North York Moors

North York Moors logo
Browse section

Rights of Way and Open Access

Cleveland Way sign north of Sutton Bank by Mike KiplingCleveland Way sign north of Sutton Bank by Mike Kipling

Covid-19 update (19 July 2021)

With Step 4 of the roadmap now in place, we're delighted to give you a warm welcome to the National Park. You do not need to stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with and there are no limits on the number of people you can meet. However cases are high and rising, and for now, we must continue to proceed with caution to protect local communities, our friends and families, and other visitors. Please help do your bit.

Government are keeping in place a number of key protections and providing cautious guidance. This includes limiting the close contact you have with those you do not usually live with, and increasing close contact gradually. Where possible, you should meet outdoors and let fresh air into enclosed spaces.

Bring hand sanitiser for use after touching shared surfaces (gates, stiles etc) and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors.

Before you head out of the door, make sure you Know Before You Go and plan your trip carefully. We've ideas on where to go to avoid the crowds, the latest information on which attractions are open in the North York Moors area, as well as car parks and toilets.

If you're visiting the North York Moors, please follow our guidelines for accessing the National Park responsibly.

Finding your way

With over 1,400 miles of public rights of way, spread across 554 square miles of the National Park, it's important to know where you can and can't go in the countryside.

Most of our walking routes follow established Rights of Way (ie, paths or tracks that the public has a right to use) while others are across Open Access land (ie, where you have a right to walk freely, without having to follow a defined path or track).

Rights of Way in the National Park are occasionally diverted or modified, and official maps (like Ordnance Survey maps) are not always immediately updated.

Make sure you stay on the right track by:

Rights of Way

There are four types of Rights of Way (public paths) that are shown on maps and also as colour-coded arrows on signposts and waymarkers throughout the National Park.

Footpath arrow symbol Public footpath (yellow) – walkers only

Bridleway arrow sign Public bridleway (blue) – walkers, horse riders and cyclists (cyclists should give way)

Arrow - Restricted Byway Restricted byway (purple) – walkers, horse riders, cyclists and carriage-drivers

Arrow sign for bywat Byway (red) – all traffic (though some only suitable for off-road vehicles, and motor vehicles should give way)

Arrow - permissive path In addition, there are concessionary paths (white) – not a public right of way, but where the landowner invites you to use the path (and has the right to remove that concession)

National Trail Logo National Trails including the Cleveland Way National Trail are marked with the familiar 'acorn' symbol, which is often displayed with the relevant colour-coded Right of Way sign.

If you find a problem on any public right of way in the North York Moors National Park, please let us know by using this form.

Open Access

Open Access LogopYou can walk on Open Access land – on mountain, moorland, heath, downland and registered common land – without having to stick to public rights of way over the land. In the North York Moors it means that you are free to explore our moorland and common land as you wish, using paths and tracks which are not public rights of way. If you wish you may also walk over the land without following a defined path. Certain restrictions apply (see below).

In addition to moorland access land, Forestry England has dedicated much of its land as Open Access land for walkers, and it also allows cyclists and horse riders to use the main tracks over the access land.

Open Access land is shown on Ordnance Survey Explorer maps published since 2005 (bounded by an orange border), and you can also look out for the symbol shown above, which you'll find on some areas of Open Access land.

Please remember:
  • Open access is for recreation on foot; you can't cycle or ride a horse except on a bridleway, and you can't drive a vehicle or motorbike on it, other than on vehicular rights of way
  • Dogs are not allowed on most grouse moorland in the North York Moors, except on rights of way where they should be kept on a short lead or to heel so they cannot leave the line of the path
  • Where dogs are allowed on open access land, by law they must be on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July (the bird nesting season) and on a short lead at any time near livestock
  • Access land may sometimes temporarily closed for land management or other reasons - look out for signs. Rights of way remain open even if the surrounding access land is closed. Forestry England access land is sometimes closed for tree felling or motor rallies.

You can find out more, and check if there are any current Open Access restrictions in place, on the Natural England website.

If you have an issue relating to open access/common land, for example if a route is blocked, closed or moved, contact the Open Spaces Society, Britain's oldest conservation society who aim to protect, increase, enhance and champion the common land, village greens, open spaces and public rights of way, and the public's right to enjoy them.