Sprawling hills of emerald green grass, thick woodland scattered with wild flora and fauna, grand snow-capped mountains and, of course, lakes. The National Park is interspersed with such a diverse landscape that you’ll be spoilt for choice where to start, and with so many attractions and things to do you may need a little help.
Perfect for the adrenaline seekers, the active amblers, and the whimsical wanderers alike, the list of outdoor activities in the Lake District is endless, so we’ve compiled our ultimate guide for things to do when exploring this magnificent region, breaking it down into categories - walking, cycling, water sports, extreme water sports, climbing, scrambling and gorge walking, boat trips, extreme activities and treetop adventures.
It may be a little obvious, but walking really is the best way to take in the beauty and grandeur of this incredible area. Enjoy a gentle stroll along a lakeside path as the sun mirrors off the turquoise waters, meander through dense woodland dotted with wildlife, or go extreme and scale one of the many hills and mountains in the region. There are plenty of options for guided walks for those wanting to know more detail about the area as you go, as well as plenty of waymarked pathways if you want to go it alone. Walking will not only allow you to truly appreciate your surroundings, but it will help build up an appetite for all of the fresh food and home-cooked meals available in pubs and restaurants across the Park.
Our top walking activities
Grizedale Sculpture Trail – Over 4000 hectares of woodland with an ever-changing combination of sculptures scattered across a network of footpaths and cycle tracks.
A night time stroll in Keswick – Gaze a blanket of stars speckling a deep black sky in one of the most peaceful and picturesque spots in the UK.
Find all of our favourite walks in our complete Lake District walks guide, or for walks which are shorter but just as rewarding, take a look at our top short walks.
If you’re happier with the wind on your face gliding on two wheels, there are hundreds of cycle paths in the area. Use pedal power to reach the various peaks of the Park before sitting back and letting gravity take up the slack as you drift downhill embracing the scenery.
From leafy roadways to arduous mountain tracks, organised races to leisurely rides, there are endless opportunities to get in the saddle and head out exploring – and if there’s no room for your plus one with wheels in the car, don’t stress, as there are plenty of places to hire a bike around the Lake District.
Our pick of the pedals
Kendal to Windermere – The quiet country lanes and stunning scenic rewards en-route make this one of the more laid-back and enjoyable trails. Don’t forget to pick up some proper Kendal Mint Cake to take along with you!
Broughton Wheelers Lakes Loop – The 40-mile trail was voted the best in Britain back in 2013 – not to be missed for the cycling enthusiasts!
A broad spectrum given the fact you’re surrounded by bodies of water, but there really are a whole plethora of options; whether you want to try your hand at something different, polish up your existing skills, or simply master the art of not sinking, there’s something for everyone. Try some classic canoeing or kayaking over calm waters, or perhaps you’d rather test your balancing skills with a bit of paddle boarding? On the more open lakes, such as Lake Windermere, where winds create a more unpredictable swell, windsurfing and sailing are both available at various spots throughout the Lake District.
What to do on the water?
Put the ‘can’ in canoe – Even if you’ve never been in one, with Dave’s Adventure Company and their Canadian canoes holding up to three people you’ll feel like a pro in no time. Plus you’ll get to see the lakes from a whole new perspective!
Coniston Boating Centre – Offering a multitude of activities in one place; hire a paddle board, grab your own sailing dinghy, or jump in a motor boat if everything else sounds like far too much hard work for a holiday.
Extreme water sports
For adrenaline junkies and would-be mermaids, extreme water sports are the perfect way to while away the hours on your trip. Be hauled, dragged and splashed across the lakes as you strap up for water skiing, or hold on tight for a bit of wakeboarding.
Alternatively, why not try something totally different with some white-water canoeing; set your pulse racing as you hurtle along fast-moving waterways, perfecting paddle techniques and progressively getting more advanced. For those with utter confidence in their abilities, steep creeking provides the ultimate thrill.
Test yourself with the best
Wild River – Ranging in levels from true beginners to paddling professionals, Wild River caters to every kind of adrenaline junkie.
Water skiing at Low Wood Watersports Centre – Relish in the exhilaration of water skiing, or try your hand at knee boarding at this beautiful bay.
There’s only ever two ways to go when on the side of a mountain, and that’s up or down. Luckily, there’s plenty of exciting ways to do both in the Lakes. Guided rock climbing is available at locations close to many popular towns and villages across the National Park, including Keswick, Kendal and Windermere, whilst abseiling is equally popular when you want to get back onto solid ground.
In the Lake District, there’s always an opportunity to discover something below ground too; for those with an inquisitive mind for exploration, uncover more secrets right under your feet with caving or potholing – but be warned, it’s not advised for those with claustrophobia!
The best places to reach new heights
Scafell Pike – Whether you head off on a guided hike or you scale it solo, climbing to the peak of the Lake District’s tallest mountain is a must.
Going underground – Cathedral Quarry boasts the Lakeland Slate Quarry Experience, which is suitable for families or can be combined with an abseil for those more adventurous.
