Sty Head & Stake Pass Mountain Bike Route
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.
Start this route in Great Langdale. We parked in the small pay and display car park opposite the Sticklebarn Tavern and the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, although in summer one of the local landowners opens up his field to park in for much cheaper. There is also a National Trust car park just after both of the pubs on the right.
When you set off, you want to be heading up the small road that leads to these pubs and pick up the Cumbria Way, heading west.
Follow this track - climbing (or push/carrying) over rocky ground at first - along by the field boundaries and beyond into the valley of Mickleden, passing between the mighty Langdale Pikes on your right and Green Tongue on your left. The going is rough with loose rocky sections interspersed with more stable ground. Even though it is flat, the going is quite tough because of the terrain. Eventually you will reach a footbridge with a sign post just after it. Sticks Pass is up to the right, but you need to take the more defined left-hand track up Rosset Gill. This is rideable at first, if you're good enough, as far as where it gets rather rocky and craggy. From that point it's going to be a push/carry situation to the top.
Once at the top there's a short but fun descent down to Angle Tarn, which provides a nice sheltered spot for a rest. Next is another push/carry section before it levels out a little and you can get back on for a final climb. You will soon reach a shelter which marks the top of this climb. Enjoy the descent from here, on a combination of singletrack and rocks, to Sprinkling Tarn.
From here, continue on the same track and climb the short distance to the next brow. Enjoy the nice natural singletrack that descends from here to Sty Head, where a myriad of paths seem to meet at the same point. Take a right, heading towards Styhead Tarn. Pass the tarn and continue on this bridleway that heads down Styhead Gill. Stay on this steep and rocky (and fun!) track right the way to Seathwaite in Borrowdale.
Go straight throught the farm yard and onto the minor road and follow the road for the couple of km to a T-junction with the B5289. Turn right onto this road, signposted Keswick and continue for about 1.5km (1mi). Look out for a white building with a crossroads just after it. Left at the crossroads is singposted 'youth hostel', you need to turn right.
This takes you past several farm buildings. Keep an eye out for a red phone box ahead of you, just before you reach it, take a left round the stone building and follow the track between the fences. Cross the river to once again meet the Cumbria Way. Turn right onto the Cumbria Way and follow for about 1 km to where the Cumbria Way leaves the main bridleway on your right, take this right. This lovely section leads you south, following Langstrath Beck for several splended miles. Make the most of this because the going's about to get much tougher!
After crossing a footbridge, the trail bears left up the valley side and the gradient suddenly becomes a lot steeper. You will be partly riding, partly pushing/carrying up this section but before you know it, the gradient does level out slightly. This is Stake Pass. After an over-the-top you begin to descend again into Langdale. This section is amazing, so drop your saddle and enjoy both the gorgeous scenery and the too-good-to-be-true natural snaking singletrack dropping you right down into Mickleden.
Once down here, the track levels out. Stay on the trail (still the Cumbria Way), now retracing your earlier tracks, for the easy section back to the start.
Points of Interest
For me the scenery on a route is one of the major reasons for riding it. For this reason most if not all of our routes will be listed here in the scenic section.
Singletrack is what most of us mountain bikers wish for on a ride, which is a good thing, because most routes out there feature singletrack.