spur, and in Victorian times was a popular place to picnic. It’s the site of the picnic in Emma, so how’s that for fame?!
Even on an overcast day in May people were lazing around on blankets and eating lunch, which just goes to show that some things never change. Like the British having a picnic when it’s freezing cold and cloudy.
Eventually, you’ll come to a small path to the right and you’ll take this up to Box Hill Fort. The path winds through the ancient Box forest that the hill is named for. Go right again at the fort, and you’ll find yourself back at the Visitor Centre.
2. Box Hill Stepping Stones Walk | 2 miles (3.2km) | Moderate | 1h
Best for // People with an irrational love of stepping stones and/or steps
The first thing you need to know is that this walk features 275 steps. If you’re at the top of Box Hill, you’ll head down them to River Mole.
We made the amateur mistake of climbing up them, which really wasn’t the best move. Since I’m big on saving others from my mistakes, I’ve got a much better way round for you to walk.
This route starts at the Stepping Stones car park, but you can also join it from the Box Hill car park up at the Visitor Centre.
From the Stepping Stones car park don’t walk across the stones. Instead, take a left and go through the gate into Burford Meadow. Wander along the river bank until you reach the road. Go right, walking along the road and past the hotel, taking the path that goes right Opposite Ryka’s cafe.
You’ll eventually come to a chalky path and you want to turn right here to head along the ridge. Continue to follow the path uphill and you’ll come to Box Hill Fort, once home to military forces and now the home of bats!
Keep heading up the hill and you’ll reach the Visitor Centre. At this point, you might want to grab a coffee before going to Salomon’s Memorial to take in the views over the North Downs.
Go down the path below the viewpoint, bearing right, and you’ll find the steps which I have kindly sent you down, rather than up, as Steph did to us. Once you reach the bottom you’ll cross the stepping stones to return to the car park.
3. Happy Valley Circular Walk | 2.7 miles (4.3km) | Moderate | 1h30
Best for // Views and variety
Fair warning, if you’re not a fan of steep descents and steps, this Box Hill circular walk will not make you very happy. It’s best tackled from the Visitor Centre car park. You’ll start off by simply following the Box Hill Hike signs, which will take you to the rather cool Broadwood’s Tower.
The valley you can see from here is the Happy one that this walk is named for, but I honestly prefer its other name – Juniper Bottom. Mostly because it makes me think about gin possibilities. Anyway, Juniper Hall is the lovely house that you can see, and it was once owned by the Broadwoods, hence the name of the tower.
From the tower, you’ll head down a series of steep steps and slopes until you reach the valley, where you’ll turn right to walk up it. The main path leads to the road, where you’ll find the Smith & Western restaurant. At the restaurant, cross the road and turn right, before following the North Downs Way back to Salomon’s Memorial viewpoint and on to the Visitor Centre.
4. Whitehill to Mickleham | 3.9 miles (6.2km) | Moderate | 2h
Best for // Pubs and history
There’s one pretty steep hill to climb here and you don’t get to the Box Hill Visitor Centre on this walk. If you’re after the best views, this probably isn’t the walk for you.
It does, however, take in Mickleham village which has been around since the Domesday Book, and that’s pretty cool in my book (sorry, sorry, I know. I just couldn’t resist).
The official trail is circular, starting and ending at the Cockshot car park, but you can join it at the car park on Headley Road near Juniper Hall or start in Mickleham if you’d like to end at the pub (which is where we’re starting because this is my blog and I think all good walks should end with food and drink). The pub in question is The Running Horses, and it’s lovely.
So, Mickleham is adorable and historic, the church is gorgeous and you should definitely wander through the churchyard. Not only because it’s old and full of character, but because it’s the start of your walk. Turn left at the end of the stone church wall and walk past a cottage. If you’re lucky you’ll find some Shetland ponies in the field to your right, for added adorable factor.
