The craggy peaks, sheep-strewn valleys, dry stone walls, and glistening lakes of the Fells are best seen on foot. Hit the trail with our guide to the best walks in the Lake District.

By: Mark Barnes | Published: 1 Jul 2023 | Last update: 21 Nov 2023

The Lake District is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the UK, and there’s no better way to see it than on foot. With hundreds of paths to explore, you can choose from gentle strolls around glistening lakes to hardy hikes high up in the Fells.

Lakeland writer Alfred Wainwright documented routes up 214 mountains, ranging from the diminutive 290-metre Castle Crag to Scafell Pike at 978 metres.

Our list is a bit shorter. We’ve curated 15 of our favorites, including several Wainwrights. Some are easier walks with spellbinding Lake District views, while others traverse challenging ridges with a heart-pumping ascent.

We’ve spent a lot of time hiking in the area, and in our opinion, these are the best Lake District walks to truly showcase this remarkable landscape.

We have split the walks into easy, medium, and challenging, so you can find a walk that’s just right for you. Each walk has a detailed map that you can download and take with you.

HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE

The tables below provide an overview of each of the walks in this guide which are grouped based on their difficulty level. Under the description of each walk, we have included a map with the specific route we recommend.

Please keep in mind that these route maps are indicative, especially when the paths head over narrow ridges.

Our favourite hikes in the Lake District are spread over the national park, so we have included them all on the below map to help you get your bearings. Green are the easy walks, yellow are the medium, and red are the more difficult walks.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


EASY LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

All of our easy hikes in the Lake District are under 8 kilometres and can be done in 2 hours or less. They are relatively flat with an elevation of no more than 200 metres and the paths are easy to follow.

WalkDistanceDurationElevation
1 – Latrigg2 km30 min80 m
2 – Tarn Hows3.2 km1 hr80 m
3 – Buttermere7.5 km2 hr140 m
4 – Rydal Water4.7 km1.5 hr200 m
5 – Castle Crag5.5 km1.5 hr170 m

MEDIUM LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

Our 5 medium walks in are either longer in distance or require more ascent and descent, making them slightly more physically demanding. They include some of the smaller Wainwrights for which you will need a reasonable level of fitness.

WalkDistanceDurationElevation
6 – Rannerdale Knotts4.8 km1 hr, 45 min280 m
7 – Catbells4.8 km1 hr, 45 min320 m
8 – Helm Crag7.5 km2.5 hr340 m
9 – Loughrigg Fell8 km2.5 hr360 m
10 – Ullswater12.5 km3 – 4 hr290 m

CHALLENGING LAKE DISTRICT WALKS

Our 5 challenging hikes tackle some of the highest Wainwright mountains in the Lake District National Park. They are long and tiring with considerable ascent and descent. Each of them will require you to use your hands periodically.

WalkDistanceDurationElevation
11 – Blencathra8.5 km4 hr730 m
12 – Langdale Pikes8.7 km4 hr, 15 min870 m
13 – Haystacks14.2 km5 hr, 15 min830 m
14 – Helvellyn13 km5 hr, 45 min840 m
15 – Scafell Pike14.8 km6.5 hr980 m

1 – LATRIGG

There is no easier Lake District circular walk that delivers such impressive views than this very easy hike up to the summit of Latrigg.

From the parking at Underskiddaw, it’s a simple 15-minute stroll up a grassy bank to the summit.

While the walk up might be quick, you’re bound to spend plenty more time at the top admiring the views. To the north are the rounded summits of Skiddaw. To the east the waves of Blencathra’s ridges hover over the distant Pennines. And to the south, the town of Keswick rests peacefully on the edge of Derwentwater in this beautiful national park.

Come at dawn or dusk for a superb Lake District experience.

ROUTE DETAILS // LATRIGG

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 2 kilometres | Time – 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-80 metres | Start – Underskiddaw Car Park


LATRIGG WALK MAP

2 – TARN HOWS CIRCULAR WALK

The Tarn Hows circular walk only takes one hour to complete, but it’s one of the best days out in the Lake District for families looking for a relaxing escape in nature via a pleasant walk.

