Best walks in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

The valleys, moors, hills and caverns of the Yorkshire Dales are etched with miles and miles of rolling footpaths – explore this atmospheric limestone landscape with our guide to the national park's best hiking trails.

Rolling green hills

The Yorkshire Dales was established as a national park in 1954 and today receives more than three million day visitors every year. There are 2,628kms of footpaths and 618kms of bridleways, offering visitors the chance to spot the park’s 1,000 species of moths, its 100 species of nesting birds, and more than 30 species of mammals.

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The Yorkshire Dales National Park may be land-bound, but what it lacks in coastal drama it makes up for in magnificent moorlands, deep valleys and striking limestone crags, from the villages and towns of Settle and Hawes to the wild landscapes of Malham Cove and Malham Tarn.

We take a look at some of the very best walks in the Yorkshire Dales – from circular lake walks and short waterfall walks, to hikes with pubs and great hill walks. Each route has a map and walk description.

Yorkshire Dales in winter
Snow often lingers well into spring in the Yorkshire Dales/Credit: Getty

Best walks in the Yorkshire Dales

Hawes, Aysgill Force and Hardraw Force, North Yorkshire

Waterfall and rainbow
Hardraw Force is Englands highest single-drop waterfall/Credit: Getty

Long before there was Yorkshire, there was ice. For millennia, thick, endless sheets of it covered the area – now the Pennines – while active glacial tongues scoured away ancient river courses, remodelling the geomorphology of the land surface.

Wensleydale was at the heart of this chaos and today’s River Ure flows in an over-deepened, over-widened vale. Its myriad higher tributaries cut down through the geology to achieve parity with the main valley, redefined as the last glacier melted some 12,000 years ago.

Visit a series of enchanting waterfalls on this 7-mile walk, starting and ending in the Yorkshire Dales village of Hawes.

The route

  • 7 miles/11.3km 
  • 5 hours
  • Moderate 

Hawes and Hardraw Force walking route and map

Aysgill Force and Hardraw Force walking route and map

Muker, Swaledale, North Yorkshire

Muker Meadows, North Yorkshire
Muker Meadows bloom with flowers in May/Credit: Dave Willis

In late spring, Swaledale’s hay meadows burst into life – a colour bonanza best absorbed after a cup of Yorkshire tea and a slice of cake. This splendid 7-mile circular route starts at Muker and follows the River Swale east to the village of Gunnerside.

The route

  • 11km/6.8miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Muker walking route and map

Muker map


Malham Tarn, North Yorkshire

Malham tarn is a natural lake on high ground in the Yorkshire Dales.
Skies darken over Malham Tarn in the Yorkshire Dales/Credit:Getty

This short walk around Malham Tarn beneath the looming cliffs of Great Close Scar offers ramblers a chance to expereince a variety of habitats, from craggy limestone bluffs, to thick forest, peatland and a wildlife-rich upland lake.

The route

  • 5.8km/3.6 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Easy/moderate

Malham Tarn walking route and map

Malham Tarn map

Settle to Stainforth, North Yorkshire

Green lane in the countryside
Goat Scar Lane Yorkshire Dales, England/Credit: Getty
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This 8.5-mile circular walking route starts in Settle, venturing beneath Attermire Scar and beyond Catrigg Force to Stainforth, before returning to Settle via Stainforth Force.

Settle Up’ and ‘Settle Down’ proclaim the platform benches as you step off the train at Settle’s lovingly restored station, gateway to the pretty little market town and a landscape rich in gleaming limestone scars, caves and potholes.

The route

  • 13.7km/8.5 miles
  • 6 hours
  • Moderate

Settle walking route and map

Settle to Stainforth walking route and map

Keld to Tan Hill Inn, North Yorkshire

East Gill Force, Keld, Yorkshire Dales
East Gill Force near Keld in the Yorkshire Dales/Credit: Getty

On a lonely site high in the Yorkshire Dales stands a unique and historic place. With its exposed beams, stone-flagged floor and welcoming fire, the Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest public house at 528m (1,732ft), is a place where walkers brush shoulders with inquisitive tourists.

This walk takes you from Keld to the head of Arkengarthdale on the edge of Swaledale, where winds rush across moorland, and where you can stop at a warm pub to refuel or rest your weary head.