This short section of track deposits you on a road right by a pub (sadly not open when we walked past, but the food smelled phenomenal), which you walk up the side of before heading uphill. And uphill and uphill. Watch for mountain bikers who may shoot out of the bushes unannounced at any time. The path veers around to the left, and you’ll spend a fair amount of time wandering through some lovely woodland areas.
You’ll reach a junction where you can take a right turn, so do that and follow the track uphill. Eventually, you’ll emerge on the open top of Whitehill, in an area known as The Gallops, since they used to exercise horses here. It’s a large open space with woodland on either side, and you’ll walk along it until you reach a path heading downhill into the woods. Take this, and when you reach the T-junction take the right turn (unless you’ve started at Cockshot, in which case the car park is down to your left) and wander along the valley.
You’ll get lovely views over towards Box Hill itself and when you reach a seat, take a sharp left up the hill. As I kept saying to Steph, what goes up must come down, and you’ve got a bit of a steep downhill ahead of you until you cross a stile and then find yourself back near the church in Mickleham. Just aim for the steeple and you can’t go wrong!
5. Juniper Top Circular Walk | 4 miles (6.4km) | Moderate | 2h
Best for // Wildflowers in spring
This walk has quite a few steep sections, both ascending and descending. I’d recommend a decent pair of walking boots if you’re planning on tackling it.
The trail starts from the Visitor Centre car park, before heading to Salomon’s viewpoint. From here, you’re going to go left through the woods, where you’ll see the purple marker for the trail. You’ll emerge near the Smith & Western restaurant, crossing the road to join the bridleway that heads through the woods.
You’ll find another purple sign here, so simply follow that. After about 15 minutes you’ll reach a left turn and enter the Bluebell woods, which are really lovely in the spring with their carpet of pretty flowers. Keep going straight along this path until you reach Juniper Top, a large open area with lovely views. Head on down the hill until you reach the gate at the bottom and then turn left, following the Happy Valley/Juniper Top trail signs back to the car park.
I’d actually recommend a modification of this walk, taking the Happy Valley trail as far as Juniper Bottom so that you can see Broadwood’s Tower. Once here, instead of turning right up the valley, take a left and then a right just before the car park, which will see you joining this trail at the bottom of Juniper Top. You’ll then do the first part of this walk in reverse.
6. The Box Hill Hike | 8 miles (12.8km) | Challenging | 4-6h
Best for // Bragging rights
This is the Big One. At 8 miles, with more steps, ascents and descents than you can shake a stick at, this hike will take most people 4-5 hours to complete. It combines the best parts of many of the other hikes, so if you’re after a really nice walk with great views and a pub or two along the way, the Box Hill hike is the one for you!
Start your walk at the Box Hill car park by the Visitor Centre. The trail is clearly marked with red signs, but you’re simply going to head into the woods by the car park and keep going until you reach Broadwood’s Tower. The path forks, and you’ll take the left fork which leads downhill via some steps. At the bottom, turn left and you’ll reach the Whitehill car park.
This is where Steph and I decided to throw caution to the winds and said “oh this looks nice, we’ve already taken a wrong turn so let’s just do the Box Hill hike”. Don’t be us. Be prepared.
So, from the Whitehill car park you’ll cross the road and head up a lot of steps to Mickleham Downs. Try not to swear at the person who suggested this walk. I’ll wait. Once you reach the top, you’ll take the left fork, then gingerly pick your way down a very steep slope whilst wondering why the path didn’t just go around the bottom.
At the T-junction, take a left, go over the stile when you get there, and you’ll find yourself in Mickleham. Take some time to wander through the churchyard. Reward yourself with a beer at the pub for making it this far if you like. Hey, I don’t judge.
From here you take the gate in the back left of the churchyard, going along a wooden fence and following the signs. At the T-junction go right, up the hill (surprise, surprise) and you’ll find yourself at another pub. Make good choices, that’s all I ask. Take the steps immediately to the right beside the pub and start climbing the hill. Eventually, you’ll reach the beautiful flat area of The Gallops, on the top of Whitehill. Enjoy it.
