The craggy peaks, sheep strewn valleys, dry stone walls and glistening lakes of the Fells are best seen on foot. Hit the trail with our guide to the best walks in the Lake District.
There is no better way to see the Lake District than to set off on foot. With hundreds of paths to explore, you can choose from gentle strolls around glistening lakes to hardy hikes high up in the Fells. Some paths cut across rolling meadows and are easy to follow, others clamber along narrow ledges and into rocky crevasses.
Lakeland writer Alfred Wainwright documented routes up 214 mountains in this stunning section of northwest England. These Wainwrights range from the diminutive 290-metre Castle Crag to Scafell Pike at 978 metres.
Our list is a bit shorter. It includes our favourite Wainwright walks in the national park, but also some easier hikes that visit our favourite views in the Lake District and some challenging ridges like the formidable Striding Edge.
We’ve spent a lot of time hiking in the area, and in our opinion, these are the best Lake District walks that showcase the remarkable landscape. We have split the walks into easy, medium and challenging so you can find a walk that’s just right for you.
Each of the walks have detailed maps that you can download and take with you.
IN THIS GUIDE
BEST WALKS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT, UK
MAP / BEST WALKS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
Our favourite hikes in the Lake District are spread over the national park, so we have included them all on the below map to help you get your bearings. Green are the easy walks, yellow are the medium, and red are the more difficult walks.
Under the description of each walk, we have also provided a map with the specific route we recommend. Please keep in mind that you should these route maps as indicative, especially when the paths head over narrow ridges.
The type of walking you want to do will determine where you want to base yourself. Our guide to the different areas of the Lake District explains the region in more detail to help you decide where to stay. For more than just hiking, read our guide to the other great things to do in the Lake District.
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EASY WALKS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
All of our easy hikes in the Lake District National Park are under 8 kilometres and can be done in 2 hours or less. They are relatively flat (rising and falling no more than 150 metres), follow low lying ground, and the paths are generally good and easy to follow. They are perfect walks for beginners.
1 – LATRIGG
Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 2 kilometres | Time – 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-80 metres | Start – Underskiddaw Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Latrigg Loop Map
There is no easier Lake District circular walk that delivers such impressive views than this very easy walk up to the summit of Latrigg. From the parking at Underskiddaw, it’s a simple 15-minute stroll up a grassy bank to the summit.
While the walk up might be quick, you’re bound to spend plenty more time at the top admiring the views. To the north are the rounded summits of Skiddaw. To the east the waves of Blencathra’s ridges hover over the distant Pennines. And to the south, the town of Keswick rests peacefully on the edge of Derwentwater in this beautiful national park.
Come at dawn or dusk for a superb Lake District experience.
2 – TARN HOWS CIRCULAR WALK
Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 3.2 kilometres | Time – 1 hour | Elevation – +/-80 metres | Start – National Trust Tarn Hows Car Park | Directions – Follow this map
The Tarn Hows circular walk only takes one hour to complete, but it’s one of the best days out in the Lake District for families looking for a relaxing escape in nature via a pleasant walk.
Grassy slopes on the bank provide plenty of space for a rest on the short walk and the views up to the rugged Langdale Pikes in the distance are well worth stopping to takin in.
The National Trust runs the parking at the Tarn Hows. They also sell basic food supplies and can provide a handy map of the area. The trails are well marked and easy to follow and with toilet facilities available it’s the perfect Lake District walk for families.
This is a popular location in the Lake District National Park and it can get very busy in peak season.
Read Next — Where to stay in the Lake District
3 – BUTTERMERE CIRCULAR WALK
Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 7.5 kilometres | Time – 2 hours | Elevation – +/-140 metres | Start – National Trust Parking in Buttermere | Directions – Clockwise on our Buttermere Circular Walk Map
My favourite of the easy walks in the Lake District National Park, this sensational loop of Buttermere passes through some of the finest scenery in the region.
Starting in the very attractive Lake District village of Buttermere, this 2-hour circular walk navigates the beautifully set lake with pristine mountain reflections. Along the way you pass deep cut ravines, craggy mountains, ancient woods and gorse-lined roads.
A stand of trees at the south-eastern end of the lake resting under the craggy buttresses of Haystacks – Wainwrights favourite mountain – provides one of our favourite photo spots in the Lake District.
End with coffee and a cake from the Croft House Farm Café or if the sun is shining, the top-notch homemade ice cream from Sykes Farm.
4 – RYDAL WATER CIRCULAR WALK
Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 4.7 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-200 metres | Start – White Moss Parking | Directions – Anti-clockwise on our Rydal Water Circular Walk Map
The circular walk around Rydal Water has a bit more ascent than the first three easy Lake District hikes, but it’s still relatively easy. It could be completed in just 90 minutes, but it’s well worth spending much longer as there is a lot to see.
