Outdoor adventures create lifelong memories for families. Nestled between Manchester and Sheffield, our first national park offers opportunity in spades. The Great Outdoors rounds up the best family walks in the Peak District.
It’s difficult to summarise what constitutes a great family day out. What suits certain kids will bore the pants off others or prove too challenging for some. Here, we’ve listed some of the best value walks in the Peaks – fun for all. These walks are relatively short, and can generally be hiked in half a day on moderately easy terrain with good footpaths. Most importantly, these adventure spots offer plenty in the way of geographical and historical interest to engage mind and body. Big kids are also welcome on these, the best family walks in the Peak District.
Words: Francesca Donovan | Main image credit: Miguel Arcanjo Saddi
- Stanage Edge
- Higger Tor and Burbage Rocks
- Baslow and Curbar Edges
- Mam Tor
- B29 ‘OVEREXPOSED’ crash site on Bleaklow
- Thor’s Cave
- Lud’s Church and The Roaches
- Dovedale Stepping Stones
- Three Shires Head
- Robin Hood’s Stride and Hermit’s Cave
Best family walks in the Peak District: Dark Peak
1. Stanage Edge
Start/finish: Upper Burbage Bridge car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL1 – The Peak District, Dark Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 5.6 miles/9km | Ascent: 768ft/234m | Duration: 3 to 4 hours | Transport: None to start
With sweeping views over to Mam Tor and Win Hill, the easy-going paths that wind along Stanage Edge offer some of the finest low-stakes walking in the Peak District. There is plenty of roadside parking below the edge, so the ascent can be minimal. And yet, the boulders and rocky outlook provide a great outdoor playground including Robin Hood’s cave and abandoned millstones.
It’s also a lovely place to watch the sunset. There are two trig points to ‘bag’ on this 9km walk (which could take little legs about 4 hours) mapped from the east end of the edge close by to Sheffield, but you can cut it short at any point when tummies start grumbling.
2. Higger Tor and Burbage Rocks
Start/finish: Upper Burbage Bridge car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL1 – The Peak District, Dark Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 4.9 miles/7.9km | Ascent: 400ft/122m | Duration: 3 to 4 hours | Transport: None to start
A stone’s throw from Stanage Edge is Higger Tor. It can be reached from Upper Burbage Bridge car park, too. However, stretch the walk out a little further and you can also include the tea room (and loos!) at the Longshaw Estate, where there’s more parking and pretty woodland. A circular route, this might keep active minds more interested than the there-and-back walks along the Peak District edges.
Pick your way along the rock formations on the tor, ford a brook (waterproof boots a must!) and meander along an easy footpath in the shadow of some of the best rock climbing in the Peaks, Burbage Rocks. Higger Tor itself is also a weaseling hotspot and a sheltered place for a wild camp, if that’s on the agenda.
3. Baslow and Curbar Edges
Start/finish: Curbar Gap car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL1 – The Peak District, Dark Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 3.6 miles/5.8km | Ascent: 225ft/68m | Duration: 2 hours | Transport: None to start
Unlike most edge walks, this figure-of-eight along Baslow and Curbar edges provides plenty of variety – and all on very manageable footpaths. Navigation is common-sense simple, too, so you can spend the time appreciating bonding time outdoors.
Keep your eyes peeled for the resident Highland cows on Curbar and the views down to the Chatsworth Estate. On the return, the direct path back to the car park features the Eagle Stone. Likewise, these are gritstone rock formations along Baslow Edge which are great for low-stakes scrambles and family photo ops.
4. Mam Tor
Start/finish: Edale train station | Maps: OS Explorer OL1 – The Peak District, Dark Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 3.9 miles/6.3km | Ascent: 825ft/251m | Duration: 3 to 5 hours | Transport: Edale station served by hourly Northern Trains between Manchester and Sheffield
Mam Tor is a great walk to introduce young adventurers to the glory of hillwalking – and the payoff of a great view at the end of a hard hike. It is a more simple navigational task than the moorland plateau of Kinder Scout, the Peak’s highest point visible across the Edale valley. But Mam Tor, at 1,696 ft (517m), is not to be sniffed at.
It’s known as the Shivering Mountain despite not quite making the geographical qualifications. Others call it Mother Hill. The quickest circular from Edale, descending at Hollins Cross, is still a big day out for little legs. But the Penny Pot Cafe does a great brownie to make it all worthwhile.
Alternatively, you can park at the car park on Rushup Edge and let the car do most of the work for you, instead walking along the Great Ridge and back to enjoy the views from Back Tor and Lose Hill Pike. The ridge is paved most of the way but there is rocky terrain up to Back Tor and the grass slopes of Losehill Pike do get slippy, as do the paving stones of Mam Tor itself.
5. B29 ‘OVEREXPOSED’ crash site on Bleaklow
Start/finish: Snake Road | Maps: OS Explorer OL1 – The Peak District, Dark Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 3.4 miles/5.6km | Ascent: 375ft/106m | Duration: 2 to 3 hours | Transport: Service X57 runs along Snake Road from Manchester to Sheffield and stops on the Pennine Way at the start of this route
If they’re interested in history, the Peak District is peppered with moments from the past. Perhaps the most tangible, moving and accessible for young minds are the World War Two crash sites. The easiest to reach on little legs is on Bleaklow. While the moorland might be quite uninspiring, save for heather season when they bloom bright purple, the walking is easy if boggy at times.