Grassy slopes on the bank provide plenty of space for a rest on the short walk and the views up to the rugged Langdale Pikes in the distance are well worth stopping to takin in.

The National Trust runs the parking at the Tarn Hows. They also sell basic food supplies and can provide a handy map of the area. The trails are well-marked and easy to follow and with toilet facilities available it’s the perfect Lake District walk for families.

This is a popular location in the Lake District National Park and it can get very busy in peak season.

ROUTE DETAILS // TARN HOWS

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 3.2 kilometres | Time – 1 hour | Elevation – +/-80 metres | Start – National Trust Tarn Hows Car Park | DirectionsFollow this map

Gentle walking path circles a picturesque lake in the Lake District
TARN HOWS

3 – BUTTERMERE CIRCULAR WALK

My favourite of the easy walks in the Lake District National Park, this sensational loop of Buttermere passes through some of the finest scenery in the region.

Starting in the very attractive Lake District village of Buttermere, this 2-hour circular walk navigates the beautifully set lake with pristine mountain reflections. Along the way you pass deep cut ravines, craggy mountains, ancient woods and gorse-lined roads.

A stand of trees at the south-eastern end of the lake resting under the craggy buttresses of Haystacks – Wainwrights favourite mountain – provides one of our favourite photo spots in the Lake District.

End with coffee and a cake from the Croft House Farm Café or if the sun is shining, the top-notch homemade ice cream from Sykes Farm.

ROUTE DETAILS // BUTTERMERE

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 7.5 kilometres | Time – 2 hours | Elevation – +/-140 metres | Start – National Trust Parking in Buttermere


BUTTERMERE WALK MAP

4 – RYDAL WATER CIRCULAR WALK

The circular hike around Rydal Water has a bit more ascent than the first three easy Lake District hikes, but it’s still relatively easy. It could be completed in just 90 minutes, but it’s well worth spending much longer as there is a lot to see.

Pop into Rydal Mount, Wordsworth’s final home before he died, explore Rydal Cave, a large gaping hole in the rock, and take a dip in one of the best wild swimming spots in the Lake District.

Halfway around the short walk, take a sophisticated break at Rydal Hall which serves high tea in the beautifully manicured gardens. If you fancy something less formal, the friendly Badger Bar is a great option.

Even if you do none of that, the trail that ambles through lovely woodland and bluebell-filled slopes offers excellent views of the Rydal Water with rugged Loughrigg Fell behind. It’s a fun half-day out and a thoroughly pleasant walk in the Lake District.

ROUTE DETAILS // RYDAL WATER

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 4.7 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-200 metres | Start – White Moss Parking


RYDAL WATER WALK MAP

5 – CASTLE CRAG LOOP

This relatively easy circular walk is a little tougher than the first four but encapsulates everything the Lake District National Park has to offer. The trail starts in the village of Rosthwaite before heading downstream along the River Derwent. A packhorse bridge carries you to the other side and into a lovely forest. Being the wettest valley in England, moss covers stone walls and rocks in a glorious coating of luminescent green; perfect conditions for Lake District photography.

There are caves to explore and mounds of slate to negotiate before the path drops back to the river providing an opportunity to paddle and picnic next to the river.

The trail now circles around Castle Crag and steadily rises for 20 minutes to provide stunning views over Borrowdale and some of the mightiest mountains in the Lake District. Just make sure you check for rain before you go.

ROUTE DETAILS // CASTLE CRAG

Difficulty – Easy | Distance – 5.5 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-170 metres | Start – Rosthwaite Parking


CASTLE CRAG LOOP WALK MAP

6 – RANNERDALE KNOTTS  

There are some mountains in the Lake District that are not that high, but by dint of their excellent position provide magnificent views. The Rannerdale Knotts circular walk is one of them.

