No other place in England boasts such a dramatic landscape as the Lake District. The region spans 912 square miles and is home to craggy fells, glacial lakes, dense woodlands and a windswept coastline.
The famous national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a pioneer in environmental and cultural conservation and sustainable tourism. Here, you’ll find Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England, Windermere, the largest natural lake, and Wast Water, the deepest. Breathtakingly picturesque, the Lake District has also inspired the works of great artists, including poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, writers Beatrix Potter, John Ruskin and Arthur Ransome, and painter William Heaton Cooper.
With over 1,900 miles of footpaths crisscrossing through stunning scenery, Lake District walking routes are some of the most popular in Britain. There are easy paths around the lakes, moderate trails through rolling countryside and thrilling scrambles to the region’s loftiest peaks. Whether you’re a newbie looking for a relaxing stroll or an intrepid adventurer seeking to test your limits, you are sure to find a Lake District hiking route that suits your interest and ability.
We’ve picked 12 of the Lake District’s best walks to help you decide where to have your next adventure. Before you don your walking boots, here are some of the most scenic walks in the Lake District.
The Best Mountain Walks in the Lake District
Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Towering over 3000 feet, Helvellyn is one of the most challenging climbs in the Lake District and is not for beginners or the fainthearted. Multiple routes go to the summit, but the most popular and thrilling is the 13.5 km loop trail that begins in the village of Glenridding and passes two famous ridges, Striding Edge and Swirral Edge.
Before you get to the peak, you will have to scramble up Striding Edge, a steep, narrow and exposed razorback ridge. From the summit, you will enjoy views of the Eastern Crags and the Red Tarn Lake.
On your descent, you have to clamber down the shorter and less extreme Swirral Edge. The climb usually takes five to seven hours, depending on your pace and fitness level.
The Old Man of Coniston
Hovering over Coniston village and Coniston Water, the Old Man of Coniston stands at 803 metres and has a difficulty level of moderate to hard. The mountain and its surroundings were mined for over eight centuries, and you will find traces of its mining heritage throughout your trek.
Amongst its several hiking trails, the most popular way to walk The Old Man of Coniston is just over a 10 km route that takes you out of the village, traverses along the Church Beck canyon and clambers up the eastern part of the mountain. You’ll pass Low Water Tarn before reaching the summit, then descend via Goat Water and the rugged fell, Dow Crag.
The majority of the walk is uphill on sharp and rocky terrain, but there are several places to stop, rest, and take in the views. The hike typically lasts four to six hours, so it’s a good way to spend a day.
Climbing Cat Bells may not be as thrilling as the other treks on this list, but it is one of the most scenic walks in the Lake District. Located on the western shore of Derwent Water and close to the town of Keswick, Cat Bells is popular among hikers of all ages. The mountain has a moderate difficulty level, with the first section of the trail particularly steep and rugged. There is also some scrambling involved, especially on the path leading up to the summit.
You can complete the 5.8 km route within two to three hours. At the peak, you will see panoramic views of Keswick, the glassy blue lake of Derwent Water, the imposing Skiddaw Mountain and stretches of rolling fells in the distance.
It is impossible to talk about Lake District hiking without mentioning its highest peak, Scafell Pike. The mountain soars 978 metres above sea level and is a prominent sight in the Lakelands. Along with Ben Navis and Snowdon, Scafell Pike is part of the Three Peaks Challenge, one of the most popular mountain-climbing challenges in the UK.
With its rough terrain, strong winds, and erratic weather, getting to the summit of Scafell Pike is a serious endeavour that is more suitable for experienced hikers. You have to be reasonably fit, wear the appropriate clothing and know how to navigate using a map and compass.
Precisely how long the climb will take will depend on your fitness level, pace, the route you choose and the weather conditions. Allow four to five hours from Wasdale Head and seven or more for the longer and steeper routes from Borrowdale, Eskdale, and Langdale.
The Best Fell Walks in the Lake District
Located in the northern end of the Lake District, Blencathra is isolated from the rest of the Lakeland hills and offers quiet walks with stunning views. Also known as Saddleback because of its shape, the fell has six peaks, with Halls Fell Top, standing at 868 metres, being the highest.
Blencathra’s primary routes range between 4-5 km and take about four hours to hike. If you want an easy trek, follow the trails on the grassier knolls of Blease Fell, Scales Fell, or Foule Crag. For a more challenging approach with light scrambling up a rocky slope, take on Sharp Edge or Halls Fell Ridge.
This roughly 16 km hike is one of the most popular Lake District circular walks and features ascent to eight summits from where you can enjoy sweeping views of Rydal Water, Grasmere, Lake Windermere and Coniston Water. The route starts in Ambleside, ascends to Rydal Mount, the home of William Wordsworth, then circles back to town via Dove Crag, High Pike and Low Pike.
