6 Alternatives to Crowd-Magnet Mountain Walks
Britain's wonderful hills, mountains and fells are some of the most heavily-trodden in the world, and unsurprisingly, some mountain routes can feel crowded at times.
It’s a simple fact that some walks, like Helvellyn via Striding Edge, or Snowdon via Crib Goch, are just brilliant experiences, and will always be popular. But it's also true that once certain walks become especially popular, they become a honeypot, and other routes which are no less beautiful end up being overlooked.
We've compiled six of our favourite alternatives to crowd-magnet mountain walks, so you can experience these beautiful areas without having to fight for your spot on the summit.
The crowd-magnet: The Great Ridge
This sweeping, photogenic ridge connects the famous Mam Tor with Lose Hill via the wavelike crest of Back Tor. Its accessible nature, spectacular views and proximity to the honeypot villages of Hope Valley make it one of the most popular walks in Britain.
The alternative: Chrome Hill and Parkhouse Hill
These spectacular mini-mountains are in the lesser-known south of the Peak District National Park, in the limestone landscape known as the ‘White Peak’. They might not be big, but they are surprisingly steep in parts – watch your step!
Length: 5 miles Walking time: 2-3 hours Difficulty: Moderate
The crowd-magnet: The North Ridge of Tryfan
A Snowdonia classic, with the Grade 1 scrambling starting more or less as soon as you leave the A5 and not stopping until the 917 metre-high top of this wonderful, bristling mountain. The challenge of jumping from the rock pinnacles of ‘Adam and Eve’ often has queues and a crowd of onlookers.
The alternative: The Crib Lem Spur
This is a harder scramble to get to, being hidden away on the north side of Carnedd Dafydd, but the payoff is (probably) having this excellent, angular Grade 1 scramble to yourself.
Length: 6 miles Walking time: 4 - 5 hours Difficulty: Hard Walk, Easy Scramble
The crowd-magnet: Scafell Pike via Brown Tongue from Wasdale
The most direct way to England’s highest mountain (and the route typically taken by Three Peaks Challengers), this route sees six-figure foot traffic annually – with predictable results in terms of erosion.
The alternative: Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route from Seathwaite
Described as the ‘connoiseur’s route’ up Scafell Pike, this longer but more rewarding way to reach England’s highest point takes in the atmospheric Styhead Tarn and a winding route under the foreboding crags of the Scafell massif.
Length: 9.5 miles Walking time: 6 - 8 hours Difficulty: challenging
The crowd-magnet: The National Three Peaks Challenge
Huge crowds take on The National Three Peaks Challenge (climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours, connected by bleary-eyed driving) every year. For many people, this is their first and only taste of hill walking, and participants raise a lot of money for charity. But overcrowding, disturbance, litter, erosion and sanitation can all be unpleasant offshoots.
The alternative: Lake District Three Peaks Challenge (with bikes)
Many of the unsavoury aspects of the National Three Peaks stem from the driving between the peaks. Why not cut this out and do an alternative Three Peaks in just one national park? The Lake District Three Peaks connects Scafell Pike, Skiddaw and Helvellyn. On foot it’s a Herculean task – but cycling between them is within the grasp of a mere (albeit very fit) mortal.
Length: 45 miles Walking time: 16 - 18 hours Difficulty: Very Challenging
The crowd-magnet: The Yorkshire Three Peaks
A rite of passage for Yorkshire folk, this famous 23-mile route (the ‘original’ Three Peaks) lassos together Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough – humble hills in themselves, but a formidable challenge taken together.
Alternative: The Wharfedale Three Peaks
The hills above Wharfedale offer the most satisfying hill walking in the Yorkshire Dales outside the ‘Three Peaks’ area, and this 22-mile challenge connects Birks Fell, Buckden Pike and Great Whernside.
Length: 22 miles Walking time: 10 - 12 hours Difficulty: Challenging
The crowd-magnet: Ben Nevis via the Pony Track
The ‘easiest’ way to the highest point in Britain is predictably busy, with tens of thousands walking it every year.
The alternative: Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg Arete
The Carn Mor Dearg Arete is a longer, wilder, more exposed and, overall, harder way to reach the top of Ben Nevis, but it rewards with incredible views of the mountain’s famous North Face and a breathtaking scramble over a sweeping narrow ridge.
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