Pop into Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s final home before he died, explore Rydal Cave, a large gaping hole in the rock, and take a dip in one of the best wild swimming spots in the Lake District.
Halfway around the short walk, take a sophisticated break at Rydal Hall which serves high tea in the beautifully manicured gardens. If you fancy something less formal, the friendly Badger Bar is a great option.
Even if you do none of that, the trail that ambles through lovely woodland and bluebell filled slopes offers excellent views of the Rydal Water with rugged Loughrigg Fell behind. It’s a fun half-day out and a thoroughly pleasant walk in the Lake District.
5 – CASTLE CRAG LOOP
Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 5.5 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-170 metres | Start – Rosthwaite Parking | Directions – Anticlockwise on our Castle Crag Circular Walk Map
This relatively easy circular walk has a bit of everything the Lake District National Park has to offer. The trail starts in the village of Rosthwaite before heading downstream along the River Derwent. A packhorse bridge carries you to the other side and into a lovely forest. Being the wettest valley in England, moss covers stone walls and rocks in a glorious coating of luminescent green; perfect conditions for Lake District photography.
There are caves to explore and mounds of slate to negotiate before the path drops back to the river providing an opportunity to paddle and picnic next to the river.
The trail now circles around Castle Crag and steadily rises for 20 minutes to provide stunning views over Borrowdale and some of the mightiest mountains in the Lake District. Just make sure you check for rain before you go.
MEDIUM WALKS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
Our five medium walks in the Lake District National Park are either longer in distance or require more ascent and descent, making them slightly more physically demanding. They include some of the smaller but beautiful Wainwrights for which you will need a reasonable level of fitness.
6 – RANNERDALE KNOTTS
Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 4.8 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 45 minutes | Elevation – +/-280 metres | Start – National Trust Car Park in Buttermere | Directions – Anti-clockwise on our Rannerdale Knotts Circular Walk Map
There are some mountains in the Lake District that are not that high, but by dint of their excellent position provide magnificent views. The Rannerdale Knotts circular walk is one of them.
The trail begins in Buttermere and heads up a steep climb on a grassy slope. It might look a little challenging at the start, but after about 30 minutes of hard work you will have reached the top of the ridge and the rest of the walk is a glorious exploration of all that’s best about the Lake District.
A lovely stroll along the ridgetop has fine views to Crummock Water in front, and Buttermere behind. There is the odd rocky crest to summit as you make your way, but nothing hard, and after another 20 minutes you reach the glorious summit. Views of the north-western fells open up before you and on a clear day Scotland glimmers in the distance. It’s a wonderful Lake District activity.
Carefully pick your route down off the summit, before descending along another grassy slope to the edge of Crummock Water. If you are feeling brave then take a dip at Crummock’s southern beach, otherwise wind through the forest back to the parking.
7 – CATBELLS
Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 4.8 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 45 minutes | Elevation – +/-320 metres | Start – Gutherscale Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Catbells Circular Walk Map
Catbells is not one of the highest peaks, but it stands imperiously over Derwentwater. Viewed from Keswick its sides are steep and sleek and from its summit, the 360-degree views are excellent. It is rightly one of the most popular walks in the Lake District. As Wainwright wrote, “There is beauty everywhere – and nothing but beauty.”
Parking can be tricky. There are a few spaces in the small Gutherscale parking location and some more on the road leading to it. Parking is also available at Hawse End, a bit further away. If you are staying in Keswick, get the ferry across to the Hawse End Jetty and start the walk from there, this will add 1 kilometre and 20 minutes to the walk, but significantly reduce the hassle.
The trail to the summit is short but it’s a steep climb. Rising in two stages it zigzags up along the crest of the mountain. You may need your hands in a couple of places, but nothing is too difficult, and you are rewarded with stunning views all the way.
There few easier ways down a mountain than from this excellent circular walk. A gentle sloping path curls right until it returns to where you started. This Lake District walk can be completed in less than 2 hours and is a great one to save for sunset.
8 – HELM CRAG
Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 7.5 kilometres | Time – 2 hours, 20 minutes | Elevation – +/-340 metres | Start – Grasmere Car Park | Directions – Linear return walk on our Helm Crag Walk Map
The summit of Helm Crag is an oddity. A strange finger of rock reaches into the sky from the summit. You may find getting on top of the precipitous finger a step too far, but don’t worry the rest is worth it.
There are three things that make this walk attractive. First, it starts in Grasmere, one of the prettiest villages in the Lake District. Everywhere you look charming slate-buildings are dwarfed by the hills towering over them.
