Best walks in the Lake District National Park

Of all the national parks in Britain, the Lake District in Cumbria is arguably the most celebrated – discover the the area's fells, rivers, waters and towns with our favourite walks

Spring in Troutbeck Valley with the Kentmere Fells beyond, in the scenic Lake District National Park

The Lake District National Park comprises 912 square miles of high mountains, lakes, rivers and coastline, and receives almost 16 million visitors a year. No wonder, then, that it was loved so dearly by Beatrix potter, Alfred Wainwright, Arthur Ransome and William and Dorothy Wordsworth.

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“Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body.” Wrote Wainwright in The Western Fells.

Winter snow in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria
Lake District National Park, Cumbria ©Jake Graham

Our guide to the best hikes in the Lake District National Park, including route descriptions and maps.

The Lake’s landscape is steeped with footpaths, and by simply climbing from your tent or stepping out of your front door, you’re likely to find yourself walking some ancient trail with unerring scenery flanking your gait.

But for those seeking a little guidance, here are our favourite Lake District walks, from gentle riverside rambles to stiff mountain ascents.

Saddle Tor on Dartmoor

Buttermere and Rannerdale Knotts, Cumbria

Buttermere, Lake District
Buttermere, Lake District ©Getty

This 12km walk includes some of the Lake District’s most beautiful trees and forests, where myth and legend tangle with the Scots pines and the golden needles of larches.

Route details

  • 12km / 7.5 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Buttermere walking route and map

Buttermere map

Rydal and Grasmere, Cumbria

Rydal Water at Grasmere in the Lake District in autumn
A stroll in the footsteps of the Wordsworth family offers exquisite reflections of autumn colour in the still waters of Rydal Water in the Lake District ©Alamy

On 23 October 1802, Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal: “A breathless, grey day that leaves the golden woods of autumn quiet in their tranquillity, stately and beautiful in their decaying. The lake is a perfect mirror.”

This six-mile circular tour around Grasmere and Rydal Water illustrates perfectly how her description of the autumnal landscape is just as evocative today as it was when she wrote it in her journal 215 years ago. The route starts and finishes at Rydal, home to the Badge Bar – the perfect reward after a day on the trail.

Route details

  • 9.7km/6 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Rydal Water walking route and map

Rydal Water and Grasmere, Cumbria map

Cat Bells, Cumbria

A“proper little mountain”, a “family fell’, a “mountain in miniature”. If ever there was a hill to be fond of, it’s Cat Bells
A“proper little mountain”, a “family fell’, a “mountain in miniature”. If ever there was a hill to be fond of, it’s Cat Bells ©Alamy

The iconic peak – believed to be a distortion of ‘Cat Bields’, meaning ‘the home of the wild cat’ – sits enticingly above the town of Keswick and Derwent Water. It’s universally loved, and for good reason – the panoramic views of the Lake Districtfrom its summit are the perfect introduction to the national park’s mirror-like lakes, wild mountains and lush valleys

Route details

  • 5.7km/3.5 miles
  • 2.5 hours
  • Moderate

Cat Bells walking route and map

Cat Bells map

Lingmoor Fell Circuit, Cumbria

Lingmoor Fell, Cumbria
Lingmoor Fell rainbow ©Getty

This lowland loop walk through the heart of the Lake District National Park is packed with splendours – from glistening tarns and craggy fells to magical, mossy bridges. The route starts with a short, sharp climb, but  soon levels out, skirting the foot of Side Pike before slowly descending into Little Lansdale.

Route details

  • 13.4km/8.3 miles
  • 5 hours
  • Hard

Lingmoor Fell walking route and map

Lingmore Fell map

Ennerdale and Haystacks, Cumbria

The view from Haystacks with High Stile separating Ennerdale and Crummock Waters, The Lake District, Cunbria, England.
The view from Haystacks with High Stile separating Ennerdale and Crummock Waters ©Getty

Just getting to the remote shores of Ennerdale Lake is something of an adventure. Navigating the winding, narrow roads requires some skill. Then, as you approach the lake, the road gives way to rubble tracks, which lead to rough-surfaced car parks. The lake shore can only be reached on foot. The result is that solitude and tranquility are more readily found in Ennerdale than in any other Cumbrian valley.

Footpaths completely circle the lake, and are accessible from either of the two car parks, Broadmoor Wood to the west and Bowness Knott – this walk starts at the latter.

Route details

  • 22.9km/14.2 miles
  • 7 hours
  • Hard

Ennerdale walking route and map

Ennerdale and Haystacks map

Hawkshead and Latterbarrow, Cumbria

Hawkshead, Lake District National Park
Winter veil: the village of Hawkshead in the Lake District National Park wakes to a blanket of thin frost and low-lying mist ©Simon Whaley

Wainwright described  a walk to the summit of Latterbarrow as one “needing little effort yet yielding much delight”. Set off from the traditional village of Hawkshead – with its whitewashed cottages, cobbled courtyards and quaint alleyways – and experience a wonderful winter’s wander, full of festive spirit, to the crest of this small Lakeland hill.

