Glenariff Forest Park Walks: A Guide To The ‘Scenic’ Trail (Waterfalls + Views Galore)

glenariff forest park walks
Photo left : By Lyd Photography. Photo right : By Dawid K Photography. (on shutterstock.com)

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 Waterfall to the many different walks.

Some quick need-to-knows before you visit Glenariff Forest Park

Glenariff Forest Park waterfall
Photo by Sara Winter on shutterstock.com

Perhaps less well-known than its other famous Causeway Coastal Route contemporaries, Glenariff is one of the Nine Glens of Antrim.

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. 

1. Location

You’ll find Glenariff Forest Park a handy a 20-minute drive from Ballymena, a 10-minue drive from Cushendall and a 20-minute drive from Cushendun.

2. Parking

As this is a managed site, there’s a car park here – just be sure to keep an eye on the opening hours – and this is the starting point for the 4 Glenariff Forest Park walks.

3. Opening times

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.

4. 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.

5. Camping

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

Beautiful waterfall in Glenariff Forest Park in Antrim
Photo by Dawid K Photography on shutterstock.com

There are a number of different Glenariff Forest Park walks that you can head off on, depending on how long you fancy strolling for:

  1. The Scenic Trail (5.9 miles/9 km)
  2. The Glenariff Forest Park Waterfall Walk (1.5 miles/2.5 km)
  3. The Viewpoint Trail (0.6 miles/0.9 km)
  4. 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.

An overview of the Glenariff Forest Park Scenic Trail

Waterfall Trail at Glenariff Forest Park
Photo by Lyd Photography on shutterstock.com

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.

1. Length

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.

2. Difficulty

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. 

3. 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.

4. 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!

5. 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. 

6. Finishing up

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. 

Things to do near the Glenariff waterfalls

One of the beauties of a visit to the Glenariff waterfall is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Antrim.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Glenariff Forest Park (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Post-walk food (10-minute drive)

fish and chips
Photo by Pixelbliss (Shutterstock)

If you’re feeling peckish after conquering one of the Glenariff Forest Park walks, head to the Glenariff Beach Cafe (8-minute drive) or take the 10-minute drive to either Cushendall or Cushendun. If you visit the latter, you can visit the Cushendun Caves or head for a ramble along Cushendun Beach, after.

2. The Torr Head Scenic Route (10-minute drive)

torr head scenic drive
Photo left: Shutterstock. right: Google Maps

You can start the excellent Torr Head Scenic Route from Cushendun (not suitable for camper-vans). Over the course of the 45-minute drive, you’ll spin along a narrow road and take in glorious views. There’s debtors to both Murlough Bay and Fair Head.

3. The Dark Hedges (35-minute drive)

dark hedges ireland
Photo by Emanuele Bresciani (Shutterstock)

If you’re looking to explore the Game of Thrones Ireland link, you’ve one of the most popular locations from the show, The Dark Hedges, just down the road. Alternatively, you could visit the Old Bushmills Distillery (40-minute drive).

FAQs about visiting Glenariff Forest Park

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from what is the Glenariff Forest Park waterfall walkway like to how many Glenariff waterfalls are there.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is Glenariff Forest Park worth visiting?

Yes! The park here is gorgeous and the trails (especially the one up to see Glenariff waterfall) are some of the best in Northern Ireland).

When is Glenariff Forest Park open?

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.

What’s the best of the Glenariff Forest Park walks?

The Scenic Trail is our favourite of the 4 Glenariff Forest Park walks. This is a 5.9 mile/9km walk that takes 2 – 3 hours to conquer.

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