15 Exquisite dog walks in Essex

Dog walks
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The county of Essex has the second-longest coastline in the country, arguably the largest if you count the vast marshlands and estuaries. With much of Essex sitting within the London commuter belt, it’s no surprise that it is one of the most populous areas of the country. But should you wander beyond the belt, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful countryside, rich history and culture. In fact, much of the county remains rural and the fertile lands have some of the most successful farms in England.

The vast open spaces and low-lying land of the county also mean that there are many fantastic walks that you and your dog can enjoy whatever your ability. With that in mind, why don’t you and your pup venture out and try one of these 15 dog walks in Essex?

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If you do go out, remember all the usual rules of dog walking. Take your litter away, pick up after your pooch, and keep them on leads when around livestock, children, or any potential dangers. Be respectful to the countryside, and others there, so everyone can enjoy their time in the outdoors.

Country & country park walks

Dedham Vale

This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty lies on the Essex-Suffolk border and its landscape was famously immortalised by the painter John Constable. Another painter, Sir Alfred Munnings, also took a fancy to the area. With its status as an AOONB and artistic heritage, you can be certain that walking through the Dedham countryside is certainly going to be one of the most beautiful dog walks in Essex.

You’ll pass through rolling green fields and follow the river, so perhaps pack a towel in case your furry friend goes for a swim. The Boathouse offers a fantastic restaurant by the river, but be aware that dogs are only allowed in the outside seating areas.

  • Walk Length: 11.4km

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Starting Point: Riverside car park

  • Terrain: Open, undulating

  • Free Parking: No

  • Address: Dedham Road, Dedham, Colchester CO7 6DH

More information: Visit Essex, Dedham Vales Tour Valley, Essex Lifemag, Essex Pub Walks

Hadleigh country park

One of the largest green spaces in Essex, Hadleigh Country Park was expanded a few years ago by combining it with land owned by The Salvation Army in order to maintain the incredible Olympic mountain bike course. But rest assured, you don’t need a bike to enjoy the best of this park. (You can hire one though!)

There are acres of spectacular open countryside for you and your dog to enjoy. The focal point of this walk is Hadleigh Castle, which was built in 1215 and now lies in ruins, and offers a romantic backdrop for a picnic or stroll.

Depending on your ability and amount of time available, you can pick between routes such as the 1km family trail, or the 9km loop of the park. Both of those trails pass the castle and offer enough elevation to give spectacular views of the surrounding countryside without feeling like a climb. But if that’s not enough history and intrigue for you, you can also pass the replica roundhouse on the site. Hadleigh has all the facilities you could need for a day out in the country, so why not take it easy and take a few gentle laps of the park with your furry friend.

  • Walk Length: 1km to 9km

  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

  • Starting Point: Hadleigh Country Park

  • Terrain: Flat, open parkland, grassland, some hills

  • Free Parking: No

  • Address: Hadleigh Country Park, Chapel Lane, Benfleet, Essex, England, SS7 2PP

More information: Explore Essex, Essex Lifemag


Debden can seem overlooked, as attention usually turns to the nearby market town of Saffron Walden and its timber-fronted buildings. However, Debden is home to a few lovely local walks. Two well-worn routes start and end at the beautiful church, the shorter of which is suitable for all ages and fitness levels and is ideal for energetic pups.

This circular route offers a varied landscape as it passes a lake, weaves through a forest, and along open fields. In the latter half of the walk, the path runs alongside the river, giving you the perfect place to paw-se and let your dog cool off in the water on a sunny day. As an added treat, you’ll also stroll by some sweet chocolate box cottages, giving this walk the feel of a long country ramble despite being short and gentle.

To round off your walk, you could visit The Plough, a very dog-friendly pub and home to the village’s annual potato growing competition. (Yes, you read that right!) You are also able to park here before your walk, just remember to pay a visit afterwards.

Due to the amount of water nearby, this walk can get muddy. (And wet, should your dog decide they want to take a dip.) We suggest you pack a towel, particularly if it has rained recently.

  • Walk Length: 3.5km

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Starting Point: Debden Church

  • Terrain: Uneven, woodland, hill

  • Free Parking: Yes

  • Address: Church Lane, Debden, Saffron Walden, CB11 3LD

More information: Essex Walks, The Plough At Debden, Debden Church

Thorndon country park

Thorndon Country Park offers a lot more than just acres of meadows and forest to explore. In the north area, you can take a walk on the wild side and explore the magic of the deep, dark wood by following the Gruffalo trail. This short walk is ideal for families as you try to find the beautifully crafted sculptures from the famous children’s book.

