The Helvellyn walk is one of the classics in the beautiful Lake District. To complete this challenging walk, you will have to use your hands and to be comfortable with heights, but this route offers some of the best rewards in the Lakes. The ascent to Helvellyn will take you scrambling up the Striding Edge and to go down, you will descend the Swirral Edge. Helvellyn was named Britain's best walk in 2018!
To get to the Helvellyn walk, make your way to the beautiful town of Glenridding and park in the main parking lot by the tourist information office. Parking is paid here, but there is good shade and a cafe near the parking lot if you need refreshment at the end of the walk.
|When to do|
When Dry, no fog
At Tourist Office
Helvellyn Walk Route Description
The classic Helvellyn walk starts from the Glenridding Tourist Information Centre. Ascend to the elevated section of the car park and take the path that goes to the right of NHS health centre. This takes you to a lane where you should turn left onto Greenside Road, heading uphill. You will soon pass the Travellers Rest pub, which is a good stop for a drink on the way back.
As you head uphill roughly 435m after starting, the road splits. Choose the left fork which is signed for Hillside Farm and not the tarmac lane going right, which is a private road to YHA Helvellyn. The Helvellyn walk trail passes over a bridge and continues uphill, then follows a rocky track leading off to the right along a stonewall.
When this path splits, take the path to the left, following signs to Helvellyn via Miresbeck, which is listed as 4.8km. In 90m the path reaches a stone wall where you should turn right on a broad path, continuing uphill before coming to another wall. Stay to the right of the stonewall and continue uphill.
At 1.1km from the start of the Helvellyn walk, go through a gate set in a stonewall and immediately go left. Very soon you’ll drop down to cross the small Mires Beck (stream) and then following the Mires Beck uphill. Look back for wonderful views of Glenridding and Ullswater. After passing the head of the stream the path curves around to the right, with a well-built stonewall on the left.
At 3.0km, crest the hill you’ve been climbing and see Helvellyn ahead. Striding Edge is the ridge on the left and Swirral Edge, on the right, is the route you’ll come down. About 915m later the path splits. At this point, if you are uncomfortable with exposure and scrambling go to the right and past Red Tarn and then up to Helvellyn via Swirral Edge. Swirral Edge is steep and still requires using your hands, but it is easier than Striding Edge.
Helvellyn via Striding Edge
Most people go to Helvellyn via Striding Edge. You can see this path snaking up the left-hand ridge. From this angle, it doesn’t look too difficult.
At 5.0km from the trailhead you hit the Striding Edge ridge. If you would prefer an easier route, choose the path to the right. Note that this path is also exposed, though it doesn’t have the same degree of difficulty as the ridge. Our map shows part of the route on the ridge and part on the easier path on bypass below.
It’s worth noting that we regularly hear people telling their group that they are turning back from the ridge. This is an uncomfortable walk so if you or someone in your group decides this isn’t for you, nearby Red Tarn is a great place to take a break while others in the group continue.
At the end of the ridge there is a tricky section that you need to down-climb before the final push to the summit. There is no easy way to do this – some people go down on their bum and others choose to face in and down-climb this route. This is slow-going and if the trail is crowded, you may need to wait in line at this point.
While you have now passed the toughest part of Striding Edge, the final push to the summit is very steep and you will need to use your hands. Near the top, the path splits and you should continue to the right.
From the summit there are several options for getting down, however many people prefer to go down via Swirral Edge. Going down Swirral Edge is less strenuous than Striding Edge, but it is still not easy.
After going down Swirral Edge, at 6.8km from start the path splits. We prefer to go left over Catsycam, however, you can also choose to go right for an easier way down in the valley, passing close to Red Tarn. From Red Tarn, continue on the lefthand path down the valley.
If you choose the route over Catsycam, you’ll also get nice views. From the top of Catsycam the path heads down to the right along a path that is less clear than the pathway up was. When you hit the main path go left and head down the valley.
Roughly a 1.6km after getting on the main path, you’ll pass over a pair of bridges and continue on the trail. After 460m the path splits again. Here you can take either path as they re-join in a few minutes.
Soon afterwards you will notice a bridge on your left crossing Glenridding Beck. You can cross over this bridge if you are staying at YHA Helvellyn or want to walk on the road back to Glenridding, however, we prefer to stay on this side of the stream.
The path splits 180m after the bridge. Take the lower path on the left, though if you take the upper path on the right, you will have an opportunity to rejoin the lower path later.
At 11.7km from the start of the Helvellyn walk, you will rejoin the path you took at the start of the day at a gate in a stonewall. Go through the gate and downhill. In 230m, pass another gate and continue downhill to the left. When you come to the road, turn left and go over a bridge.
At the next road, turn right and continue downhill to the car park. Remember to turn right at the NHS health centre. It takes around 6-7.5 hours to complete the Helvellyn walk via Striding Edge and Swirral Edge.
If you’re planning to do this hike, remember that the Helvellyn walk can be dangerous in bad weather conditions, so take extra care.
Walking route highlights
Helvellyn is the highest mountain in the Helvellyn mountain range. It’s the third-highest point in the Lake District and in England (950m), after Scafell Pike (978m) and Sca Fell (964m).
Helvellyn was named England’s most popular fell-walk in 2018. On a clear day, you can see magnificent 360-degree panoramic views of the Lake District, all the way up to the Irish Sea.
Although wild camping in Lake District is illegal, there is a known tradition of people camping near the Red Tarn and even on the summit itself. This is often tolerated if no one stays more than one night.
Helvellyn is also a popular climbing destination in the winter. There are several great climbing routes at the steep headwall above Red Tarn.
You can get to Glenridding by taking the 508 Penrith to Windermere bus stops in Glenridding.
The Inn on the Lake is a beautiful hotel in Glenridding.
If you're looking for a great accommodation choice not far from the trail head, consider the Matson Ground Holiday Cottages. Their cosy rustic cottages have all the amenities and privacy you need for a relaxing stay after tackling Helvellyn.
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