Once you’ve passed the information board at the end of The Gallops, turn right and start going steeply downhill – I did promise a lot of slopes didn’t I?! At the bottom of the hill, walk past the car park and cross the road, going up the next hill beside the cottage. When you reach Gate 26, go through this onto Headley Heath, taking a left at the T-junction.
You’ll take the steps heading uphill to your right, and when the path forks, head left. Keep going in a roughly straight line along here, and then go right through Gate 23 onto the road, where you’ll turn left. Take the right-hand fork in the road (Headley Heath Approach) and walk along here until you reach Box Hill Road. Cross the road and enter the woods again. You’ll come to a set of stairs going up the hill on your right. You’re going to take them. I know, your legs don’t like you much right now.
At the top of the steps, take the left fork and enjoy a nice flat stretch of path. Cross the stile and follow the track downhill. When you come to the road, go left, and then almost immediately right, following the Box Hill Hike signs once again. At the fork, go left through the gate, and then just follow the signs uphill until you find yourself back at the Visitor Centre.
Where is Box Hill?
Box Hill is in Tadworth, Surrey, near the town of Dorking. It’s roughly 25 miles (40km) south of London and has good transport links to the capital.
Box Hill map
This map contains all the accommodation and eating options I recommend, as well as box hill hike maps.
To save it to your own device simply click the star and you’ll find it in “saved > maps” on the app.
The Best Time to Visit Box Hill
Late April and early May are a beautiful time to walk here since the wildflowers are just starting to appear. The weather can be very wet during the spring though.
The summer months of July, August and September will bring the best weather. Sometimes that’s a heatwave and sometimes it’s just a break in the rain. This is the UK. The weather is anything but predictable. You’ll encounter more crowds during the August school holidays than at any other time of year.
Weekends are much busier than weekends, and the afternoons busier than the mornings.
No matter when you visit you’re sure to have a great time as long as you come prepared for all weather possibilities!
How to Get to Box Hill in Surrey
This is one of the most easily accessible parts of the country, with multiple options for public transport as well as excellent road links and lots of car parking at the site. It’s a great place for a day trip from London.
Getting to Box Hill by car
Box Hill is located just off the A24 and there are multiple car parks in the area, the majority of which are National Trust owned and operated. You can drive up Box Hill all the way to the Visitor Centre car park, but be aware that this can get very crowded.
Box Hill Parking
If you’re a National Trust member then you can park for free at the National Trust car parks by scanning your membership card. The other car parks use Paybyphone, which you’ll need to have downloaded on your phone – the signal at many of the car parks is weak and you may need to wait until you’re up a hill to actually pay for your parking.
Paid parking costs £1.50 per hour for the first 2h, £4 for up to 4 hours and £6 for 5 hours or more. Unless you’re tackling the Box Hill hike, 4 hours should be plenty of time for the majority of walks.
Getting to Box Hill by public transport
There are really good public transport links to the area, so don’t worry if you don’t have a car!
Box Hill by Train
The closest train station is Box Hill & Westhumble Station, a tiny village affair with direct regular service from London Waterloo and London Victoria. The ride takes under an hour and costs around £10 for a single ticket. I recommend booking tickets in advance via Trainline – they’re often cheaper than purchasing on the day. This also enables you to store the ticket on your phone so you don’t need to print one – good for you and the planet!
It’s an easy 10-minute walk from Box Hill station to the Stepping Stones car park, and you will then have to walk up the hill. You could also get the train to Dorking, but it’s a slightly longer walk to the Visitor Centre area.
Box Hill by Bus
The Metrobus 21 servicing Epsom, Leatherhead, Dorking and Crawley goes directly to the Box Hill East car park (except Sunday and Bank Holidays). You can buy your ticket on the bus with exact change only, or use contactless payment. Timetable and fares.
