The English Lake District – magical trails in the hills
Sitting on the western edges of the United Kingdom,the magnificent high fells and valleys provide awesome trail riding opportunities in wild and rugged terrain.
With two great forest centres too, at Grizedale and Whinlatter, the Lake District should be on every mountain bikers list. The area is also filled with accommodation options and great places to eat, including the legendary Wilf’s Cafe at Staveley – so get along to the Lakes and ride in some of the most beautiful and technically testing areas of the UK.
AMBLESIDE EIGHT – MEDIUM 19 MILES
A superb double-loop around Ambeside’s environs. As every mathematician knows, the beauty of eight is that it can easily be halved so, if you’re short of time or breath, either of these loops would be a pleasant outing
ASKHAM & ULLSWATER – HARD 22.6 MILES
A demanding yet incredibly rewarding outing in the far Northeast of the district, taking in the dazzling descent from The Cockpit to Howtown, the surprisingly gnarly traverse of Silver Point and a beautiful drop down the side of Beda Fell into Martindale.
AYSIDE – EASY 8 MILES
This is an enjoyable easy excursion in the southern extremities of the Lakes. It would make a good family outing with a mixture of easy, traffic-free or very quiet lanes, forest tracks and farm tracks.
BACK OF SKIDDAW – HARD 30 MILES
A big, stirring tour of one of Lakeland’s quieter corners. There are sub-Scottish levels of loneliness to be had, in the upper Caldew valley especially.
BLACK COMBE – MEDIUM 8.6 MILES
You’ll need to pack your lungs – much of the climbing will have you simultaneously screaming for a lower gear and wrestling the front wheel back down. But the route is easy to follow and is all rideable apart from a section at 200m that would challenge the toughest climber.
BREASTHIGH – MEDIUM 9 MILES
Don’t be lured into complacency – there is plenty of climbing and plenty of tricky terrain to negotiate.Though short, this is a testing route that can easily be extended.
CLAIFE HEIGHTS – MEDIUM 15 MILES
It’s uphill, so accept it and enjoy. This route typifies that, as you climb on tarmac towards the tracks that take you across Claife Heights, before sweeping descents on hard packed and well drained tracks lead you down again.
CONISTON WASDALE – HARD 36 MILES
An extremely demanding tour of the South Lakes, featuring four substantial climbs. Options for shortening are few. Put it this way – when “bailing out” means Hardknott followed by Wrynose, you know it’s a toughie, right?
CRAKE VALLEY – EASY 9 MILES
An easy but enjoyable pootle around a network of byways. Even this far south, it still counts as The Lakes because there’s a glimpse of Allan Tarn (the Octopus Lagoon in Swallows and Amazons) at one stage.
DUDDON VALLEY- MEDIUM 13 MILES
Short but stunningly sweet.
Three descents that all rank among the finest in the Lakes.
EASTERN PASSES – HARD 11 MILES
A cracking ride into the hills around the south-eastern Lake District, with epic descents that are hard earned, but definitely worth the effort.
GAMBLESMIRE – EASY 12 MILES
A sublime delight on a late summer’s night, the hedgerows dripping with brambles. A good proportion of the ride is in narrow, sunken drove roads, which would make good shelter in wild weather.
GARBURN PASS – MEDIUM 13.6 MILES
So classic, it’s the Baker Street of Lakeland passes. You could thread it into a longer ride by using it as a warm-up to the Eastern Passes but it’s a perfect pint-sized ride on its own.
GATESGARTH & NAN BIELD – HARD 20 MILES
This route is not for the feint hearted. It includes two big ascents, one over Gatesgarth, on a track but very few have cleared it, for it is steep and relentless for 3.4 miles. The second is a hike a bike up Nan Bield pass.
GRASMERE LOUGHRIGG – MEDIUM 20 MILES
This route rolls and climbs around the fells close to Grasmere and Ambleside, using the lanes to weave together a great route. There’s nothing too testing about the route in terms of technicality, which can easily be extended to Knipe Fold and Hawkshead.
GREEN QUARTER – EASY 8.5 MILES
The easiest of the Lakeland passes is followed by a steep haul on grass, a fine moorland cruise and a rattling good descent. This route would make a good, easy-going Sunday excursion after a quad-hardening Saturday.
HAWKSHEAD HILLTOPS – HARD 23 MILES
We like hilly routes and this one is no exception. It starts off easily enough, before a steep climb on Claife Heights begins to work the muscles, but gives a superb descent to Hawkshead.
HELVELLYN EAST – HARD 10 MILES
A magnificent blast up England’s greatest legal high. Well worth doing as an out-and-back because the descent is magnificently rideable and the pleasure is all the greater if you’ve struggled on the same terrain on the way up.
HELVELLYN ENTIRE – HARD 25 MILES
Not only is Helvellyn generous with its altitude, not only does it bear a name like an epic poem but it offers an unusually generous choice of routes to its summit with no fewer than ten bridleways setting off from the surrounding valleys.
HELVELLYN WEST – HARD 10 MILES
A brawl with gravity on the Western flank of rideable Lakeland’s biggest bruiser. One of the many great thing about Helvellyn is the number (nine) of legitimate routes to the summit from valley level.
HIGH STREET & BOREDALE – MEDIUM 20 MILES
This route is so classic that the National Trust should slap a preservation order on it forthwith. It has the lot – big, beefy climbs, grassy ridge-riding and two rollicking descents.