The trail begins in Buttermere and heads up a steep climb on a grassy slope. It might look a little challenging at the start, but after about 30 minutes of hard work you will have reached the top of the ridge and the rest of the walk is a glorious exploration of all that’s best about the Lake District.

A lovely stroll along the ridgetop has fine views to Crummock Water in front, and Buttermere behind. There is the odd rocky crest to summit as you make your way, but nothing hard, and after another 20 minutes you reach the glorious summit. Views of the north-western fells open up before you and on a clear day Scotland glimmers in the distance.

Carefully pick your route down off the summit, before descending along another grassy slope to the edge of Crummock Water. If you are feeling brave then take a dip at Crummock’s southern beach, otherwise wind through the forest back to the parking.

ROUTE DETAILS // RANNERDALE KNOTTS

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 4.8 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 45 minutes | Elevation – +/-280 metres | Start – National Trust Car Park in Buttermere


RANNERDALE KNOTTS WALK MAP

7 – CATBELLS

Catbells is not one of the highest peaks, but it stands imperiously over Derwentwater. Viewed from Keswick its sides are steep and sleek and from its summit, the 360-degree views are excellent. It is rightly one of the most popular walks in the Lake District. As Wainwright wrote, “There is beauty everywhere – and nothing but beauty.”

Parking can be tricky. There are a few spaces in the small Gutherscale parking location and some more on the road leading to it. Parking is also available at Hawse End, a bit further away. If you are staying in Keswick, get the ferry across to the Hawse End Jetty and start the walk from there, this will add 1 kilometre and 20 minutes to the walk, but significantly reduce the hassle.   

The trail to the summit is short but it’s a steep climb. Rising in two stages it zigzags up along the crest of the mountain. You may need your hands in a couple of places, but nothing is too difficult, and you are rewarded with stunning views all the way.

There few easier ways down a mountain than from this excellent circular walk. A gentle sloping path curls right until it returns to where you started. This Lake District hike can be completed in less than 2 hours and is a great one to save for sunset.

ROUTE DETAILS // CATBELLS

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 4.8 kilometres | Time – 1 hour 45 minutes | Elevation – +/-320 metres | Start – Gutherscale Car Park


CATBELLS WALK MAP

man stands on the top of a mountain looking out at another group of mountains across a valley

8 – HELM CRAG

The summit of Helm Crag is an oddity. A strange finger of rock reaches into the sky from the summit. You may find getting on top of the precipitous finger a step too far, but don’t worry the rest is worth it.

There are three things that make this walk one of our favourite activities in the Lake District. First, it starts in Grasmere, one of the prettiest villages in the Lake District. Everywhere you look charming slate buildings are dwarfed by the hills towering over them.

Secondly, the path to the summit (although not that long) feels like the trail to Mordor. A track of rock and stone winds its way through narrow cracks and around rocky towers. Thirdly, the views from the summit towards Grasmere are a joy.

Allow just over 2 hours for the return route, but plan for a bit longer because The Good Sport in Grasmere brews its own ale and it would be wrong not to support their efforts.

ROUTE DETAILS // HELM CRAG

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 7.5 kilometres | Time – 2 hours, 20 minutes | Elevation – +/-340 metres | Start – Grasmere Car Park


HELM CRAG WALK MAP

9 – LOUGHRIGG FELL

Loughrigg is a little lump of a mountain which packs a punch. It sits at the centre of a host of attractive valleys in the Lake District, and although only a little more than a thousand feet high (335 metres), it has surprisingly wide-ranging views. Lakes and tarns stretch off in all directions, pretty villages sit under its flanks, and higher mountains form an amphitheatre around it.

But the real highlights are the slopes of Loughrigg themselves. Bobbling mounds of grass strewn with sheep, heather-covered hillocks split by zigzagging dry stone walls, and paths leading over wooden stiles down to shimmering lakes.

