Author: Emily@TMBtent

The Complete Guide to Camping in Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is a true hidden gem. Tucked away in the central heart of California, Pinnacles is home to a variety of rugged landscapes and stunning rock formations. Although…

Pinnacles National Park is a true hidden gem. Tucked away in the central heart of California, Pinnacles is home to a variety of rugged landscapes and stunning rock formations. Although it is one of the country’s youngest National Parks, Pinnacles’ history goes back many millions of years to a time when numerous volcanoes formed the spires, caves, and canyons that make it such a unique and beautiful place.

Many nature lovers will agree that exploring wild places like Pinnacles National Park is best experienced on a camping trip. There’s no better way to bring closure to a day in the outdoors than a night under the stars. Since camping options are limited and Pinnacles is still an off-the-beaten-track destination, it can be challenging to find good information on camping in Pinnacles National Park. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide so you can spend less time planning and more time in the great outdoors. Enjoy!

Wild flowers bloom along the Rim Trail in Pinnacles National Park.
Wildflowers bloom along the Rim Trail in Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Cindy Martinez.

In This Post:

Camping Inside Pinnacles National Park

When it comes to camping inside Pinnacles National Park, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that backcountry and dispersed camping are not permitted anywhere within the park. The good news? It’s still possible to enjoy camping in the lovely and convenient Pinnacles Campground, and those looking for more remote dispersed camping have a few good options nearby.

Pinnacles National Park Camping Map
Pinnacles Campground is located on the more developed East side of the park.

Pinnacles Campground

# of sites: 134

Type: Tent, RV, Group, Glamping

Fees: $35 (Standard tent), $45 (RV w/electric), $75-$110 (group) $119 (glamping cabin)

Located near the Visitor’s Center on the East side of the park, Pinnacles Campground offers a range of camping options. There are numerous tent pitches (many with good shade, 6 people max per site), RV sites with electric hookups, glamping cabins, and group sites that can accommodate up to 20 people.

There is a handy campground store on the premises that offers basic food and supplies. A shuttle runs from the campground to the Bear Gulch Nature Center and nearby trailheads.

Looking towards Pinnacles Campground and Bear Gulch.
Looking towards Pinnacles Campground and Bear Gulch. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Amenities:

  • Fire ring
  • Picnic tables
  • Food storage box
  • Flushing toilets
  • Hot showers ($0.50/3 minutes)
  • Wifi
  • Swimming pool
  • General store

Reservations

Due to the limited camping options at Pinnacles, reservations are recommended during the peak wildflower season (March-May), on weekends, and during holidays. Additionally, it is advisable to book in advance if you are wanting an RV site (only 20 total), glamping cabin (6 total), or group site (14 total). Group sites can be booked up to 12 months in advance, while all other sites can be booked up to 6 months in advance.

Reservations can be made at recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777

Pets

Pets are allowed on the paved areas of the campground and must be kept on a leash. You cannot bring your pet on any of the trails in Pinnacles National Park.

Fires

Fires are permitted inside designated fire rings, depending on the time of year. During times of high fire danger, campfires and smoking are prohibited throughout the park (including inside the campground), although propane cooking stoves are typically allowed. Information on current conditions and fire bans can be found on this website.

Wildlife

Pinnacles National Park is a renowned habitat for the critically endangered California Condor. There is a viewing area with telescopes at the Pinnacles Campground; your best chance of seeing one of these beautiful giants is during their evening feeding time. More commonly seen in the campground are racoons, squirrels, and numerous smaller birds, such as the scrub jay. It is imperative that visitors not feed the wildlife, and be sure to keep all of your food inside your car or in the box provided at your campsite.

A California Condor at Pinnacles National Park.
A California Condor spotted in Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Campgrounds Near Pinnacles National Park

Despite the limited options for camping within the boundaries of Pinnacles National Park, there are plenty of good campgrounds in the surrounding area. For easy access to the East side of the park, the towns of Hollister and King City are each about 30 miles and 40 minutes’ drive away. The west side of the park is more remote, requiring about an hour’s drive (38 miles) from the nearest town of Soledad.

Below we’ve shared our top picks and tips for the best campgrounds near Pinnacles National Park:

Campgrounds Near Hollister, California

Hollister Hills SVRA

For those looking for a more rustic option near Hollister, the Hollister Hills State Vehicle Recreation Area offers basic camping options in several campgrounds on the 6,800-acre site. Keep in mind that this is a recreation area for 4WD vehicles and ATVs, so don’t expect it to be particularly quiet.