To reach the peaks, you will have to walk a constant incline and occasionally clamber over boulders. For this reason, the climb is considered challenging. However, the trail is mostly on clear and well-defined paths, making it less intense. Expect to spend roughly six to eight hours completing the hike.
The Best Family Walks in the Lake District
Tarn Hows Circular Walk
Tarn Hows Circular Walk is one of the Lake District’s classic walking routes. It’s a relaxing ramble around the lake, through flower-clad moors and low wooded hills, with a breathtaking view of Lakeland Fells.
The 3.5 km trail begins near Ambleside and is ideal for bird watching and nature trekking. The paths are smooth and compact, making them not only wheelchair and stroller accessible but also dog-friendly. You might spot small herds of Belted Galloway cows grazing contentedly near the footpaths.
You can complete the circular walk within an hour if you don’t stop. However, most hikers spend longer time on the trail, appreciating nature and the serenity of the surroundings.
Grasmere to Helm Crag
Standing at an elevation of 405 metres, Helm Crag sits distinctly at the end of a ridge with three peaks, overlooking the village of Grasmere. Helm Crag is also called the Lion and the Lamb, after its two unique rock formations, one massive boulder towering over a small one.
The 3.5 km route from the village to the fell is a well-trodden path and takes approximately two hours to complete. The difficulty level is moderate but requires light scrambling on some sections, particularly if you intend to proceed to the fell’s true summit, the Howitzer.
The simplest and quickest route up Helm Crag starts at the village of Grasmere and follows the Easedale Road to the country house, the Lancrigg. From there, the trail becomes steeper as it zigzags upwards to White Crag until it reaches the rocks that form the lion and the lamb.
The Best Short Walks in the Lake District
Hallin Fell is perfect for those seeking a quick and quiet hike in the Lake District. The route is only two km long and takes about an hour to complete, making it ideal for hikers of almost every skill, especially for beginners, younger children, and dogs.
The trail starts at St. Peter’s Church in Martindale, then ascends a steady incline of grassy paths. You will have to cross a few moderately steep sections until you reach the summit cairn.
At the peak of the fell is a wooden bench where you can sit and enjoy the picturesque views of the Ullswater, Gowbarrow Fell, and Green Hill. Across Ullswater to the north, you can see Birk Crag.
Spanning a mere 2 km with an ascent of around 100 metres, Latrigg Viewpoint is an easy climb and takes about 35 minutes to reach. The footpaths of well-compacted stones are suitable for wheelchair users or parents with kids in buggies.
The viewpoint itself is a small grassy plateau with a bench seat where you can relax and take in the stunning scenery. You can go on a picnic or merely marvel at the striking panorama of the town of Keswick, the deep blue expanse of Derwentwater, the lushness of Borrowdale Valley and the mesmerizing beauty of the distant fells.
Grasmere Lake Loop
Undoubtedly one of the most picturesque walks in the Lakes, the Grasmere Lake Loop has a distance of 6 km and takes about two hours to go around. There are some rough paths in a couple of sections, but the rest of the terrain is generally pleasant and easy to hike, so it’s a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon.
On your way to Grasmere Lake, you will pass a parkland on the banks of River Rothay. From across the lake, you can see the village of Grasmere and the hills that flank it. Nearby attractions include Dove Cottage, the Wordsworth Museum, the 14th-century St Oswald’s Church, and the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, where you’ll find the most famous gingerbread in the UK.
The distinctive Helm Crag is one of the most iconic peaks in the Lake District and possibly the most famous among the Lakeland fells. Avid hikers climb up to the summit not only to admire the rock formations but also to marvel at the gorgeous views of Grasmere and the Easedale Valley below. This route spans 12.3 km and takes approximately four hours to complete, depending on your pace, skill, and fitness.
Various routes are going to the iconic summit of Helm Crag. The most popular trail sets off from Grasmere via Easedale Road and White Crag, but if you want an alternative descent, you can follow the route that leads from Helm Crag to the solitary summits of Gibson Knott and Calf Crag. You can return via the scenic Far Easedale Valley, where you will find a series of waterfalls.
Without a doubt, walking in the Lake District is one of the most popular activities for tourists visiting the area. Adventures are waiting for thrill-seekers, quiet ambles for those who want to escape the frantic pace of everyday life, and effortlessly dramatic landscapes that everyone will marvel at.
One impressive thing about hiking in the Lake District is the sheer variety of options – from tranquil walks around Lake Grasmere to adrenaline-inducing scrambles on Striding Edge. The lower hills and sweeping meadows in the Lake District are perfect for family picnics and weekend day outs, whilst the high peaks beckon to intrepid explorers.
Whether you’re eager to test your legs or test your limits, there is always a route or two waiting for you to explore.
If you’re planning a walking holiday to the Lakes and are looking for places to stay, why not take a look at our range of Lake District self-catering properties.