The Lake District offers some of the best walks in the UK. While some of these, like a hike up Scafell Pike, are incredibly challenging, other Lake District walks can be surprisingly peaceful and flat. Here are some of our favourite walking routes in the Lake District, including a climb up a fell cherished by Alfred Wainwright (author of the famous 1950s guidebooks) and a lakeside ramble through a quieter area of the National Park.
Lake District Walks: General Safety Tips
Walking in the Lake District isn't like hiking in the Alps or the Rockies, but it definitely requires a bit more planning than walking in some other parts of the UK. The mountains here are higher than anywhere else in England, and the proximity to the west coast means that the weather can be very changeable - going from bright sunshine to sideways sheeting rain in the space of a few minutes.
Make sure you have a clear plan of where to go, and how long it's likely to take you before you set off. If you're attempting something tricky, tell a friend where you're going, and what time you'll get back to your car or hotel. That way, if you don't check in within a reasonable time window, they can contact mountain rescue and point them in the right direction.
Lake District Walks: What to Wear & Pack
Whether you're choosing to climb to the summit of a mountain or stroll around a tranquil lake, make sure you wear a good pair of walking boots. The ground in this part of Cumbria can be muddy and is often uneven, and remember to bring a waterproof jacket – even if the weather's good when you set off, there's always a chance it'll rain. This is England, after all. You'll also want to make sure you have backpack with extra layers, water and a snack.
- Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge Walk
- Loughrigg Fell, Terrace Walk from Rydal
- Round Grasmere
- Haystacks Walk
- Harrison Stickle
- Crinkle Crags
- Bowfell via The Band
- Tarn Hows Circular Walk
- Aira Force and Gowbarrow Trail
- Helvellyn via Striding Edge, descending via Swirral Edge
- Bonus: Ennerdale Water Circular Walk
Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge Walk
4 km / 2 hours
Enjoy a small part of the Cumbria Way long-distance walking path with this short walk. One of several easy Lake District walks on this list, this is popular with both locals and visitors to the area because of its beauty. You'll follow a smooth, well-maintained trail that starts in Elterwater near the Langdale valley, and the paths near Skelwith Bridge are suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
Along the way, you'll enjoy stunning views across the fells as you look back towards Elterwater, and looking towards the lake, you'll see water flowing peacefully over rocks. The village of Elterwater is full of character, and the little cottages here are quaint. If you didn't stop for refreshments at the halfway point of Skelwith Bridge, you should definitely find one of the excellent pubs or cafes here for an afternoon cup of tea.
Perhaps the best thing about walking from Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge is the adorable Herdwick sheep that wander around, keeping the grass cropped short.
For more information on this enjoyable walk in Cumbria, read our full Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge walking guide.
Loughrigg Fell, Terrace Walk from Rydal
5 km / 3 - 4.5 hours
If you want to enjoy some classic Lake District views without a long slog up a Cumbrian mountain, the Loughrigg Fell walk is for you. It's certainly one of the best walks in the Lake District and has inspired many great writers including Hemmingway, Wordsworth, and Beatrix Potter. From the summit of the fell, you'll have views over Grasmere and Rydal Water, and Loughrigg even counts as a Wainwright, so you'll be able to experience all of the key aspects of a walk in the Lakes.
The fell itself isn't quite tall enough to be called a mountain, but it is perfect for an introduction to hill walking. The route is only around 3 miles long, making it an enjoyable afternoon ramble, with time for afternoon tea in one of the many cafes in nearby towns Grasmere or Ambleside.
For a detailed description of this beautiful route, read our full walking guide to Loughrigg Fell, the Terrace Walk From Rydal.
6 km / 2 hours
Another classic Lake District walk, this stroll around Grasmere lake will feel simply magical. It's great for kids too, with ducks to feed and stones to skip across the water. The village of Grasmere is just a mile away from the shore, so you can head to the high street after your hike and buy some refreshments in the form of the famous Grasmere gingerbread.
This part of the Lake District was described by Wordsworth as being, "the loveliest spot that man hath ever found," and this short pleasant walk gives you some idea of why. Most of the paths around Grasmere are flat and well-maintained, making this one of the best Lake District walks for pushchairs and young children.
More information is available with our full walking guide Round Grasmere.
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8.9 km / 4.5 hours
Alfred Wainwright, for whom the highest peaks in the Lake District National Park are named, held Haystacks dear in his heart, and it's easy to see why. The views over Buttermere, one of the Lake District's most beautiful valleys, and Crummock Water are relatively easy given the short climb to the fell's summit.
When you look up at it from Buttermere, Haystacks can look like something from Mordor – spiky, black, and very imposing. Drive up to the Honister Pass car park, the start of the walk, however, and it becomes altogether more approachable. If you're short on time but still want an adventure and some classic Cumbrian scenery, this is a great option. If Wainwright himself said that Haystacks was one of the best Lake District walks, who are we to argue?
Read our Haystacks Walk guide for the full low down on this medium-length walk.
6.5 km / 3 - 4.5 hours
From Windermere and Ambleside, and on any of the approaches to Langdale, Harrison Stickle's rocky summit dominates the view. The fell simply demands to be scaled. If you can hack the steep climb up Jack's Rake, you'll be rewarded with postcard perfect views from the summit.
The fell itself forms part of the Langdale Pikes, a trio completed by Pike of Stickle and Loft Crag. Wainwright loved these fells too and included them in the third volume of his beautifully illustrated walking guide. Any of these three hills will offer a rewarding hike, but Harrison Stickle is one of the all-time best Lake District walks.
