Blessed with some of the UK’s tallest peaks, a wealth of lakes, waterfalls, streams and forests, the best walking trails in the Lake District are unsurprisingly among the most popular in Britain.
Covering a vast area of 912 square miles, the rich landscape of the Lake District National Park offers up some of the most enticing walking trails in the UK.
Boasting over 750 walking trails, Cumbria is a nature haven for walkers of all skill levels. But with so many walking trails in the Lake District to choose from, we’ve put this list together to help you on your way.
1. Glenridding to Howton
If you enjoy going walking for the adventure, the Glenridding to Howton path will not disappoint. It begins with a ferry ride for starters. The Ullswater Streamer has been crossing the 9-mile (14.5km) stretch of water for over 150 years and is an ultra-cool way to start a hike.
On that note, it’s worth pointing out that you can also take the ferry ride at the end of your walk if you’re moving in the direction from Howton to Glenridding. If you’re not there by 17.40 though you’ll miss it. You can check out the times and book the Ullswater Steamer here.
This 10.6km trail takes you past Ullswater lake and through the quaint village of Pattersdale before arriving in the charming hamlet of Howtown. It shouldn’t take you more than three hours and the level is easy to moderate. There are a few rocky paths to navigate.
2. Greendale and Middle Fell
Whilst many of the best walking trails in the Lake District can feel quite busy, Greendale and Middle Fell is one of the few exceptions. That’s not because this 3.5-mile walk is not worth the effort (it is). The reason why it’s so quiet is that the perception is that it’s hard to reach (it’s not).
Okay, you may have to take a little more time and effort, but if you’re like the freedom of being alone in nature, this is the walk for you. And to make sure you keep to the route, the National Trust has published a route guide for Greendale and Middle Fell which we recommend.
The trail takes you between the valleys of Wasdale and Eskdale which carve out a narrow ravine where you will find cascading waterfalls and pretty plunge pools. On a clear day, you can the Isle of Man.
If you take an interest in history you will find some noteworthy points dating back to the Romans. Stop for lunch by the stream at Greendale Tarn. It’s set in a deep hollow and creates the illusion that it’s flowing in the wrong direction.
3. Grasmere Lake and Rydal Water
The poetry of William Wordsworth was heavily inspired by the natural beauty in the Lake District. He was particularly fond of the paths around Grasmere Lake which are blessed with some of the most colourful patterns in the Lake District – especially in autumn.
Among the best walking trails in the Lake District is the six-mile circular tour of Grasmere to Rydal Water. A little longer than other paths around Grasmere, it’s ideal if you’re making a full day of it.
The circular walk starts from Pelter Bridge car parkland and takes you to the historically named Coffin road, so-called because funeral processions took this route from Rydal to the cemetery in Grasmere.
Other highlights along the route are the Rydal cave, the Wordsworth Museum, Rydal Mount, a former residence of Wordsworth, and, of course, Grasmere Lake. It’s a nice spot for a picnic.
Blencathra may not be the tallest peak in the Lake District, but the natural beauty certainly makes it one of the fondest. Surrounded by wooded trails and shimmering lakes, many people claim this is one of the most beautiful stretches in the whole of Cumbria.
There are plenty of walking trails to choose from also. The most popular is Sharp Edge, but there are easier trails flanking the south side of the mountain. The route you take will depend on your stamina.
The highest peak is Hallsfell which stands at 868m. Most walks take around two to three hours but if you want to make a longer day of it, the route from Scales in Keswick is a four-hour stint.
It’s worth noting that some routes are rockier than others and can be a little tricky for individuals that are not fleet of foot. Check these routes out before you go to determine which route you think will be most suitable for your group.
5. Duddon Valley
Duddon Valley was William Wordsworth’s favourite region in the Lake District. If you want to get a feel for the natural beauty along the Duddon River, dwell on the words of the great English poet: “where stalked the huge deer to his shaggy lair / through paths and alleys roofed with darkest green.”
If your heart is stoked by the same fires as Wordsworth and you enjoy beauty and tranquillity – it helps for writing poetry – then the Duddon Valley offers the ideal walking trails in the Lake District. It’s off the beaten track!
The sculptured valleys are an inspiration to many a walker. You may not rattle out 35 sonnets recalling your time spent there, but wandering through the woodlands and listen to the “tunes on Duddon’s banks” linger in the memory for a long time.
