Lake District Walks
Lake District walks are an incredible pastime that will transport you to a magical world filled with breathtaking scenery, so it is easy to see why they are some of the most popular activities for outdoor enthusiasts in the UK. If you are after an unforgettable adventure in some of the wildest landscapes England has to offer, be sure to add a number of Lake District walks to your upcoming itinerary.
England’s Lake District offers one of the finest natural spectacles in the country, covering over 2300 square kilometers of truly gorgeous scenery. With its rugged fells, pristine lakes, green rolling countryside and jaw-dropping views, this north-west corner of the United Kingdom is one of the country’s most popular destinations. A walking holiday in the Lake District is a bucket list activity, and one that every keen hiker should experience at least once.
The Lake District is well known for its literary associations, and writers and artists from Beatrix Potter to William Wordsworth have taken inspiration from its bucolic landscapes. Lake District walks will see you follow in the footsteps of Samuel Coleridge and John Ruskin, or hunt for ancient Roman roads that pass along the mountain ridges. This natural paradise has a long, rich and fascinating history, and a walking trip is the perfect opportunity to learn about the local culture.
The main draw, however, is the landscape itself. There’s something magical about the way the light plays on the surface of lakes such as Windermere or Buttermere, and the scent of the mountain air as you summit the pikes, crags, and ridges of the Western Fells. For centuries, Lake District walks have helped visitors fall in love with this remarkable region, and we’re confident that you will too.
To give you a little inspiration for your next trip, we’ve put together a list of our favorite walks in the Lake District. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg – there’s so much to discover in this quintessential English national park.
The 10 Best Walks In The Lake District National Park
The Lake District may be compact, but there’s a tremendous amount of variety in the terrain that covers this small area in the north west of England. As a result, there’s a little something for everyone here, from easy valley walks to grueling scrambles over rocky, windswept peaks.
If you’re looking for easy, family-friendly walks in the Lake District, you’re in luck. This region is packed with beautiful trails that won’t take too much of a toll on your legs and lungs, allowing you to experience some truly stunning views without breaking a sweat. These Lake District walks are ideal for families with young children, and offer a good way to introduce kids to fell walking from a young age.
The Lake District also contains many moderate hikes that make a useful training ground for walkers who want to improve their fitness. You’ll find long day hikes over wild fells, or steep scrambles up to craggy peaks. Whatever your fitness level or ability, you’re sure to find a walk that will suit you.
- Rannerdale Knotts Walk: Buttermere is one of the finest lakes in the region, with calm, peaceful waters reflecting the peaks of Haystacks and Red Pike. This fairly easy walk takes you from the village of Buttermere along a ridge that leads all the way to Rannerdale Knotts. You’ll enjoy wonderful views, and can look forward to a tasty lunch in the village at the end of the walk.
- Langstrath Valley Walk: This low-level walk to the hidden Langstrath Valley is a family favorite that kids are sure to love! The valley itself is simply stunning, and the route takes you along a meandering path, close to a pleasant gurgling stream. This easy walk is suitable for families with children of all ages, and is an excellent way to introduce kids to the delights of walking in the Lake District.
- Old Man of Coniston Circuit: The Old Man of Coniston is one of the most iconic peaks in the Lake District, and this circular route is rightly one of the most popular walks in the park. Make sure that you leave a full day to really enjoy the route, which passes by peaceful tarns and offers fabulous views over the hills and fells. Instead of descending the way you came after summiting the Old Man, we’d recommend this circular route, which will allow you to tick a few more peaks off your Lake District hiking bucket list!
- Newlands Horseshoe Walk: The Newlands Horseshoe is one of the more challenging walks in the Lake District, but this route remains a firm favorite among hikers. There’s a steep climb, and you may need to do a little scrambling, but the ridge walk is simply spectacular. This route also takes in Catbells, which offers a remarkable view over the mountains and lakes that this region is so famous for.
- Helvellyn Walk: Arguably the best walk in the Lake District, the ascent of Helvellyn via Striding Edge is a real bucket list hike. This dramatic ridge towers over the beautiful Red Tarn, offering fabulous views over Glenridding and Ullswater. Striding Edge is not for the faint of heart, and you might need to use your hands as you scramble to the top, but we think it’s one of the most rewarding hikes in the Lake District.