# of Sites: Varies by campground. (There are 7 campgrounds and 2 remote sites total)

Type: Tents, RVs (no hookups)

Fees: $10/night

Amenities:

  • Flushing toilets
  • Showers (not available at all campgrounds)
  • Water
  • Firepit
  • Picnic tables

Fires: Yes, but seasonal restrictions may apply.

Pets: Yes

Reservations: N/A. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Get there early, as it fills up most weekends.

Hollister Hills SVRA Website

Camping in Hollister California
Car camping+fire pits=Gourmet dinners!

San Benito RV and Camping Resort

Located 14 miles south of Hollister, this is one of the closest camping options to Pinnacles National Park (about a 25-minute drive). The San Benito RV and Camping Resort is a big, busy, well-appointed RV park that doesn’t permit tent camping.

# of Sites: 596

Type: RV, Cabins

Fees: RV sites ($68/night and up), Cabins ($130/night-$300/night)

Amenities:

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Clubhouse with Wifi
  • Pool/Hot tub
  • Playground
  • Laundry
  • Water

Fires: In barbeques only.

Pets: Allowed for RV camping, but not inside cabins.

Reservations: Recommended for busy weekends. Reservations can be made HERE.

San Benito RV and Camping Resort Website

Camping near Hollister California rock climbing
Camping in Hollister gives you close proximity to some of the most popular climbing routes in Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Campgrounds Near King City, California

San Lorenzo County Park

Conveniently located near the center of King City, San Lorenzo County Park offers a wide variety of campsite types in a shady campground with good facilities.

# of Sites: 100

Type: RV, Tent, Group

Fees: Full Hook-Up ($45/night) Water/Electric or Water-Only ($40/night)

Amenities

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Water
  • Barbeques
  • Picnic tables
  • Laundry
  • Internet kiosk
  • Putting green

Fires: Barbeques only.

Pets: Yes (must be kept on leash), additional fee required.

Reservations: Recommended for busy holidays and weekends. Reservations can be made HERE.

San Lorenzo County Park Camping Website

Camping in King City California, Pinnacles National Park
Many of the best trails in Pinnacles National Park are less than an hour’s drive from San Lorenzo County Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Campgrounds Near Soledad, California

Arroyo Seco Campground

Nestled on a wooded hillside near two small lakes and a river, this rustic campground offers a good option for campers who want to appreciate their natural surroundings. There are some spots that can accommodate smaller RVs, but no hookups are available.

# of Sites: 33

Fees: $30/night

Amenities:

  • Toilets (some flush, some vault)
  • Drinking water
  • Showers (coin-operated)
  • Picnic table
  • Firepit with grill

Fires: Yes, but seasonal restrictions may apply.

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Reservations: Recommended. This is a small campground that gets heavy use throughout the year. Reservations can be made HERE.

Arroyo Seco Campground Website

Camping near the west entrance to Pinnacles National Park.
Camping near Soledad, CA gives you easy access to the West entrance of Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Yanks RV Resort

Yanks RV Resort is well-positioned for easy access to either the western or eastern entrance to Pinnacles National Park. This is an RV-only campground and tents are not permitted.

# of Sites: 79

Fees: $51-71/night

Amenities:

  • Full hook-ups
  • Wifi & cable TV
  • Picnic tables
  • Barbeques
  • Pool/hot tub
  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Dog park
  • Propane filling station
  • Laundry
  • Store
  • Fitness center

Fires: Yes

Pets: Yes, except for pitbulls, rottweilers, & dobermans.

Reservations: Recommended for busy holidays and weekends. Reservations can be made HERE.

Yanks RV Resort Website

Pinnacles National Park Camping Caves
Exploring the caves in Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Dispersed Camping Near Pinnacles National Park

There are a couple of good options for dispersed camping near Pinnacles National Park. The Laguna Mountain BLM area is the closest option to the park, requiring a roughly 50-minute drive to reach the East entrance. The Condon Peak BLM area is just a bit further, about one hour’s drive from Pinnacles National Park’s East entrance. While these camping options may be a bit further than some of the other campgrounds in the area, they provide an affordable and private alternative to the busier RV parks.

Laguna Mountain BLM Recreation Area

There are plenty of secluded spots to be found off any of the roads in the Laguna Mountain area (be sure to read and follow the camping regulations on the website). Stargazers will enjoy the dark night skies here, and hikers should make a short detour to check out one of the waterfalls in the area. Keep in mind that there are no restrooms, water, or trash facilities for dispersed campers. There are also two primitive campgrounds with level spaces to accommodate RV’s, although there are no hook-ups.

# of Sites: Varies

Fees: Free

Amenities:

  • None in dispersed spots
  • Campgrounds have vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables

Fires: Seasonal Restrictions may apply

Pets: Yes

Reservations: Not available. Get there early on weekends to find a good spot.

