Lake District Mountain Bike Routes

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Lake District

Derwent Water in the Evening Sunlight

The Lake District National Park in the mountainous north-west corner of England offers some of the country’s most stunning scenery and endless mountain bike trails for all levels.

Some of the Lakes’ best riding is to be had at high altitude on the mountain ridges, but the problem with these routes is getting up there in the first place, so a good level of fitness is a must. These rocky peaks offer a good mix of fast single-track and technical rock sections, just take the descent of Lower Man for example, or the trials-like bridleway that descends to the south of Dollywaggon Pike to Grisedale Tarn.

For the less energetic riders, don’t worry, there’s plenty of great riding at low level in the valleys and by the lakes. There’s always something special about a slow summer’s afternoon amble around one of the area’s lakes and tarns, or for the more technically-inclined there’s plenty of gnarly stuff too, try the Ullswater lakeside bridleway for example

But the main appeal of the Lake District is the scenery; nothing can beat the feeling of being atop a mountain with a 360 degree vista of nothing but mountains and water, with views as far as Scotland on a clear day and no sign of civilisation in any direction. There’s only you, your bike and 900m plus of pure downhill pleasure. Enjoy!

Map of Lake District Routes

All Lake District Routes

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!

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!

On The Edge
Distance: 32mi / 51km
Ascent: 1,567m / 5,141ft
Offroad: 73%
Difficulty: 97%

Not for the faint-hearted, this route combines two of our most popular Lake District routes - Glendaterra & Lonscale Crags and Back o' Skiddaw - and mashes them together into a killer loop. This route is for those looking for a full day out, if your fitness is up to it!

We begin innocently enough with a gentle spin along the old railway route from Keswick to Threlkeld. We then climb onto the flanks of Blease Fell, ascending to Skiddaw House. This sets up nicely for the long descent, following the Cumbria Way to Mosedale.

A road section gets us to the next climb, to the old mine workings north of Skiddaw where we're treated a lovely descent to Branthwaite, followed by an undulating trail taking you to Peter Head Farm, which marks the start of the stunning Whitewater Dash waterfall climb.

Once the tough climb to the waterfall is dispensed with, it's time for the epic descent of exposed Lonscale Crags trail, followed by the ever-popular descent of Latrigg.

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?!

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 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.

Back o'Skiddaw
Distance: 21mi / 34km
Ascent: 893m / 2,929ft
Offroad: 59%
Difficulty: 76%

This classic northern Lake District mountain bike route takes you around the north edge of the Skiddaw range of mountains, starting from Mosedale.

The route sets off with a decent climb to the old mine workings north of Skiddaw where it delivers a nice descent to Branthwaite, followed by an undulating trail taking you to Peter Head Farm, which marks the start of the stunning Whitewater Dash waterfall climb.

Once the tough climb to the waterfall is dispensed with, it's all downhill for a glorious 7 miles (11km) of fun, all the way back to the start at Mosedale, punctuated only with one short climb up to Skiddaw House.

Stake Pass
Distance: 18mi / 29km
Ascent: 1,236m / 4,055ft
Offroad: 82%
Difficulty: 82%

This difficult route, crossing two mountain passes in the central Lake District, starts in the stunning Great Langdale valley. It climbs out of the head of the valley over tough, rocky terrain to Angle Tarn, after which it levels out and passes Sprinkling Tarn and Styhead Tarn. From here it enjoys the northern descent of Sty Head to Seathwaite in the Borrowdale valley.

The return leg sees you following the scenic track along the banks of Langstrath Beck before the terrain jerks skyward as it follows the Cumbria Way for a killer climb of Stake Pass. This soon pays for itself however with the technical, but wholly rideable and enjoyable descent back into Great Langdale.

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.

Distance: 10mi / 16km
Ascent: 599m / 1,965ft
Offroad: 82%
Difficulty: 59%

This is a fairly easy route by Lake District standards and yet still manages to give you a true feeling of remoteness in parts. It has one particularly technical section around the flank of Lonscale Fell, with a tasty looking drop off one side.

This route is OK for beginners, although you may be pushing around the Lonscale Fell area, but it's also a good route if you're more advanced but are looking for a shorter ride, as it squeezes some great terrain into a relatively short distance.

The route itself begins in Keswick, and starts off on the old railway route to Threlkeld. It then climbs onto the flanks of Blease Fell and follows the contours before crossing Glenderaterra Beck and returns to Keswick via the Alps-like track around Lonscale Fell.

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
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!

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?