6. Buttermere Lake
Ringed by mountains on all sides, Lake Buttermere is nestled in one of the most scenic pockets of the Lake District. It also offers up some of the more strenuous climbs for trekkers that want to feel the burn. There are beginner-friendly slopes as well so you don’t have to be an experienced hiker to enjoy this part of the world.
And it’s not one you would want to miss either. The landscape is dynamic, dominated by some of the most dramatic peaks in Lakeland – including the enigmatic Haystacks which the writer Alfred Wainwright nominated as his favourite peak in the area.
If you venture around the shore of the lake you will be treated to some stunning photographic treasures; Haystacks reflected on the sultry waters of Buttermere and the neighbouring Crummock Water.
The surrounding woodland also makes nature walks interesting – especially if the kids are in tow. If you want some tips on how to entertain children whilst you’re out hiking, check out our article, “How to make nature walks exciting for kids.”
All in all, you will find 12 great hikes around Buttermere Lake. Fell walkers should head for the Red Pike to High Stile ridge, rated as one of the most attractive walking trails in the Lake District.
Thrill-seekers, on the other hand, should are recommended to take the hair-raising path along Fleetwith Pike.
7. Hallin Fell
Hallin Fell is a short circular walk that takes above the pretty hamlet of Howtown. It’s not a short walk, so take food and water, but it’s not a difficult walk either so suits trekkers of all levels and experience. However, the steep climb can be quite strenuous and may leave you out of breath by the time you reach the top.
The best place to start is from the car park at St. Peter’s Church in Martindale. The narrow path is a grassy slope that takes you on a sight-seeing adventure around the eastern fringes of the Ullswater and offers stunning views of the sloping hills and deep valleys.
The mile hike only takes about an hour to reach the summit – marked by a large cairn. The views looking out over Ullswater from this path are some of the best of this particular lake because you get to see it long ways on.
8. Scafell Pike from Wadsdale Head
Boasting a summit 978m above sea level, Scafell Pike is the highest patch of land in England. Needless to say, that a good percentage of trekked visiting the Lake District want to scale the grand mountain. All routes are graded difficult, but some are easier than others.
If you’re ambitious and have the stamina to scale Scafell Pike, the route from Wadsdale head is the easiest way to the summit. On a clear day, you can see the mountain peaks of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It’s one of the few spots from where you can see all of Britain.
As you might imagine, there are a number of routes up the mountain. The path from Wadsdale Head is agreeable for walkers of all standards, but if you want a tougher test, the 9-mile (15km) Corridor Route from Seathwaite comes highly recommended. Rising to just shy of 1,000 metres, the rugged path takes around 6 hours to conquer.
9. Blea Tarn
‘Tarns’ are small mountainside lakes and are found throughout the UK. Many of the tarns in the Lake District are popular hiking trails, but there are also many that are less busy and provide plenty of peace and quiet.
Blea Tarn in the heart of the Central Fells, falls into the less busy category despite being one of the most pleasant walking trails in the Lake District. The 7 miles hike from Ambleside invites you to admit panoramic views looking out over Langdale Pikes and Lingmooor Fell.
The Blea Tarn path is also pretty easy. It’s only 1.8 miles and the steady climb is not exhausting. In short, this is a walking trail that gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in nature even if you’re pressed for time. It’s an ideal walk for day-trippers and people that are new to trekking.
Catbells is a short but steep climb near Keswick. You don’t need to be super fit and can be achieved in a few short hours even if you have breaks. The views are richly rewarding, especially on clear summer days when visibility is high across the valley.
If you’re looking for a walk that is more strenuous, continue beyond catbells to High Spy and Maiden Moor. This charming 8-9mile loop trail takes in six peaks and throws in a waterfall. If you prefer an easy ascent, we recommend going around anti-clockwise.
Download the Sweatcoin App
If you are planning to tackle the best walking trails in the Lake District, why not download the sweatcoin app. We reward walkers for their efforts. For every 1000 steps you take, we give you 1SWC.
The sweat coin app has a built-in pedometer that counts your steps. We then convert steps into sweatcoins (SWC) which can be used to purchase discounted goods with our partners – and we have over 300 partners and counting.
Sweatcoin intends to promote technology for good to help improve the physical and mental health of the global population. If you want to support our mission, download our app and tell your friends how they can earn rewards by walking. Most people walk every day anyway, so you may as well get back what you put in.