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 guide to the best hikes in Lakeland

Langdale, Lake District, Cumbria with mountains fells and blue sky and clouds in summer

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

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There are hundreds of miles of footpaths in the Lake District so, no matter what you ability, the chances are there is a Lake District walk for you.

But for those seeking a little guidance, we’ve come up with a definitive list of the very best walks in the Lake District, from family friendly autumn rambles and easy summer pub walks, to spectacular fell walks and and mountain hikes.

Autumn lake
An autumn view across Tarn Hows in the Lake District/Credit: Getty

Best walks in the Lake District

Buttermere and Rannerdale Knotts, Cumbria

Buttermere, Lake District
A near perfect reflection in Buttermere’s lake/Credit: Getty

Henry David Thoreau wrote of tramping eight or 10 miles to “keep an appointment with a beech tree, a yellow birch or an old acquaintance among the pines”. Here in the Lakes, visitors can do the same with a walk of about eight miles, first climbing to the crest of Rannerdale Knotts before returning via the iconic Buttermere Pines..

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/Credit: 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/Credit: Alamy
Getty

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

Loughrigg Fell, Cumbria

Bluebells on loughrigg Terrace near Ambleside in the English Lake District, Cumbria, UK.
Bluebells on loughrigg Terrace near Ambleside in the English Lake District, Cumbria, UK/Credit: Getty
Getty

Amid the tall, craggy splendours of the Lake District, it’s from the lower hills that you can sometimes, with surprise, discover the finest views.

At 335m in height, Loughrigg Fell doesn’t qualify as a mountain, yet it provides, in miniature, much of what the high peaks offer.

Route details

  • 4km/2.5 miles
  • 1.5 hours
  • Moderate

Loughrigg Fell walking route and map

Loughrigg Terrace map

Orrest Head, Cumbria

Orrest Head and Windermere, Lake District National Park
Orrest Head overlooking Windermere and Langdale Pikes in the Lake District National Park/Credit: Alamy

Follow in the footsteps of the Lake District’s most celebrated wanderer, Alfred Wainwright, spurred on by views of misty mountains, rambling vales and the largest natural lake in England.

Route details

  • 7.2km/4.5 miles
  • 3 hours
  • Moderate

Orrest Head walking route and map

Windermere to Orrest Head walking route and map

Lingmoor Fell Circuit, Cumbria

Lingmoor Fell, Cumbria
A rainbow leans over Lingmoor Fell/Credit: 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/Credit: 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/Credit: 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/Credit: 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/Credit: 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/Credit: 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/Credit: 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 after summer rains/Credit: 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

Loweswater, Cumbria

Lakes, forest and mountains
Holme Wood sits on the banks of Loweswater/Credit: Alamy

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
An old oak tree on the edge of Kennel Wood/Credit: 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/Credit: Getty

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
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