Walks in Cairngorms National Park
Revel in sub-Alpine terrain and an unruly mountainscape in Scotland's supernatural Cairngorms National Park, where endless adventure awaits. One of the best ways to immerse in the wild and experience the natural wonders stretching across the United Kingdom's largest national park is via foot. That's right. There are some epic walks in the Cairngorms!
But one of the best things about exploring this area is Scotland's rule around wild camping: you can walk to a magical location and set your tent up lochside, on a hilltop, or in any unenclosed space in the park. The walks in this area are unreal, and we'll tell you all about some of the best below!
The Greatest Walks In Cairngorms National Park
Where do you even start when it comes to walking in Cairngorms National Park? You can find a range of walks tailored for whatever you want to experience, whether that's community walks, taking on a Munro (mountains that are 914 m feet high or more), heritage trails embroidered with history, hill tracks carved deep into the wilderness. Check out a list of the greatest walks in the Cairngorms below to choose an adventure that caters to your adventure mood!
- Ben Macdui and Cairngorm Walk - The Ben Macdui and Cairngorm Walk is one of the most challenging walks in the national park as it leads you to the summit of Scotland's second-highest mountain! Bask in fantastic views of the Cairngorm Plateau before taking on the final climb to the top. It is definitely worth taking on if you want a challenge.
- Loch Muick Circular Walk - The Loch Muick Circular Walk intertwines history with the natural wonders sprawled across the national park. You'll get to explore the Balmoral Estate on the walk, which the royal family bought in 1852. However, this 12.5 km loop takes in several highlights while staying at a minimal elevation gain, making this fun for families with older children.
- Ben Vrackie Walk - Gain 787 m in elevation in just 10.0 km on the Ben Vrackie Walk! However, despite the daunting, challenging elevation gain, this hillwalk unveils unreal views across the national park and follows a well-worn path. If you’re staying in Pitlochry, you’ll definitely want to do this walk!
- Loch an Eilein Walk - Walk below a canopy of pines lining the Rothiemurchus Forest and admire their reflection shimmering in Loch an Eilein on this 7.0 km walk! The Loch an Eilein Walk is a popular route for almost all ages. But while Loch an Eilein may be busy, you’ll also travel to Loch Gamhna, where a quieter shoreline awaits.
- Mount Keen from Glen Esk Walk - Take on another challenging route in Cairngorms National Park. Completing the Mount Keen from Glen Esk Walk is no easy feat, but it always feels good to bag a Munro! This 17.5 km walk wavers between a worn-in hill path, steep sections, river crossings, and a quick glimpse of history at the Queen's Well. Revel in moorlands and phenomenal scenery on this walk!
- Burn O' Vat and the Culblean Circular Walk - Immerse between pinewoods on the 6.5 km Burn O’ Vat and Culblean Circular Walk that leads to Ben O’Vat, a geological bowl. However, you will navigate stepping stones to see the bowl up close, making this more of a walk for older children.
- Craigendarroch Walk - While this walk is only 4.0 km, the 315 m elevation packed into it will amp up your heart rate. If you're looking to take on some of the higher peaks in Cairngorms National Park, the Craigendarroch Walk is a great place to start—it's also an excellent choice for older children ready to tackle a summit walk. Bask in views of Lochnagar!
- Cairn Gorm and the Northern Corries Walk - Starting at the Cairngorm Ski Centre, the Cairn Gorm and the Northern Corries Walk leads you up one of the most popular Scottish Munros: Cairn Gorm. One section is pathless, making this a fantastic adventure for experienced hillwalkers!
- The Falls of Bruar Walk - Don’t let the 2.5 km distance propel you to think that the Falls of Bruar Walk is a pleasant, leisurely stroll! This walk may be short, but it will get your heart pumping, thanks to the undulations throughout. You will navigate a gorge edge, making this walk more suitable for older children who can stay vigilant when meandering this section. Bring a picnic along and spend some time soaking in the falls!