Scrambling and gorge walking
Described by River Deep Mountain High as ‘outdoor playtime in wetsuits’, gorge walking is an exciting, active experience that comes highly recommended on a trip to the region. Otherwise known as Ghyll scrambling, the activity involves walking the path of the river, traversing waterfalls, and sliding off rocks, and can be a real white-knuckle experience at times!
For those seeking a real adventure, try the Ghyll scrambles offered by Crags Adventures, with huge jumps and drops down Esk Ghyll and Devil's Ghyll - these are not for the faint-hearted!
Where to go scrambling
South West Lakes – With the biggest variations of locations for gorge walking, this area is the perfect place to have one of the most memorable days of your holiday.
If you really want to satisfy the adrenaline junkie in you then take the ‘Path to Adventure.’ With this company, the adventures never stop. For thrill-seekers, challenge yourself with rock climbing and abseiling: really test your mettle with a drop of 150 feet, or instead fling yourself into clear blue waters on a day spent ghyll scrambling. Alternatively, you could discover if you’re a born survivor on one of their fascinating bushcraft courses or take a wild camping weekend expedition. If it’s something slightly more sedate you’re after, they also offer canoeing and guided walking adventures which allow you to see Mother Nature at her best in beautiful surroundings. Some activities even accept dogs, so your four-legged friend needn’t miss out on the memories!
Cruisers, steam yachts, gondolas and buffet boats are just some of the Lake District boat trips on offer during your stay in the National Park. Sit back and let someone else take the helm; enjoy the glorious scenery as you glide across tranquil waters like Derwentwater, Windermere, Coniston and Ullswater, with some trips there for practicality getting you from point A to B, and others lasting longer with spoken tours as you happily drift along.
Best boats to bob along on
Ullswater Steamers – Operating for over 150 years, these spectacular boats make superb venues for celebrations, or simply to appreciate the stunning body of water that has inspired artists and writers for decades.
The buffet cruise – Enjoy a summer’s evening on Lake Windermere as you unwind with a freshly prepared buffet, cold glass of wine and a live band in the background to provide the perfect ambience to your equally perfect surroundings.
Extreme and adventure activities
With so much space, there’s plenty of opportunity to push yourself to your limits and do something you never would have even dreamed of anywhere else. The eclectic combination of extreme sports and experience days range from off-roading and quad biking to zip wires and human bowling, and while many of the activities are certainly not for the faint-hearted, they’ll definitely leave you with long-lasting memories of your Lake District holiday.
The maddest of the mad
Gyroplanes – Whether you want to take control or just take in the views, the flying centre, based near Penrith, allows you to fly across the mountainous Cumbrian landscape and see it from a truly unique and thrilling perspective.
Human bowling – Get together with some friends and head to the Lakes; while one player is securely strapped inside a ball, the others roll it down a hill to knock down as many pins as possible. Simple but hilarious fun!
Via Ferrata – Literally translating to ‘Iron Way’, this extreme activity with Keswick Adventure Centre has you scaling sheer cliffs and climbing a giant cargo net whilst attached to a harness. It’s the ultimate experience, and one you’re sure never to forget.
You’ll also find a range of activity centres across Cumbria which offer a variety of adventure activities all in one place:
Rookin House, Troutbeck (near Penrith) – offers everything from archery, quad bike ridings and assault courses to clay pigeon shooting, go-karts and 4x4 driving.
Newlands Adventure Centre, Keswick – offers an indoor climbing wall as well as a variety of outdoor pursuits, including mountain biking, high ropes, rock climbing and ghyll scrambling.
With the Lake District being home to so many varied landscapes, it’s no surprise to hear that it’s home to a number of forests, with several hosting their own adventures amongst the treetops. Unleash your inner child with an experience which includes scrambling on high ropes, bridges, ladders, nets and more.
Start monkeying around
Go Ape! – The Lake District is home to two Go Ape! sites: Grizedale and Whinlatter. Grizedale offers a thrilling high ropes experience, topped with a network of seven zip lines to whizz down. Meanwhile, at Whinlatter, you can pair your treetop adventure with a Segway ride through the forest.
Treetop nets at Brockhole – Guaranteed to be a hit with the youngsters, this giant network of trampolines, netting and slides suspended between the trees offers a unique play experience for kids of all ages.
Adventure activities map
Find all of the great places and activities mentioned above on this handy map below to find the best adventure to embark on during your holiday.
A trip to this breath-taking National Park is unforgettable no matter what time of year you visit or how many excursions you choose to fit in, but rest assured that whatever you’re looking for you’ll find it here, with more activities in the Lake District than you could ever imagine.
We have some beautiful cottages across the region, all perfectly placed for you to explore the best that the Lake District has to offer – our hideaways are sure to help make your holiday extra special.
For even more inspiration on where to go in the Lake District, check out our family fun guide, packed with ideas for attractions and days out for all the family.