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15 Best Walks in the Lake District + maps

The craggy peaks, sheep strewn valleys, dry stone walls and glistening lakes of the Fells are best seen on foot. Hit the trail with our guide to the best walks in the Lake District.

There is no better way to see the Lake District than to set off on foot. With hundreds of paths to explore, you can choose from gentle strolls around glistening lakes to hardy hikes high up in the Fells. Some paths cut across rolling meadows and are easy to follow, others clamber along narrow ledges and into rocky crevasses.

Lakeland writer Alfred Wainwright detailed routes up 214 mountains. These Wainwrights range from the diminutive 290-metre Castle Crag to Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England at 978 metres. Our list is a bit shorter. It includes our favourite Wainwright walks but also some easier hikes that meander around beautiful lakes and stroll along picturesque valleys.

We’ve spent a lot of time hiking in the area, and in our opinion, these are the best Lake District walks that showcase the remarkable landscape. We have split the walks into easy, medium and challenging so you can find a walk that’s just right for you. Each of the walks have detailed maps that you can download and take with you.

IN THIS GUIDE

BEST WALKS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

DIFFICULTY RATING
EASY LAKE DISTRICT WALKS
MEDIUM LAKE DISTRICT WALKS
CHALLENGING LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

DIFFICULTY OF OUR LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

Our 15 Lake District walks are organised in 3 grades to help you find the walk that’s right for you. There are detailed maps to help with navigation and to highlight any attractions that you shouldn’t miss. Just click on the map links under each of the walks to download them to your device.

EASY LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

All of our easy walks are under 8 kilometres and can be done in 2 hours or less. They are relatively flat (rising and falling no more than 150 metres), follow low lying ground, and the paths are generally good and easy to follow. They are perfect walks for beginners.

MEDIUM LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

Our five medium walks are either longer in distance or require more ascent and descent, making them slightly more physically demanding. They include some of the smaller but beautiful Wainwrights for which you will need a reasonable level of fitness.

CHALLENGING LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

The last five walks tackle some of the highest Wainwright mountains in the Lake District. They are long and tiring with considerable ascent and descent. Each of them will require you to use your hands periodically. In particular, the routes up Helvellyn and Blencathra are considered Grade 1 scrambles so sure footing, good conditions and a head for heights are highly recommended. We have more adventurous walks in our best scrambles in the Lake District guide.

BEST EASY WALKS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT  

1 – LATRIGG

There is no easier Lake District hike that delivers such impressive views than this very easy walk up to the summit of Latrigg. From the Underskiddaw car park, it’s a simple 15-minute stroll up a grassy bank to the summit.

While the walk up might be quick, you’re bound to spend plenty more time at the top admiring the views. To the north are the rounded summits of Skiddaw. To the east the waves of Blencathra’s ridges hover over the distant Pennines. And to the south, the town of Keswick rests peacefully on the edge of Derwentwater.

Come at dawn or dusk for a superb Lake District experience.

DOWNLOAD – LATRIGG WALK MAP

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 2 kilometres | Time – 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-80 metres | Start – Underskiddaw Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Latrigg Loop Map

2 – TARN HOWS LOOP

Tarn Hows is a beautiful lake dotted with islands which only takes one hour to walk around. Grassy slopes provide plenty of space for a rest and the views up to the rugged Langdale Pikes in the distance are good.

The National Trust runs the car park, sells basic food supplies and provides maps of the area. The trails are well marked and easy to follow and with toilet facilities available it’s perfect for an easy family walk and picnic.

Beware though, it can get packed in peak season.

READ NEXT – WHERE TO STAY IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 3.2 kilometres | Time – 1 hour | Elevation – +/-80 metres | Start – National Trust Tarn Hows Car Park | Directions – Follow this map

3 – BUTTERMERE CIRCULAR WALK

My favourite of the easy Lake District walks, this sensational loop of Buttermere passes through some of the finest scenery in the region.