The route

  • 16.5/10.2 miles
  • 6 hours
  • Moderate

Keld walking route and map

Keld map

Grassington, North Yorkshire

After a paddle in the river, grab a coffee in the village of Grassington, Yorkshire Dales
After a paddle in the river, grab a coffee in the village of Grassington, Yorkshire Dales/Credit: Getty

The countryside around the Yorkshire Dales village of Grassington is dotted with pools and falls, making it an idyllic location for a spot of wild swimming. In the meadows south of Grassington, families mess about in rubber dinghies, skip over stepping-stones and throw themselves down water chutes.

Nearby Ghaistrill’s Strid offers exhilarating rapids, while Loup Scar tempts the more intrepid with a high jump and plunge pool. Enjoy all of the above on this riverside ramble along the banks of the Wharfe.

The route

  • 12.8km/8 miles
  • 4.5 hours
  • Moderate

Grassington walking route and map

Grassington map

Crackpot Hall and Upper Swaledale, North Yorkshire

The ruin of Crackpot Hall near Keld, Swaledale
This building has stood on the Crackpot Hall site for 500 years/Credit: Getty

Yearning for wide open spaces? This wonderful high-level walk meanders past a storied ruin and ends at an attractive waterfall in a little-visited, yet glorious, pocket of the Yorkshire Dales.

The walk starts in the little village of Muker in the heart of Swaledale, a lush green valley with a patchwork of tiny fields and barns. This has never been one of the more popular tourist dales, but our walk takes in the area at its best and most dramatic.

The route

  • 9.6km/6 miles
  • 3.5 hours
  • Moderate

Crackpot Hall walking route and map

Muker map

Ingleborough, North Yorkshire

Ingleborough, Yorkshire
Ingleborough is 723m tall/Credit: Getty

Walk the second highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales, a mountain pockmarked with cavernous sinkholes, rumbling rivers and labyrinthine limestone paving.

This eight-mile route to the summit and back takes you to a mysterious chasm and a famous pothole.

The route

  • 6.4 km/4 miles
  • 2.5 hours
  • Moderate

Ingleborough walking route and map

Ingleborough map

Howgill Fells, Cumbria

Sedbergh sits beneath the Howgill Fells in the Yorkshire Dales
Sedbergh sits beneath the Howgill Fells in the Yorkshire Dales/Credit: Getty

Don’t let its proximity to the M6 fool you into thinking that this is a well-used tourist circuit. Once you leave behind the ancient market town of Sedbergh and climb to reach the heights of Brant Fell, at more than 190m (600ft) above sea level, you will find yourself in a stunning but isolated landscape that’s well and truly off the beaten track.

The route starts from the centre of Sedbergh, a delightful market town that is situated at the confluence of four valleys and four rivers, and where ancient trading routes met. Over the centuries the town’s main industries have been based largely around sheep farming and the manufacture of woven and hand knitted products.

The route

  • 15.5km/9.6 miles
  • 5-7 hours
  • Challenging

Howgill Fells walking route and map

Howgill Fells map

Upper Wharfedale, North Yorkshire

Upper Wharfedale is a charming little valley off the beaten track where the roads are too narrow for trucks and busses to navigate
Upper Wharfedale is a charming little valley off the beaten track where the roads are too narrow for trucks and busses to navigate/Credit: Alamy

Upper Wharfedale is a charming little valley off the beaten track where the roads are too narrow for trucks and busses to navigate. It’s a bit of a bind to get to, but once you’ve found the dale, you’ll never forget it.

The limestone and peat uplands hereabouts are riven with steep-sided valleys and ghylls where water teems off the fells and tumbles over a series of waterfalls through the heart of the picturesque villages of Cray, Yockenthwaite and Hubberholme.

The route

  • 11.2km/6.9 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Upper Wharfedale walking route and map

Upper Wharfedale map

Smardale Beck and Gill, Cumbria

An old viaduct, built in 1861, rises almost 30m on 14 stone arches above Smardale Beck – it’s a fine vantage point for spotting all-year-round residents to the national nature reserve, such as sparrowhawks, buzzards and treecreepers
Smardale Beck runs beneath a 19th-century viaduct/Credit: Getty
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An old viaduct, built in 1861, rises almost 30m on 14 stone arches above Smardale Beck – it’s a fine vantage point for spotting all-year-round residents to the national nature reserve, such as sparrowhawks, buzzards and treecreepers. Enjoy a spectacular 7-mile walk through a secluded gorge in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The route

  • 11.3km/7 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate

Smaredale walking route and map

Smardale Beck map