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10 Best Walks in the Yorkshire Dales

10 Best Walks in the Yorkshire Dales

Windswept moors and craggy landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales National Park provide an atmospheric backdrop for walking. The best walks in the Yorkshire Dales take you past cascading waterfalls, through pastures, into fairytale woodlands, and up the park’s tallest peaks. 

The Dales is one of the many stunning national parks in the UK like the Peak District that you won’t want to miss out on as an avid hiker.

Lace up your hiking boots; this guide compiles all the information you need to plan easy walks in Yorkshire Dales through to the demanding trails. 

Best Time of Year to Visit Yorkshire Dales

You can visit the Yorkshire Dales National Park at any time of year. 

Attractions, museums, and amenities remain open during winter although you will note that operating hours are reduced and local buses operate a limited service in winter. On the other hand, parking is competitive during the peak summer season. 

Conditions for walking in the Yorkshire Dales are agreeable during spring, summer, and autumn. Temperatures are warmer and there are more hours of daylight. 

Between April and September, the daily temperature lingers between 15-18°C. July is generally the hottest month with average highs of 17-18°C. If you hike during these months, take extra precautions such as avoiding the midday heat, carrying additional water, and sunscreen. When you’re hiking along these exposed tracks you can burn – even in Northern England!

January is the coldest month in the Dales with temperatures lingering around a frosty 1-3°C. You might be fortunate to see a dusting of snow. It is still possible to tackle short walks in Yorkshire Dales during winter. However, bear in mind that it gets dark as early as 4 pm.

road through the countryside in the uk

The windy country roads through the Yorkshire Dales at sunset are the perfect end to a day well spent.

Tips for Walking in the Yorkshire Dales

  • Always follow the Countryside Code. This means securing gates behind you, keeping your dog under control, taking your litter home with you, not disturbing the livestock, and planning ahead. 
  • All of the trails featured in this guide to the best walks in Yorkshire Dales are signposted and easy to follow. However, you should ensure that your phone is fully charged and that you have access to offline maps. For example, the app Maps.me is handy to have as a backup.
  • Prior to hiking, you can pop into a Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitor Centre. They are dotted throughout the moors and staff are always happy to answer any questions and provide printed maps. 
  • Strenuous trails such as 3 Peaks Walk Yorkshire Dales should be attempted only by experienced hikers with high fitness abilities. Eager novices are advised to hike with seasoned mountaineer buddies or join a group hike. 
  • The vast majority of walks are circulars. However, if you need to cut a walk short or decide to do an out-and-back, you can hop on your nearest Dales Bus to get back to your vehicle. 
country road in the yorkshire dales

Some of the walks are along country roads like this at certain points, so you just need to be aware of cars that may not be expecting to see walkers.

10 Best Walks in the Yorkshire Dales for all abilities 

Hiking is one of the top 10 things to do in Yorkshire Dales National Park. Get inspired with these fabulous, fun, and adventurous hikes in the Dales! 

The first cluster of trails is recommended for beginner hikers and younger children. You’ll see that the tracks grow in the level of difficulty and stamina required as you work through this list. 

1. Aysgarth Woodlands & Waterfall

Length: 2.6 miles

Duration: 1.5 hours

Elevation: 80 metres

Level of difficulty: Easy

Kid-friendly: Yes

Start/end: Aysgarth Falls National Park Car Park

It is possible to visit Aysgarth Falls without a full hike. However, this short and sweet circuit takes you into the neighbouring woods and pastures for greater immersion into the Dales. 

Leave your car and head east into the Freeholders’ Woods, following the trail northeast. This is one of the best walks in Yorkshire Dales during spring when the woodland bluebells are in bloom. 

After getting a peek at Bolton Castle the path swoops down to meet the River Ure where you have the option to visit several other waterfalls: Lower Force, Middle Force, and High Force. The three falls are located within a mile of each other along the waterway. You’ll conclude the hike at the picturesque Aysgarth Falls.

The Aysgarth Falls is suitable for families, children, and all levels of ability. Expect to get a little muddy on this fun nature walk.

waterfalls in the yorkshire dales national park

There are so many wonderful waterfalls around the Yorkshire Dales. At least that British weather is good for something!

2. Ingleton Waterfalls Trail 

Length: 4.5 miles

Duration: 2.5 hours 

Elevation: 193 metres 

Level of difficulty: Easy

Kid-friendly: Yes

Start/end: Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

The Ingleton Waterfalls Trail is a circular walk near Ingleton Village. It takes you past six falls that are scattered in the woodland around the Twiss and Doe rivers. Perfect for all the waterfall chasers out there!

You will follow the course of the River Twiss through the Swila Glen before reaching the first three falls: Pecca Falls, Hollybush Spout, and Thornton Force. A short ramble through the pastures deposits you at the River Doe which steers you back to the start point. After passing the fourth waterfall, Beezley Falls, you can choose to follow the main route or the challenging alternative track.