Laguna Mountain BLM Website

Dispersed camping near Pinnacles National Park
Dispersed camping allows you to enjoy the peace and solitude of the outdoors.

Condon Peak BLM Recreation Area

Condon Peak Recreation Area is another good option for dispersed camping near Pinnacles National Park, although there are a few drawbacks to consider. There is a $5 vehicle permit required for both camping and day use, and Condon Peak is a bit further from Pinnacles than Laguna Mountain. Additionally, the area is quite busy during the summer hunting season. That being said, there are many good dispersed spots and a primitive campground suitable for tents and RVs.

# of Sites: Varies

Fees: $5 vehicle permit (good for one week and must be purchased on recreation.gov)

Amenities:

  • None in dispersed spots
  • Campgrounds have vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables

Fires: Seasonal Restrictions may apply

Pets: Yes

Reservations: Not available. Get there early on summer weekends to find a good spot.

Condon Peak BLM Website

Camping near Pinnacles National Park, Balconies Trail

Conclusion

There’s no shortage of activities to enjoy in Pinnacles National Park. You can watch for the endangered California Condor and other birds of prey, explore the fabulous network of hiking trails, choose from excellent climbing routes suited for a range of ability levels and styles, or venture into one of the incredible talus caves (no special experience or equipment required!) Your next adventure is waiting, and it all starts with the perfect basecamp. Happy camping!

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Coast to Coast Walk Accommodation

The incredible scenery you’ll experience on England’s celebrated Coast to Coast Walk can only be rivaled by the warm hospitality you’ll receive along the way. Whether you’re enjoying rich pub…

The incredible scenery you’ll experience on England’s celebrated Coast to Coast Walk can only be rivaled by the warm hospitality you’ll receive along the way. Whether you’re enjoying rich pub meals and luxurious B&B’s or roughing it with some trail mix and a tent, the places you spend your nights on the Coast to Coast Walk are sure to be as memorable as the ones traversed in the daytime hours.

We put together this guide to help you get the most out of your accommodation experience during your Coast to Coast adventure. Here’s what’s covered in the post:

St. Bees Head Coast to Coast Walk

Coast to Coast Walk Accommodation Basics


Do I need to reserve my accommodation in advance for the Coast to Coast Walk?

Generally speaking, yes. During the peak season (May-August), it is very likely that many places will be sold out nearly every night. Even outside of the busy months, it is a good idea to make advance bookings for places in resort areas, small towns with few accommodation options, and on weekends.

Most campgrounds on the Coast to Coast Walk do not require reservations, but there are a few notable exceptions. You should book ahead for any campgrounds in the Lakes District during peak months, and at smaller camping areas like Lord Stones.

When booking for peak season, the earlier the better. If possible, try to reserve the most in-demand accommodations 3-6 months in advance. If you’re more of a last-minute person, don’t despair. Even calling a few days ahead while you’re on the trail could really pay off.

Coast to Coast Walk Camping Gear
Bookings aren’t required for most campgrounds on the C2C, but there are some important exceptions.

How much does accommodation cost on the Coast to Coast Walk?

A wonderful aspect of the Coast to Coast Walk is its very customizable nature. No two walkers have the same experience on this dynamic trek; in fact, if you walk it twice you’ll likely have vastly different experiences each time! Just as you can tailor your itinerary to match your timeframe and your packing list to fit your travel style, so can you choose accommodation to fit your budget.

Prices vary greatly from place to place, but generally speaking, here’s what you can expect to pay for accommodation along the Coast to Coast Walk:

  • B&B/Guesthouse/Hotel: £75+ (per person/per night)
  • Bunkhouse/Hostel: £40 (per person/per night)
  • Camping: £10 (per person/per night)

In our accommodation directory, we’ve provided our recommendations for high-end, mid-range, and budget options at all of the typical Coast to Coast stops. We’ve defined those categories as follows:

  • High-End: £70+ (per person/per night)
  • Mid-Range: £40-70 (per person/per night)
  • Budget:<£40 (per person/per night)

Want to know more about budgeting and money on the Coast to Coast Walk? Check out our Ultimate Guide for a detailed cost list and other essential information!

Full English Breakfast at a B&B on the Coast to Coast walk
If you choose to stay at B&B’s. you can expect to eat like a king!

Coast to Coast Walk Accommodation Directory


There are fabulous places to stay along the entire Coast to Coast route. In this directory, we’ll give you key details about all of your options, as well as our best recommendations for every budget.

We’ve organized our list to follow most variations of the classic west-to-east walking itinerary.

