If you live in the UK, you are lucky to have access to some of the best hiking trails and challenges in the world. Despite being a small set of islands, the UK has diverse landscapes, beautiful countryside, and some epic mountain ranges. For experienced hikers, its like a playground! If you are looking for your next hiking challenge, we have gathered 8 of the hardest hikes in the UK. Be warned, these are not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced!
1. The Three Peaks Challenge
One of the best-known hiking challenges in the UK is the National Three Peaks challenge. This is an amazing experience and also a difficult hike – mainly due to the extreme distances between the three mountains you have to summit.
The three mountains you have to summit in a 24-hour period is Snowdon in Wales, Ben Nevis in Scotland, and Scafell Pike in England. The distance between these mountains is 462m, whilst the total walking distance is approximately 23 miles. This frantic challenge also includes a total ascent height of 3064m!
In total, you will spend approximately 13-hours driving between the locations, five hours to ascend Ben Nevis, four hours to ascend Scafell Pike, and four hours to Ascend Snowdon. This is an amazing challenge to complete, and it is a true accomplishment. How awesome would it be to say that you summited the tallest mountain in Wales, England, and Scotland in 24-hours?
For added excitement, why not see how close you can get to the current modern three peaks challenge record. The fastest time stands at 14 hours and 36 minutes, set by Bob Wiseman in 2015!
2. The Yorkshire Three Peaks
People who live in Yorkshire see the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge as the true origin of this national phenomenon. This is indeed an amazing hike and allows you to experience some of the most breath-taking scenery in the Yorkshire Dales and Pennines.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge is traditionally completed in a 12-hour period and includes the three tallest mountains in this region. These are Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough. The challenge usually starts at Pen-y-Ghent, and finishes at Ingleborough, and covers a total hiking distance of 24.5 miles.
Compared to the National Three Peaks challenge, there is no driving involved in this hike – the mountains are located in a triangle in the Yorkshire Dales. Don’t underestimate the distance, however. There is 10 miles between Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside, for example! This is definitely one of the hardest hikes in the UK and could be an excellent precursor to the longer and more difficult National Three Peaks Challenge.
When you finish the route and head for a pint at the Pen-y-Ghent café at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, you will feel both exhausted, and exhilarated!
3. The Welsh 3000s
So, you’ve completed both of the Three Peaks challenges. What next? How about tackling 15-16 peaks in the Snowdonia region of Wales? This is the daunting Welsh 3000s challenge. This amazing hike covers a distance of 24 miles and is traditionally completed in 24-hours or less.
To start this exciting adventure, hikers usually camp overnight close to the summit of Snowdon. From there, the route travels along an epic spine of mountains in Snowdonia National Park and culminates at the peak of Foel-fras. This final mountain overlooks Conwy Bay and is a fitting end to this grueling challenge.
If you tackle the Welsh 3000s, you will also travel along the dangerous Crib Goch ridge which is also featured in this list! The whole route is packed full of difficult scrambles, and it is certainly not a hike for the inexperienced walker. It may also comfort you, (or not) to know that the current record stands at an unbelievable 4 hours and 19 minutes!
4. The Lakes 3000s
Moving further north, we head to the jaw-dropping Lake District. This region is known for its astounding natural beauty and amazing lakes. However, it is also known for its 3000s four peak challenge! This difficult hiking challenge is similar to the Yorkshire Three Peaks in that no driving is required. It is a continuous walking trail that covers up to 44 miles depending on the route.
The mountains involved are the mighty Scafell Pike, Skiddaw, Scafell, and Helvellyn. Scafell Pike is the tallest at 978m, whilst the others stand at 964m (Scafell), 950, (Helvellyn), and 931 (Skiddaw) respectively. As you can guess, this translates to a height of 3000ft or greater.
If you are less experienced, you can arrange transport between the mountains. Also, many people choose to cycle between the mountains, with someone transporting their bikes between the different starting points. Whichever way you choose, The Lakes 3000s is an amazing adventure but also one of the hardest hikes in the UK.
