Although Birmingham is a major city (over 1 million people), it is perfectly located to enjoy hiking all over the West Midlands region and beyond.
The city of Birmingham, being an industrial city has great train connections in all directions and also has an extensive canal network which in itself is great for walks inside and outside of the city.
What Is The West Midlands?
Just a note on the West Midlands. This naming often confuses some people as there is both the West Midlands county and West Midlands region which both cover different areas.
*Pink = The West Midlands Region & *Yellow = The West Midlands County (roughly drawn on lines).
The West Midlands county comprises Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall, Sandwell, Solihull, Coventry and Birmingham.
The West Midlands region comprises the West Midlands county plus the Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire counties.
The Hiking Areas Around Birmingham
I’ve split the hiking areas into north, south, east and west of Birmingham. Most areas are accessible by either car or train, but most walks require a car to reach the starting point.
I’d say the most popular area to hike around Birmingham is the Peak District (north), although a much underrated and closer area is the Shropshire Hills (west) which is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Hikes & Walks West of Birmingham
- Clent Hills (13 miles)
- Kinver (20 miles)
- Wyre Forest (25 miles)
- Ironbridge (37 miles)
- Bridgenorth (40 miles)
- Shropshire – Stiperstones, Church Stretton, Caer Caradoc, Carding Mill Valley, The Long Mynd & Clun (~50 miles)
- Snowdonia (~100 miles)
Directly west of Birmingham is home to a number of cities and towns characterised by the industrial revolution. You’ll find hilly landscapes and old market towns which retain lots of interesting history and clues from the past.
These include Stourbridge (15 miles), Bridgnorth (40 miles) and Ironbridge (37 miles).
Travel a little bit further (~50miles) and you get to Shropshire which is an Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty. There are many hikes to do in the Shropshire hills and some good areas include Stiperstones, Church Stretton, Caer Caradoc & Clun.
The highest hill in this area is Brown Clee Hill with its peak Abdon Burf being 540m.
If you want something a little closer, you have the Clent Hills (13 miles) which are a popular attraction for Birmingham’s inhabitants. The highest peaks are Walton Hill which is (316 m) and Clent Hill itself at (309 m)
Go much further to the west (100 miles) into Wales and you get to Snowdonia, home to many great hikes. There you’ll also find Snowdon mountain in the northwest of Snowdonia National Park. At 1085m Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and the second highest in the UK.
The Snowdonia National Park is also home to popular peaks Tryfan (917 m), Cadair Idris (893 m) and Moel Siabod (872 m).
Hikes & Walks North of Birmingham
- Cannock Chase (25 miles)
- Belper (50 miles)
- Dovedale (60 miles) *PD
- The Roaches (60 miles) *PD
- Mam Tor (70 miles) *PD
- Kinder Scout (92 miles) *PD
- Winnats Pass (93 miles) *PD
*PD = Located in the Peak District National Park
North of Birmingham, the most popular place you’ll find for hiking is the Peak District in Derbyshire (~55-100 miles). This is a quaint area full of rolling hills and old market towns such as Buxton, famous for its water and Bakewell, famous for its tarts!
What attracts hikers is the mix of rounded hills, plateaus, valleys, limestone gorges and gritstone escarpments.
The highest point in the Peak District is Kinder Scout near Edale (636 m high) and about 95 miles from Birmingham.
Notable places for hiking in the Peak District are Mam Tor (70 miles), Winnats Pass (93 miles), Dovedale (60 miles), The Roaches (60 miles) and of course, Kinder Scout (92 miles).
If you want a little closer to Birmingham (~50 miles), you have the Belper area just above the city of Derby. This area is flatter than the Peak District and includes nature reserves, lakes and forests.
Even closer still to Birmingham is Cannock Chase (25 miles), an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). This area is made up of woodland, open heathland and small lakes. It’s very accessible and is popular also for mountain biking/trail riding.
