How to Hike Scafell Pike from Great Langdale: Circular Route
How to Hike Scafell Pike from Great Langdale: Circular Route

How to Hike Scafell Pike from Great Langdale: Circular Route

There are a couple of routes to climb Scafell Pike from Great Langdale. In this guide, I’ll explain the 20.8-km circular trail that not only summits England’s highest mountain, but Bowfell (Bow Fell), Esk Pike and Rossett Pike too.

It’s a challenging day of hiking with 1,486 m of elevation gain that’ll take roughly 7 – 9 h. The rewards are worth it as from all four peaks you get magnificent views over the Lake District and tackle fascinating, rugged terrain.

I’ll break this route up Scafell Pike from Great Langdale into its different sections giving you all the information you need to know. 

Safety info for climbing Scafell Pike from Great Langdale

Before I get into the details of the route, I’ll quickly share some important safety information for climbing Scafell Pike from Great Langdale.

This route to summiting England’s member of the Three Peaks is a long day of hiking. Although the terrain itself is only tricky in some stretches, the duration of the hike and the fact that it includes climbing four mountains means you need good stamina to take it on. I recommend that you take plenty of food to keep your body fuelled throughout the day and also lots of water to stay hydrated.

Alan atop Bowfell looking at the mountainous view in the distance.

There are a couple of sections where the terrain is steep and loose, especially the final section of the ascent to Scafell Pike. In these sections, you’ll need to do some scrambling (nothing major though) to keep your balance and get over rocks. Also, there is a section of the hike that is a boulder field. You’ll need good balance here as falling between the rocks would be nasty.

Aside from these points, this Scafell Pike walk is moderately difficult. It can be taken on by anyone with good fitness who likes the challenge of a long day of trekking.

Scafell Pike from Great Langdale route

  • Distance: 20.8 km 
  • Duration: 7 – 9 h 
  • Elevation gain: 1,486 m
  • Peaks summited: Bowfell, Esk Pike, Scafell Pike, Rossett Pike
  • Difficulty: intermediate

The starting point of the hike, and also its endpoint, is the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park in Great Langdale. This is a National Trust pay and display car park with space for roughly 40 vehicles. From the car park you can choose to do the circular hike in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction.

We did the route clockwise, meaning our first summit was Bowfell. I think that this is the less common way of doing the route, as the map above suggests going anti-clockwise and we only passed people coming in the opposite direction to us.

Lily stood on the edge of a lake overlooking a valley.

Going clockwise seems to be the less challenging option too. The final descent, from Rossett Pike, is a steep path made of rocky steps. This would’ve been a much tougher way to start the day than we had going in the opposite direction.

Summit 1: Bowfell (902 m)

Starting from the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park, head towards the main road (B5343). You’ll walk over a small bridge just before you come to the junction with the main road. Cross over the bridge, turn right at the junction and then continue straight along the main road.

After a minute or so there will be a wooden gate in front of you. It gives you access to a lane leading away from the main road towards Stool End Farm in the distance. Head down the lane to Stool End Farm.

Lily stood at the entrance of the lane to Stool End Farm. There are mountains in the background. This is the start of the hike up Scafell Pike from Great Langdale.

Follow the lane bending left through Stool End Farm (it’s a public path) and pass through a second wooden gate. After the gate the path forks and you’ll need to bear right.

The gate leading out of Stool End Farm. The start of the trail up Scafell Pike from Great Langdale is on the other side of the gate.

Up ahead is The Band, a long ridge that journeys towards Bowfell. This is the start of the ascent.

The Band makes up a big part of the hike as it takes you the majority of the way to Bowfell—so you’ll be climbing it for a couple of hours. The terrain is dirt trail and relatively steep. The Band is tiring; we stopped a few times to catch our breath.

Take a second to look back towards Stool End Farm and enjoy the amazing views over the Great Langdale valley. You’ll see Crinkle Crags and the Langdale Pikes.  

Sunrays breaking through the clouds over the Langdale Valley.

Continue along The Band. The trail is well worn and so should be easy to follow. Stick to it until you get to Three Tarns. This is a crossroads of paths and you’ll want to head right to begin the push to the summit of Bowfell.

The section of trail from Three Tarns to the summit is known as Bowfell Links. Things get steep from here on and it’s loose, rocky underfoot. However, the higher you climb the more impressive the views become. There are plenty of sheep along the way to keep you company too.

A sheep on the trail up to Bowfell. There are mountains and a lake in the background.

Continue along Bowfell Links and summit the first peak of the day. Unfortunately for us, the clouds rolled in at this point so our views from Bowfell weren’t as awe inspiring as later on in the day.

View of a lake from Esk Pike. The mid ground is shrouded in cloud.

Summit 2: Esk Pike (885 m)

From Bowfell bear right towards Ore Gap. This section of the trail is mostly flat but not well-marked. At first, we almost got lost because we headed a little too far downhill instead of bearing right. The trail is not obvious here so keep your eyes peeled for cairns marking the way.

A mountain surrounded by green and golden fields covered in shadow.

At the base of Ore Gap, the trail again becomes quite steep and challenging.

The trail leading up to Esk Pike. There are two sheep led down in the foreground.
The summit of Esk PIke. The Ore Gap trail is leading up to it.

Ascend to the top of the pass and continue on the trail all the way to the Summit of Esk Pike. The views from here are panoramic and give you a taste of what’s in store from atop Scafell Pike.

A valley shrouded in shadow. There are clouds above.

Summit 3: Scafell Pike (978 m)

From Esk Pike it’s a downhill journey for a few hundred metres to Esk Hause, which is another intersection of trails. At Esk Hause you should see other hikers as a few of the different routes up Scafell Pike converge here.