It starts in the attractive village of Buttermere before making a 2-hour loop of the lake. Along the way you pass deep cut ravines, craggy mountains, ancient woods and gorse-lined roads.

A stand of trees at the south-eastern end of the lake resting under the craggy buttresses of Haystacks – Wainwrights favourite mountain – provides one of the most photogenic locations in the Lake District.

End with coffee and a cake from the Croft House Farm Café or if the sun is shining, the top-notch homemade ice cream from Sykes Farm.

DOWNLOAD – BUTTERMERE WALK MAP

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 7.5 kilometres | Time – 2 hours | Elevation – +/-140 metres | Start – National Trust Car Park in Buttermere | Directions – Clockwise on our Buttermere Circular Walk Map

4 – RYDAL WATER CIRCULAR WALK

This circular walk around Rydal Water has a bit more ascent than the first three but, it’s still relatively easy. It could be completed in just 90 minutes, but it’s well worth spending much longer as there is a lot to see.

Pop into Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s final home before he died, explore Rydal Cave, a large gaping hole in the rock, and go for a wild swim in one of the most protected and peaceful lakes in the area.

Halfway around the walk, take a sophisticated break at Rydal Hall which serves high tea in the beautifully manicured gardens. If you fancy something less formal, the friendly Badger Bar is a great option.

Even if you do none of that, the trail that ambles through lovely woodland and bluebell filled slopes offers excellent views of the Rydal Water with rugged Loughrigg Fell behind. It’s a fun half-day out.

DOWNLOAD – RYDAL WATER WALK MAP

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 4.7 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-200 metres | Start – White Moss Car Park | Directions – Anti-clockwise on our Rydal Water Circular Walk Map

5 – CASTLE CRAG LOOP

This relatively easy walk has a bit of everything. The trail starts in the village of Rosthwaite before heading downstream along the River Derwent. A packhorse bridge carries you to the other side and into a lovely forest. Being the wettest valley in England, moss covers stone walls and rocks in a glorious coating of luminescent green; perfect conditions for Lake District photography.

There are caves to explore and mounds of slate to negotiate before the path drops back to the river providing an opportunity to paddle and picnic next to the river.

The trail now circles around Castle Crag and steadily rises for 20 minutes to provide lovely views over Borrowdale and some of the mightiest mountains in the Lake District. Just make sure you check for rain before you go.

DOWNLOAD – CASTLE CRAG LOOP WALK MAP

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 5.5 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-170 metres | Start – Rosthwaite Car Park | Directions – Anticlockwise on our Castle Crag Circular Walk Map

BEST MEDIUM WALKS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

6 – RANNERDALE KNOTTS  

There are some mountains in the Lake District that are not that high, but by dint of their excellent position provide magnificent views. Rannerdale Knotts is one of them.

The trail begins in Buttermere and heads up a steepish grassy slope. It might look a little challenging at the start, but after about 30 minutes of hard work you will have reached the top of the ridge and the rest of the walk is a glorious exploration of all that’s best about the Lake District.

A lovely stroll along the ridgetop has fine views to Crummock Water in front, and Buttermere behind. There is the odd rocky crest to summit as you make your way, but nothing hard, and after another 20 minutes you reach the glorious summit. Views of the north-western fells open up before you and on a clear day Scotland glimmers in the distance. It’s a wonderful Lake District activity.

Carefully pick your route down off the summit, before descending along another grassy slope to the edge of Crummock Water. If you are feeling brave then take a dip at Crummock’s southern beach, otherwise wind through the forest back to the car park.

DOWNLOAD – RANNERDALE KNOTTS WALK MAP

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 4.8 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 45 minutes | Elevation – +/-280 metres | Start – National Trust Car Park in Buttermere | Directions – Anti-clockwise on our Rannerdale Knotts Circular Walk Map

7 – CATBELLS

Catbells is not one of the highest peaks, but it stands imperiously over Derwentwater. Viewed from Keswick its sides are steep and sleek and from its summit, the 360-degree views are excellent. It is rightly one of the most popular walks in the Lake District. As Wainwright wrote, “There is beauty everywhere – and nothing but beauty.”