5. The Cairngorms 4000s
Let’s take it 1000ft higher and give the Cairngorms 4000s a try? Within the daunting Cairngorms National Park, you can find a string of some of the tallest Munros in the UK – all at 4000ft or higher. This forms the basis of the Cairngorms 4000s challenge.
Unlike the Three Peaks challenges, this is a longer trek and is usually completed across two days. During the hike, you will summit the following mountains – Cairn Gorm, Ben Macdui, Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochan Uaine, and Braeriach.
Aviemore is usually the starting point of the Cairngorms 4000s and this is easy to reach along the A9 highlands road. The total distance is approximately 27 miles and covers an elevation of 2950m. During day 1, you will first tackle Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochan Uaine, and Braeraich. The second day culminates by tackling the mighty Ben Macdui, and Cairn Gorm.
This is an amazing hiking challenge to undertake and provides something different from the other mountain challenges in the UK.
6. Crib Goch Snowdon Summit
Snowdon has already been featured in this list, but one of the paths up this mighty mountain is one of the hardest hikes in the UK in its own right. This is the dreaded Crib Goch path. It may surprise you, but the total hiking distance is just 4.94km and covers an ascent of 763m. Also, the total round-trip time is typically 3.5-4 hours.
So why is it so difficult? Crib Goch is essentially an exposed scramble. It has many hazards and the scrambling sections are classed as Grade 1. For the most part, you have to concentrate extremely hard just to maintain your balance and overcome the rocky terrain.
This is definitely not a hike for inexperienced walkers. It requires great mental and physical effort and can be potentially dangerous. Some people have compared the ridge to walking along the apex of a steep roof!
7. Broad Stand, Scafell
Next, we move onto a shorter, but infinitely more dangerous hike. We are of course talking about Broad Stand – a shortcut that connects the Mickledore ridge to the summit of Scafell. This dangerous climb is virtually a complete scramble and it has actually claimed many lives over the years.
Everything about this hike makes it a potential death-trap. Firstly, visibility is often poor and can make the trek slow work. Secondly, there are often rockslides and the terrain is incredibly rocky and uneven. This can further slow your progress and mean much scrambling. Thirdly, the rocks are often slippery and during colder temperatures, the rocks can retain ice.
Despite being quite dangerous, it is a rewarding hike to take. If you complete it, you can be infinitely proud of your achievement. If you do want to take on Broad Stand, we advise careful planning and research into the route and its potential pitfalls. This is not a hiking route that you can attempt unprepared!
8. Aonach Eagach, Glen Coe
Glen Coe is packed full of epic mountains and difficult hiking trails. It is also a beautiful place to visit and one of the most picturesque in the Scottish Highlands.
Glen Coe is also home to one of the narrowest ridges in the UK – Aonach Eagach. This is listed as a grade 2 ridge, and what makes it even more daunting, is that it stands at a mere 3127ft high! It has many potential pitfalls and is known as a dangerous spot for hikers.
However, as with the other hardest hikes in the UK, it is incredibly rewarding. When walking along the ridge, you can enjoy amazing views of Glen Coe – a rugged and dramatic landscape. The total hiking distance is just 6 miles. Regardless, due to the difficult conditions, a typical completion time for this route is between 7-9 hours in decent weather conditions!
The ascent is a total of 1100m, and during the route, you will summit two mountains – Meall Dearg, and Sgor nam Fiannaidh.
Take a Walk on the Wild Wide and Embrace These Difficult Hikes
Whilst leisurely walks through the UK countryside are enjoyable, sometimes you want more! If you are tired of the same paths and trails, why not give one or more of the hardest hikes in the UK a try?
These hikes have many benefits. Firstly, they allow you to test your limits and push yourself further. You may be surprised how tough and resilient you are! Secondly, they allow you to experience some of the most beautiful areas in the UK. Regions like the Lake District, Snowdonia, and Glen Coe are breath-taking.
Thirdly, completing one of these hikes will give you a great sense of achievement. You can be proud in your accomplishment and share your experience with others. This year, take your hiking to the next level, and conquer one of the hardest hikes in the UK!