The Ingleton Waterfalls Trail is one of the easy walks in Yorkshire Dales that packs in a lot of scenery. 

An admission fee of 8 GBP per adult (4 GBP per child) applies to this hike. Limited first-come, first-served complimentary parking is included in the ticket price. The trail is open year-round but reduced admission hours apply during winter. 

waterfall walk in the yorkshire dales national park

It depends on the time of year and how much rain there has been recently as to how strong the waterfalls will be.

3. Ribblehead Viaduct Circular

Length: 5 miles

Duration: 2.5 hours 

Elevation: 162 metres 

Level of difficulty: Easy

Kid-friendly: Yes

Start/end: Ribblehead Viaduct Car Park

With so many natural and geological wonders, it’s easy to overlook the man-made points of interest in the Dales. The Ribblehead Viaduct carries the scenic Settle–Carlisle Railway line through the moors. Constructed in the late 19th-century, it spans a length of 400 metres and a height of 32 metres. 

This circular hike takes you on a loop around the structure while offering views of the Whernside and Ingleborough peaks. The terrain is flat although you may find sections are overgrown with shrubs and it can get muddy in places. However, the path remains well-trodden and clearly marked.

The Ribblehead Viaduct is one of the best short walks in Yorkshire Dales for architecture buffs and photographers. It’s also a popular option for dog walkers. 

viaduct walk in the yorkshire dales

The viaduct is well worth visiting on a trip to the Yorkshire Dales.

4. Malham Cove Circular 

Length: 7.6 miles

Duration: 4-5 hours 

Elevation: 416 metres 

Level of difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Kid-friendly: Yes

Start/end: Yorkshire Dales National Park Car Park Malham

The eroded pavement at Malham Cove is the star of the Yorkshire Dales. This colossal limestone amphitheatre is the handiwork of a former glacier and erosion. It clocks a height of 70 metres (230 feet). In order to see that legendary limestone, you’ll need to hike up to the top of the cove. 

Malham Cove is one of the overall best walks in the Yorkshire Dales as it provides suitable conditions for families and kids – and jaw-dropping vistas at every turn.

You can opt to hike up to the top of the cliff and then return the same route back to Malham Village. This is ideal if you’re short on time or visiting with novice hikers or little children in tow.

Alternatively, you can take the full circular route for a moderate experience. This includes hiking up the hill to the glacial Malham Tarn (optional) before dropping down into the woodland to see the ravine, Gordale Scar, and the waterfall, Janet’s Foss. 

The circular includes steep sections that may prove challenging for younger hikers. Remember that track may be slippery near the water but it’s a cracker of a hike. 

views while hiking in the yorkshire dales

Stunning views all year round in the Yorkshire Dales!

5. Swaledale & Crackpot Hall

Length: 5.8 miles

Duration: 3 hours 

Elevation: 325 metres

Level of difficulty: Moderate 

Kid-friendly: Recommended for 11+

Start/end: Muker Village 

The pastoral fells of Swaledale in the northern reaches of the Dales are a hiker’s delight. Throughout the course of this moderate walk, you will see pastures dotted with barns and lashings of wildflowers during spring.

The loop trail to Crackpot Hall starts in the village of Muker and initially traces the Pennine Way. You’ll notice a change in elevation as you climb into the valley of Swinner Gill. This is the most demanding segment of the trail; once you pass by Kisdon peak you will begin to dip back down towards the River Swale. 

You’ll be greeted by two beautiful waterfalls – East Gill and Kisdon Force – before arriving at the dilapidated yet tranquil remains of Crackpot Hall. The abandoned farmhouse feels more remote than it is in reality and provides expansive views of the Swaledale valleys.  

A shorter alternative to one of the best hikes Yorkshire Dales offers is to hike to Crackpot Hall and from Keld village. This also avoids the steep climb and is suitable for younger children.  

walking gate that you climb over on a walk

The trails around the Yorkshire Dales are very well marked and the stiles and steps are well-kept throughout the year.

6. Upper Wharfedale Loop

Length: 7 miles

Duration: 4 hours

Elevation: 546 metres

Level of difficulty: Moderate 

Kid-friendly: Recommended for 11+

Start/end: Buckden Car Park

The Upper Wharfedale Loop is one of the best walks in the Dales for scenic diversity. After getting off to a steep start the trail soon levels off once you have Buckden Pike in sight. There’s no need to walk up to the summit of the peak unless you’re happy to extend the hike. 

Instead, follow the path to Cray where you can see a selection of waterfalls in the national park. The White Lion Inn is an optional lunch stop in place of a picnic. 