Parking can be tricky. There are a few spaces in the small Gutherscale car park, and some more on the road leading to it. Parking is also available at Hawse End, a bit further away. If you are staying in Keswick, get the ferry across to the Hawse End Jetty and start the walk from there, this will add 1 kilometre and 20 minutes to the walk, but significantly reduce the hassle.   

The trail to the summit is short but steep. Rising in two stages it zigzags up along the crest of the mountain. You may need your hands in a couple of places, but nothing is too difficult, and you are rewarded with stunning views all the way.

There are few easier ways down a mountain. A gentle sloping path curls right until it returns to where you started. This Lake District walk can be completed in less than 2 hours and is a great one to save for sunset.

DOWNLOAD – CATBELLS WALK MAP

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 4.8 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 45 minutes | Elevation – +/-320 metres | Start – Gutherscale Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Catbells Circular Walk Map

8 – HELM CRAG

The summit of Helm Crag is an oddity. A strange finger of rock reaches into the sky from the summit. You may find getting on top of the precipitous finger a step too far, but don’t worry the rest is worth it.

There are three things that make this walk attractive. First, it starts in Grasmere, one of the prettiest villages in the Lake District. Everywhere you look charming slate-buildings are dwarfed by the hills towering over them.

Secondly, the path to the summit (although not that long) feels like the trail to Mordor. A track of rock and stone winds its way through narrow cracks and around rocky towers. Thirdly, the views from the summit towards Grasmere are a joy.

Allow just over 2 hours for the return route, but plan for a bit longer because The Good Sport in Grasmere brews its own ale and it would be wrong not to support their efforts.

DOWNLOAD – HELM CRAG WALK MAP

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 7.5 kilometres | Time – 2 hours, 20 minutes | Elevation – +/-340 metres | Start – Grasmere Car Park | Directions – Linear return walk on our Helm Crag Walk Map

9 – LOUGHRIGG FELL

Loughrigg is a little lump of a mountain which packs a punch. It sits at the centre of a host of attractive valleys and although only a little more than a thousand feet high (335 metres), it has surprisingly wide-ranging views. Lakes and tarns stretch off in all directions, pretty villages sit under its flanks, and higher mountains form an amphitheatre around it.

But the real highlights are the slopes of Loughrigg themselves. Bobbling mounds of grass strewn with sheep, heather covered hillocks split by zigzagging dry stone walls, and paths leading over wooden stiles down to shimmering lakes.

My favourite in the medium difficulty Lake District hikes, there are plenty of different routes up and down. Some only take 90 minutes but I have picked my favourite which passes by Rydal Water, stops off at Rydal Cave and takes about two and a half hours. Click on the map to view all the details.

DOWNLOAD – LOUGHRIGG WALK MAP

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 8 kilometres | Time – 2 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-360 metres | Start – Pelter Bridge Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Loughrigg Circular Walk Map

10 – ULLSWATER STEAMER HOWTOWN TO GLENRIDDING WALK

None of the other best walks in the Lake District begin better than this one. Hop on the Ullswater Steamer at Glenridding and relax on deck as the boat glides the 40 minutes across the lake to Howtown. From here all you have to do is trek back.

The rocky path that undulates along the eastern side of the lake, is a beautiful stretch of trail. It cuts across steep slopes, meanders in an out of forest and peers up at vast clumps of moss. On a sunny day you drift in and out of dappled sunlight and there are many great spots for a picnic or coffee stop perched above the glistening water. After reaching the end of the lake, head across to Patterdale. Unfortunately, the last 10 minutes require walking along the road back to Glenridding, but it’s worth it.

An excellent detour is to head up to the summit of Hallin Fell, one of the lower Wainwright mountains. It not only has stupendous views over Ullswater but also over the Martindale valley where the grassy fields contrast beautifully with the craggy moor covered tops.

It takes about 3 hours to walk back without heading up Hallin Fell, or four if you go via the summit.