Meanwhile, if you venture into the south part of the park, you’ll discover a hidden delight that’s sure to get your pup excited. That’s because you’ll find a purpose-built dog activity trail, inspired by the courses used in agility competitions.

The trail is half a kilometre and is designed to get dogs and owners working together and getting fit as you cover the 500 metres and 10 doggy obstacles. It’s not every day your pup has the op-paw-tunity to tackle an obstacle course, making it a bit different to the usual walk in the park.

Being within a popular country park, you can enjoy the countryside whilst never being far from well-kept facilities including toilets, cafes, picnic areas and bird hides. With everything on-site, you can stay as long as you like.

  • Walk Length: Various

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Starting Point: Thorndon Countryside Centre

  • Terrain: Flat, woodland, meadows

  • Free Parking: No

  • Address: Thorndon Countryside Centre, Thorndon Park North, The Avenue, Brentwood, CM13 3RZ

More information: Visit Essex, Essex WT


This long but easy-to-follow walk is perfect to stretch your legs and take in the open Essex sky. A lot of this walk is through open fields, so your pooch is sure to love it and the chance to run free. The local farmers keep the route clear but be aware that if there has been recent ploughing the walk can become difficult. But if you want to soak up some sun and feel truly surrounded by countryside, this circular walk is perfect.

During this walk, you will pass through the market town of Dunmow. If you fancy it, this is the perfect opportunity for a short rest as dogs and owners are welcome in the Angel and Harp, making it the ideal spot to rest and refresh yourselves before the final walk back to Stebbing.

  • Walk Length: 11.2km

  • Difficulty: Moderate/Challenging

  • Starting Point: Stebbing high street

  • Terrain: Flat, fields

  • Free Parking: Yes

  • Address: High St, Stebbing, Dunmow CM6 3SQ

More information: Essex Walks, Angel and Harp

Langdon Hills country park

You don’t need to go on a long rambling walk to be able to enjoy the countryside, as proven by this short walk. Hill by name and nature, a stroll through Langdon Hills offers some gentle climbs hard to find in this flat county. From your vantage point, you and your pup will feel on top of the world and be able to enjoy views over London and the Thames estuary.

A favourite with dogs and owners alike, Langdon Hills is both a green flag awarded and a living landscape area, so you can be sure it is both beautiful and brilliant for nature. The park is separated into two zones, and we suggest walking in the Westley Heights section, although both are worth exploring.

Here you can stroll through wildflower meadows, scrubland and woodland all within an hour or two. If you visit in early summer, you may even find beautiful green-winged orchids growing in the grass, while your pup enjoys the chance to race around off the lead.

Taking the main path around the perimeter of the park offers a gentle walk which is wheelchair and pushchair friendly, making it an ideal route for all families and their furry friends. It also means that this walk can be enjoyed year-round without getting muddy. If you are visiting with family, you can make use of the picnic areas and natural playground. There are also toilets on-site at the park.

  • Walk Length: 3km

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Starting Point: Gravel Wood or Hall Wood car park

  • Terrain: Hills, flat, woodland, grassland

  • Free Parking: Yes

  • Address: High Road, Basildon, SS16 6HU

More information: Walkiees, Thurrock, Essex Live, BNHS, GPS Routes

Woodland walks

Epping forest

Epping Forest is home to some of the greatest and most popular dog walks in Essex. It’s easy to see why with the vast expanse of enchanting ancient woodland and selection of walking routes available.

Both you and your pooch will feel like you’re wandering the scenes of a fairytale, whatever season you visit in. There are also ponds and glades tucked away amidst the trees, making for a magical photo spot or an opportunity for your pup to investigate the water and get their paws wet.

The Oak Trail starts and ends at Theydon Bois station, making a great walk you don’t have to drive to. The Queen Victoria pub also happens to be very close by, offering you a traditional country pub both you and your pooch will be welcome to.

  • Walk Length: 10.6km

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Starting Point: Theydon Bois station

  • Terrain: Forest, uneven, flat

  • Free Parking: No

  • Address: 19 Station Approach, Theydon Bois, Epping CM16 7HR

More information: Walks and Walking, Destination Inns

Garnetts wood

This land was once gifted to a knight and forms a charming ancient coppice woodland. In honour of its historical owner, Geffrey Garnett, a statue was carved and hidden in the centre of the woods. You might find Mr Garnett watching you as you walk, his arms folded across his chest, hidden amongst the same trees that grew here when he walked the land. Now, the woodland belongs to Essex County Council, and everyone is welcome.