Secondly, the path to the summit (although not that long) feels like the trail to Mordor. A track of rock and stone winds its way through narrow cracks and around rocky towers. Thirdly, the views from the summit towards Grasmere are a joy.
Allow just over 2 hours for the return route, but plan for a bit longer because The Good Sport in Grasmere brews its own ale and it would be wrong not to support their efforts.
9 – LOUGHRIGG FELL
Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 8 kilometres | Time – 2 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-360 metres | Start – Pelter Bridge Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Loughrigg Circular Walk Map
Loughrigg is a little lump of a mountain which packs a punch. It sits at the centre of a host of attractive valleys in the Lake District, and although only a little more than a thousand feet high (335 metres), it has surprisingly wide-ranging views. Lakes and tarns stretch off in all directions, pretty villages sit under its flanks, and higher mountains form an amphitheatre around it.
But the real highlights are the slopes of Loughrigg themselves. Bobbling mounds of grass strewn with sheep, heather-covered hillocks split by zigzagging dry stone walls, and paths leading over wooden stiles down to shimmering lakes.
My favourite in the medium difficulty Lake District hikes, there are plenty of different routes up and down. Some only take 90 minutes but I have picked my favourite which passes by Rydal Water, stops off at Rydal Cave and takes about two and a half hours. Click on the map to view all the details.
10 – ULLSWATER STEAMER HOWTOWN TO GLENRIDDING WALK
Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 11 to 12.5 kilometres | Time – 3 to 4 hours | Elevation – +/-290 metres or 470 metres | Start – Ullswater Steamers in Glenridding | Directions – Follow our Howtown to Glenridding Walking Map
None of the other best walks in the Lake District begin better than this one. Hop on the Ullswater Steamer at Glenridding and relax on deck as the boat glides the 40 minutes across the lake to Howtown. From here all you have to do is trek back.
The rocky path that undulates along the eastern side of the lake, is a beautiful stretch of trail. It cuts across steep slopes, meanders in and out of forest and peers up at vast clumps of moss. On a sunny day you drift in and out of dappled sunlight and there are many great spots for a picnic or coffee stop perched above the glistening water. After reaching the end of the lake, head across to Patterdale. Unfortunately, the last 10 minutes require walking along the road back to Glenridding, but it’s worth it.
An excellent detour is to head up to the summit of Hallin Fell, one of the lower Wainwright mountains. It not only has stupendous views over Ullswater but also over the Martindale valley where the grassy fields contrast beautifully with the craggy moor covered tops.
It takes about 3 hours to walk back without heading up Hallin Fell, or four if you go via the summit.
CHALLENGING WALKS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
The last five walks tackle some of the highest Wainwright mountains in the Lake District National Park. They are long and tiring with considerable ascent and descent. Each of them will require you to use your hands periodically. In particular, the routes up Helvellyn and Blencathra are considered Grade 1 scrambles so sure footing, good conditions and a head for heights are highly recommended. We have more adventurous walks in our best scrambles in the Lake District guide.
11 – BLENCATHRA
Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – About 8.5 kilometres | Time – About 4 hours | Elevation – +/-730 metres | Start – Scales Farm Parking | Directions – See our Blencathra guide – please treat routes marked on the ridges as indicative
Blencathra sits all alone in the northeast of the Lakes. At first impression, it appears little more than a large hill. But looks can be deceiving, and ascending this unobtrusive mountain is one of the best hikes in the Lake District.
The reason is the excellent choice of routes to the summit. The first, via Scales Fell, is a gradual climb that shortly after the beginning, rewards you with fine views of the North Pennines and Helvellyn.
The second route is Halls Fell Ridge, a steep, rocky ascent along a sinuous ridge. This is an excellent choice for anyone new to scrambling. The ridge is not too sheer or too narrow – over a couple of meters wide in most places – but you may need your hands for support. If you’re good with heights, you can mostly just stride across the top.
Third is Sharp Edge. The hardest and most challenging Grade 1 ridge in the Lake District. There is a ‘bad step’ where you have to shuffle off a slab of rock onto a narrow ledge and precipitous sections along the way. You should have some scrambling experience behind you and a very good head for heights. Don’t attempt Sharp Edge wet or windy conditions. Even on a still, sunny day, it’s a real heart starter.
Read Next — Our guide to Blencathra
12 – LANGDALE PIKES
Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 8.7 kilometres | Time – 4 hours 15 minutes | Elevation – +/-870 metres | Start – Sticklebarn Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Langdale Pikes map
The Langdale Pikes are a dramatic collection of five peaks whose rugged summits drop precipitously to Great Langdale Valley. The views from each of them are excellent and especially towards Bowfell and the mighty crags of the Scafell Range.