Hikes & Walks South of Birmingham
- Lickey Hills (11 miles)
- Broadway (37 miles)
- Malvern Hills (38 miles)
- Cotswolds (38 miles+)
- Cleeve Hill (55 miles)
- 3 Castles Walk (71 miles)
- Orcop Hill (72 miles)
- Garway Hill (72 miles)
- Wye Valley (75 miles)
- Skirrid (92 miles) 486m
- Hay Bluff (90 miles) 677 m *BB
- Sugar Loaf (91 miles) 596 m *BB
- Black Mountains (110 miles) *BB
- Pen-Y-Fan (120 miles) *BB
- Brecon Beacons & (100-130 miles)
*BB = Inside the Brecon Beacons National Park
South of Birmingham, we have a much different landscape than to the north. This area includes 3 areas of AONB, The Malvern Hills, Cotswolds and The Wye Valley, plus also the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales.
The Cotswolds are home to rolling hills and valleys containing many picturesque stone-built villages that attract tourists from around the world.
A popular hiking and walking destination from Birmingham is Broadway (37 miles) which is home to the famous Broadway tower which sits 302 metres above sea level.
The highest peak of the Cotswolds is Cleeve Hill which stands at 330 metres.
I can’t mention the Cotswolds without talking about the Cotswolds Way. This is a 102-mile hike full of nature and history. The starting point is just 36 miles from Birmingham. Obviously, this one is a multi-day hike that requires a bit of planning.
The Malvern Hills (AONB) are also a very popular walking location for Birmingham residents (38 miles). Especially this area is easily accessible on the Birmingham to Hereford train line. The hills offer amazing panoramic views and the surrounding area is famous for its spring water which you can collect before or after your hike from designated taps.
The highest peak of the hills is the Worcestershire Beacon at 425 metres.
Another famous area within easy reach of Birmingham is the Wye Valley (~75 miles) which cuts the border between England and Wales.
The Wye Valley area only encompasses one town, Ross-on-Wye which is known as the birthplace of modern tourism.
A big feature of the area is the River Wye which meanders through the landscape creating gorges and the famous Symmonds Yat Rock horseshoe bend.
On walks here you’ll see lots of wildlife, caves, woods and remains from the industrial past too.
A little further and into Wales, you come to the Brecon Beacons which is home to the Black Mountains (811 metre highest peak) and Pen-Y-Fan, the highest peak in South Wales at 886 m.
Within the Brecon Beacons you will also find popular hiking destinations The Skirrid (486 m), Hay Bluff (677 m) and Sugar Loaf (596 m) – not to be confused with the one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Just outside the edge of the Brecon Beacons National park near Abergavenny, you have the 3 Castles Trail which is about 21 miles long and takes you through wonderful countryside to 3 castles, Skenfrith, Grosmont and White Castle, all free to enter.
Garway & Orcop Hill
If you want some really easy hill walks with much better views than you would expect for your efforts, Garway Hill & Orcop Hill are great choices. The views you get from these hills are spectacular and you’re also likely to meet some moorland ponies on your short walk up Garway Hill. Both walks only take 20-30 minutes to the top which you can then tag onto a longer hike if you like.
Herefordshire in general has a lot of nice walks other than the Orcop & Garway hills above.
Here’s the sort of stunning landscape you can expect in the spring when the oil seed (canola) is in bloom.
If you’re looking for something much closer to Birmingham you have the Lickey Hills (11 miles). The Lickeys are popular for the Birmingham city dwellers as they offer easy access to panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Hikes & Walks East of Birmingham
To the east of Birmingham, there are less notable hiking areas but will find a lot of small villages and countryside walks. This area is a lot flatter than other areas in the UK and can be good if you want a less strenuous walk.
You might want to consider Market Harborough (51 miles), Lutterworth (35 miles), or Nuneaton (25 miles).
Hikes & Walks Within Birmingham Itself
Want a walk without much travel? These are my picks within Birmingham.
- Harborne Walkway
- Edgbaston Reservoir
- Birmingham & Worcester Canal
- Wolverhampton Canal Old & New Mainlines
- Soho Canal Loop
- Grand Union Canal
- Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
- The Shire Country Park
- Moseley Bog & Joy’s Wood
- Woodgate Valley Country Park
- Sandwell Valley Country Park
- Sutton Park
The Harborne Walkway is a 1.5-mile walk that runs from Summerfield Park in the Soho area which takes you to (as the name suggests) Harborne. The route is an old railway line and although it’s close to the city centre, it gives you the feel of being much further out in the countryside. The Harborne Walkway is used by families, dog walkers and cycle commuters.
