Just 30km from London and only an hour's drive away lies this incredible summit of the North Downs - an impressive collection of gentle rolling hills that go on as far as the eye can see. Box Hill is a must for avid hikers or for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of London.
It overlooks an ancient woodland full of lush greenery that stretches on for miles and miles. This woodland is where the Box Hill gets its namesake from and it is where many start their magical journey up to the top of Box Hill. Conversely, many like to treat themselves to the breath taking view of the town of Dorking before beginning their hike. There are several well mapped out trails that you can choose from. Each is a unique experience and offers something different from the last. You can find the list of trails here. The trails range from easy strolls along the top of Box Hill to more challenging treks through the river and constantly varying terrains of the woodlands. All are extremely rewarding and offer 8 different reasons to revisit this amazing place.
Pay no mind to the cynics on TripAdvisor who complain about the expensive cafe prices, crowded toilets, and the lycra clad cyclists. All of these can be avoided (by following our top tips below)... and to be honest is not that big of a deal. Especially for the experience and panoramic views you get from coming to this London city escape!
Now onto the trails! As I alluded to above their are 8 different trails that are mapped out by the National Trust. What we will do is rate them 1-8. The ratings will consist of the pros and cons of each and will be based entirely from our prospective and how we experienced them. We will continue to update this posts as we complete the different trails. As they will all be at different times of the year we will give more specific tips based on what time of the year we completed the trail. Before we get into that though, here are some general tips that will likely apply to all the trails.
Tips before you go:
To avoid the crowds and gauntlets of lycra adorned cyclists its probably best to arrive early. Pack your lunch, organise your camera equipment (here is what we use), and plan your route the night before. That way all you've got to do is pour your coffee into your travel bottle (we live by these) , hop in the car, cue up the GPS and your off! Unless of course you forget to fill up the tank the night before like we've done on my occasions! Learn from our mistakes and do that before hand!
Like I mentioned above. Pack a lunch and fill your bottle with cold water (these keep your water cool too and for 24 hours!). If you read above you would've seen me mention to complaining TripAdvisors and their discontent with the Box Hill Cafe prices. Well, to avoid that all you've got to do is pack your own lunch and water... problem solved! The prices here aren't that bad anyways and is a nice reward for finishing your trail, but if you are strapped for cash just bring your own stuff.
If you think you can cope, I would highly recommend that you bring your camera and whatever gear you can pack into your bag. I use this GoPro Seeker Bag and pack all of this gear inside it. It's all super light and never really gives me any issues, even on 4 hour hikes! On all the hikes you'll come across amazing views, cool little trails, and breath taking scenery that you'll want to post all over your social media (like we did here).
Dress appropriately! It's a given that you've got to wear proper shoes, but it's also important to wear the right clothing. I'm a firm believer in almost always packing something that'll keep you warm and dry if needed. I use this brilliant little contraption (in Grey of course) that packs away neatly in my bag along with all my other gear. It's always better to be safe than sorry, and you never know with English weather!
Bring change! We almost always forget this when we go places like this. Bring some small change that you can use to pay for parking! If you come early the cafe might not be open to give you change and its just a nuisance searching for some anyways. So come prepared. Parking costs are as follows: £1.50 per hour for the first 2 hours, £4.00 for 4 hours, £6.00 all day.
Decide which trail you're going to do before hand and grab one of the maps provided at the information centre. This little guys are priceless and keep you on track.
Have lunch with a view! There are several spots along the way to stop and have lunch. Don't settle for some dingy piece of grass that has no view. Hold out a bit longer until the next hill presents itself and have lunch with a scenic view.
Take your time and enjoy. Don't come here on a day where you've got plans later on. Dedicate a full day to enjoying all this natural beauty (especially if you're doing one of the longer trails).
Trails in order of completion:
Box Hill Juniper Top circular walk - completed 07/05/2017.
Experience: This was the first trail we decided to tackle out of the 8, and boy was it amazing! The only reason we're not giving it a full 10/10 is because we don't want to max out the scale on the first go and we're hoping that Box Hill has even more to offer. This is a 6.5km hike take you through to what seems to be Box Hill most scenic views. The best thing about this hike is that it's great all year around and offers spectacular views from the Spring right through to Winter. We wanted to do this one first because we were looking for more of a challenge and this trails offers varying gradients that will challenge the average person. Your begin your journey at the Box Hill Cafe. You then make your way to the viewpoint and take in the view for 5 minutes and snap a couple of selfies. Afterwards you make your way Surrey countryside and will spot a view picturesque villages along the way. There is even a nice little pub that you pass by and is a great place to stop if you fancy a pint! As you move on the trail ultimately leads you to the grassland at the summit of Juniper Top. This is where you should stop and have lunch. The views from here are spectacular and deserve a good amount of time to be fully appreciated. From here you'll continue to pass through fairytale like woodlands as you walk up and down the changing gradients. You'll eventually find yourself back the the Box Hill viewpoint where you'll want to relax on the hillside, soak in some rays (if the sun's out), set your camera to time-lapse mode, and take a well-deserved rest while you enjoy the view that never gets old.
Box Hill Stepping Stones walk - completed 09/07/2017.
Experience: Don't let the rating fool you. Although it's fairly lower than the Juniper Top circular walk that doesn't mean it's not worth doing. This one's just more of a family walk or one of the trails you choose to do on a day when you just want something easy. The trail is more of a walk than it is a hike. Nonetheless it is a lovely stroll down to the River Mole and back up again. The main draw of this trail is the iconic Stepping Stones landmark. This spot lends itself as a wonderful spot to stop and have lunch or just take a break and watch the river flow and listen to the birds sing. It is also a great spot to have a dip into the water (if you're doing this on a hot summer day of course). We didn't know about this and unfortunately didn't bring our bathing suits. It was a perfect day for it and it probably would've knocked the rating up a few notches if we did. Nonetheless we did stay a while and found a quiet place along the river to stop and soak our feet in the river. It was a bit busy in the afternoon so we definitely recommend doing this one earlier in the day to miss the families and their excited children jumping around in the river. All in all, it was a very pleasant walk and we recommend doing this one an early summer morning when a heat wave has struck and you've got the river all to yourselves!
Box Hill Riverside Walk - Not yet completed.
The hilltop stroll at Box Hill - Not yet completed.
Box Hill Happy Valley circular walk - Not yet completed.
Box Hill Juniper Top circular walk - Not yet completed.
Box Hill butterfly walk long route - Not yet completed.
Cockshot Cottage via Whitehill to Mickleham village walk - Not yet completed.
Shot with a GoPro Hero 5 Black