Effective navigation requires planning extended routes to remembered goal locations. Hippocampal place cells have been proposed to have a role in navigational planning, but direct evidence has been lacking. Here we show that before goal-directed navigation in an open arena, the rat hippocampus generates brief sequences encoding spatial trajectories strongly biased to progress from the subject’s current location to a known goal location. These sequences predict immediate future behaviour, even in cases in which the specific combination of start and goal locations is novel. These results indicate that hippocampal sequence events characterized previously in linearly constrained environments as ‘replay’ are also capable of supporting a goal-directed, trajectory-finding mechanism, which identifies important places and relevant behavioural paths, at specific times when memory retrieval is required, and in a manner that could be used to control subsequent navigational behaviour.