HIGH STREET SOUTH – MEDIUM 12 MILES
Well worth doing as an out-and-back but can be made into a loop either by wandering far to the north or by making a brief sortie on foot to Nan Bield Pass (no bridleway for c.1 mile) and returning via Kentmere and Garburn Pass.
IRTON FELL – MEDIUM 13.4 MILES
A superb tour of West Cumbria, far away from the crowds. We rode this route (and the neighbouring Muncaster Fell loop) on a dry Bank Holiday Sunday and saw no other riders.
KENTMERE LOOP – EASY 12.4 MILES
A wild moornland crossing of Green Quarter, a stony hop over Stile End then a rutted swing over Whiteside End (more classically done as a coda to Garburn Pass)
LOADPOT HILL – MEDIUM 14.3 MILES
It’s a long but steady pull on grass onto Loadpot Hill and you don’t keep the height for long. But the wild, swoopy, single-track descent to Heltondale makes it all worthwhile.
LONSCALE FELL – MEDIUM 10 MILES
Prior to the floods of 2015 we would have taken you along the old railway cycle route to Threlkeld. Due to the bridge being taken in the floods we’ve re-assessed things and taken a steady road and track climb on the other side of the river.
LOUGHRIGG LOOP – MEDIUM 14 MILES
If you don’t have a superb time on this route, whatever the weather, it may be time to have a long, hard, look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re just a bit of a misery-guts.
LOWESWATER LOOP – EASY 5.3 MILES
Short, gentle, beautiful. There’s a tucked-away quality to Loweswater – you can afford a fleeting sense of smugness leaving the hordes in Borrowdale and Buttermere for the quiet delights of Loweswater and Lorton Vale.
MUNCASTER FELL – EASY 9.7 MILES
A gentle bimble round the wooded flanks of this outlying granite ridge. Suitable for doing with youngsters, especially if you find yourself riding alongside the L’a’l Ratty.
NAN BIELD & GARBURN – MEDIUM 16.2 MILES
A surprisingly lonely dale head, dotted with deer if you’re lucky, followed by the classic Lakeland crossing of Garburn. Go in May to catch the stitchwort and bluebells in Low Lane.
P IS FOR PARKAMOOR – EASY 9.5 MILES
Great. Just great. It’s only short, so we’ve dropped it in with the easy rides but that has to be taken with a huge pinch of salt – nowhere in the Lakes counts as properly easy.
RATHERHEATH – MEDIUM 22 MILES
There are many reasons why you should do this ride: if the higher hills are misted up, snowed up or rained off, if you only have time to venture a little way from the motorway or if you have someone in the party likely to be nervous on the harder trails.
ROSTHWAITE TO GRASMERE – HARD 17 MILES
A tough crossing of two high, remote mountain passes, with long stretches of push’n’carry and a need for good navigation skills … and humour. You’ll also need good downhilling skills for the super techy finale down Hazel Bank.
SATTERTHWAITE SAUNTER – MEDIUM 23 MILES
This route is excellent at all times of the year. There is lots of climbing involved, but some fantastic descents too, all on good firm tracks.
SKIDDAW – MEDIUM 4.3 MILES
A pilgrimage to the summit of Northern Lakeland’s grand patriarch. Once up, you can sit and enjoy the view,then ride down at speed in the fading light of a summer evening.
SLEDDALE & SWINDALE – MEDIUM 11.3 MILES
A short but wild loop into the desolate stretch of land between Shap and the High Street fells. Expect Cairngorm-like desolation and solitude, even on a Bank Holiday weekend.
S/E LAKES WEEKEND LOOP – HARD 73 MILES
Mortals will find this challenge enough for a weekend but there will always be someone who wants to show off and do this in a day. If you are that show-off, write in to tell us your epic story.
STAKE PASS & GREENUP – HARD 18 MILES
One for push ‘n’ carry nostalgic and masochists. Ignore the modest distance – there’s plenty of brutal terrain to snag your pedals on here. One adjective you would never deploy for this route is “flowing”.
THE OTHER BORROWDALE – EASY 15.3 MILES
This Borrowdale, of course, is very different from its famous namesake, being tucked away in the shy wedge of cragless land between the A6 and M6. Ride it if you like escaping the hordes, ride it if you like that sense of exploring or ride it if you just like riding.
THIRLMERE BANKS -EASY 10.5 MILES
: An undulating trundle through the forests followed by a gentle bimble round the lakeside road. The road carries very little traffic so is suitable for reasonably biddable children. If they can spell “circumnavigate” they’re probably old enough to do this ride.
TOUR DE CONISTON – HARD 23 MILES
This ride links together the magnificent Walna Scar route with the equally-impressive Parkamoor ride to make a monster. The linking route, for once, does not feel at all like a filler – the crossing of Subberthwaite Common is a real highlight.
TOUR OF SKIDDAW – HARD 19 MILES
Prior to the floods of 2015 we would have taken you along the old railway cycle route to Threlkeld. Due to the bridge being taken in the floods we’ve re-assessed things and taken a steady road and track climb on the other side of the river, dropping into Threlkeld.
ULPHA FELL – HARD 14 MILES
There are plenty of people who will tell you that the Lake District is just too full and too commercialised – an endless parade of concession stands selling achingly tasteful Peter Rabbit coasters and ‘Daffodils’ tea towels. This route enables you to explore the less frequented fells.
WINDERMERE LAKESIDE – EASY 8.3 MILES
A chance to ride with the family along the picturesque shoreline of this spectacular place, share the views and idyllic atmosphere, before simply sitting down to cake.