A stone’s throw from the Harborne Walkway above, you’ll find the Edgbaston Reservoir. The reservoir is circled by a 1.75 mile path that is popular with city residents. You’ll find everyone from cyclists, to dog walkers and people just out for a stroll. The Edgbaston Reservoir path has exits that lead onto the Harborne Walkway if you want to combine the two for a longer walk. The Edgbaston Reservoir area is currently undergoing redevelopment and you are likely to see better lighting, paths and facilities appear in the next few years.
There are 4 main canals branching out of Birmingham…
Birmingham & Worcester Canal
The Birmingham & Worcester Canal line starts in the city centre at Gas Street Basin and travels southwest taking you 30 miles to Worcester. Along the way you’ll see many things from the industrial past and pass near the famous Cadbury factories in Bournville. If 30 miles is too much for you, the train line runs alongside much of the Birmingham & Worcester Canal, so you can hop to your preferred starting point or easily travel back if you don’t want to walk back. One suggested route is Bromsgrove to Bournville which takes you along the canal except for a part in the middle where the Wast Hill Tunnel has no towpath.
Wolverhampton Canal Old & New Mainlines
The Wolverhampton Canal Old & New Mainlines run north-west out of the city centre and runs …
The Old Mainline Canal is the windier of the two and runs 13.6 miles out of the city to Wolverhampton.
The New Mainline Canal is 8.4 miles long, much straighter and runs from the City Centre to Tipton before it rejoins the Old Mainline towards Wolverhampton.
On both these lines, you’ll see rich relics from Birmingham’s industrial past.
Soho Loop In The Canal
The Soho Canal Loop is a 1.2-mile section of the Old Mainline Canal which offers quiet walks away from the main canal route. You’ll pass by Winson Green Prison and Asylum Bridge which references the old mental Asylum. The Soho Canal Loop offers a nice walk as from the city centre Gas Street Basin and back it will total about a 4.8-mile walk.
Grand Union Canal
The Grand Union Canal snakes southeast out of the city and links London to Birmingham. At 137 miles long starting at the Spaghetti Junction this canal is a monster of a walk, but you can happily enjoy parts of it. Watch out though – some parts get very remote and are not always well-kept.
Birmingham & Fazeley Canal
Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, starting at Gas Street Basin, goes northeast out of the city and ends up in Fazeley 15 miles away. You’ll find the first part of the canal a lot more city-based as it winds its way past the BT tower on narrow cobbled towpaths. Watch out for cyclists as you pass through the claustrophobic tunnels as well as a few odd people lurking around.
The Shire Country Park
The Shire Country Park is a 3.1-mile circular route that follows the River Cole and is about 5 miles from the city centre.
Moseley Bog/Joy’s Wood
Nearby is Moseley Bog (again, 5 miles from the city centre) and the childhood playground of The Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien. The area comprises Moseley Bog as well as Joy’s wood and offers a 0.8-mile walking route.
Woodgate Valley Country Park
Woodgate Valley Country Park is situated 3.5 miles southwest of the city centre and offers a 3-mile walking loop or a total of 8 miles of paths if you want to explore more. The Harborne Walkway ends just 2 miles from the entrance to Woodgate Valley Country Park so you can always combine the two walks.
Sandwell Valley Country Park
Sandwell Valley Country Park is about 5 miles northeast of Birmingham city centre and offers a mix of surfaced and natural tracks giving you a real sense of the countryside. There are 4+ miles of tracks that you can explore within the park and really get lost in varied landscapes which include meadows and a working farm.
A little further afield (7.5 miles) is Sutton Park which is a 3.75 square-mile park and is one of the largest in Europe. There are many routes through the park where you’ll see lots of forest and wildlife. There’s also a 6.7-mile circular loop of the park that you can do.