A Vision of Britain through Time provides the following description of Gisburn Forest from John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales of 1870-72:
Historically, Gisburn Forest was in the ecclesiastical parish of Gisburn in Staincliffe Wapentake. From 1894 until 1938, Gisburn Forest was located in Settle Rural District. In 1938 it was transferred to Bowland Rural District. In 1974 the area became part of the Ribble Valley District in Lancashire.