Mountain Journeys

Best Walking Route to Helvellyn – Our Number 1 route to this fine Lakeland summit



High Level Walking - Best Walking route to Helvellyn


Best Walking route to Helvellyn

With many routes to choose from and Striding Edge dominating the search for many seeking more scrambling terrain, here we describe a splendid option for those looking for a top quality walk to the summit of the 3rd highest mountain in England, Helvellyn.

In our opinion, this is the best walking route to Helvellyn for anyone approaching from the Central Lakes areas.

Quick facts:

Where to start? The United Utilities owned car park at Swirls, Thirlmere. There is a fee for parking here. There are also public conveniences at the car park.

How far is it? 11km

How long will it take? Around 5 - 6 hours

How much ascent is involved? 850m

From the parking area cross the narrow bridge over Helvellyn Gill and follow the good path through a series of gates and another very small bridge. Soon the path passes over Helvellyn Gill once more, this time the Watercourse is more prominent. Go through one more gate to reach the open hillside and here the ascent begins on a good path that zigzags up towards Browncove Crag.

Initially the scenery ahead can seem dull, so take time to stop and turn around to admire the stunning backdrop of Thirlmere and St. John’s in the Vale. After about an hour, Browncove Crag will come into view and the scenery becomes dramatic and stays that way. A steep path ascends to the right of these cliffs. The path is always good and for the most part, easy to follow, although care is required on misty days.

When level with the top of the cliffs the gradient eases and a wide track leads over a rocky plateau, steadily rising all the way to the summit trig point of Helvellyn. The true summit is a few metres south of this and slightly south again is a wind-break, the ideal place to rest and have a snack.

From the summit there are outstanding views in all directions. On a clear day this is the finest summit in the Lakes due to the extensive views on offer.

On misty days the summit can be a confusing place. Be sure to have map & compass with you and use them. Do not rely solely on mobile phone / gps / Google maps. There is no substitute for map & compass. If you aren’t sure how to use these or would like to build confidence in your mountain navigation, we can help. See our Navigation Courses for more details.

Head south towards Nethermost Pike, it’s worth ticking this summit too. It will be far quieter than Helvellyn. Then start the descent on a decent path heading south-west and aiming for the southern shores of Thirlmere and the tiny church at Wythburn. The final section of this is through forestry plantation. Once on the big forestry track, follow it northwards as it undulates back to Swirls. Despite being in forestry, this track offers more splendid views, adding the finishing touches to what we think is the best walking route to Helvellyn. 

Afterwards, we can recommend popping in to The Lodge in the Vale for refreshments.



Lunch Stop with a view - Best Walking route to Helvellyn


Suggested kit list for walkers

Waterproof jacket & over trousers

Hat & gloves

Warm clothing

Map & Compass

Walking boots / sturdy footwear

Packed lunch & snacks

Water – at least 1 litre

Backpack suitable for carrying the above kit

Would you like the reassurance of a qualified & experienced guide?

We have been offering guided ascents of Helvellyn for around 15 years and know the mountain very well from all directions. If you would like to arrange a guided walk up Helvellyn or any other mountain in the Lake District please do get in touch.

For more about all the Walks and Adventurous Activities we offer please do check out our Activities page



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