- Fairfield Horseshoe Walk: The Fairfield Horseshoe is ideally located right next to the village of Ambleside, making it one of the more accessible, challenging hikes in the Lake District. This is a fairly long, strenuous hike, but once you’ve made it on to the ridge, the views make all the effort worthwhile. This Lake District walk is a real classic.
- Haystacks Walk: Alfred Wainwright, the Lake District’s most famous rambler, is said to have favored Haystacks above all the region’s peaks. This route takes you up via Scarth Gap, covered in bluebells in springtime, all the way up to the stunning Innominate Tarn, where Wainwright’s ashes were scattered at his request. It’s a fitting resting-place for a man who loved these hills so much. Haystacks may not be the tallest mountain in the Lake District, but it’s certainly one of our favorite walks in the region.
- Scafell Pike Walk: At 978 meters above sea level, Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England, and should be on everyone’s hiking bucket list! This route goes via Ill Crag, making for a more enjoyable and interesting walk than the direct route straight to the top. You’ll pass by some classic Lake District scenery, with glassy tarns, craggy mountain passes, and dramatic, sweeping views.
- Roman High Street Circular Walk: As far back as antiquity, people have been using the Lake District peaks as highways, and its most famous Roman road passes along the crest of a hill now known as High Street. This circular route will take you into a pristine, untouched valley, passing by Angle Tarn and Thornthwaite Crag. You’ll enjoy spectacular views over Windermere and the surrounding peaks, and it’s easy to imagine that you’re stepping back in time to a period when this would have been one of the most important highways in the north of England.
- Mosedale Horseshoe Walk: The Mosedale Horseshoe is a challenging walk through some of the most beautiful scenery that England has to offer. It’s located in a fairly remote corner of the Lake District, meaning that you’re less likely to be bothered by the crowds, and the drive to the starting point of the walk is a pleasure in itself! The summit of Black Crag makes all the effort worthwhile, and you can enjoy a refreshing pint at the Wasdale Head Inn at the end of your walk.
When Is The Best Time To Walk In The Lake District?
It’s possible to go walking in the Lake District at any time of year, and there are plenty of low-level, accessible trails that you can walk along, whatever the weather! In the winter months the higher peaks can be cold, covered in ice, and foggy, so take care not to attempt challenging peaks in bad weather. Nevertheless, a bracing winter walk in the Lakes can be a very rewarding experience, and there’s nothing better than curling up next to the fire in a country pub after a day out on the wild, blustery fells.
The fell-walking season runs from April to October, and the region can get very busy and crowded in the summer months. Although the weather is spectacular, the roads and towns are packed with tourists, and you may find yourself jostling for space on some of the more popular trails. As a result, we’d recommend visiting in spring or autumn, just before the season kicks in, or after most of the visitors have gone home. You’ll enjoy beautiful flowers in springtime, and rich autumn colors in the fall, and the trails will be much less crowded. Whatever time of year you choose, the weather in the Lake District can be unpredictable, so come prepared, and always check the latest forecasts before you head out on to the trail. Even still, you should always be able to find a few Lake District walks to meet your needs, no matter the time of year!
Best Regions For Walking In The Lake District
Most visitors to the Lake District flock to the region around Windermere and Ambleside, where there are plenty of activities on offer and facilities for tourists. This part of the Lake District offers some fantastic walking trails, but can be very crowded in the peak season. For a quieter experience, we’d recommend heading to the Western Lakes, and the area around Eskdale and Wasdale Head. You’ll find stunning lakes, green rolling hills, and wild fells, and plenty of fantastic walking opportunities. The northern part of the region, close to Keswick, also offers some wonderful hiking trails, including the picturesque peaks around Buttermere.