DOWNLOAD – HOWTOWN TO GLENRIDDING WALK MAP

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 11 to 12.5 kilometres | Time – 3 to 4 hours | Elevation – +/-290 metres or 470 metres | Start – Ullswater Steamers in Glenridding | Directions – Follow our Howtown to Glenridding Walking Map

BEST CHALLENGING WALKS IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

11 – BLENCATHRA

Blencathra sits all alone in the northeast of the Lakes. At first impression, it appears little more than a large hill. But looks can be deceiving, and ascending this unobtrusive mountain is one of the best walks in the Lake District.

The reason is the excellent choice of routes to the summit. The first, via Scales Fell, is a gradual climb that shortly after the beginning, rewards you with fine views of the North Pennines and Helvellyn.

The second route is Halls Fell Ridge, a steep, rocky ascent along a sinuous ridge. This is an excellent choice for anyone new to scrambling. The ridge is not too sheer or too narrow – over a couple of meters wide in most places – but you may need your hands for support. If you’re good with heights, you can mostly just stride across the top.

Third is Sharp Edge. The hardest and most challenging Grade 1 ridge in the Lake District. There is a ‘bad step’ where you have to shuffle off a slab of rock onto a narrow ledge and precipitous sections along the way. You should have some scrambling experience behind you and a very good head for heights. Don’t attempt Sharp Edge wet or windy conditions. Even on a still, sunny day, it’s a real heart starter.

READ MORE – OUR GUIDE TO BLENCATHRA

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – About 8.5 kilometres | Time – About 4 hours | Elevation – +/-730 metres | Start – Scales Farm Parking | Directions – See our Blencathra guide – please treat routes marked on the ridges as indicative

12 – LANGDALE PIKES

The Langdale Pikes are a dramatic collection of five peaks whose rugged summits drop precipitously to Great Langdale Valley. The views from each of them are excellent and especially towards Bowfell and the mighty crags of the Scafell Range.

From the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel, it’s a steep hike up a well-trodden path to Stickle Tarn, a high lake sitting under the craggy façade of Pavey Ark, the largest and most imposing cliff in the Lake District.

The path heads east and winds around the edge of the cliff face until reaching the summit. It then heads across a surprisingly flat landscape to visit the other four peaks before dropping back into the valley. End the day with a drink at the Sticklebarn and try their carbon-friendly menu of vegetarian and locally farmed lamb dishes.  

There is a more adventurous route up the face of Pavey Ark called Jack’s Rake. A grade 1 scramble, it clambers along a groove cutting diagonally across the massive cliff. If that sounds like your kind of fun, read our best grade 1 scrambles in the Lake District guide.

DOWNLOAD – LANGDALE PIKES WALK MAP

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 8.7 kilometres | Time – 4 hours 15 minutes | Elevation – +/-870 metres | Start – Sticklebarn Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Langdale Pikes map

13 – HAYSTACKS AND FLEETWITH PIKE

This delightful walk to Haystacks (Wainwright’s favourite mountain) and Fleetwith Pike, not only includes the excellent views of the Buttermere loop, but it also collects two great summits.

Haystacks is all nobbles and bumps. Little tarns dot the summit and paths disappear into tiny canyons. In September the heather glows purple in the later afternoon sun.

The views from both peaks look up to imposing Great Gable and imperious Pillar and down to gorgeous Buttermere. The route back is along Fleetwith Pike ridge. It’s a bit steep in places but the almost 360 degree vistas make it worthwhile.

There is nothing technical or difficult here just a long walk (5 hours 15 minutes) in great scenery. If you want to shorten it, skip the Buttermere loop and leave from Gatesgarth Car Park (3 hours 30 minutes). If you also want to skip the climb up Fleetwith Pike, then head up Haystacks and come back via Warnscale (3 hours). See route options on the map below.