It's worth noting, however that although this is a relatively short walk, it's a challenging one. Make sure you're prepared for a day in the mountains, with water, a snack and extra layers, because the summit is quite exposed and can get cold.
For more information on this route, look at our full Harrison Stickle walking guide.
8.5 km / 4 hours
Crinkle Crags is another iconic walk in the Lake District. Situated at the far end of the Langdale valley, Crinkle Crags is flanked by Bowfell and Pikes of Blisco, with the former offering a longer hike through the mountains if you fancy climbing it after the Crinkles.
While it's easy to assume that Crinkle Crags would offer just one summit (it's just one fell, after all), it's actually five smaller ones, with each of its 'crinkles' acting as a separate peak. The ascent to the top of this fell is pretty demanding, but it's exhilarating too: each crag and mini-summit brings with it changing views of the surrounding landscape. From the summit ridge, your efforts will be rewarded with picturesque views across Langdale and Upper Eskdale, two of the most picturesque Lake District valleys.
Wainwright described Crinkle Crags as being, "much too good to be missed," so if you're visiting the Lake District National Park, make sure this walk is on your list.
Find out more with our full route guide to this Crinkle Crags hike.
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Bowfell via The Band
9.6 km / 3 hours
Standing proud at the end of Great Langdale is Bowfell (or Bow Fell on an Ordnance Survey map). This is one of the most iconic fells in the Lake District. Its pyramid shape is recognisable anywhere. A hike through these hills is arguably more enjoyable than climbing the tricky Helvellyn via Striding Edge (another classic Lake District walk - see below) because these fells offer more varied terrain and beautiful, ever-changing views.
As you follow The Band to the summit of Bowfell, you'll pass Three Tarns, which is a wonderful place to pause for a breather. This is quite a demanding walk, but the views of Scafell Pike (the highest peak in the Lake District) and Windermere (arguably the area's most famous lake) make it all worth it.
For full details, read our guide to Bowfell via The Band.
Tarn Hows Circular Walk
3.2 km / 1 hour
This Tarn Hows low-level walk offers easy exercise in the heart of the Lake District. It's just a short distance from Coniston Water, site of the famous Old Man of Coniston. The circuit around the tarn starts and ends at a National Trust car park, and is one of the best Lake District walks for families - the paths are well-maintained and there's plenty along the route for kids to look at, including fluffy Belted Galloway cows.
At just 2 miles long, the circuit around Tarn Hows should only take around an hour, but with so many opportunities for little ones to explore and play, it might take you a little longer.
Like everywhere in the Lake District, there are plenty of good picnic spots around the tarn, but you could always stroll into Coniston for a spot of lunch instead.
If you're planning on walking this route, check out our full Tarn Hows walk guide for more information.
Aira Force and Gowbarrow Trail
7.2 km / 1.5 - 3 hours
Aira Force is one of the Lake District's most famous waterfalls, and the surrounding area is stunning too, with Striding Edge and Swirral Edge (see below) both nearby. The Aira Force car park is a great starting point for a number of different Lake District walks.
A hike to the top of Gowbarrow Fell will reward you with views across Ullswater, the Lake District's second-largest lake. The paths around Aira Force itself can get busy, as it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Lake District, but once you move away from the main paths and start the circular route to the top of Gowbarrow, it will just be you, surrounded by nature.
On the way up, you'll see red squirrels scampering through the branches and from the top there are stunning views out over a large expanse of the Lake District.
More details can be found in our full guide to Aira Force and Gowbarrow Fell.
Helvellyn via Striding Edge, descending via Swirral Edge
13 km / 5 - 7 hours
The big daddy of Lake District walks, this will take you to the top of the third highest peak in the Lake District and back via ridges that require a head for heights. Striding Edge in particular has a reputation for being scary and difficult. There are sections where the path becomes very narrow, with precipitous falls on either side, and although there are bypass paths below the crest of the ridge that skirt around some of the scariest bits, these present their own challenges.
Memorials to climbers who've fallen (including the famous plaque commemorating Robert Dixon) add to the sense of seriousness. On the descent, Swirral Edge might not be quite as scary-looking, but it would count as one of the more challenging walks in the Lake District in its own right.
The reward for braving these ridgelines, however, is the summit of Helvellyn, and some of the most stunning views anywhere in England. And while there are sections that are tough, there's nothing here that involves any technical climbing ability. You can also legitimately claim to have completed the most exciting walk in the Lake District.
More so than any of other Lake District walk, however, it's worth checking the weather and planning for all eventualities if you're going to tackle Helvellyn via Striding Edge. Strong winds can be very dangerous when you're this exposed, and because it's a long day outside, you'll want to make sure you're prepared for any changes in the conditions.
Bonus: Ennerdale Water Circular Walk
10.5 km / 3 - 4 hours
Ennerdale is the westernmost lake in the national park, and something of a hidden gem. It's also a haven for wildlife because of the Wild Ennerdale project, a rewilding initiative which has had a transformative effect on the local landscape.
Although it's longer than many of the other Lake District walks on this list in terms of distance, the Ennerdale Water Circular walk is one of the easiest. There's no real climbing involved, just a gentle stroll around a stunning lake. but that doesn't stop it being a fantastic walk.
Read our full Ennerdale Water Walk full route guide for more information.
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