Route details

  • 5km/3.1 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Easy/moderate

Latterbarrow walking route and map

Hawkshead and Latterbarrow map

Wasdale Head Inn, Gosforth, Cumbria

Above the Wasdale Inn rises Wasdale Fell, a favourite with trail runners
Above the Wasdale Inn rises Wasdale Fell, a favourite with trail runners ©Martin Jones

This venerable inn, hidden within the valleys and mountains of the Lake District, has housed some of Britain’s best novelists and poets – find out what inspired these great writers with a 8km walk.

Route details

  • 7.9km/4.9 miles
  • 3 hours
  • Moderate

Wasdale Head Inn walking route and map

Wasdale Head Inn map

Grizedale Forest, Cumbria

Weatherlam and The Old Man of Coniston in Autumn (Fall) viewed across Grizedale Forest
View of the Old Man of Coniston across Grizedale Forest ©Getty

Rippling across the crags between Windermere and Coniston, Grizedale is 8,000 acres of mixed forest laced with tracks and endowed with a renowned series of outdoor sculptures.

Route details

  • 12.2km/7.5 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Grizedale walking route and map

Grizedale Forest map

Old Man of Coniston, Cumbria

Old Man of Coniston, Cumbria
Old Man of Coniston, Cumbria ©Getty

The village of Coniston, an attractive little spot bisected by the bustling waters of a mountain stream, sits near the northern end of beautiful Coniston Water in Cumbria. Walk beside high tarns and copper-mining relics to a magical fell-top vista in the Lake District National Park.

Route details

  • 11.1km/6.9 miles
  • 5 hours
  • Hard

Old Man of Coniston walking route and map

Old Man of Coniston map

Howtown to Glenridding, Ullswater, Cumbria

Ullswater, Cumbria
Ullswater from Place Fell, looking towards Glenridding and Hellvellyn ©Alamy

Famous fell-walker Alfred Wainwright called this south-shore walk – accessible by boot or boat only – “the most beautiful and rewarding in Lakeland”. The water stretches out for 14.5km, while to the south sits the rising skyline of the Helvellyn Range. This 10.6km walk starts with a boat trip from Glenridding.

The route

  • 10.6km/6.6 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Glenridding walking route and map

Ullswater map

Castle Crag, Cumbria

Castle Crag, Lake District
Castle Crag, Lake District ©Jake Graham

At a humble height of 290m (951ft), Castle Crag is a bit of a mini-mountain in comparison with other peaks in the Lakes, but its sylvan charms are what lured Wainwright to its slopes, and prompted him to include it in book six of his Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells. He describes it as being “so magnificently independent, so ruggedly individual, so aggressively unashamed of its lack of inches.” It is a little corker of a crag. Explore the crag with a bracing 6.5km walk.

The route

  • 6.5km/4 miles
  • 2.5 hours
  • Moderate

Castle Crag walking route and map

Castle Crag map

Brigsteer Woods, Cumbria

Brimstone butterfly
Brimstone butterfly ©Getty

Wordsworth’s famed daffs nod their heads to countless Lake District visitors beside Ullswater. Far more secret are the woods above the tiny village of Brigsteer, nestled amid limestone hills above the Lyth Valley and Morecambe Bay. Here, wild Lenten lilies (an old English name for a native wild daffodil) stud the wooded slopes of Brigsteer Park, succeeded by ramsons and bluebells in a profusion of spring colours. Walk past a medieval castle and glowing wild daffodils with this 6.6km walk in the Lake District National Park.

Route details

  • 6.6km/ 4.1 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Easy/moderate

Brigsteer walking route and map

Brigsteer Wood map

Holme Wood, Loweswater, Cumbria

Holme Wood is a classically English mixed woodland of oak, chestnut, ash, sycamore, alder and lime
Holme Wood is a classically English mixed woodland of oak, chestnut, ash, sycamore, alder and lime ©Getty

Holme Wood is a classically English mixed woodland of oak, chestnut, ash, sycamore, alder and lime, providing the dappled sunlight that bluebells seek in spring, and the perfect habitat for red squirrels. This 5.9km route saves the best until last, so park on the roadside layby near Loweswater Hall – although alternative parking is available at Maggie’s Bridge.

Route details

  • 5.9km/3.7 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Moderate

Holme Wood walking route and map

Holme Wood map

Bowness-on-Windermere to Kennel Wood, Cumbria

Kennel Wood oak, Lake District National Park, Cumbria
Kennel Wood oak, Lake District National Park, Cumbria ©Jake Graham

A mile or two from the bustle of Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District National Park stands a lonely oak, at its most enchanting after a night of snowfall in winter.

Route details

  • 2.8 miles/ 4.6km
  • Moderate
  • 2 hours

Kennel Wood walking route and map

 

Bowes-on-Windermere map

Duddon Valley, Cumbria

River Duddon in the Lake District National Park
River Duddon in the Lake District National Park ©Getty
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Discover a secluded corner of the Lake District that hums with memories of Wordsworth and still offers the beauty and tranquillity he sought.

The route

  • 10km/6.2 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Duddon Valley walking route and map

Duddon Valley map