Other Outdoor Activities in The Lake District
The Lake District is a paradise for adventure travelers, with plenty of exciting outdoor activities on offer in addition to walking. Cycling and mountain biking is a popular sport in the Lakes, with many designated trails suitable for bikes. The abundant lakes and tarns across the region provide many opportunities for watersports, including kayaking, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing and paddle-boarding. If you’re even more adventurous, why not try your hand at ghyll scrambling, rock climbing, or abseiling?
How To Plan A Trip To The Lake District
A walking holiday in the Lake District is a bucket list experience for most enthusiastic hikers, and there’s plenty to discover in this beautiful part of the United Kingdom. To make sure your trip runs perfectly, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to planning a trip to the Lake District, complete with tips on where to stay, advice on packing the right gear, and recommendations for the best hikes in the park. Grab your walking boots and follow in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright as you scale some of the most beautiful peaks in the country on any number of amazing Lake District walks!
Lake District Adventure Holidays
Some of the best experiences in the Lake District are better with a guide or when they're planned by professionals. For that, you can check out the best adventure tours in the Lake District.
Frequently-Asked-Questions About The Lake District
Where should I stay in the Lake District for hiking?
The Lake District is one of the most popular destinations in the United Kingdom, especially for outdoor activities, and you’ll find plenty of accommodation options throughout the region. If you’re travelling by public transport, aim to stay in one of the popular hubs such as Ambleside, where you’ll find trails that start in the town itself, and good bus connections to other trailheads. However, if you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet head for the Western Lakes, away from the main tourist trail, with good access to the fantastic walking routes around Eskdale. You’ll find upmarket country hotels, bed-and-breakfasts, self-catering rentals, hostels and campsites all over the national park, so you’re sure to find something suitable, wherever you plan to hike.
Can you walk all around Lake Windermere?
Windermere is England’s largest natural lake, more than 11 miles long, nestled in some of the prettiest scenery in the Lake District. The 45-mile Windermere Way is a hiking trail that loops all the way around the lake, taking in the summits of Wansfell, Loughrigg Fell and Gummer’s How, in addition to the popular towns of Ambleside and Windermere.
Do you need hiking boots for the Lake District?
Although the walking routes in the Lake District are well maintained, you will still need a sturdy pair of hiking shoes to protect your feet and ankles out on the trail. Waterproof footwear is a must as the trails can often be wet and muddy (don’t forget to bring a spare pair of socks!).
Is the Lake District free?
There is no charge to enter the Lake District, and all of the walking trails are free to access at all times.
Can you camp anywhere in the Lake District?
In order to camp in the Lake District, you must have permission from the landowner. However, there is a long tradition of wild camping in the Lake District, and if you ensure that you make camp above the highest fell wall, away from villages and settlements, and apply the principles of Leave No Trace, it’s possible to camp in the Lake District.
Do you need a car in the Lake District?
The Lake District is well served by a network of local buses, so it’s perfectly possible to enjoy a walking holiday without a car. Some of the most popular trails leave right from the centre of Ambleside, and you can find bus connections to many other hiking routes in the region.
How many days do you need in the Lake District?
It’s possible to spend a year in the Lake District without uncovering all the wonderful places and walking routes in this gorgeous national park! However, if you only have a few days to spare, it’s still possible to enjoy many of the region’s highlights in just a few days, and it’s a popular spot for a short break. We’d recommend staying for at least three days so you can pack in at least two decent walks, and enjoy the marvellous views and scenery that this region is famous for.
- Find other amazing walking regions in the UK:
- Peak District Walks
- Walks in the Chiltern Hills
- Walks in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs
- Snowdonia Walks
- Walks in the North York Moors
Or check out all the best walking regions in the UK.
Best Hikes in Lake District
Hopegill Head via Ladyside Pike Walk
The Hopegill Head via Ladyside Pike Walk is a tough climb over a series of rocky summits that will provide you with some spectacular views overlooking the Lake District. This route can be challenging at times, with sections of trail that are hard to distinguish and a steep descent along the mountainside. If you are able to handle the challenging conditions, you will be rewarded with truly amazing views of nearby fells and Crummock Water to the southeast.