Golden, green mountains with clouds above them.

Once you get down to Esk Hause from Esk Pike, head left and continue uphill. As you leave Esk Hause behind, the trail will once again fork and you’ll want to head left into a rocky section. Continue along the rocky trail and you’ll get your first sight of Scafell Pike’s summit.

The summit of Scafell Pike shrouded in mist.

The trail eventually becomes a boulder field which you’ll have to navigate for a short while. Take your time here. A fall could end in a bad injury and it’s a tricky spot to get yourself out of. There are cairns marking this section’s way, but they’re hard to spot in places as they blend in with the surrouding rocks.

The boulder field brings you down to a small saddle before the final climb to Scafell Pike. This final ascent is really steep and you’ll need to scramble. This was the most tiring part of the hike for me and my legs were burning by its end. Tackle this last steep ascent and you’ll conquer the tallest mountain in England and the first half of this hike up Scafell Pike from Great Langdale.

The summit of Scafell Pike.

Catch your breath, get some calories in you, rehydrate and take in the epic scenery from this incredible spot right in the heart of the Lake District National Park. In one direction you can see all the way to the coast and Sellafield Nuclear Plant. In the other directions you can see lots of other peaks in the Lake District.

Sellafield Power Plant as seen from the summit of Scafell Pike. There are green fields in the foreground.
Views of mountains from the summit of Scafell Pike.

At 978 m, the summit of Scafell Pike is marked with a trig point. However, there is a large WW1 memorial that is made of stone and which you can climb via steps, technically making this the highest point on the mountain.

A stone slab engraved with World War 1 memorial writing. It is the memorial atop Scafell Pike.

With Scafell Pike summited, it’s time to start the return route by heading to the fourth peak of the day.

Alan and Lily embracing atop Scafell Pike's summit.

Summit 4: Rossett Pike (651 m)

Getting to Rossett Pike starts by heading back to Esk Hause. Walk down the really steep section you just ascended. Go slowly here as it’s loose underfoot. A fall here and you might not stop until you reach the small saddle at the bottom.

Once you get down to the saddle, head up back into the boulder field. Take the same route back that you came via and rejoin the rocky trail back to the where the trail forks. Now bear right and head downhill to Esk Hause ahead of you.

Golden, green mountains with clouds above them.

At Esk Hause you’ll want to bear left initially, but shortly after head right when the trail forks again. You’ll be going downhill now and the hardest sections of the day are behind you. This part of the hike follows a clearly-marked stone trail that’s easy underfoot. It has some of the nicest views of the entire trail too. Ahead to the left you can see summit of Rossett Pike.

Keep following the trail and you’ll come to Angle Tarn, a crystal blue lake, before rising again towards Rossett Pike.

A path leading to Rossett Gill. Red Tarn lake is in the distance.

Come off the path to the left to summit Rossett Pike. This is by far the smallest summit of the day as the mountain stands at just 651 m. From here you get similar views to what you can see from The Band. It’s good motivation for the final part of the descent to the valley floor via Rossett Gill.

Alan descending the path from Rossett Gill. The Langdale valley is in the background.

Rossett Gill is a long, steep descent via a path of rocky steps zig zagging down the mountain. The trail itself gets a bit tedious, and tiring on the knees, but the scenery makes it worthwhile. Keep following Rossett Gill all the way to the valley floor. It’s a large section of the trail, so enjoy the final views over the Langdale valley.

The Langdale valley. The Langdale Pikes are on the left and Crinkle Crags on the right.

At the valley floor the trail becomes a dirt road. This final part of the route forms a section of the Cumbria Way and it follows a wide stream called Mickleden Beck. The stream has a small waterfall and a pool which you can swim in.  

The small waterfall and pool of Mickleden Beck.

Follow the dirt road back to the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park. The trail brings you right to the car park so there’s no guesswork. 

And that’s the circular route up Scafell Pike from Langdale complete! 

Car parking for Scafell Pike from Great Langdale

There are three parking options for this climb up Scafell Pike from Great Langdale. There is no free parking as all car parks are National Trust pay and display. Make sure to bring cash as the machines currently don’t accept card payment.

The first option is the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park. This is the most convenient as it’s also the hike start and finish point.

The second and third options are Stickle Ghyll and New Dungeon Ghyll car parks. They are both a 15-minute walk from the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

Scafell Pike FAQs

Can a beginner climb Scafell Pike?

A beginner hiker can climb Scafell Pike. There are several trails of varying difficulty, the direct trail via Brown Tongue from Wasdale is the shortest route and generally considered to be the easiest route.

How long does it take to climb Scafell Pike from Langdale?

Climbing Scafell Pike from Great Langdale via the circular route takes between 7 – 9 hours. 

A brown, wooden bridge crossing Mickleden Beck. There are rocks in the beck.

Is Scafell Pike a hard climb?

Scafell Pike is considered a challenging hike whichever route you take. The Great Langdale circular and the Corridor routes are considered the most difficult because of their duration and range of terrain.

How high is Scafell Pike

Scafell Pike is 978 m tall and is England’s highest peak. However, it’s the shortest of the famous Three Peaks. 

More adventure travel guides on A World Over

That was my complete guide to the circular hike up Scafell Pike from Great Langdale. I hope it helps you to enjoy this adventurous trek.

I’ve written a guide for a long weekend in the Lake District itinerary if you want more ideas for how to spend a few days in the national park. For more hiking and adventure travel guides, check out the A World Over blog. I’ve also listed some hikes you might enjoy below.


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