Aiming to walk to the statue is a great focus for you and your pooch, and allows you to take in this lovely woodland which you are free to roam. And roam you should, because although there are trails through it, you can just as easily amble through the trees of your own accord as it is open and well-spaced. This picturesque area is also home to a handful of ponds and streams, perfect for a puppy paddle on a sunny day.

A short way away is The Spotted Dog, where you can sit in the garden with your pooch and enjoy a rest before moving on to your next adventure. Should you need somewhere to stay, The Saracens Head is a short drive away in the market town of Great Dunmow. It offers a pet-friendly bed and breakfast, with everything you could wish for, including a gym for guests.

  • Walk Length: 3.2km

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Starting Point: Garnetts Wood Car Park

  • Terrain: Flat, woodland

  • Free Parking: Yes

  • Address: High Easter Road, Barnston, Great Dunmow, CM6 1ND

More information: Woodland Trust, Walkiees, Freinds of the Flitch Way, We Accept Pets

Hatfield forest

Arguably one of the greatest walking spots in the county, it’s no wonder Hatfield Forest is also a firm favourite for exciting dog walks in Essex. Whether you are accompanied by a pooch or not, there are many different routes you can take through this National Trust forest, with gorgeous scenery and rich history abound wherever you wander.

The Flitch Way and forest walk is one of the longer routes available. As with all trails in this forest, it’s best enjoyed in dry months as it can become muddy in winter. Taking a summer stroll is especially recommended, as the plains of the forest turn gold with millions of buttercups. This route also takes in several of the sites of interest, such as the Doodle Oak and Shell House. You’ll know you’re nearing the end of this walk when you pass the majestic hornbeams, many of which are 4 centuries old.

The forest cafe is dog-friendly and offers the paw-fect place to rest weary feet and paws. You and your pup can stop here for a drink before trying another trail.

  • Walk Length: 5.6km

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Starting Point: Main car park entrance

  • Terrain: Uneven, woodland, mud, boardwalks

  • Free Parking: Free for NT members, paid parking for non-members

  • Address: Hatfield Forest, Bush End Road, Takeley, Bishop's Stortford, Essex, CM22 6NE

More information: Walking in Essex, Dog Walks in the East, Hatfield Flitch Way

Waterside walks

The Naze

Travel to the most easterly point in Essex, and you’ll find The Naze. This site is bursting with history and wildlife for you to discover, in surroundings both you and your pup will love. If your dog enjoys digging, they might find a long-buried bone, as the coast here is rich with fossils. Otherwise, they’re sure to at least love a run on the beach just as much.

The Naze Tower looms over the landscape, giving it the feel of a fantasy realm and is the historical focal point of the site. The Naze is abundant with wildlife too, from birds and butterflies to porpoises and seals. Whether you walk along the clifftops, on the beach, or through the marsh, you and your dog are sure to see and find something interesting.

From the centre, you can take three different trails, each with a certain focus. The wildlife trail is the longest and takes you in a loop through all of these different terrains. There are plenty of visitor facilities on site, but be aware that dogs have to stay outside the buildings. However, they are welcome in the outdoor seating areas.

  • Walk Length: 3.7km

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Starting Point: The Naze Centre

  • Terrain: Uneven, undulating

  • Free Parking: No

  • Address: The Naze Centre, Old Hall Lane, Walton-on-the-Naze, CO14 8LE

More information: Essex WT, Walton On The Naze


The most easterly inhabited island in the UK, Mersea Island is a must-see for you and your dog. The big draw for you and your pooch is that the beaches are dog-friendly all year round.

Despite only being seven square miles, the island has a lot to offer from holiday parks to pubs, restaurants and country parks. If you fancy a challenge, you could try walking the circumference of the island. Otherwise, you can take a circular stroll through Cudmore Country Park’s open grassland and sandy beach, past the oyster fishery and back again.

In winter, flocks of Brent geese can be seen, whilst Mersea itself has its own museum and lengthy history worth investigating. As it stands, Mersea offers several great opportunities for beach dog walks in Essex.