If you’re looking for a helpful visual to go with this list, be sure to check out this Coast to Coast Maps & Routes article!

Patterdale Coast to Coast Walk
The charming village of Patterdale.

St. Bees

High-End: Stone House Farm

You’ll start your walk fully energized from the comfortable beds and lavish breakfast spread at Stone House Farm. The service is friendly and personalized and the location is convenient. Those on a tight budget can camp in the lovely garden.

Mid-Range: The Seacote Hotel

The oceanfront location of this hotel means that it provides great views and easy access to the official start of the Coast to Coast Walk. A full English breakfast is included in your room rate and dogs are welcome (for an additional fee).

Budget: Seacote Caravan Park

If you plan on staying in St. Bees for a few nights before starting your walk, this is a great budget option. You can rent a holiday caravan that is quite luxurious and provides beautiful views (minimum 3-night stay). Alternatively, a great budget option is to camp at their well-appointed seaside campground.

Cleator

High-End: Jasmine House B&B

With spotless rooms, helpful staff, and a hearty breakfast, this is an excellent option in Cleator. It is located just steps from the Coast to Coast route, making it a convenient place to stop.

Mid-Range: Ennerdale Country House Hotel

The friendly staff at Ennerdale Country House Hotel welcome both people and dogs to their tranquil abode. The lovely garden is a perfect place to relax after a day of walking.

Ennerdale Bridge

High-End: Thorntrees B&B

Thorntrees B&B is an excellent stop on the Coast to Coast Walk for a multitude of reasons. The location is ideal for walkers, the rooms are cozy and luxurious, and the food is top-notch.

Mid-Range: Fox and Hounds Inn

A stay at this cozy pub and inn is sure to be a quintessential Coast to Coast experience. The Fox and Hounds is at the heart of Ennerdale Bridge, and a popular gathering point for C2C walkers to enjoy a pint and swap stories. Rooms are basic but comfortable.

Budget: YHA Ennerdale

To reach this well-appointed hostel, you’ll need to walk an extra couple of hours past the town of Ennerdale Bridge and traverse the entire length of Ennerdale Water. Those willing to go the extra miles will be rewarded with an atmospheric stay at a great value (private rooms and dorms are available).

Black Sail Hut

Mid-Range: YHA Black Sail Hostel

If you are looking to complete the Coast to Coast Walk at a more relaxed pace, you may want to consider staying at the Black Sail to break up a long and strenuous stretch of the walk. If you choose to do this, it is imperative to reserve your bed at the Black Sail in advance, as it only sleeps 16 people in total.

Black Sail Hostel Coast to Coast Walk
The delightfully cozy Black Sail Hostel.

Rosthwaite

High-End: Hazel Bank Country House

If you’re looking for an all-around exceptional Cumbrian B&B experience, look no further than Hazel Bank Country House. From the stunning setting to their homemade truffles, every detail is curated to make your stay relaxing and memorable.

Mid-Range: Royal Oak Hotel

This cozy family-run hotel is conveniently located in the heart of Borrowdale, giving you easy access to the Coast to Coast route and a smattering of pubs. The knowledgeable staff are happy to provide helpful advice to C2C walkers.

Budget: YHA Borrowdale

YHA consistently provides excellent budget accommodations throughout the UK, and the Borrowdale location is no different. With convenient amenities (drying room, communal kitchen, free wifi), central location, and friendly lounge, it is the best budget option in the area. Private rooms, dorms, camping pods, and tent camping are available.

Grasmere

High-End: Heidi’s Grasmere Lodge

This exceptional B&B is located steps from the center of town, yet still provides a tranquil setting and beautiful views. The staff is friendly and the service exceptional, plus there’s a great cafe on site.

Mid-Range: Raise Cottage

Raise cottage provides both private rooms and dorm-style accommodation, but it is a big step up from your typical bunkhouse or hostel. The delightful owner serves up fresh bread and homemade jam each morning, and the cottage is rustic yet tidy. Bear in mind, however, that you’ll need to walk an additional two miles past Grasmere to reach Raise Cottage.

Budget: YHA Grasmere Butharlyp Howe

You guessed it- another YHA! It it unlikely that you’ll tire of staying at these hostels, especially when you see the gorgeous setting for the YHA Grasmere. Located in a magical old mansion just minutes from the shops and restaurants in town, this hostel is excellent. Choose from private rooms, dorms, and camping.

Patterdale

High-End: Old Water View Hotel

Options in Patterdale are rather limited, but you won’t be starved for creature comforts at the Old Water View. Rooms are cozy and peaceful, and the breakfast is excellent. Those looking for a more affordable and/or more unique accommodation can stay in the quaint “Herdy Hut” shepherd’s hut in the garden.

