New global forest restoration initiatives present an unparalleled opportunity to reverse the trend of deforestation and forest degradation in the coming years. This effort will require the collaboration of stakeholders at all levels, and most importantly, the participation and support of local people. These ambitious restoration initiatives will also require monitoring systems that allow for scalability and adaptability to a range of local sites. This will be essential in understanding how a given restoration effort is progressing, determining why or why not it is succeeding and learning from both its successes and failures. Participatory monitoring could play a crucial role in meeting international monitoring needs. The potential of participatory monitoring in forest restoration and related forest management activities is explored in this review through multiple case studies, experiences, field tests and conceptual discussions. The review seeks to deepen and broaden our understanding of participatory monitoring by teasing out the lessons learned from existing knowledge and mapping a possible path forward, with the aim of improving the outcomes of forest restoration initiatives.