- Morrone Walk - Looking for a scenic half-day adventure? The 12.0 km circular Morrane Walk unveils quality views of the Cairngorm peaks from the summit. On your way back, you’ll enjoy walking along the river, where you can cool down after a heart-pumping climb.
When Is The Best Time To Walk in Cairngorms National Park?
The best time to walk in Cairngorms National Park is during spring and summer when the weather is warmer. However, if you're looking to bag a Munro, summer is your go-to month as the longer light gives you more time to finish your walk!
Best Regions for Walking in Cairngorms National Park?
You'll find phenomenal walking opportunities all over Cairngorms National Park, but the best place to stay if you're looking to set up a base is Aviemore, a small town that acts as a gateway to several trails.
Other Outdoor Activities in Cairngorms National Park
Other outdoor activities in Cairngorms National Park are mountain biking and cycling, water sports, climbing, skiing and wild camping! Mountain bikers will enjoy the 64km of off-road tracks, and those keen on rafting, canoeing, river tubing, swimming will find a water source that suits their desired activity, whether that's more on the relaxing side or bent towards more thrill. Meanwhile, climbers in the south of the park will find routes around Creag Dubh Loch and Lochnagar in the southern Cairngorms, and those in the north will discover climbs around The Shelterstone Crag. When snow blankets the land, snowboarders and skiers can hit up any of the three ski resorts in the Cairngorms.
Cairngorms National Park Adventure Tours
Sometimes the best way to experience a beautiful area is by booking an adventure tour. If you want to explore the park with local guides, or on your own, but without the whole hassle of planning your own trip, check out the tours in Cairngorms National Park.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do people visit Cairngorms National Park?
Besides the world-class scenery flanking the area, Cairngorms National Park also boasts of exceptional wildlife, such as arctic reindeer and wildcats roaming the forests. Keep an eye out for golden eagles when you’re on your walks!
How many Munros are in Cairngorms National Park?
You’ll find 55 Munros standing at 914 m tall (or higher) standing tall across Cairngorms National Park. The highest Munro is Ben Macdui, which intimidates at 1,309 m.
Where should I stay when I visit Cairngorms National Park?
Most people head to Aviemore, a lovely small town bordered by incredible scenery. However, you can always look into wild camping throughout the park or one of the campsites that offer a more upscale wilderness experience. Some notable spots are Eriskay Ecocamp, Glamping Aviemore, Blair Castle, and Braemar Caravan and Camping. There are also lodges around the park!
Find more walking regions
- Lake District Walks
- Peak District Walks
- South Downs Walks
- Loch Lomond & The Trossachs Walks
- Chiltern Hills Walks
- Snowdonia Walks
Or use this link to find all walking regions in the UK.
Best Hikes in Cairngorms National Park
Ben Macdui and Cairngorm Walk
Strive to reach the summit (932 m) of Scotland’s second-highest mountain on the gripping Ben Macdui and Cairngorm Walk in Aviemore, Scotland. The 17.5 km hillwalk is certainly not your average walk in the park, but for those seeking to conquer one of the more challenging hillwalks in Cairngorm National Park, this walk is for you! Featuring incredible views from the Cairngorm Plateau, wild river crossings and a triumphant final ascent across Ben Macdui’s northern flanks to reach the summit, this was packs a punch and if up for the challenge, you won’t want to miss it.
Loch Muick Circular Walk
The Loch Muick Circular Walk weaves history and the natural beauty of the Cairngorms National Park masterfully, inviting walkers to explore the grounds of the grand Balmoral Estate, purchased by the British royal family in 1852. The 12.5 km circular walk takes in the Glas-allt-Shiel, a lodge on the shores of Loch Muick, and several other highlights on the estate grounds, namely, the Balmoral Castle itself. Sound tracks and paths as well as a lack of elevation gain make this a suitable walk for families, as long as the wee ones can manage the distance.
