A better understanding of forest subcanopy flows is needed to evaluate their role in the horizontal movement of scalars, particularly in complex terrain. This paper describes detailed measurements of the canopy structure and its variability in both the horizontal and vertical directions at a deciduous forest in complex terrain (the Harvard Forest, Petersham, Massachusetts). The effects of the trunks and subcanopy shrubs on the flow field at each of six subcanopy array locations are quantified. The dynamics of the subcanopy flow are examined with pragmatic methods that can be implemented on a small scale with limited resources to estimate the stress divergence, buoyancy, and pressure gradient forces that drive the flow. The subcanopy flow at the Harvard Forest was driven by mechanisms other than vertical stress divergence 75% of the time. Nocturnal flows were driven predominantly by the negative buoyancy of a relatively cool layer near the forest floor. The direction of the resulting drainage flows followed the azimuth of the longest forest-floor slope. Similar results were found at a much flatter site at Borden, Ontario, Canada. There was no clear evidence of flow reversals in the subcanopy in the lee of ridges or hills at the Harvard Forest even in high wind conditions, contrary to some model predictions.