Miterdale, Illgill Head, and Whin Rigg Circular Walk
The Miterdale, Illgill Head, and Whin Rigg Circular Walk is a lengthy adventure that will take you from the village of Nether Wasdale to summit several fells. While out on this rugged trail, you will traverse stretches of open terrain and walk the edges of Burnmoor Tarn before climbing uphill to the summit of Illgill Head and Whin Rigg. Here, you will experience beautiful views of the surrounding Lake District terrain, with the vast expanse of Wast Water stretching out to the north.
Ling Fell and Sale Fell Loop
Walking the Ling Fell and Sale Fell Loop is a fun adventure that will take you up to several summit viewpoints for a great sightline overlooking the surrounding Lake District landscape. While out on this figure 8-shaped trail, you will gain a small amount of elevation as you walk up each fell, gaining an amazing perspective of Bassenthwaite Lake from above. Although there are a few sections of uphill walking, this moderate trail is perfectly suited for casual and beginner walkers.
Ling Fell Walk
The Ling Fell Walk is a quick and easy adventure in the Lake District that will lead you up an easy to navigate path to a summit viewpoint. From the top of the fell, you will have a fantastic view of nearby Bassenthwaite Lake, as well as a number of fells to the east and south. Extend this short adventure by tacking on the loop leading to the summit of nearby Sale Fell.
Lonscale Fell and Skiddaw Little Man Walk
The Lonscale Fell and Skiddaw Little Man Walk is a breathtaking route that will lead you uphill to traverse several summits with views overlooking the stunning Lake District terrain. While out on the trail, you will work your way along the lower slopes of Lonscale Fell towards the summit before traversing the rugged terrain of Skiddaw Little Man for some amazing views of Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwent Water. Be prepared for some of the best views in the Lake District.
Lonscale Fell Walk
Walking the Lonscale Fell Trail is a popular excursion in the Lake DIstrict that will take you through the city of Keswick to reach the summit of the mountain. While out on the trail, you will be able to take in the pleasant sights in town before climbing up the slopes of Lonscale Fell for some breathtaking views overlooking Derwent Water and a number of surrounding fells like the majestic Skiddaw to the northwest. This route is great for walkers that enjoy urban and natural settings.
Tarn Hows & Tom Heights Circular Walk
The Tarn Hows & Tom Heights Circular Walk is a fantastic excursion that will lead you through some of the most popular and picturesque areas in the Lake District. While out on the trail, you will visit the Tom Gill Waterfalls and follow the loop around the man-made body of water known as Tarn Hows, where you will enjoy some spectacular views of the surrounding terrain. This walk features easy to navigate and well-maintained terrain, making it perfectly suitable for walkers of nearly every skill level.
Tom Gill Waterfall Circular Walk
The Tom Gill Waterfall Circular Walk is a short journey in the Lake District that provides the opportunity to visit a charming waterfall. While out on the trail, you will pass through a beautiful stretch of woodland terrain and make your way along well-maintained pathways before visiting the cascading waters of the Tom Gill Waterfalls. This short route can be extended by following the loop around Tarn Hows.
Blencathra via Blease Fell
Blencathra via Blease Fell is a challenging walk in the Lake District that features steep terrain with breathtaking views of Keswick and the surrounding valley. While the terrain is initially difficult, it gradually becomes less steep towards the top of the ridge, where you will be able to walk along the rugged terrain with relative ease. As there is no scrambling on this route, it is a suitable trail for casual and seasoned walkers that are fit enough to handle the steep incline.
Hartsop & Angletarn Pikes Circular Walk
The Hartsop & Angletarn Pikes Circular Walk is a challenging adventure in the Lake District that will take you from the village of Hartsop to the rugged terrain of the Angletarn Pikes. While out on the trail, you will climb uphill along some rough and rugged ground and brave the elements, all while taking in beautiful views of Hayeswater and Angle Tarn. Weather here can change rapidly, so make sure to plan for all scenarios before setting out on your walk.
Fellbarrow & Low Fell Trail
Walking the Fellbarrow & Low Fell Trail is a pleasant journey in the Lake District that will see you climb uphill to a summit viewpoint for scenic views of the surrounding area. While out on the trail, you will cross stretches of open farmland and traverse the rugged terrain of the hillside before experiencing some amazing views of Crummock Water and Loweswater. Will access to several side trails in the area, those that wish can easily turn this route into a loop for a change of scenery on the return leg of the walk.