Mid-Range: The White Lion Inn

While it may be a bit lacking in regards to stellar service and smart furnishings, the White Lion makes up for it in convenience and camaraderie. The downstairs pub is a festive gathering place for Coast to Coast Walkers and it’s located directly along the route.

Budget: YHA Patterdale

From the cozy lounge area to the well-stocked communal kitchen to the newly-renovated showers to the serene lakefront setting, there’s a lot to love at this hostel. The YHA Patterdale offers private rooms, dorms, and camping.

Shap

High-End: The Greyhound Hotel

Though its history can be traced all the way back to 1680, there are plenty of modern touches to accompany all of the Greyhound’s old world charm. The hotel offers comfortable rooms, many with nice views, as well as an excellent bar and delicious breakfast.

Mid-Range: Brookfield House B&B

Although the price falls into the mid-range category, the hospitality at Brookfield House certainly feels high-end! The warm and friendly owners are legendary among C2C walkers for knowing exactly what weary hikers need from the moment they arrive and throughout their stay.

Budget: New Ing Lodge

This lovely B&B is located in a pastoral setting on the edge of town. It offers great amenities at a reasonable price, especially for pairs and groups. There is also a large space with great facilities on-site for campers.

Kirkby Stephen

High-End: Fletcher House

With a prime location and plenty of thoughtful touches for walkers, Fletcher House is arguably the best place to stay in Kirkby Stephen. After a night at this well-appointed B&B, you’ll be fully rested and fueled up for the next stage of your Coast to Coast adventure.

Mid-Range: The King’s Arms B&B

The central location, lovely terrace, and clean, cozy rooms make the King’s Arms an excellent moderately-priced option. There are en suite rooms available, as well as a few lower-priced rooms with a shared bathroom.

Budget: Kirkby Stephen Hostel

Located inside an old church, this convenient hostel has a beautiful and unique interior. The ambiance is balanced nicely with functional amenities, such as a communal kitchen, free wifi, bike and luggage storage, and a drying room. All of the beds are in dormitories with shared bathrooms.

A trail sign on the Coast to Coast Walk shows the distances to St. Bees and Robin Hood's Bay
A trail sign in Kirkby Stephen reminds walkers of the incredible distances they’ve covered!

Keld

High-End: Frith Lodge B&B

This atmospheric B&B is set in a stunning location with grand vistas of the Dales in every direction. Guests will enjoy warm hospitality, well-equipped rooms, and delicious homemade meals.

Mid-Range: Butt House B&B

This cozy B&B is centrally located in the small, idyllic village of Keld. The guest rooms offer thoughtful touches and great views, and the common area is a perfect place to relax after a long day on your feet.

Budget: Keld Bunk Barn

This unique accommodation puts a luxury spin on the classic bunkhouse. Not only are affordable-yet-plush dorm beds available, but there are also private en suite rooms and deluxe yurts for rent. Enjoy a soak in the private hot tub and dine on delicious homemade meals to really make the most of this little oasis in Keld.

Reeth

High-End: The Burgoyne Hotel

Set in a beautiful country house, the Burgoyne offers classic charm and fantastic service. Guests will enjoy super comfortable beds, tasteful furnishings, and delicious breakfast fare.

Mid-Range: Ivy Cottage B&B

This charming bed and breakfast is located right on the village green in the center of Reeth. Each cozy room comes with its own private bathroom and plenty of thoughtful amenities. The afternoon tea is lovely and the breakfast features local ingredients.

Budget: Orchard Caravan Park

Although there is a two-night minimum to rent their caravans, Coast to Coast walkers can camp or stay in the bunkhouse for a very modest fee. Guests are given a warm welcome and a good cup of tea on arrival. Orchard Caravan Park is located in a pretty pastoral setting about fifteen minutes’ walk from the village green.

Richmond

High-End: The Castle House B&B

If by this point in your Coast to Coast Walk you are seeking a bit of pampering, look no further than the Castle House. Named for its location steps from the iconic Richmond Castle, this bed and breakfast feels just as regal as its neighbor. From the nightly turndown service to the luxurious bathrooms, every detail is impeccable.

Mid-Range: The Turf Hotel

This centrally located hotel offers basic accommodation for a very good value. The rooms are clean and comfortable and the staff are friendly and helpful.

Budget: The Golden Lion Bunkhouse

Cheap accommodation is hard to come by in swanky Richmond, so the Golden Lion is truly a hidden gem. The space consists of a small dormitory with a shared bathroom and a kettle. Located above the Golden Lion Pub in the heart of Richmond, this is a comfortable and convenient choice.