DOWNLOAD – HAYSTACKS WALK MAP

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 14.2 kilometres | Time – 5 hours 15 minutes | Elevation – +/-830 metres | Start – Buttermere Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Haystacks & Fleetwith Pike – please treat routes marked on the ridges as indicative

14 – HELVELLYN VIA STRIDING AND SWIRRAL EDGE

This magnificent walk ascends the third highest peak in the Lake District and it’s one of the most exciting walks in the area thanks to the use of two excellent ridges.

Striding edge is a thrilling narrow, exposed ridge. You’ll need a head for heights and some confidence to navigate the tricky drop over ‘the chimney’ near the end. However, it’s one of the easier Grade 1 scrambles in the lakes and a great introduction to the more challenging hikes.

If you don’t fancy the ridge, there is a path running just under it. This enables you to avoid the most tricky and precipitous sections.

The return route is via Swirral Edge, another fine ridge which is not as narrow or as scary.

But the two ridges are just the icing of a grand walk. Views stretch in all directions, Ullswater glistens below, and it ends at the Travellers Rest for a well-earned pint.

DOWNLOAD – HELVELLYN WALK MAP

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 13.5 kilometres | Time – 6 hours | Elevation – +/-840 metres | Start – Glenridding Car Park | Directions – Clockwise on our Helvellyn Walking Map – please treat routes marked on the ridges as indicative

15 – SCAFELL PIKE VIA CORRIDOR ROUTE

It is always a thrill to climb the highest mountain in a region and Scafell Pike is no exception. The most popular route is the most direct ascent from Wasdale Head. But a much more enjoyable route is my favourite challenging walk in the Lake District.

Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route traverses under the craggy flanks of Great End, as it winds its way up to the Scafell Pike’s summit. There’s nothing tricky here, just a great (but long) hike. The excellent trail crosses mountain streams, rises over stony summits and skirts the top of deep craggy ghylls (ravines). At all times (weather permitting) the views across to Great Gable and up to the rocky faces of Lingmell Fell and the Scafells are exceptional.

The return path runs alongside Ruddy & Grains Gills where a little stream has cut a small canyon creating a series of attractive waterfalls. Two large tarns – Sty Head Tarn and Sprinkling Tarn – provide excellent options to enjoy some bracing wild swimming on the return trip.

The Langstrath Country Inn in Stonethwaite is a traditional country pub and one of our favourites for a post-hike pint after Scafell Pike. It’s just a few minutes’ drive from the end of the hike at Seathwaite Farm.

READ MORE – OUR SCAFELL PIKE GUIDE

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 14.8 kilometres | Time – 6 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-980 metres | Start – Seathwaite Farm in Borrowdale | Directions – Scafell Pike Corridor Route guide

MAP – BEST LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

Our favourite Lake District walks are spread over the national park. We have included them all on the below map where green are the easy walks, yellow are the medium, and red are the challenging. The specific route we recommend is outlined on the individual map for each walk, above. Just bear in mind that you should treat them as indicative, especially when the paths head over narrow ridges.

MORE READING FOR YOUR LAKE DISTRICT TRIP

We’ve been to the Lake District many times, and never run out of fantastic things to do. From adventurous scrambles to relaxing wild swimming, here are more of our guides from the lakes.

LAKE DISTRICT WALKS
EXPLORE THE REMOTE AND RUGGED LAKE DISTRICT AT THE LANGDALE PIKES
CONQUER KNIFE-EDGE RIDGES ON THIS EXHILARATING WALK UP BLENCATHRA
WALK SCAFELL PIKE VIA THE CORRIDOR ROUTE FOR A TOP LAKE DISTRICT HIKE
OTHER IDEAS
MOST BEAUTIFUL LAKE DISTRICT VIEWS AND PHOTOGRAPHY SPOTS
THE BEST PLACES TO STAY IN THE LAKE DISTRICT IN 2021
OUR FAVOURITE LAKELAND ACTIVITIES – BEST THINGS TO DO IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
BEST REMOTE SPOTS FOR A PEACEFUL WILD SWIM IN THE LAKE DISTRICT

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