The rural walk continues through quintessential hills, valleys, and pastures that are particularly special when the wildflowers are in season. Follow the signs for Stubbings Bridge and Yockenthwaite – the latter is a farming hamlet and a fabulous spot for photos. Head east following the River Wharfe to return to the starting point.

green hills with blue skies and clouds

The rolling hills of this region make for excellent walking.

7. Burnsall to Hubberholme

Length: 15 miles

Duration: 7 hours 

Elevation: 568 metres 

Level of difficulty: Moderate 

Kid-friendly: Recommended for 14+

Start/end: Burnsall Village Hall/Hubberholme

The Burnsall to Hubberholme hike is one segment of a multi-day hike, the Dales Way, featured later on this list of walks in Yorkshire Dales. It’s the perfect day hike if you want a blend of countryside landscapes and cute Yorkshire villages. 

Leaving the village of Burnsall, you will follow the left bank of the River Wharfe as far as Hebden Mill. After crossing the suspension bridge, you will continue on the right bank. So far, so flat! Choose to picnic by the Linton Falls or visit a tea room in the postcard-pretty village of Grassington. 

The elevation increases after Grassington and rewards you with plunging valleys and rocky limestone outcrops. Pause for a coffee in the tiny village of Kettlewell before wrapping 

As this is a point-to-point trail, you will need to travel back to your car via bus. You can reduce the walk by going as far as one of the villages mentioned. 

green hills with stone wall in yorkshire dales national park

The views on some of the walks in the Yorkshire Dales, especially in spring and summer, are so very green.

8. Simon’s Seat (Valley of Desolation)

Length: 9.3 miles

Duration: 5 hours 

Elevation: 548 metres 

Level of difficulty: Demanding 

Kid-friendly: Recommended for 11+

Start/end: Bolton Abbey (Bolton Priory)

Simon’s Seat is a rugged outcrop near the village of Howgill that marks the summit of Barden Fell and Barden Moor. Despite only sitting at a modest height of 485 metres, it provides outstanding 360-degree views of the mid-Wharfedale moorland.

There are several ways of reaching Simon’s Seat. However, the loop from Bolton Abbey is one of the best walks in the Dales for surveying the scenery.

Leaving your car at Bolton Priory (also known as Bolton Abbey) you will start by walking along the banks of the River Wharfe. Soon, you will veer eastwards into the ominously named Valley of Desolation. Stop off at the waterfall before making your gradual ascent towards Simon’s Seat where you can scramble on the rocks to your heart’s content.

As the hike is somewhat challenging, you do have the option of hopping on a bus at Burnsall or Appletreewick. Another alternative is to park at Barden Bridge which avoids paying the parking fee at Bolton Abbey.  

9. Three Peaks Challenge 

Length: 24 miles

Duration: 12-48 hours

Elevation: 1,646 metres

Level of difficulty: Demanding 

Kid-friendly: No

Start/end: Horton in Ribblesdale

The 3 Peaks Walk Yorkshire Dales is one of the toughest trails available in the national park. 

The loop takes you to the summit of the three tallest peaks within the national park: Pen-y-ghent (694 metres), Whernside (736 metres), and Ingleborough (723 metres). Usually tackled in this order, the route in its entirety is 24 miles (38.6 km) and includes an elevation gain of 1,585 metres (5,200 feet).

This walk is commonly known as the Three Peak Challenge. That’s because the challenge is to complete the entire circuit within 12 hours. This is only suitable for adult hikers with experience and a high level of fitness.

However, there is no reason why you can’t straddle the climbs over two or even three days. Another option is to tackle one of the 3 Peaks. Pen-y-ghent offers the easiest conditions while not scrimping on the scenic value on the way up. Ingleborough is the toughest experience of the three. 

windy roads in the yorkshire dales

If you wake up early enough or hike in the national park mid-week you can have many of the trails completely to yourself.

10. Dales Way

Length: 80 miles

Duration: 6-8 days 

Elevation: 2,402 metres

Level of difficulty: Demanding 

Kid-friendly: No

Start/end: Ilkley/Bowness-on-Windermere

The final pick of these best walks in the Yorkshire Dales is suitable for advanced hikers with plenty of time on their hands. 

The Dales Way is another multi-day hike that typically takes 6 full days to complete. You’ll need to cover 10-16 miles each day and commit to an average of 5-7 hours. Alternatively, you can plan to finish the route within as little as 4 or as many as 8 days.

Although the trail is not particularly strenuous or hilly you will need plenty of stamina. 

Leaving Ilkley, the trail takes you through the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. You’ll mainly follow riverside paths and pass by such landmarks as the Ribblehead Viaduct and the Three Peaks. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit abbeys and churches.

You will spend your evenings in villages and towns such as Burnsall, Hubberholme, and Sedbergh with the option to camp or check into cosy guest houses.

The trek concludes in the county of Cumbria, home of the Lake District National Park, where even more wonderful hiking trails await you.