Wordsworth’s Grasmere and Rydal Circular Walk
Wordsworth’s Grasmere and Rydal Circular is a fantastic adventure that will take you arounds several charming bodies of water that are surrounded by some of the most scenic terrain that can be found in the Lake District. The route will take you from the village of Grasmere around Rydal Water and Grasmere Lake to enjoy views of nearby fells like Loughrigg Fell and Nab Scar. This is a fun walk that can (and should) be enjoyed by walkers of nearly every skill level.
Ennerdale Water Circular Walk
The Ennerdale Water Circular Walk is a fun activity in the western portion of the Lake District that will see you walk around the shores of this charming lake. While out on the trail, you will traverse a good variety of terrain that includes well-maintained paths and some rockier stretches that will prove to be an exciting challenge for beginner walkers. This is an excellent trail for a fun family adventure.
Troutbeck Tongue Walk
Walking the Troutbeck Tongue Trail is a beautifully scenic adventure in the Lake District that will lead you up to the summit of a small Wainwright. While out on the trail, you will pass through charming villages and walk alongside the winding waters of Trout Beck before arriving at the summit for sweeping views across the lush valley. This walk is perfect for a weekend family excursion.
Wastwater Circular Walk
The Wastwater Circular Walk is a beautiful, yet frustrating trail in the Lake District that will lead you around the edges of Wastwater Lake. Due to a landslide wiping out part of the trail, sections of this route have become fairly rocky and difficult to traverse. Even still, if you are up for a bit of a challenge and are confident in your route finding skills, feel free to give this tough walk a try before a new trail is established.
Old Man of Coniston, Swirl How, and Wetherlam Circular Walk
The Old Man of Coniston, Swirl How, and Wetherlam Circular is a challenging Lake District route that will see you climb each of these peaks - as well as a few others - for some truly breathtaking views. From the summit viewpoints, you will enjoy a commanding sightline across the undulating Lake District, with views of several lakes that include the blue expanse of Coniston Water to the southeast. While the initial stretch of this walk up to the summit of Old Man of Coniston is quite busy, the rest of the trail will be fairly quiet.
Scafell Pike Circular Walk from Wasdale Head
While it may be a bit on the tough side, the Scafell Pike Circular Walk is a fantastic adventure that will expose you to some of the best views in the Lake District. The route will see you walk through the corridor along Lingmell Beck before climbing up the steep and rocky hillside of Scafell Pike for a breathtaking sightline over Wast Water and the surrounding fells. You won’t want to miss out on this must-do journey
Windermere Way Walk: Section 1
The Windermere Way Section 1 is - as the name suggests - the first of a three part walk around the shores of Windermere Lake. This lengthy walk will see you traverse a variety of terrain that includes beautiful forests and exposed hilltops, offering lovely views of the surrounding landscape. For those that don’t want to walk the return journey, you can arrange a pick up at the end of the trail or take a boat ride back to Lakeside near the trailhead.
Wray Castle to Ferry House Walk
The Wray Castle to Ferry House Trail is a beautifully scenic walking route that will take you from the grounds of a Victorian-Era castle along the shores of Windermere to the Ferry House for boats travelling across the lake. While out on the trail, you will enjoy a peaceful lakeside setting and take in some amazing views across the water and nearby fells before doubling back on the return leg of the walk. This well-maintained route is easy to navigate and suitable for a wide range of walkers.
Hawes End, Cat Bells, and Derwent Circular Walk
The Hawes End, Cat Bells, and Derwent Circular Walk features some rugged uphill walking terrain along several summits that produce a great sightline across the surrounding Lake District landscape. While out on the trail you will climb the steep hillside from Hawes End to Cat Bells and enjoy views overlooking Derwent Water before descending the hillside for a scenic walk along the edge of the lake. Although some parts are challenging, this trail is a great option for families that enjoy walking through rough terrain.
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