Stunning Scale Force Waterfall Walk in the Lake District 
Stunning Scale Force Waterfall Walk in the Lake District 

Stunning Scale Force Waterfall Walk in the Lake District 

The Scale Force Waterfall walk is one of the most adventurous yet doable walks in the Lake District National Park. The 6.5-km circular route is a relatively short walk, but one that packs in amazing views of Crummock Water and the surrounding mountains, as you follow the trail along the lake’s western shore.   

The crown jewel is, of course, Scale Force Waterfall, which is the tallest waterfall in the Lake District and which makes up a section of Scale Beck stream. The waterfall is tucked away in a narrow, deep gorge requiring a bit of scrambling to see in all its glory. It’s one of my favourite waterfalls explored to date as it adds a truly adventurous twist to what is an extremely scenic, yet tame lake walk. 

Even though Scale Force is a popular waterfall, it is much more adventurous than I was expecting. Its height, ruggedness and the lush greenery cladding the gorge almost make you feel like you are in the middle of a jungle and not the English Lake District. 

Table of contents

How high is Scale Force Waterfall?

Standing at just shy of 52 m tall (51.8 m to be exact), Scale Force waterfall is the highest single drop waterfall in the Lake District National park. 

There are two parts to the stunning waterfall. There are the initial, smaller falls, which you can see without having to leave the walk trail. Then behind this, there are the main falls, buried at the end of the narrow gorge. You can see the top of the main falls behind the smaller falls, but to see the entire cascade, you will have to climb above the smaller falls. 

This can be done by scrambling the rocks on the left of the smaller falls. A word of warning: these rocks are slippery, so take care. On your way back down, don’t do what I did and try to use the wall on the right for support. The wall has few cracks to get your fingers in and the rock face is slippery. I lost my footing for a second and almost took out Lily who was in front of me. Climbing down backwards is an easier way to get down, which is what I did in the end. 

How do you walk to Scale Force Waterfall?

  • Distance: 6.6 km
  • Duration: 2 h
  • Difficulty: easy (difficult if you scramble the rocks to see the entire waterfall)

The circular route starts and finishes at the Buttermere Court Hotel and should take no more than a couple of hours to walk. We completed it in slightly less than two hours, including plenty of time exploring and photographing Scale Force Waterfall. There is a National Trust pay and display car park alongside the hotel, which is where we parked. 

Leave the car park from its end furthest away from the hotel building and head south west. There is a clear, gravel walking path to join. After a minute or so on the trail head right when it forks. Now you’ll walk between two fields for a few hundred metres heading directly towards the mountainside to the west of Crummock Water. 

When you get to the end of the section passing through the fields, turn right and there will be a stone bridge ahead. This bridge crosses Buttermere Dubs, the section of the River Cocker that connects Crummock Water to Buttermere. Turn left and cross the stone bridge. On the other side pass through the wooden gate and head right. 

Coming back to the stone bridge towards the Buttermere Court Hotel

Now you’ll walk parallel to Buttermere Dubs for a few hundred metres. It’s a shallow section of the river and in spots you can see the river bed. There are underwater plants and reeds that make some interesting colours and patterns in the water. Once you come to the end of Buttermere Dubs, Crummock Water opens up in front of you and you get the first impressive views of the walk.  

Simply follow the trail for a few hundred metres more, along the way crossing a wooden footbridge. This long, flat section of the trail is incredibly scenic, so take in the beautiful surroundings. You can see Grasmoor mountain on the far side of the lake and the tiny houses at its foot give you a sense of scale.

Keep on the trail until you come to the point where it forks. Now you’ll want to head left and bear away from the lake. You’ll come to a second wooden bridge. Cross this and take the left path to follow the trail up the valley. This section of the walk is a short climb to the base of the waterfall, but not before first having to cross another footbridge. Come off right here to get up close with Scale Force Waterfall. The smaller falls at the front are pretty, and you get a glimpse of the taller ones behind.

On the left-hand side of the smaller falls, you’ll see the rocks that you have to climb. This is really the only difficult part of the track, but when taken slowly, the rocks aren’t that  tricky to climb. There are plenty of holds to grab onto and get your feet in. Take it easy though, as the rocks can be slippery. 

There’s a plateau above the smaller falls which you walk along to get to the end of the narrow gorge where the highest drop of Scale Force Waterfall is hidden away. A big tree trunk blocks the way, but you can get around it to the right. Once around the tree trunk, you can appreciate the beautiful waterfall’s power and height. 

What makes Scale Force a truly impressive sight, along with the fact that it’s the highest waterfall in the Lake District, is how powerful it is. Despite looking like a seemingly delicate waterfall, the narrow cascade of water comes crashing down with such force into the pool at the base of the falls. This was impressive enough when we explored the waterfall during a hot period of summer, so I can only imagine how powerful it must be after heavy rainfall. 

Once you have climbed back down to the trail from the waterfall, head right. Go up the steps to the wooden gate through the stone wall. The next section of the trail is higher up than the way you came and from here you get the best views of the day.

Grasmoor looks even bigger and you get a sense of how large Crummock Water really is too. Head along the path a bit further and Buttermere village comes into sight. You can’t see Buttermere lake as you are not quite high enough to see beyond the village.

Grasmoor mountain. There are small houses and fields at its base.

The higher-level path becomes quite boggy and so once this happens, I recommend dropping back down to the well-worn trail. It’s the same path by which you came, so just follow it all the way back to Buttermere Court Hotel retracing your steps. The hotel has a beer garden, so on a nice day you can end the Scale Force Waterfall walk with a cold drink in the sun. 

What is the closest car park to Scale Force Waterfall?

The closest car park to Scale Force Waterfall is the National Trust car park that is alongside the Buttermere Court Hotel. It is roughly 3 km from the waterfall. This is the most convenient car park as it’s an ideal spot to start and finish the circular walk. 

There are other car parking options further away, but still within walking distance to do this Scale Force Waterfall Walk. There’s the National Park Authority car park, which is literally on the other side of the Buttermere Court Hotel and is much larger than the one we parked in. Then there’s the National Trust Buttermere car park. This is a 5-minute walk away from the hotel, but spaces are limited. 

If you can’t find a spot in any of these three car parks, then the next closest one is Crummock Water car park. However, this will add roughly 45 minutes of walking each way to the walk.

More adventure travel content on A World Over

The Scale Force waterfall walk is definitely one worth doing on your trip to the Lake District. It’s a great way to enjoy a lighter yet still beautiful walk between bigger hikes. This was our ‘rest day’ mini adventure between climbing Scafell Pike from Great Langdale the day before and hiking Helvellyn the day after during our long weekend in the Lake District

If you’re looking for more adventure travel inspiration for the UK, then head to the A World Over blog, where you’ll find all my articles for destinations in the British Isles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *