5 best hikes in the Lake District

We’re taking a look at five of the best hikes in the Lake District with everything from Scafell Pike via Wasdale to Helvellyn.

Wansfell Ambleside

The Lake District is one of the most popular and beloved National Parks in the UK. Situated in the north of England, this park is famed for its rugged fells, glacially formed ribbon lakes and quaint historic villages. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a highly revered nature area.

The Lake District is a haven for hikers and hillwalkers across the world. In fact, famous British rambler Alfred Wainwright fell so in love with its magical fells that he moved to Kendal and spent most of his life mapping the National Park and writing guidebooks for other hillwalkers.

As Wainwright knew, the best way to explore this picturesque park is by foot. With so many trails on offer, choosing only 5 of the best hikes in the Lake District is a challenging feat. Yet that is exactly what makes the park such a special place – its bountiful opportunities.

After all, it’s hard to resist a place that English poet William Wordsworth described as “The loveliest spot that man hath found.” So, there’s no time to lose. Grab your walking poles, pull on your hiking boots, and let’s explore some fells!

Editor’s notes

We absolutely adore the Lake District, but it’s important to come prepared when hiking in the fells. Don’t forget to bring your hiking essentials and that includes waterproofs – trust me, you’ll need them even on the brightest of days!

1. Loughrigg Fell Circular

Right in the heart of the National Park, near Ambleside, you will find Loughrigg Fell. This is one of the best hikes in the Lake District due to the range of natural features and stunning views it has to offer.

Grasmere from Loughrigg Fell

The trail winds its way through bluebell forests, past old buildings, and along rocky outcrops. From the trig-point, there are spectacular vistas to the south of Lake Windemere – the UK’s largest lake. This is an accessible route that offers rewarding views on a stroll. 

  • Distance: 7.5 miles – loop
  • Total Climb: 595m
  • Time: 3-4 hours

2. Scafell Pike via Wasdale Head

No trip to the Lake District would be completed without an attempt to climb England’s highest mountain. Scafell Pike is 978 metres tall and has become a rite of passage for hillwalkers in the UK. For that reason, it is a strong contender for one of the best hikes in the Lake District.

Scafell Pike from Wasdale

The route from Wasdale Head is the most direct path to the summit. This is often the preferred trail taken by beginner hikers. However, if you’re looking for more of a challenge, there’s the Corridor Route that beings in Seathwaite.

This is a very popular trail, and you will often be sharing the mountain with other hillwalkers. If you’re looking for a remote day in the fells, this probably isn’t for you. But if you want to challenge yourself to climb one of the biggest mountains in the UK, then this is not one to miss.

  • Distance: 5.8 miles – out and back
  • Total Climb: 892m
  • Time: 4-5 hours

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3. Hawes End, Cat Bells and Derwent Circular

This trail includes a jaunt over the scenic ridge of Cat Bells before dropping down to follow a shoreline path alongside Derwentwater. Both these spots are cherished walking areas and are known to be some of the best hikes in the Lake District. Combing them into one trail is too good an opportunity to miss!

Keswick from Catbells

This is a moderately challenging path that includes a bit of scrambling and some sections where you may need to use your hands for balance. At times, the exposure on the trail means hikers will receive heavy winds. However, this shouldn’t put you off as the views are well worth the challenge!

  • Distance: 4.4 miles – loop
  • Total Climb: 405m
  • Time: 2-3 hours

4. Helvellyn

Helvellyn is the highest peak in the Helvellyn Range of the Lake District National Park. From the summit, you will find excellent views down towards Red Tarn, Thirlmere Reservoir, and the fells of the National Park.

Helvellyn from Striding Edge

The landscape is rocky and harsh underfoot. This hike involves a large ascent which will get your muscles burning and your heart pumping. For more adventurous ramblers, there’s the route up Helvellyn via Striding Edge – regarded as one of the best walking challenges in the UK!

This is perhaps the most famous arete scramble in all the UK – closely contended by Crib Goch in Snowdonia National Park. Whichever you choose, it’s going to be one special day attempting one of the best hikes in the Lake District.

  • Distance: 4.5 miles – out and back
  • Total Climb: 747m
  • Time: 3-4 hours

5. Orrest Head Circular Walk

This trail is more of a scenic amble than a hair-raising scramble. That’s the wonderful thing about the Lake District – it’s easy to find walks for all, no matter your experience level. The walk around Orrest Head offers sublime panoramas of the most famous lake in the National Park – Windemere.

Lake Windermere from Wansfell Pike

Lake Windemere is the largest lake in England. It stretches 10.5 miles long and is 220 feet deep. The lake is very popular with cyclists, walkers, sailors, and holidaymakers enjoying the beauty of its waters.

A hike up Orrest Head will present you with the best view of this marvellous natural feature, without having to contend with all the crowds. From the summit, you can glimpse the Irish Sea and Scafell Pike. It is also said to be the point where Alfred Wainwright fell in love with “Lakeland”. Clearly, this is one of the best hikes in the Lake District you can discover.

  • Distance: 2.8 miles – loop
  • Total Climb: 160m
  • Time: 1-2 hours

Bonus Hike – Buttermere Haystacks Circular

Haystacks is another immensely popular fell in the Lake District, labelled as Alfred Wainwright’s favourite. It is situated in the northwest of the National Park rising above the waters of Lake Buttermere. This is a more remote area of the Lake District with a challenging trail to boot.

Buttermere from Gatesgarth

If you still have some energy and wish to explore further afield, this hike is for you. This trail features a technical scramble which should only be attempted by hikers with mountaineering experience. 

It is yet another example of the spectacular walks in the National Park and is undeniably one of the best hikes in the Lake District.

  • Distance: 8 miles – loop
  • Total Climb: 662m
  • Time: 4-5 hours

There you have it – our top 5 hikes in the Lake District. Think we’re missing one of your favourites? Let us know on our socials and we’ll try it out as soon as we can!

FAQ: The best hikes in the Lake District

Searching for the answer to a question about the best hikes in the Lake District? You’re in the right place – check out our FAQ below and we’ll hopefully be able to help with any queries! 

With a total of 214 different peaks (or Wainwrights) in the Lake District, hikers and spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing their favourite walk.

Everybody has their own preference when it comes to the very best Lake District hike, but we’d be tempted to say that Catbells is our overall favourite!

If you’re still looking for the answer to a question – don’t hesitate to reach out! Adventure Pending is based in the Lake District and the team is always happy to answer any questions about the beautiful corner of the country.

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