Best walks in the Cairngorms National Park

Take a hike through this vast, untamed area of Scotland with our expert guide to the best walks in the Cairngorms.

Loch Garten, RSPB Abernethy Forest National Nature Reserve, Cairngorms, Scotland
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The Cairngorms teems with towering trees, shimmering lochs and busy wildlife. It was established as a national park in 2003, and later extended in 2010 to become our largest one – almost twice the size of the Lake District – home to four of the five highest mountains in Britain. The park is pockmarked with 60 lochs and many more lochans (small lochs), along with more than half the surviving ancient Caledonian forest. A quarter of Britain's threatened animal, plant, insect and fungi species are found in the Cairngorms, some of which are endemic to the park. For unique wildlife, there is nowhere like it.

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Zip up your coat, strap on your walking boots and get ready to explore the still lochs, rushing rivers and rugged landscape of the Cairngorms National Park.

Our guide to the most beautiful walks in the Cairngorms National Park includes route descriptions and maps.

A mountain hare in the Cairngorms National Park
A mountain hare hunkers down in a snow storm in the Cairngorms National Park/Credit: Getty

Best walks in the Cairngorms

Falls of Bruar, Perth and Kinross

Falls of Bruar
The Falls of Bruar lie just north of Blair Athol/Credit: Getty

Step carefully beneath golden larches, towering Scots pines and over magnificent mountain ash roots in pursuit of a roaring Cairngorms cascade.

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  • 2km/1.2 miles
  • 1 hour
  • Easy
Falls of Bruar walking route and map
Falls of Bruar map

Loch Garten, Highland

Loch Garten
Loch Garten is hidden within Abernathy Forest/Credit: Getty

Loch Garten's ancient trees, tottering wood-ant nests, soaring ospreys and grazing deer make it one of Scotland's most beautiful nature reserves.

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  • 3.8km/2.4 miles
  • 1.5 hours
  • Easy
Loch Garten walking route and map
Loch Garten map

Loch Morlich, Highland

Loch Morlich
Loch Morlich in the Cairngorm National Park, Scotland/Credit: Getty

There are few lochs in Scotland that have a more picture-perfect surrounding than Loch Morlich. The foreground comprises forests fringed by beaches and backdropped by snow-clad peaks. Circling the loch is a very popular walk among tourists and locals alike.

The route
  • 5km/3.1 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Easy
Loch Morlich walking route and map
Loch Morlich map

Loch an Eilein, Highland

Loch and trees
Silver birch woodland (Betula pendula) in autumn and Loch an Eilein. Strathspey, Scotland/Credit: Getty

Loch an Eilein lies still, reflecting the magnificent pines of Rothiemurchus Forest in the heart of the Cairngorms. Castle ruins inhabit a small island, making for a truly unique walk.

The route
  • 4.9km/3 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Easy
Loch an Eilein walking route and map
Loch an Eilein map

Jock's Road, Angus and Aberdeenshire

Jock’s Road, Angus/Aberdeenshire
Challenge yourself on this 13.8-mile return route – you’ll climb more than 1,400m, a height greater than that of Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain/Credit: Alamy

Hike across wild, lonely moorland, alongside turbulent waters and beneath brooding mountains on an age-old trail between Aberdeenshire and Angus you’ll climb more than 1,400m, a height greater than that of Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain.

The route
  • 22.2km/13.8 miles
  • 7-8 hours
  • Challenging
Jock's Road walking route and map

Glenmore Forest Park and Ryvoan pass, Aberdeenshire

Ryvoan pass
Untamed, autumnal moorland of the Ryvoan pass/Credit: Getty

Ancient Caledonian pines form a beautiful walkway leading to the Green Lochan - An Lochan Uaine. A gentle climb leads up the Ryvoan pass, with breathtaking views of Loch Morlich.

The route
  • 8.6km/5.3 miles
  • 3.5 hours
  • Moderate
Glenmore walking route and map
Glenmore Forest Park map

Glen Lui, Aberdeenshire

Glen Lui, Scotland
Lui Water in Cairngorms National Park/Credit: Getty

Discover this historic glen in the Cairngorms National Park, through which the Lui Water tumbles and turns amid the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest.

The route
  • 10.5km/6.5 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate
Glen Lui walking route and map
Glen Lui map

Glen Tilt, Perthshire

Loch Moraig, Scotland
Loch Moraig, Scotland/Credit: Getty

This walk can be done in one go or spread over two days with a wild camp overlooking the beautiful and dramatic Glen Tilt. About half of the route uses footpaths and lanes but the other half in trackless, requiring a level of map reading and compass skills.

The route
  • 19.8km/12.3 miles
  • 8 hours
  • Challenging
Glen Tilt walking route and map
Glen Tilt map

Carrbridge and Docharn circuit, Highland

Carrbridge
Autumn sweeps through Carrbridge with hues of red, orange and brown ©Getty

Follow a trail of pleasant pinewoods around Carrbridge, stopping to savour this magnificent rushing river and the stone that bridges over it. Carrbridge walking route and map with Walking Highlands.


River Dee, Braemar, Aberdeenshire

Bridge over the River Dee
The old bridge over the River Dee at Invercauld near Braemar/Credit: Getty

A circular walk starting from Braemar takes in the confluence of the two main rivers, the Dee and the Clunie. It then climbs gently through birch woods to return to the centre of the village. River Dee walking route and map with Walking Highlands.


Loch Muick, Aberdeenshire

Loch Muick, Scotland
Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, UK. Cairngorm Mountains/Credit: Getty

An unusually level walk in the Cairngorms, around Loch Muick on the Balmoral Estate. The walk provides stunning views of the Scottish scenery. You can also see Glas-allt Shiel house, built by Queen Victoria. Loch Muick walking route and map with Walking Highlands.


Pattack Falls and Druim an Aird, Highland

The rushing gorge waterfalls of Pattack Falls
The rushing gorge waterfalls of Pattack Falls/Credit: Getty
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Take a relaxing amble through varied landscapes, passing the Pattack gorge waterfalls before exploring the ruins of the deserted village of Druim an Aird. Pattack Falls walking route and map with Walking Highlands.

Authors

Daniel Graham of COuntryfile magazine on a hike with wet hair and blue coat and hills in background
Daniel GrahamSection editor, BBC Countryfile Magazine

Danny is the Section Editor of BBC Countryfile Magazine, responsible for commissioning, editing and writing articles that offer ideas and inspiration for exploring the UK countryside.

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