Ben Vrackie Walk
Lording over the town of Pitlochry, which is nestled at its foot, sits Ben Vrackie (841 m), a classified Scottish Corbett and makes for a cracking hillwalk in Cairngorms National Park. The 10.0 km walk can be done in under 4 hours and is a great way to seize some incredible views across the park following a well-worn path. The ascent is steep, but walkers will be well rewarded by the views from the summit. It’s a popular hillwalk in the area, particularly for those visiting or staying in the town of Pitlochry.
Loch an Eilein Walk
Escape to walk among the towering pines of the Rothiemurchus Forest and see their reflection on the dazzling waters of Loch an Eilein on the Loch an Eilein Walk. The 7.0 km trail is one of Scotland’s most popular, and for a good reason! Unfolding around the entire perimeter of the loch, this route also features a lovely extension to take in neighbouring Loch Gamhna, a quieter and less travelled shoreline. Great paths and lack of ascent make this a top choice for families looking to experience the beauty of Cairngorms National Park.
Mount Keen from Glen Esk Walk
The Mount Keen (939 m) From Glen Esk Walk invites you to tackle the most easterly Munro with a thrilling ascent from Glen Esk. The 17.5 km walk unfolds on tracks and a well-worn hill path leading to the trig point at the summit, where you’ll uncover atypical views of sprawling moorlands instead of peaks. The route features some steep sections, a few river crossings, and a dose of history with a look at the Queen’s Well, where Queen Victoria stopped during one of her treks in the Angus glens by pony.
Burn O’ Vat and Culblean Circular Walk
The Burn O’ Vat and Culblean Circular Walk is a lovely 6.5 km forest trail that invites you to enjoy the beauty of the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve in Aboyne, Scotland. Pinewoods flank the trail that leads to the impressive Burn O’ Vat, a deep geological bowl that can be explored up-close via stepping stones. The walk is great for adults with older children who can manage the stone steps throughout the Burn O’Vat.
The 4km Craigendarroch Walk in Ballater Scotland is a popular, small hillwalk that features fantastic views of the surrounding hills, most notably Lochnagar, whose corrie and cliffs are guaranteed to steal the show on a clear day! At 402 m high, Craigendarroch may not be one of the tallest hills in the Cairngorms National Park, but it’s a challenging little hillwalk nonetheless, with some steep sections that are bound to get your heart rate going. This walk is an excellent choice for those looking to work towards tackling some of the park’s higher peaks and also for those walking with older children who are ready to take on a summit climb.
Cairn Gorm and the Northern Corries Walk
The Cairn Gorm and the Northern Corries Walk is a thrilling 11.0 km hillwalk, beginning at the Cairngorm Ski Centre in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park near Aviemore, Scotland. With an elevation of 1,244 m (1,245 m), Cairn Gorm is a classified Scottish Munro and is the most popular and most often-walked mountain in the Cairngorms range. Climbing Cairn Gorm is no small feat, and this walk is best reserved for experienced hillwalkers with a good set of navigational skills due to a significant pathless section.
The Falls of Bruar Walk
At a mere 2.5 km, some may assume that The Falls Bruar Walk is just a short, leisurely stroll, but in truth, this short walk packs quite the punch! The hilly route consists of some steep sections that are sure to get the heart rate going while providing a nice little work-out for the legs. Due to the gorge edge featuring significant drops, this walk is best suited to adults walking with older children who can manage the steep inclines and remain vigilant when walking near the gorge edge. The route features a picnic area overlooking the falls, perfect for those looking to enjoy lunch while soaking up the marvellous scenery!
The Morrone Walk is a 12.0 km circular hillwalk located near Braemar, Scotland. This is the perfect way to soak up the incredible beauty of the Cairngorm peaks on a thrilling half-day excursion, and the views from the summit won’t disappoint! The return route features a lovely riverside stretch, providing the perfect cooldown following a relatively strenuous climb.
Linn of Dee Circular Walk
The Linn of Dee Circular Walk is a pleasant walk that the whole family can enjoy. The 3.0 km route unfolds on clear paths and tracks with helpful waymarkers that make navigation a breeze. There is plenty to see on this relatively short walk, including the beautiful River Dee itself, a charming old stone bridge arched over the water, pretty pine woodlands, and a waterfall.
