Five Challenging Hikes in the UK – Feeling Adventurous?

The UK is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes, and also some of the toughest hikes. From rugged mountain trails to treacherous coastal paths, there are plenty of routes to test your mettle. Here are some of the most challenging hikes in the UK that are sure to get your heart pumping.

Stunning Welsh landscape

Most of these trails are not for beginners, so make sure you have plenty of fitness training and experience under your belt before trying them out. For those with an adventurous spirit and an unending love for nature, these a five must-see UK trails.

1. The Lake District’s Striding Edge

Located in the Lake District National Park, Striding Edge is a popular trail for hikers. Although the trail is only approximately 5 miles long, it is still one of the more challenging hikes in the UK. The trail takes you along a narrow ridge with sheer drops on either side, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

There are several different routes that you can take to reach the top, but the most popular route starts at Helvellyn summit. There’s a steep ascent of 1,000 feet and a difficult descent of 1,500 feet.

Striding Edge. Photo by Derek Voller 

The hike itself is quite challenging, but it is doable for most people. However, it can be dangerous in bad weather, or when there is snow or ice on the ground. Do not attempt unless you have the right gear, fitness and experience.

Once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with some of the most incredible views in all of England. On a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction. Make sure to bring your camera, because you’re going to want to remember this experience for a lifetime.

2. The Yorkshire Three Peaks

The Yorkshire Three Peaks is one of the most popular hiking trails in the United Kingdom. The route takes climbers up the three highest peaks in Yorkshire: Ingleborough, Whernside, and Pen-y-ghent. The challenge is typically completed in under 12 hours, and many hikers attempt to do it in under 10.

Ingleborough North Face. Photo by Grzegorz Gniady

Whether you’re looking to tackle the Yorkshire Three Peaks as a personal challenge, or you simply want to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK, this hike is definitely for you!

3. The Welsh 3000s

The Welsh 3000s is a challenging hike that takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in Wales. This gruelling hike covers approximately 24 miles of rugged Welsh terrain in the Snowdonia Mountain Range and takes in all 15 of Wales’ 3000 foot mountains.

Dangerous scramble at Crib Goch, Welsh 3000s. Photo by Robbie Shade

Hikers typically camp close to Snowdon’s summit the night before starting their epic journey, as it puts them in the best position for the trail.

The route finishes at the peak of Foel-fras, after passing through Snowdonia National Park along an impressive ridgeway of mountains.

This not a route for the average walker, and you can expect some challenging scrambles along the way. Don’t take risks – find alternative routes if weather is bad!

Things to consider when doing this hiking challenge are the amount of time it will take you to complete the hike, your fitness level, and the weather conditions.

Most people complete the hike in three days, but it can be done in two if you’re fit and the weather is good.

4. The Cairngorm 4000s

Discover the natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands with the Cairngorms 4000 challenge. There are a total of 38 Munros (or mountains) in the park, but the 4000 challenge takes you over five, Cairn Gorm, Ben Macdui, Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochan Uaine, and Braeriach, that are over 4000 ft high. Be prepared for a lot of climbing!

The Cairngorms 4000 is 21 miles of tough terrain, with plenty of scrambling. It’s typically completed over a period of 2-3 days. The hike is tough, and you need to be prepared for some challenging sections.

challenging hikes in the UK
Cairn Toul and Ben Macdui. Photo by Finavon

When hiking the Cairngorms 4000, there are a few things to take into consideration to have the best experience possible. The first is to be aware of the weather conditions and forecast before embarking on your hike. The Cairngorms can experience extreme weather, including snow and ice, so it is important to be prepared for anything. Finally, make sure you have a good map and compass with you, as navigation can be tricky in places.

If you’re up for the challenge, the Cairngorms 4000 is an incredible hike that will stay with you long after you’ve finished it.

5. The Pennine Way

For its sheer distance alone, the Pennine Way hiking trail has to be included as one of the most challenging hikes in the UK. From Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders, the country’s first National Trail travels a whopping 268 miles through the spectacular Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Park.

Challenging hikes in the UK
Pennine Way descending towards Swaledale. Photo by Chris Heaton

Along the way, you will cover the South Pennines, Pen-y-Ghent and Great Shunner Fell in the Dales, High Cup Nick and Cross Fell in the North Pennines, Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland. Allow two to three weeks to explore this amazing trail, which has some serious hills, lush valleys, and plenty of places to camp overnight.

Things to remember when hiking challenging trails

Ready to try some of the most challenging hikes in the UK? Here are some things to keep in mind when planning your trip:

  • Make sure you’re prepared for the climbs. Many of these hikes are strenuous, and you’ll need to be in good physical shape to complete it.

  • Be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks.

  • Dress in layers, including a good base layer, mid later and waterproof. You never know what the weather will be like, especially at higher altitudes.
  • Wear comfortable and appropriate footwear. Check out these posts on the best hiking boots for wide feet and narrow feet.

  • Start early. The earlier you start, the cooler it will be and the less crowded the trail.

  • Don’t forget your map. Routes can be confusing at times, so it’s important to have a map with you.

  • Take care in dangerous conditions. Sheer drops and slippery rocks have sadly claimed the lives of many hikers. Choose the right trails for your level of experience, and don’t take risks.

  • Take your time and enjoy the views. While these hikes are challenging, conquering them is an amazing experience, so savour every moment!

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