Richmond Castle Coast to Coast Walk
Richmond Castle.

Brompton-on-Swale

Mid-Range: The Farmers Arms Inn

Brompton-on-Swale is an ideal stop for those looking to break up the long walk between Richmond and Danby Wiske, but accommodation options are limited in this area. Fortunately, the Farmers Arms serves up quality hospitality in its well-appointed private guestrooms. A full English breakfast is included, and there is a playground for those walking with children.

Budget: Brompton on Swale Bunk Barn

This dorm-style accommodation offers friendly lodging at a great value. There is a shared kitchen and shower available, and the property is located close to pubs and the village shop. Dogs are welcome and camping is permitted on site.

Danby Wiske

High-End/Mid-Range: Ashfield House B&B (01609 771628)

Though there are rather few accommodation options in Danby Wiske, you can still find a quality bed and breakfast experience at Ashfield House. The friendly owners will make sure that your stay is pleasant and comfortable.

Mid-Range: Inglenook B&B

This is a lovely option in the heart of Danby Wiske. The B&B has a quaint and charming feel, and the hosts serve up plenty of genuine hospitality. Keep in mind that only twin beds are available here.

Budget: The White Swan

The White Swan is a classic country pub of the very best kind. Beyond good ales and hearty meals, they also offer simple accommodation in recently-updated private rooms for a variety of group sizes. Camping is also available on site.

Ingleby Arncliffe

High-End: Park House Guest House

This beautiful gem is located right on the Coast to Coast path and they know how to cater to weary walkers. From laundry service to lifts to the local pub for supper, the wonderful people at Park House will ensure you feel welcome and rejuvenated.

Mid-Range: Swan House B&B

Friendly hosts, luxurious bedding, a well-stocked bar, and a delicious breakfast spread…there’s a lot to love about the Swan House! This reasonably priced accommodation also offers more budget-friendly lodging in their caravan park. Keep in mind that Swan House is a couple of miles from the main Coast to Coast route, although the owners may be able to provide you with a lift back to the path in the morning.

Budget: The Blue Bell Inn

This family-run inn is conveniently located next to the pub and right along the Coast to Coast path. Rooms are basic, but each one is en suite and breakfast is included with your stay. Campers are welcome in a large grassy field behind the pub.

Ingleby Cross Coast to Coast Walk
A coffee stop near Ingleby Cross.

Osmotherley

High-End: Vane House

This bed and breakfast is a clean, comfortable, and cozy place to recharge in the quaint town of Osmotherley. It is located right in the center of the village, with easy access to the pub and shops.

Mid-Range: The Golden Lion Inn

While it’s got plenty of old school 18th-century charm, this isn’t your typical pub accommodation. Rooms at the Golden Lion are very well-appointed with beautiful oak finishes and curated toiletries in the private bathrooms. Breakfast is included with your stay.

Budget: YHA Osmotherley

This is a great budget option with all of the comforts and conveniences you’d expect from a YHA hostel, such as a drying room, lounge, and communal kitchen. There are several choices of room sizes available, and campers are welcome in the large garden.

Clay Bank Top/Great Broughton/Chop Gate

High-End/Mid-Range: Newlands House B&B

Warm hospitality is the trademark of this traditional bed and breakfast in Great Broughton. The friendly hosts will make every effort to ensure your stay is special, from lifts to/from the Coast to Coast path (about two miles away) to home-cooked meals and comfortable furnishings.

Mid-Range: Wainstones Hotel

This comfortable hotel is located in the lovely village of Great Broughton, about two miles north of the Coast to Coast path. If those extra miles sound daunting, fear not- the friendly staff will pick you up and/or drop you off at the trail. Some of the decor could use an updating, but there are plenty of thoughtful touches and good amenities to make Wainstones a great choice.

Budget: Lordstones

Lordstones is the only accommodation that can boast a trailside location at this point in the walk. This luxury camping park features camping pods, yurts, and grassy tent pitches, all with access to excellent bathroom facilities, a farm shop, cafe, and restaurant.

Blakey Ridge

Mid-Range: The Lion Inn

Perhaps the most special aspect of traversing the North York Moors is the feeling one gets of being in the middle of nowhere. The only downside of that is there’s not much accommodation to be had in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, the iconic Lion Inn has been welcoming weary travelers to their remote locales for centuries. A number of room sizes are available, all with private bathrooms and breakfast included. Camping is also permitted on site.

North York Moors Stage 12 Coast to Coast Walk
Beautiful purple heather in the North York Moors.

