Forests are popular places for recreation, but some activities can have negative impacts on wildlife. Land managers have to balance delivery of the social and economic benefits derived from outdoor recreation with nature conservation objectives. This literature review provides an overview of potential disturbance issues and a guide to the evidence on impacts from walking, cycling, horse riding, off-road vehicle use, camping, and other recreational activities that take place in forests. Greatest attention has been directed towards walking, and impacts on soils, vegetation and birdlife. Much of the literature focuses on the physical characteristics of disturbance but there is little social scientific analysis of recreational users, for example on how their values and awareness relate to disturbance, or wider social factors that influence where, when and whether impacts occur. An holistic approach to understanding and managing the interaction of recreation and forest wildlife is needed, which links ecological studies with social data.