Tackling one of the many Glenariff Forest Park walks is a fine way to spend an afternoon.
If you read our guide to the Causeway Coastal Route or our bumper guide to the best things to do in Antrim, you’ll have seen us rant and rave about this place!
Glenariff Forest Park is, in our opinion, the most overlooked stop-off point on the Antrim Coast. Honestly, it really is sensational!
In the guide below, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the many Glenariff Forest Park walks, from how long it takes to the best trail to follow.
Table of Contents
About Glenariff Forest Park
Perhaps less well-known than its other famous Causeway Coastal Route contemporaries, Glenariff is one of the nine Antrim Glens in Northern Ireland.
Covering over 1,000 hectares and located around 24km north-east of Ballymena, the ‘Queen of the Glens’ is a rich wonderland of lakes, woodlands, waterfalls and wildlife.
Where to find it
You’ll find Glenariff Forest Park a handy a 20-minute drive from Ballymena and just under an hour from Belfast City, which makes it a great place to escape to if you fancy some peace and quiet.
Where to park
As this is a managed site, there’s a car park here (Glenariff Forest car park on Glenariffe Road, just off the A43) – just be sure to keep an eye on the opening hours.
The park is open 24 hours a day, to those visiting on foot. The car park gates open at 08:00 and lock at dusk each night.
Cafe and restaurant
If you fancy a bite to eat, the Glenariff Forest Park Teahouse is a handy spot to nip into. You can kick-back with a bite to eat while soaking up the view.
Alternatively, the Laragh Lodge, which was built in 1890 to feed those visiting the Glenariffe waterfall and Glen, is right next to the Ess-Na-Grub waterfall.
Yes, there is a Glenariff Forest Park camping service. Prices vary and you need to book online in advance, but this is a fine little spot for a unique night away. Info on booking here.
There are 4 Glenariff Forest Park walks to try
There are a number of different Glenariff Forest Park walks that you can head off on, depending on how long you fancy strolling for:
- The Scenic Trail (5.9 miles/9 km)
- The Glenariff Forest Park Waterfall Walk (1.5 miles/2.5 km)
- The Viewpoint Trail (0.6 miles/0.9 km)
- The Rainbow Trail (0.4 miles/0.6 km)
Below, we’re going to give you a guide to the Scenic Trail, as it takes in all of Glenariff’s greatest hits and takes you past gorges, rivers and the Glenariff waterfall.
On a clear day, it also provides stunning views of the surrounding landscape and all the way across the sea to Mull of Kintyre.
Glenariff Forest Park walks: A guide to the Scenic Trail
Right, so you’re going for the Scenic Trail. You’ll want to aim for the Glenariff Forest car park which will be your starting point.
This walk, like the Glenariff Waterfall Walk, is signposted from the car park, so you shouldn’t have any hassle finding the start of the trail.
How Long Does the Walk Take?
The route is circular and has a distance of 5.9 miles (8.9km), reaching an elevation of around 300 metres. It should take between 2-3 hours, depending on pace.
Is it Hard?
The walk is steep in some places but is accessible and should be fine for anybody with reasonably moderate fitness. Hiking boots or trail shoes would be a good idea.
Starting the trail
Begin by heading down into the Glenariff river gorge and then follow the trail upstream through leafy woodlands to the sound of the rumbling waters.
Get a look at the pretty and fast-flowing Ess-Na-Crub (meaning ‘the fall of the hooves’) waterfall along the way.
Reaching the timber boardwalk
The timber boardwalk winding alongside the river was constructed around 100 years ago and has been carefully rebuilt to provide a majestic walk getting you up close to the Glenariff waterfalls.
The path then starts to ascend, and the elevation begins to bring out some stunning vistas across the Antrim plateau. The lush forest and falling hills here lead to Glenariff being christened ‘Little Switzerland’ by the writer Thackeray – and you can see why!
Getting into the belly of the walk
Use a footbridge to cross over the river Inver and make the trek up to the summit of the trail where the views really begin to open up.
Full panoramas of the glen are the reward from this spot of peaty moorland and, if you’re up on a bright day, dreamy vistas Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre should be the cherry on top.
Descend down a long track and re-cross the Inver before heading down into one last stunning gorge featuring the crashing double-drop of the Ess-na-Larach waterfall.
A couple of footbridges and a short loop through some secluded woods then reveals a short but enjoyable walk back to the car park.
Other things to do nearby
If you attempt one of the Glenariff Forest Park walks early in the morning, you’ll have plenty of the day left to tackle some of the many other things there are to do nearby.
If you fancy another fine hike, the nearby Slemish Mountain walk is well worth doing. Dive into our guide to the best things to do in Antrim to find plenty more to see and do.