Glaisdale

High-End: Red House Farm

Not only does Red House Farm offer well-appointed B&B guest rooms and cottages in their tranquil setting, but they also have a pool, spa, and conservatory on site. This is a great place to get in some pampering before you embark on the final stretches of your Coast to Coast Walk.

Mid-Range/Budget: Arncliffe Arms

Conveniently located in the center of Glaisdale and above the town pub, Arncliffe Arms is an excellent option for Coast to Coast walkers. The generous breakfast will keep you fueled for miles and miles!

Grosmont

High-End/Mid-Range: Geall Gallery B&B

The luxurious rooms at this bed and breakfast are as tastefully curated as the landscape paintings in Chris Geall’s gallery below them. Art fans will appreciate this unique accommodation, and all Coast to Coast Walkers will enjoy the cozy on-site cafe and central location.

Mid-Range/Budget: Intake Farm B&B (Littlebeck)

Those looking for a great value may want to consider walking a few extra miles to reach Intake Farm in Littlebeck. Your extra effort will be rewarded with a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake upon arrival, not to mention an excellent shower and lovely pastoral setting. Those on a shoestring budget can camp in the pretty garden and enjoy access to the nice facilities inside the house.

Robin Hood’s Bay

High-End: Fernleigh B&B

A stay at the luxurious Fernleigh is the perfect way to celebrate the completion of your Coast to Coast walk. The newly renovated victorian home features top-notch amenities and beautiful decor on a quiet street near the center of town. The wonderful owners will make sure you feel welcome and well-fed.

Mid-Range: The Grosvenor Hotel

The Grosvenor is a favorite accommodation for many Coast to Coast walkers and for good reason. Guests at this charming hotel will enjoy spotless rooms, a delicious breakfast, and a location that’s just five minutes’ to the beach.

Budget: YHA Boggle Hole

Of all the fantastic YHA hostels, this might be the most magical. Tucked away in an old smugglers cove, the main building is set in a recently-renovated historic mill building. The entire place embraces a fun nautical theme and boasts excellent facilities and lots of fun activities. Dorms and private en suite rooms are available.

Shap Coast to Coast Walk Stage Five

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Check out our other great Coast to Coast Walk Resources:

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The Complete Packing List for the Coast to Coast Walk

What does one bring for a self-powered journey across an entire country? One of the absolute best parts of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk is the ever-changing landscapes it traverses….

What does one bring for a self-powered journey across an entire country? One of the absolute best parts of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk is the ever-changing landscapes it traverses. That type of variety can make packing a little tricky, though. What you might need during a rainstorm in the Lakes District is quite different from what you’ll require on a sunny day in the Yorkshire Dales.

However, before you go packing a rucksack bigger than you are, remember the golden rule of backpacking: keep it as light as possible! Carrying minimal weight is one of the best things you can do to ensure you enjoy your trip to the fullest.

So how does one strike that elusive balance between having all of the necessities without feeling like they have a baby elephant on their back? Read on for our best advice and detailed kit lists to learn everything you need (and everything you don’t) to have your best possible Coast to Coast Walk!

In this post:

coast to coast packing basics
One of the many incredible landscapes you’ll encounter on your C2C Walk.

Packing Basics for the Coast to Coast Walk

There are so many variables when it comes to packing for the Coast to Coast Walk, such as accommodation type, hiking style, trip length, baggage transfers, time of year, and many more. Every hiker will have a unique kit to best serve their individual needs. Even though you are a special, one-of-a-kind snowflake, there is some universal gear wisdom that applies to all Coast to Coast Walkers.

How Much Should My Pack Weigh?

This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? 

As a very general rule, campers should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying indoors should carry no more than 9kg. If having your luggage transferred along the trail, most transfer services will limit you to 20kg, and your daypack shouldn’t exceed 4kg. If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.

Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for lightening your load:

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Bring quick-dry items that you can rinse out in the sink or shower.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.
Backpacking backpack
The type of pack you’ll need for the Coast to Coast will depend on your individual itinerary.

Choosing a backpack for the Coast to Coast

Just like with footwear, a properly fitting backpack is crucial on the Coast to Coast walk. Also similar to your boots, your pack needs to be broken in for optimal comfort. We recommend carrying a weighted pack on your training walks to get used to the extra weight and ensure it fits well.

If you plan on staying in B&B’s along the route, you won’t need a very large rucksack. A 25-liter pack should be enough to hold a few clothing items, food, water, and toiletries.

Those staying in dorms and bunkhouses will most likely need to carry a sleeping bag and towel. A 30-40L pack will be more than enough space for everything you need.

If you plan on camping, you’ll need a larger pack to fit your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and cooking equipment in addition to your basic supplies. A 45-60L pack will be suitable for most campers.

