Lake Mountain Bike Routes

Lake District

I don't think many mountain bikers would say they don't like the idea of riding lakeside routes on their bike. The presence of a body of water adds an extra element to a ride, a feeling of adventure. Not to mention stunning scenery!

The majority of these routes, if not all, will be in the Lake District, which as the name suggests, is home to many of our lakes. Northumberland has six and North Yorkshire has only one natural lake (Gormire Lake, near Sutton Bank). The Yorkshire Dales has no natural lakes at all.

Lakes with trails accessible by mountain bike are rare, but they are out there. Listed here are the ones we've found.

All Lake Routes

Ullswater & Boredale Figure of Eight

Hause Crag above Boredale
Distance: 
20mi / 33km
Ascent: 
1,034m / 3,392ft
Offroad: 
67%
Difficulty: 
79%

This route is a variation on our Ullswater & Bannerdale Figure of Eight route and takes in some of the best Ullswater, in the Lake District, has to offer. From our preferred starting point in Patterdale, we start the ride with the climb of the mountain pass, Boredale Hause, before we drop into the fast singletrack descent into Boredale.

A section of road brings us to the next part of the ride, a climb to The Cockpit stone circle and then the amazing Cockpit to Howtown descent.

But the fun never stops! Up next we have yet the infamous Ullswater Lakeside path, you will either love it or hate it, but this is a section of trail you really must do. The trail roughly follows the lakeside from here, with lots of undulation, and it is an absolute rock-fest!

Ullswater & Bannerdale Figure of Eight

Into Bannerdale
Distance: 
21mi / 34km
Ascent: 
1,130m / 3,707ft
Offroad: 
60%
Difficulty: 
81%

This Lake District route is a variation on our Ullswater & Boredale Figure of Eight route and takes in some of the best Ullswater has to offer. From our preferred starting point in Patterdale, we start the ride with the climb of the mountain pass, Boredale Hause, and traverse of Beda Fell, setting us up nicely for the fun and fast descent into Bannerdale.

A section of road brings us to the next part of the ride, a climb to The Cockpit stone circle and descent of the popular and awesome natural singletrack descent to Howtown.

But the fun isn't over yet, we have yet to tackle the infamous Ullswater Lakeside path, the marmite of mountain bike trails... will you love it or hate it?! Although this trail follows (roughly) the lakeside, don't be fooled, there are plenty of undulations to keep you entertained, and lots of rocks!

Askham Fell & Ullswater

Ullswater Mountain Biking
Distance: 
15mi / 23km
Ascent: 
481m / 1,578ft
Offroad: 
57%
Difficulty: 
59%

This is a fantastic route starting at Pooley Bridge in the Lake District. Despite relatively little climbing (for the Lake District!), this route delivers amazing scenery and one of the best natural descents in the country, from The Cockpit stone circle to Howtown, offering breathtaking views across Ullswater for its entirety.

The climb from Pooley Bridge onto Askham Fell is the toughest of the two climbs and is followed by a crossing of Moor Divock and a nice descent to the south through open moorland. A brief road section leads to Askham and the start of the second climb back on to Askham Fell, forming a figure-of-eight as you drop down onto the main descent from here to Howtown on some combination of loose rocks and singletrack all the way. Oh, and did I mention the incredible views?!

Borrowdale Bash

Overlooking Derwent Water from the Borrowdale Bash route
Distance: 
17mi / 27km
Ascent: 
774m / 2,539ft
Offroad: 
38%
Difficulty: 
67%

This classic Lake District mountain bike route starts and ends in Keswick and performs a full loop around the picturesque Derwent Water and Borrowdale valley. Despite being reasonably easy effort wise, the Borrowdale Bash includes several miles of wonderful technical singletrack and beautiful views across Keswick, Derwent Water, Skiddaw and the fells beyond.

As mentioned the route starts in Keswick (making it easy to access directly from the A66). The first leg takes the road south along the east bank of Derwent Water before climbing into the fells past Ashness Bridge and towards Watendlath Tarn. Birkett's Leap then drops you back into the Borrowdale valley and climbs the other side where it descends once again, flanking High Scawdel and returning north to Keswick via the Allerdale Ramble high above the west bank of Derwent Water.

Ambleside & Little Langdale

Ambleside Ride
Distance: 
15mi / 24km
Ascent: 
916m / 3,005ft
Offroad: 
73%
Difficulty: 
71%

A medium-difficulty route in the heart of the Lake District with enough technical riding to keep it interesting and some stunning scenery along the way.

We start in Ambleside and initially head south, keeping to the west of Windermere before veering right and heading west to Hawkshead. The route then takes you across the rocky crags of Furness Fells into Little Langdale.

Then, passing Elterwater and traversing Loughrigg Terrace, you'll be spat out on the banks of Rydal Water ready for the short blast back to Ambleside.

Helvellyn Ridge & The Old Coach Road

Distance: 
17mi / 27km
Ascent: 
1,338m / 4,389ft
Offroad: 
80%
Difficulty: 
82%

Our second Helvellyn route (the first is here) takes a slightly different approach. We tried to consider which of the many bridleways on the ridge are actually the most ridable, and this is what we came up with.

This route starts one the Thirlmere side of the Helvellyn range, from the car park at Thirlspot. We climb from here on an old pony track onto the ridge, a lot of which is surprisingly rideable. After a quick there-and-back of the summit (ok then, maybe not quick!), the route follows the whole ridge from south to north before descending from Great Dodd on grassy singletrack. Finally, a blast along the Old Coach Road and a short road section gets you back to the car.

Ullswater Circuit

Distance: 
20mi / 32km
Ascent: 
453m / 1,486ft
Offroad: 
45%
Difficulty: 
62%

This route is perfect if you fancy something technical, but without too much effort because it involves hardly any climbing and yet it still manages to take in what is probably the best technical bridleway in the country – the Ullswater lakeside path from Howtown to Glenridding. Not only is the technical riding superb, it also affords breathtaking views across Ullswater.

The only downside of this ride is the long road section it starts with. The first 11 miles are on-road but this just serves as access to the ride itself, and it’s over in no time anyway and the scenery is fantastic.

High Street & Ullswater

High Street
Distance: 
23mi / 37km
Ascent: 
1,467m / 4,812ft
Offroad: 
89%
Difficulty: 
92%

This difficult route takes in not only the High Street summit but also 4 (or more with a few detours!) other summits and the Ullswater lakeside bridleway. As you can imagine it blends tough climbing and technical riding with long sections of singletrack and fun technical sections.

Starting at Patterdale, the route soon heads skywards, taking in Hartsop and Hayeswater before summiting the 828m High Street itself. Follow this with an epic singletrack crossing of the ridge with views across Ullswater and the north-eastern Lake District, and the descent from The Cockpit to Howtown and you'll soon see that you're on a huge adventure. But that's not it, the ride ends on the famous technical bridleway back to the car for even more thrills and (probably) spills.

It’s not for the fainthearted, but it’s definitely worth it!

Helvellyn & Sticks Pass

Distance: 
12mi / 19km
Ascent: 
936m / 3,070ft
Offroad: 
83%
Difficulty: 
75%

This is a technical and strenuous route taking you to the summit and back of England’s highest peak legally accessible by mountain bike, Helvellyn.

Although this shouldn't be attempted by the faint-hearted, the promise of 954m of descending offers enough motivation to make all the climbing worth it. This combined with the breathtaking views across the Lake District and as far as Scotland on a clear day should be enough to put Helvellyn firmly on any serious mountain biker's to-do list. So what are you waiting for?