Glen Tanar Walk
The Glen Tanar Walk is a pleasant 8km waymarked route that unfolds on the Cairngorms south side near Aboyne. The easy trail follows scenic forest paths and tracks and is suitable for the whole family. Keep your eyes peeled on the walk for an array of wildlife, including red squirrels, crested tits, and if luck is on your side, even Capercaillie!
Anagach Woods and the River Spey Walk
The Anagach Woods and the River Spey Walk is a favourite among locals and visitors alike. The trail immerses you in a world of towering Scots pinewood accompanied by the gentle flow of the River Spey. As one of the longer waymarked trails through Anagach Woods, this walk allows you to enjoy the tranquil forest as well as the peaceful riverbank of the River Spey.
Balmoral Castle Walk
The Balmoral Castle Walk is a wonderful family-friendly adventure in Cairngorms National Park that will take you around the grounds of Queen Elizabeth II’s Scottish estate. While out walking the trail, you will follow closely along the banks of the River Dee, before looping around Balmoral Castle to inspect its beautiful architecture. Walkers should take note that dogs are permitted at Balmoral Castle; however, they must be kept on a lead at all times.
Blair Atholl and Glen Tilt Loop
The Blair Atholl and Glen Tilt Loop is an awesome intermediate length walking route in Cairngorms National Park that will take you along a riverbank to explore a beautiful glen. While out walking the trail, you will traverse an atmospheric stretch of forest landscape, continuing along the winding banks of the River Tilt while taking in the beauty of the surrounding mountains. This is a fantastic excursion for casual and experienced walkers alike.
Meall Chuaich Walk
The Meall Chuaich Walk is an exceptional adventure on the edge of Cairngorms National Park that will take you uphill for breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. While out walking the trail, you will make your way along Allt Cuaich and pass by the shores of Loch Cuaich to reach the summit of Meall Chuaich, where you will have an amazing sightline across the park. Although there is a fair bit of elevation gain, this is a wonderful adventure that is well-suited to both casual and seasoned walkers.
Creag Bheag and Loch Gynack Circular Walk
Walking the Creag Beagh and Loch Gynack Circular Trail is a great activity in Cairngorms National Park that offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and a nearby loch. While out walking the trail you will pass through the village of Kingussie and make your way around Loch Gynack, before looping around the rugged slopes of Creag Bheag. This is a fantastic intermediate route that offers beautiful scenery and a nice challenge, without being too difficult.
Creag Dhubh Walk
The Creag Dhubh Walk is a great intermediate length walking route in Cairngorms National Park that offers views of Loch an Eilein and the surrounding Cairngorms landscape. While out walking the trail, you will make your way through the forest to visit the shores of the lake, before climbing up the mountainside to the summit of Creag Dhubh for spectacular views of the park. As with any route in Cairngorms National Park, views will likely be limited if you end up walking in misty weather.
Glas Tulaichean and Gleann Taitneach Circular Walk
The Glas Tulaichean and Gleann Taitneach Circular Walk is a lengthy route in Cairngorms National Park that will take you through the rugged mountains to visit a charming loch. While out walking the trail, you will follow along the banks of Glen Lochsie Burn and traverse the summit of Glas Tulaichean, before visiting the secluded shores of Loch nan Eun. This is a fantastic adventure if you are looking to take in the undulating terrain of the Cairngorms.
Loch Muick and Broad Cairn Walk
The Loch Muick and Broad Cairn Walk is a spectacular excursion in Cairngorms National Park that offers stunning views of a nearby lake and mountains. While out walking the trail, you will climb uphill along the shores of Loch Muick and enjoy views overlooking Glas-allt-Shiel of Balmoral Estate, before heading even further uphill to the rugged summit of Broad Cairn. This lengthy out-and-back route is a great way to take in the beauty of the park.
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