Alternatively, the 465 from Kingston to Dorking will drop you the North Downs Way right by the stepping stones Box Hill. But then you have to start your visit with the walk up it! You can buy tickets on the bus using contactless payment or Oyster Card. Timetable and fares.
Facilities at Box Hill
Box Hill is open to the public all year round.
You’ll find public toilets at the Visitor Centre near the Old Fort, along with a water fountain and the cafe. The cafe is currently closed during the week but open at weekends from 10am-4pm. The entire area is dog-friendly, but you will need to have dogs on a lead at certain times of the year.
Although Salomons Memorial Viewpoint has accessible paths, the majority of Box Hill has steep descents, ascents and steps to contend with.
Where to eat at Box Hill
Box Hill Pubs
The Running Horses is a pub in Mickleham and has fabulous food, with outdoor seating facing the historic church. It’s a wonderful option for food, with breakfast and a set lunch menu, as well as a la carte dining and the traditional Sunday roast. Vegan options are available. Open midday – 11pm daily (10pm Sunday)
The King William IV (aka King Bill on the Hill) is also a great option. There’s a beautiful pub garden with views over the downs, and it’s perfect on a warm summer day. You’ll find a roaring open fire to chase the chills away in the colder months. They have a seasonal and locally sourced menu and a great Sunday roast. Vegan options are available. Open midday – 11:30pm daily (10:30pm Sunday)
The Tree is closest to the Box Hill viewpoint so tends to be the busiest option too. They’ve got a lovely garden and a traditional pub menu with the usual Sunday carvery. Vegetarian options are available. Open midday – 11pm daily (10:30pm Sunday).
Box Hill Restaurants & Cafes
Ryka’s Cafe has been around since the 1920s. With a burger-based menu, they’re really popular and based just at the foot of Box Hill. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a biker to eat there, but you’ll find a lot of bikers do! Veggie burgers are available. They do jacket potatoes that can be made vegan. Open 9am – 4pm daily.
The Box Hill Cafe or Servery are great options for tea, coffee and cake, just as you’d expect from a National Trust venue! You’ll also find lots of local treats, including hand-crafted truffles! Open 10am – 4pm weekdays and 8am – 5pm at weekends.
Can you picnic at Box Hill?
Absolutely yes. There are lots of beautiful locations with great views. The best place for a picnic is the gentle slope of the Burford Spur. Just be sure to take all your rubbish with you as there are limited collection facilities.
Can you BBQ at Box Hill?
The short answer is yes, you can have a BBQ at Box Hill. However, the BBQ has to be off the ground and you’ll probably only be allowed to have one at the Donkey Green area. You’ll also need to take the BBQ and charcoal away with you at the end of the day (even disposable BBQs) so make sure you leave plenty of time for it to cool down.
What to pack for a visit to Box Hill
Obviously, if you’re just planning on a quick leg stretch then you don’t need anything special. If you’re going to tackle one of the more strenuous hikes then I’d recommend the following:
Hiking Boots – I use these Salomon boots, the X Ultra 3 Mid GTX. They’ve never given me a blister, even though I broke them in with a 10km hike. Whilst they’re not totally waterproof, they stand up to a pretty good soaking and they have excellent traction in the wet.
Waterproof jacket – This is the UK, you’re going to need one at some stage. I love my Kathmandu Andulo waterproof for the fact that it’s tiny and incredibly light. It’s always in my bag just in case. If it’s already pissing with rain and I want to cover absolutely everything, then my Rains coat is my go-to. I love love love it.
Camera – I mean, this is me, and I like to take photos. I actually shot everything in this post with my iPhone, despite taking every single piece of camera gear I own with me. If you want something light and excellent, then the Sony A6600 is awesome.