My favourite in the medium-difficulty Lake District hikes, there are plenty of different routes up and down. Some only take 90 minutes but I have picked the best which passes by Rydal Water, stops off at Rydal Cave and takes about two and a half hours.

Finish the day with a wild swim in Grasmere.

ROUTE DETAILS // LOUGHRIGG FELL

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 8 kilometres | Time – 2 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-360 metres | Start – Pelter Bridge Car Park


LOUGHRIGG WALK MAP

10 – HOWTOWN TO GLENRIDDING WALK, ULLSWATER

None of the other best walks in the Lake District begin better than this one. Hop on the Ullswater Steamer at Glenridding and relax on deck as the boat glides the 40 minutes across the lake to Howtown. From here all you have to do is trek back.

The rocky path that undulates along the eastern side of the lake, is a beautiful stretch of trail. It cuts across steep slopes, meanders in and out of forest and peers up at vast clumps of moss. On a sunny day you drift in and out of dappled sunlight and there are many great spots for a picnic or coffee stop perched above the glistening water. After reaching the end of the lake, head across to Patterdale. Unfortunately, the last 10 minutes require walking along the road back to Glenridding, but it’s worth it.

An excellent detour is to head up to the summit of Hallin Fell, one of the lower Wainwright mountains. It not only has stupendous views over Ullswater but also over the Martindale valley where the grassy fields contrast beautifully with the craggy moor-covered tops.

It takes about 3 hours to walk back without heading up Hallin Fell, or four if you go via the summit. It’s simply one of the best things to do in the Lake District.

ROUTE DETAILS // ULLSWATER

Difficulty – Medium | Distance – 11 to 12.5 kilometres | Time – 3 to 4 hours | Elevation – +/-290 metres or 470 metres | Start – Ullswater Steamers in Glenridding


HOWTOWN TO GLENRIDDING WALK MAP

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11 – BLENCATHRA

Blencathra sits all alone in the northeast of the Lakes. At first impression, it appears little more than a large hill. But looks can be deceiving, and ascending this unobtrusive mountain is one of the best hikes in the Lake District.

The reason is the excellent choice of routes to the summit.

The first, via Scales Fell, is a gradual climb that shortly after the beginning, rewards you with fine views of the North Pennines and Helvellyn.

The second route is Halls Fell Ridge, a steep, rocky ascent along a sinuous ridge. This is an excellent choice for anyone new to scrambling. The ridge is not too sheer or too narrow – over a couple of meters wide in most places – but you may need your hands for support. If you’re good with heights, you can mostly just stride across the top.

Third is Sharp Edge. The hardest and most challenging Grade 1 ridge in the Lake District.

All the details are in our Blencathra guide.

ROUTE DETAILS // BLENCATHRA

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – About 8.5 kilometres | Time – About 4 hours | Elevation – +/-730 metres | Start – Scales Farm Parking


BLENCATHRA MAP

12 – LANGDALE PIKES

The Langdale Pikes are a dramatic collection of five peaks whose rugged summits drop precipitously to Great Langdale Valley. The views from each of them are excellent and especially towards Bowfell and the mighty crags of the Scafell Range.

From the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel, it’s a steep hike up a well-trodden path to Stickle Tarn, a high lake sitting under the craggy façade of Pavey Ark, the largest and most imposing cliff in the Lake District.

The path heads east and winds around the edge of the cliff face until reaching the summit. It then heads across a surprisingly flat landscape to visit the other four peaks before dropping back into the valley. End the day with a drink at the Sticklebarn and try their carbon-friendly menu of vegetarian and locally farmed lamb dishes.  

There is a more adventurous route up the face of Pavey Ark called Jack’s Rake. A grade 1 scramble, it clambers along a groove cutting diagonally across the massive cliff. If that sounds like your kind of fun, read our best grade 1 scrambles in the Lake District guide.

