Despite the fact that the institutional environment is acknowledged to influence the implementation of regional adaptations of forest management to climate change, there are few empirical studies addressing the institutional factors and opportunities of adaptation. Using Ostrom’s institutional analysis and development framework, we aimed to identify : (1) the critical and distinctive characteristics of the forest resource and institutional context that may determine how climate change-adaptive forest management measures are implemented and (2) the opportunities for implementing the planned adaptation measures. The analysis is performed on ten European case study regions which differed in many resource-dependent factors, policy arena factors and incentives for changes. The main factors influencing the adaptation are the ownership pattern, the level of policy formation and the nature of forest goods and services. Opportunities for adaptation are driven by the openness of the forest management planning processes to the stakeholders participation, the degree to which business as usual management is projected to be non-satisfactory in the future, and by the number and nature of obstacles to adaptation. Promoting local self-governance mechanisms and the participation of the external stakeholders in forest management planning or in the regional forest or climate change policy adaptation may be a way of overcoming path dependency, behavioural obstacles and potential policy failures in implementing adaptation. The study argues that both climate change belief systems and political participation are important to explain adaptation to climate change when multiple decision-making levels are at stake.