READ THIS | My Hiking Gear Guide
Where to stay near Box Hill
There are several options for accommodation in Dorking, but here’s my pick of the best
MY TOP PICK
The Running Horses | I’ve already raved about this place as a pub, but they’ve also got 6 gorgeous en-suite rooms. They’ve been hosting guests here for 400 years, although the facilities have definitely had an upgrade since the 1600s! The food is fabulous. From £140/night. Check rates and availability here.
Denbies Vineyard Hotel | England’s first carbon-neutral winery (yes, people make wine in England!), Denbies is a great location to visit Box Hill as it has parking and is within easy walking distance. Enjoy a tour of the winery whilst you’re here. From £170/night with breakfast included. Check rates and availability here.
Mercure Box Hill Burford Bridge Hotel | Just a 5 minutes drive to Box Hill, this property has period features and an outdoor heated pool. There’s a good restaurant on-site and a beautiful garden with BBQ facilities. From £125/night. Check rates and availability here.
Wotton House | There’s an indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room, so you know I’m a fan! The grounds are gorgeous and you’ll often see deer roaming the gardens. From £135/night. Check rates and availability here.
Can you camp at Box Hill?
As a National Trust property, there’s no wild camping allowed, although there are occasionally one night events run by the Trust. There are several campsites nearby that you can stay at. Camping (putting out awnings/tables/chairs) with your car/campervan is prohibited elsewhere in the majority of the UK, but using a parking area to grab some sleep is fine so long as you’re obeying any signage.
Know Before You Go | The Countryside Code & Tips
It may seem fairly obvious, but I think we’ve all encountered people being less than responsible when enjoying the great outdoors. Bear in mind that a lot of the land you’re walking over is used to maintain critical ecosystems, and act accordingly. You can read the Countryside Code in full, but here are the main points summarised for your enjoyment.
This means saying hello to people, following the directions of people working on the land, and giving animals (livestock and wild) a wide berth. Don’t feed any of the animals that you encounter unless invited to do so. If you’re driving then bear in mind that parking can be difficult, and don’t block any rights of access.
Please close any and all gates that you open. Also, remember that lots of areas of the country allow wild grazing so you might find a sheep in the road as you turn the corner…
Care for the places that you’re visiting. Take all your rubbish with you, including dog poo. If you happen to tie your dog poo bag to a tree to collect it later, please remember to actually collect it later. If you are taking your doggo on that epic walk with you then pay attention to any signs that they must be on a lead – they’re common during breeding and birthing seasons for both the safety of the animals and your dog.
Don’t light any fires except in designated areas. Although it looks like it rains here literally all the time, we do get extended droughts and fires get out of control here too.
Obviously getting lost will probably mean that your walk sucks. I’d recommend both an app and a paper version of a map if you’re spending any length of time outside. For apps, maps.me wins every time, just make sure you’ve downloaded the relevant area whilst you have wifi if you don’t have unlimited data.
For physical maps, you can’t beat the Ordnance Survey for maps of the UK. Their Explorer maps are the most detailed, ideal for hiking routes. The Landranger are slightly less detailed but cover a larger area. You can use their handy map choosing tool to work out what’s best for you.
Tell someone where you’re going. On the off-chance you forgot to check the tide times or didn’t take a map.
Random signage you might encounter
There’s a surprising amount of this around. Arrows can be yellow, blue, purple or red. If you’re walking, then you can follow any of them, but if the colour’s anything other than yellow then be aware that there may be horses, cyclists or even vehicles on the path with you.
Acorn signs mark National Trails, like the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Round brown signs with a person on them mean the area is Open Access and you can explore off the path. Please don’t do this elsewhere, since you can damage delicate ecosystems.
Sometimes you’ll see a sign saying “Permissive Path”. This means that the land is privately owned and the landowners voluntarily let the path be used for certain activities. Follow any additional signage accordingly.
So there you have it, everything you need to enjoy walking in and around Box Hill Surrey. Let me know if you have any questions and please share this post if you found it useful!
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