ROUTE DETAILS // LANGDALE PIKES

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 8.7 kilometres | Time – 4 hours 15 minutes | Elevation – +/-870 metres | Start – Sticklebarn Car Park


LANGDALE PIKES WALK MAP

Large rocky face behind a lake, Pavey Ark Lake District
Man sits on the top of a mountain overlooking a green valley

13 – HAYSTACKS AND FLEETWITH PIKE

This delightful walk to Haystacks (Wainwright’s favourite mountain in the Lake District) and Fleetwith Pike, not only includes excellent views of the Buttermere loop, but also collects two great summits.

Haystacks is all nobbles and bumps. Little tarns dot the summit and paths disappear into tiny canyons. In September the heather glows purple in the later afternoon sun.

The views from both peaks look up to the imposing Great Gable and imperious Pillar and down to the gorgeous Buttermere. The route back is along Fleetwith Pike ridge. It’s a bit steep in places but the almost 360-degree vistas make it worthwhile.

There is nothing technical or difficult here, just a long (5 hours 15 minutes) but fantastic walk in great scenery. If you want to shorten it, skip the Buttermere loop and leave from Gatesgarth car parking spot (3 hours 30 minutes). If you also want to skip the climb up Fleetwith Pike, then head up Haystacks and come back via Warnscale (3 hours). See route options on the map below.

ROUTE DETAILS // HAYSTACKS

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 14.2 kilometres | Time – 5 hours 15 minutes | Elevation – +/-830 metres | Start – Buttermere Car Park


HAYSTACKS WALK MAP

14 – HELVELLYN VIA STRIDING EDGE & SWIRRAL EDGE

This magnificent walk ascends the third-highest peak in the Lake District. It’s one of the most exciting hikes in the area and, thanks to the use of two excellent ridges, an exhilarating adventure activity in the UK.

Striding Edge is a thrilling narrow, exposed ridge. You’ll need a head for heights and some confidence to navigate the tricky drop over ‘the chimney’ near the end. However, it’s one of the easier Grade 1 scrambles in the lakes and a great introduction to the more challenging hikes.

The return route is via Swirral Edge, another fine Lake District ridge that is not as narrow or as scary.

Views stretch in all directions, Ullswater glistens below. More details are in our guide to hiking Helvellyn via Striding Edge.

ROUTE DETAILS // HELVELLYN

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 13 kilometres | Time – 5 hours, 45 minutes | Elevation – +/-840 metres | Start – Glenridding Car Park


HELVELLYN WALK MAP

15 – SCAFELL PIKE VIA CORRIDOR ROUTE

It is always a thrill to climb the highest mountain in a region and Scafell Pike is no exception. The most popular route is the most direct ascent from Wasdale Head. But a much more enjoyable route is our favourite challenging walk in the Lake District.

Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route traverses under the craggy flanks of Great End, as it winds its way up to the Scafell Pike’s summit. There’s nothing tricky here, just a fantastic (but long) walk which is one of the best things to do in the Lake District.

The excellent trail crosses mountain streams, rises over stony summits and skirts the top of deep craggy ghylls (ravines). At all times (weather permitting) the views across to Great Gable and up to the rocky faces of Lingmell Fell and the Scafells are exceptional.

The return path runs alongside Ruddy & Grains Gills where a little stream has cut a small canyon creating a series of attractive waterfalls. Two large tarns – Sty Head Tarn and Sprinkling Tarn – provide excellent options to enjoy some bracing wild swimming on the return trip.

The Langstrath Country Inn in Stonethwaite is a traditional Lake District pub and one of our favourites for a post-hike pint after Scafell Pike. It’s just a few minutes’ drive from the end of the hike at Seathwaite Farm.

For other routes, read our guide to the 5 best walks up Scafell Pike.

ROUTE DETAILS // SCAFELL PIKE

Difficulty – Challenging | Distance – 14.8 kilometres | Time – 6 hours 30 minutes | Elevation – +/-980 metres | Start – Seathwaite Farm in Borrowdale


SCAFELL PIKE WALK MAP

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