  • Walk Length: 5.6km

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Starting Point: Cudmore Country Park

  • Terrain: Flat, grassland, beach, saltmarsh

  • Free Parking: No

  • Address: East Mersea, Colchester, Essex, CO5 8UE

More information: Visit Mersea Island, Visit Essex, Healthy Life Essex, Essex Dog Friendly Beaches

Wivenhoe trail

A circular walk along the Wivenhoe Trail offers one of the most picturesque waterside dog walks in the county. Firstly you walk along the charming waterfront in Wivenhoe, where gorgeous historical buildings face the sea and fishing boats bob on the glassy water. You will then stroll alongside the River Colne, on good trails through fields and woods, with plenty of open space for your pup to run and hedges to snuffle in. The return walk to Wivenhoe is slightly elevated, allowing you to look back on your journey and admire it anew.

If you don’t want to drive to enjoy a wonderful walk, this route is perfect as you start at the station. While in town you have the opportunity to stop at The Greyhound or The Black Bouy, two very dog-friendly and much-loved pubs within the town. The Black Bouy is a hub for the community and is, in fact, a community pub owned and run by locals. Whichever you visit, you’re sure to find good food, drink, and a warm welcome.

  • Walk Length: 5.6km

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Starting Point: Wivenhoe station

  • Terrain: Flat, trails, grassland, gentle hill

  • Free Parking: No

  • Address: NCP Wivenhoe Station, CO7 9DJ

More information: Essex Walks, Wivenhoe PDF, Essex Days Out

Danbury lakes

If you’re looking for a quick and easy dog walk that still offers beautiful surroundings, Danbury Lakes could fit the bill. The lakes are within Danbury Country Park, so you could spend as long as you like here and explore all the different areas of this grade II listed park. The park offers lakes, ornamental gardens, meadows and ancient woodland.

A quick walk around the lakes will take you just under an hour, and will give you and your dog good exercise in picturesque surroundings. Not only will you circuit the pair of lakes, but pass by the old ice house. Your pup will probably be more excited by the ducks and swans on the water though...

A walk here is especially memorable in autumn as the trees change colour. The wood around the lakes is ablaze with yellows, orange and even bright red. It feels like you’ve walked straight into a painting!

  • Walk Length: 1.5km

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Starting Point: Main car park

  • Terrain: Flat, trails, meadows, woodland

  • Free Parking: No

  • Address: Woodhill Road, Danbury, Essex, CM3 4AW

More information: Essex Live, Explore Essex, Visit Essex

Hill walks


Essex might not offer much in the way of hills, but this walk around Chrishall does offer you both the highest point in Essex and the highest point in Cambridgeshire. This moderate walk will leave both you and your pup well exercised, and with the accomplishment of climbing the highest points of two counties. Not bad for a few hours ramble.

The route goes through quiet country roads and footpaths, so be sure to have your lead handy to keep your dog close when you’re not in the fields.

You start and end your walk at The Red Cow, a lovely country pub that offers great food, is dog-friendly, and well-aware of the popularity of the location with walkers. You’re welcome to park there while you and your pup explore the countryside.

  • Walk Length: 12.8km

  • Difficulty: Moderate-Challenging

  • Starting Point: The Red Cow

  • Terrain: Hills

  • Free Parking: Yes

  • Address: 11 High Street, Chrishall, Essex, SG8 8RN

More information: The Red Cow

Jury hill

This walk up to the top of Jury Hill has perhaps the most spectacular view of any dog walk in Essex. That’s because, on a clear day, you can see across the Essex countryside as far as the O2 and Canary Wharf in the distant east, and Kent and Thames to the west.

If you and your dog want to take a gentle stroll through lots of open countryside, this could be the walk for you. Your pup can run through the grass and sniff around the hedges while you both stretch your legs as you climb this hill. The hill itself isn’t very high, only 63 metres, which is perhaps why the panorama from the top is so outstanding.

As this is another circular route, you can alternatively start at Thorndon Country Park and begin there. We mentioned the park and the walks there above, so why not stop off at Thorndon on your way around and enjoy the activities there?

Otherwise, you’ll finish your countryside stroll at the Greyhound pub where your pup will be given water and treats while you can tuck into some good food and drink. The perfect way to round off this dog walk through the Essex country.

  • Walk Length: 8km

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Starting Point: Little Warley Common car park

  • Terrain: Hills, flat

  • Free Parking: No

  • Address: Childerditch Lane, Warley, Brentwood, CM13

More information: Essex Walks, Jury Hill Walk, Thames Chase, Vintage Inn

More information about Essex: Wikipedia, Visit Essex, Britannica, Essex Live, National Trust

More dog walks: Yorkshire, Cheshire, Durham