There are actually three main routes up the mountain. Each starts from a different side of the mountain and, though you’ll get the same view from the top, the routes are very different. It’s well worth looking at your options beforehand.
To choose the best route for you, you’ll need to consider a few things. How confident are you in climbing a 978m mountain? Are you looking for the quickest and most direct ascent possible, or interested in a more varied day out, taking in several mountain peaks? Or even down to more practical things like: where are you staying and which start point is easiest to access? Be sure also to make sure that you've reviewed our hiking preparation guide.
Here’s a brief outline of each route to help you make your decision.
Climbing Scafell Pike from Borrowdale involves a long, steady approach from the north of the mountain. Starting at Seathwaite, you’ll slowly ascend from the valley, climbing alongside the beginnings of the River Derwent, then up a ghyll to Sprinkling Tarn. Styhead Tarn can be seen to the west below Seathwaite Fell. From Styhead Tarn, you’ll traverse around the sheer black crag of Great End to Esk Hause. Now northeast of the Scafell Pike summit, you’ll follow a sparse path and cairns over the shoulders of Ill Crag and Broad Crag to the top.
This is a full day route, so you’ll need to start early in the day. You’ll get to experience more of the surrounding mountains without climbing any unnecessary peaks. The climb from the northeast side of Scafell Pike is longer, but the ascent is less abrupt. Most of the time, the route is away from well-made paths and there are no waymarkers.
Climbing Scafell Pike from Wasdale is the shortest and most direct ascent. Starting from Wasdale Head, at almost sea level, the route starts immediately on the ascent alongside Lingmell Gill. After about 700 vertical metres of ascent over 2 kilometres, the mountain begins to flatten out below Lingmell. At Lingmell Col you will be standing north-west of the summit and very clearly in its shadow. Take a path up the shallowest side of Scafell Pike, between two crags and follow it carefully up to the summit trig point and shelter.
This is the shortest route, so a good choice for beginners. The path up to the col is well made and the easiest to follow for those not so confident at navigation. It’s easy to turn around and retrace your steps if you change your mind. However, the last ascent, from the col to the summit, is less clear and there are crags on either side.
It is less usual to climb Scafell Pike from Langdale, but still an excellent day out in the mountains. The route involves hiking across several other peaks: Bow Fell and Esk Pike. The route starts at the west end of Langdale valley and ascends onto open land along a ridgeline called The Band. From Three Tarns, at the end of the ridge, there is a steep and rocky ascent to Bow Fell. Then down to Ore Gap and along the ridgeline to Esk Pike. At Esk Hause, the routes join up with the ascent from Borrowdale.
This is a route for confident hikers who want to add more variety to their ascent of Scafell Pike. Or perhaps people who have climbed to the summit before from a different side. The paths up to Esk Hause are well made, but since you are starting so far from Scafell Pike you need to be able to navigate to reach it. There is a great view of Scafell Pike from Bow Fell on a clear day.
Walking Routes for Families
There are a number of routes to the Scafell Pike summit and with forward planning and the correct equipment, there is no reason why a Scafell Pike walk can’t be a thoroughly enjoyable family affair.
When visiting Scafell Pike as a family it is important to be more flexible with plans as for children the journey and exploration of the area is more important than achieving a set goal. Despite this, thousands of families each year enjoy a trip to the area and take part in walks, nature activities, camping and more.
The trek to the summit of Scafell peak takes a minimum of two to three hours for a competent and experienced adult hiker. For children who need to take regular breaks, require carrying or help climbing over rubble this time will be extended. Common sense plays a part in hiking and while the whole family are able to enjoy their time at Scafell Pike it is essential that appropriate goals are set and safety measures considered when taking younger children.
There are many routes to the summit however they vary in difficulty and length. The route from Wasdale Head is the shortest route to the summit however the Corridor Route from Borrowdale via Styhead Tarn is not too much longer yet has a significantly gentler ascent.
All routes vary however the ground around Scafell is littered with boulders and rocks to go around and in some case climb over. Bear this in mind when planning a trip.