Mosedale Horseshoe Walk
- Physical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the physical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
- Technical DifficultyThis is the average user-submitted rating on the technical difficulty of this route. In general, green is beginner, blue is intermediate, black is advanced/most difficult and double-black is expert-only. It is recommended that users build up to black and double-black routes.
The Mosedale Horseshoe Walk is a stunning adventure in an isolated corner of the Lake District that is filled with rugged peaks, pristine lakes, and charming valleys. Thanks to the dramatic terrain here, the drive into the trailhead alone is worth the trip, nevermind the routeitself; however, the stunning scenery and the fine summits of Black Crag and Pillar make this hike a true joy.
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Route Description for Mosedale Horseshoe Walk
What a wonderful walk this is! Getting to the trail is one of the joys, especially if you take the steep and narrow Hardknott Pass to get there.
Beware that this path isn’t as heavily used as many others in the Lake District. On some days you may not see many others on the trail with you. In addition, the trail is hard to follow in many places, but luckily the route is pretty clear and you should be able to find your way again.
We like to start at the National Trust parking lot, as there is wonderful shade for the car on warm days and toilet facilities at the end of the car park. There’s also a campground here that is quiet and a great base for a weekend in this area.
From the car park, we prefer to tackle this route clockwise, as it makes the end of the trail a pleasure when the body is tired from a long day of walking. It also allows the opportunity for a refreshment stop at Wasdale Head Inn.
To follow this route from the National Trust car park cross the bridge and turn left when you reach the road. Here you’ll be heading back on the road you came in on, beside the lake on your left and Yewbarrow on your right.
After 1.8 km walking above the lake, you come down to the edge of the water and just before a bridge there is a car park on your right. Go through the car park and pick up the smaller dirt path that will soon take you through a wooden swinging gate and then up some stone steps. We prefer to take the path on the right through the gate where the path splits before the next gate, as it gives better views on the way up.
After another 750 m the path splits again, take the lower left-hand branch of the path, as the right-hand path goes over Yewbarrow. After going through another gate in 300 m the path branches again, but also gets fainter. Head on the rough path that goes slightly uphill. Follow the faint trail as it continues around Yewbarrow – you can usually find clear bits of trail ahead.
As you come around a corner, you will encounter some boggy, yet passable terrain in front of a saddle. Make your way towards this, following the path on the right to eventually reach the saddle. There are beautiful views to the right of here that will give you the amazing feeling of standing in a high alpine pass. From the saddle, take a path to the left, away from the edge of the ridge, but up towards Red Pike. The path is very faint at times but the route is fairly obvious.
At 6.3 km you’ll come upon a flattening of the path and enjoy the stunning views in all directions. Continue uphill towards Red Pike, whereyou can choose to either go up to Red Pike or take a path going left to go around.
From Red Pike the whole horseshoe path trending to the right is clear, though the actual path is at times faint. There are two paths coming down off of red pike. We prefer to take the lower, left-hand one.
As you head towards a boulder field before Black Crag it’s easy to get too low on the approach and get off-track. If entering low on the right, walk upwards to the crest and follow the cairns across the boulder field.
From Black Crag, head downhill by either going ahead in a steep path or to the right. If going right, tread carefully over the boulder field. You can see glimpses of the switchback path on the boulders with smaller brown stones that leads down only part of the way before coming back to the main path.
At 8.4 km come down to Wind Gap. There’s a steep route down from here back to the valley if necessary, though the best is still yet to come. So keep ahead and up Pillar. There is a semi-decent path on the right-hand side, though it is steep and will require you to use your hands occasionally.
Coming to another boulder field, look up to find a path through the rocky terrain. At 9.0 km, you will reach the broad top of Pillar, where you can explore the views from each side and take a break at one of the wind-breaking stonewalls.
From the summit, continue downhill towards the SE on a clear path. After the first downhill, you will come to a saddle and see a small path heading off to the right. Take this if you want an easier path through a boulder field. We like this path (we don’t really like boulder fields at all), but unfortunately it soon leads to a smaller boulder field in any case. Here, you will go through on the left side before skirting the bottom of yet another boulder field. Following this, you’ll find another path through a boulder field that angles to the left towards a visible path closer to the ridge.
At 10.0 km rejoin the main path and continue downhill. In 0.8 km, after coming down a steep pitch and going roughly 90 m, you will come onto a flattened saddle and need to take the faint path that goes off on the right. There is a cairn here now, though some people destroy them, so it may be gone in the future. This is a shortcut down the valley and back to your car. If you’re tired, like us, then take this path and after 90 m take the right hand path that goes down on the right-hand side of the valley, looking down on the main route as it goes along the valley bottom. As the path peters out part way down, you will then head downhill and pick a path on the less steep grassy areas.
After rejoining the other path, you’ll cross a stream along some rocks at 12.1 km , though after heavy rains your feet may get wet. Continue on downhill and eventually the path levels out on the left-hand side of the valley. Cross a couple of gates, the second one taking the path along the left of a stonewall.
At 14.1 km another path comes from the left. Continue ahead as the path goes right with a stream on your right side. Pass a stunning arched bridge, go through a gate and then go left to a parking lot and the Wasdale Head Inn (as well as their bar and beer gardens). This is a great place to stop to celebrate all your hard work with a relaxing drink.
Go through the parking lot onto a tarmacked road back towards the lake where you parked your car. You will pass a free parking lot on the village green on the way.
When the road goes right you have a choice: follow the road, which is a clear route back to where you parked your car. This route has no stream crossings but is a bit boring. You can also take the path through the gate to the left that is a bit more direct but does have some wet patches.
We like paths, so we usually take the path on the left through the gate, which is a bit quicker than the road. There are some wet patches to cross, as well as a dry streambed (for the streambed follow the cairn and wooden post on the other side for direction).
Pass the gate and enter a lovely camping area. Keep straight ahead along the road with campsites on your right. Follow the road as it curves to the right and then take a path to the left to the car park.
Insider Hints for Mosedale Horseshoe Walk
- If you are comfortable driving on narrow, steep roads then the drive here is spectacular, especially Hardknott Pass coming from Ambleside.
- The Wasdale Head Inn has drinks and some picnic tables to enjoy the views while you have your well-earned drink!
- There is a fine campground by the parking lot, which would make an excellent base to explore the area.
Getting to the Mosedale Horseshoe Walk Trailhead
You'll need your own transportation for the Mosedale Horseshoe Walk. Head for Wasdale Head, past Wast Water in the SW corner of the Lake District. You can park in the National Trust parking lot just after the end of Wast Water on your right or continue to Wasdale Head for free parking on Wasdale Head Village Green.
Mosedale Horseshoe Walk Elevation Graph
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Mosedale Horseshoe Walk Reviews
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