This find needs some navigation skills and it’s a great opportunity to introduce map reading in the outdoors. When you do stumble across the remains of the WW2 US Air Force Boeing RB-29A, the sense of achievement is only comparable with the solemnity of the sight.
Best family walks in the Peak District: White Peak
1. Thor’s Cave
Start/finish: Layby parking by Wetton Mill | Maps: OS Explorer OL24 – The Peak District, White Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 2.5 miles/4km | Ascent: 250ft/76m | Duration: 2 to 3 hours | Transport: None to start
The draw of Thor and his mythology might draw even the most reluctant young walker. And this walk does not disappoint. There’s a short route from Wetton which does get a little muddy after bad weather. Alternatively, the walk up through the woodland along the River Manifold has lots of steps to help you warm up on a chillier day.
There are more caves to explore on this more adventurous route. Either way, upon reaching the mouth of the cave, there’s a bit of a scramble up. Watch them marvel at this spectacular natural window out onto the Manifold Valley. It’s a great spot for a game of hide and seek, too, but only if you’re seeking skills are up to the task!
2. Lud’s Church and the Roaches
Start/finish: Gradbach | Maps: OS Explorer OL24 – The Peak District, White Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 5 miles/8km | Ascent: 850ft/260m | Duration: 5 to 6 hours | Transport: None to start
For a little bit of moss-covered magic, head to Lud’s Church. It’s a deep gorge sliced into the Staffordshire landscape with nooks and crannies to explore and climb. A pretty woodland walk with minimal way-marking leads the way into the hidden cavern, which does require a bit of navigation to find.
You can approach from below, at the car park and picnic site at Gradbach which is served by a tea room and toilets. Or, you can include the Roaches and their rocky outcrops, favoured by local climbers. There’s usually an ice cream van parked up on sunny (and therefore busy days). Either way, ice cream is on the menu! Our route covers both from Gradbach – with a short stop up The Roaches – as plenty of refreshments can be picked up along the way at marvellous viewpoints for a magical day out.
3. Dovedale Stepping Stones
Start/finish: Dovedale car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL24 – The Peak District, White Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 1.8 miles/3km | Ascent: 325ft/99m | Duration: 1 to 2 hours | Transport: None to start
This is one of the most popular family walks in the Peak District and there’s a reason. It’s a lot of bang for your buck. You’ll feel dwarfed in this little White Peak dale by the surrounding rolling hills but will not have to walk very far to see some beautiful scenery.
Meander along the river to the stepping stones – which do require a bit of balance and scamper up the short but steep Thorpe Cloud to look down into the valley. Alternatively, take the longer river route heading south past Lover’s Leap and Reynard’s Cave from Milldale. Other stepping stones worth seeing are at Chee Dale.
4. Three Shires Head
Start/finish: Gradbach car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL24 – The Peak District, White Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 3.8 miles/6km | Ascent: 637ft/194m | Duration: 3 to 4 hours | Transport: None to start
It wouldn’t be a round-up of Peak District bimbles without a nod to Three Shires Head. Delight the kids with tales of yore, as this place is packed with history. As a three-county border (Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire), it deserved its reputation for lawlessness. Bare-knuckle boxing, illegal coin counterfeiting, and escapes from the constabulary all occurred here at this packhorse bridge. You can almost hear the tired ponies lapping away at Pannier’s Pool, the other less-famous waterfall.
This is a popular place for a swim in the summer months and do beware the motorised dirt bikes that frequent the dirt tracks. It’s a straightforward circular walk through lanes, tracks and fields from Gradbach car park where there is a tearoom and toilets just a little way down the road.
5. Robin Hood’s Stride and Hermit’s Cave
Start/finish: Cratcliffe car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL1 – The Peak District, Dark Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 1.6 miles/2.6km | Ascent: 200ft/61m | Duration: 1 to 2 hours | Transport: None to start
This is another great walk among gritstone. As just 3km, it packs many points of interest into a short linear route on the Limestone Way, including a large stone circle (more impressive than those on Stanton Moor) and the Hermit’s Cave. Inside the cave, you’ll find a 13th-century stone cross. Perhaps even more appealing are the climbing opportunities atop Cratcliffe Tor.
Parking is limited to Cratcliffe parking area, which is very small, so arrive early. Allow a few hours for exploring!
These are family-friendly walks, but adequate preparation is still required. While the terrain is easy-going (but not often buggy-friendly) and the elevation isn’t mountainous, conditions can be variable on the hills and accidents do happen. So, we recommend all walkers equip themselves with a first aid kit and appropriate warm clothing.
The Great Outdoors‘ gear experts, with the help of their children, reviewed the best waterproof jackets for kids. They also reviewed the best family camping tents, if you’re looking for longer adventures.
Likewise, many of these family walks in the Peak District are way-marked well. However, it’s still advisable to take along a map and compass or a navigation tool on your smartphone to avoid getting lost and into trouble. The kids will never forget!