From the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel, it’s a steep hike up a well-trodden path to Stickle Tarn, a high lake sitting under the craggy façade of Pavey Ark, the largest and most imposing cliff in the Lake District.
The path heads east and winds around the edge of the cliff face until reaching the summit. It then heads across a surprisingly flat landscape to visit the other four peaks before dropping back into the valley. End the day with a drink at the Sticklebarn and try their carbon-friendly menu of vegetarian and locally farmed lamb dishes.
There is a more adventurous route up the face of Pavey Ark called Jack’s Rake. A grade 1 scramble, it clambers along a groove cutting diagonally across the massive cliff. If that sounds like your kind of fun, read our best grade 1 scrambles in the Lake District guide.
13 – HAYSTACKS AND FLEETWITH PIKE
Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 14.2 kilometres | Time – 5 hours 15 minutes | Elevation – +/-830 metres | Start – Buttermere Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Haystacks & Fleetwith Pike – please treat routes marked on the ridges as indicative
This delightful walk to Haystacks (Wainwright’s favourite mountain in the Lake District) and Fleetwith Pike, not only includes the excellent views of the Buttermere loop, but it also collects two great summits.
Haystacks is all nobbles and bumps. Little tarns dot the summit and paths disappear into tiny canyons. In September the heather glows purple in the later afternoon sun.
The views from both peaks look up to imposing Great Gable and imperious Pillar and down to gorgeous Buttermere. The route back is along Fleetwith Pike ridge. It’s a bit steep in places but the almost 360-degree vistas make it worthwhile.
There is nothing technical or difficult here, just a long (5 hours 15 minutes) but fantastic walk in great scenery. If you want to shorten it, skip the Buttermere loop and leave from Gatesgarth car parking spot (3 hours 30 minutes). If you also want to skip the climb up Fleetwith Pike, then head up Haystacks and come back via Warnscale (3 hours). See route options on the map below.
14 – HELVELLYN VIA STRIDING EDGE AND SWIRRAL EDGE
Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 13.5 kilometres | Time – 6 hours | Elevation – +/-840 metres | Start – Glenridding Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Helvellyn Walking Map – please treat routes marked on the ridges as indicative
This magnificent walk ascends the third highest peak in the Lake District and it’s one of the most exciting walks in the area and, thanks to the use of two excellent ridges, an exhilarating adventure activity in the UK.
Striding Edge is a thrilling narrow, exposed ridge. You’ll need a head for heights and some confidence to navigate the tricky drop over ‘the chimney’ near the end. However, it’s one of the easier Grade 1 scrambles in the lakes and a great introduction to the more challenging hikes.
If you don’t fancy tackling Striding Edge, there is a path running just under it. This enables you to avoid the most tricky and precipitous sections.
The return route is via Swirral Edge, another fine Lake District ridge that is not as narrow or as scary.
But the two ridges are just the icing of a grand walk. Views stretch in all directions, Ullswater glistens below, and it ends at the Travellers Rest for a well-earned pint.
15 – SCAFELL PIKE VIA CORRIDOR ROUTE
Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 14.8 kilometres | Time – 6 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-980 metres | Start – Seathwaite Farm in Borrowdale | Directions – Scafell Pike Corridor Route guide
It is always a thrill to climb the highest mountain in a region and Scafell Pike is no exception. The most popular route is the most direct ascent from Wasdale Head. But a much more enjoyable route is my favourite challenging walk in the Lake District.
Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route traverses under the craggy flanks of Great End, as it winds its way up to the Scafell Pike’s summit. There’s nothing tricky here, just a fantastic walk (but long). The excellent trail crosses mountain streams, rises over stony summits and skirts the top of deep craggy ghylls (ravines). At all times (weather permitting) the views across to Great Gable and up to the rocky faces of Lingmell Fell and the Scafells are exceptional.
The return path runs alongside Ruddy & Grains Gills where a little stream has cut a small canyon creating a series of attractive waterfalls. Two large tarns – Sty Head Tarn and Sprinkling Tarn – provide excellent options to enjoy some bracing wild swimming on the return trip.
The Langstrath Country Inn in Stonethwaite is a traditional Lake District pub and one of our favourites for a post-hike pint after Scafell Pike. It’s just a few minutes’ drive from the end of the hike at Seathwaite Farm.
Read Next — Our Scafell Pike Route & Map
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PLANNING YOUR LAKE DISTRICT TRIP
We’ve been to the Lake District many times and never run out of fantastic things to do. From adventurous scrambles to relaxing wild swimming, it’s one of the most diverse and interesting places in the UK.
WHERE TO STAY
LAKE DISTRICT HIKES
OTHER THINGS TO DO
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