Last but not least, don’t forget to bring a pack cover to protect against rain! Many newer packs come with one built-in.

Coast to Coast Walk hiking boots
Footwear on the Coast to Coast Walk comes down to personal preference and fit, but always break in new boots ahead of time!

Footwear on the Coast to Coast

Taking care of your feet is of the utmost important on a long-distance walk like the C2C. Blisters, chafing, and other ailments can completely sabotage your experience, and the Coast to Coast’s wide range of underfoot conditions and wet environments can increase your risk of issues. The right shoes and socks can make all the difference.

Hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail running shoes will all work for the Coast to Coast Walk, provided that they will work for your unique needs. The most important thing is that they’re adequately broken in and that you’ve tested them on multiple walks to ensure they are comfortable.

In terms of waterproofing, there are two opposing schools of thought about this. It is inevitable that your feet will get wet at multiple points along your walk, from driving rains, flooded paths, bogs, and so on. Many hikers prefer to use sturdy boots with a thick layer of waterproofing to keep the moisture out as much as possible. This is a good strategy, but keep in mind that when these heavier shoes get wet they can take a long time to dry. Other prefer to use breathable trail shoes. These will get wet right away, but they’ll also be dry again within a couple hours and allow your feet to get some air in the meantime. It’s totally a matter of personal preference, but it’s a good idea to try a few options out prior to setting off on your C2C journey.

Good socks are also a game-changer on the Coast to Coast. We love merino wool socks like these for their comfort, breathability, and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister-prone, consider trying toe sockssock liners, and/or body glide.

Rainy weather on Ennerdale Water in the Lakes District, Coast to Coast Walk
Moody weather is part of the Coast to Coast experience.

Good Waterproofs

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad rain gear! You will undoubtedly face plenty of wet days on your Coast to Coast, so good waterproofs are an important investment.

At the very minimum, make sure you have a lightweight rain jacketrain pants, and a pack cover. Some hikers pack their clothing and other items inside trash bags or waterproof packing cubes as an extra precaution. A hat can be nice to keep the rain out of your face. A waterproof carrying case for your map and/or phone isn’t a bad idea either. Finally, many walkers like to use gaiters for especially boggy or flooded areas.

Coast to Coast Walk personal gear

Personal Gear

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your Coast to Coast Walk packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your own list of additional self-care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc). 

Most Valuable Personal Item: Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Dry Sack

The Coast to Coast Walk passes through some of the rainiest parts of England, so it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll do some wet walking at one point or another. Walking in a downpour? Kind of fun. Getting to your destination and not having dry clothes to change into? The worst. Even with a pack cover, sustained walking in drenching conditions can penetrate your bag. You’ll be glad you took the extra step to protect clothes, bedding, and electronics.


ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierPerfect for cutting cheese and bread when you need some trail-side snacks!
First-aid kitAdventure Medical KitsA good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it.
Hydration bladderPlatypus 3L Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle! We suggest carrying a 3 liter version.
Small day-packCotopaxi Luzon 18L DaypackOptional item that is great for walking around town.
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the Coast to Coast Walk!
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65LWhile backpacks are a very personal item, we find Osprey to make by far the most comfortable packs on the market.
Women's backpackOsprey Aura 65LOne of our favorite features of Osprey packs is the 'anti-gravity' mesh. So comfortable!
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Trekking PolesThese can help take the load off your knees and they're great on steep sections.
Travel towelSea to Summit Drylite TowelGreat to have in hostels and campsite showers.
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm HeadlampGreat headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry bagsKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
Hiking gaitersOutdoor Research Rocky Mountain High GaitersOptional. These will help keep your boots dry when walking on muddy or boggy trails.
SunscreenWe recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Bug sprayBen's Insect RepellentYou'll be glad you brought this when the midges come out.
Toilet paperAs any hiker will tell you, it's always better to be prepared! Plus, not all of the bathrooms you'll find along the C2C provide toilet paper.
Yorkshire Dales Coast to Coast Walk

Miscellaneous Gear

These odds and ends are the unsung heroes of any Coast to Coast Walk packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your Coast to Coast kit. 

Most valuable miscellaneous gear: Anker Powercore 10000.

Chances are, you’re getting out on the trail to get a break from the constant demands of screens and technology and that’s wonderful. However, don’t underestimate the importance of having a charged cell phone on the Coast to Coast Walk. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one. Charging opportunities can be unreliable along the route, so a battery backup can be an absolute lifesaver. This one is dependable, relatively small, and can fully charge your phone 1.5-2 times between charges. Check it out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookTrailblazer
or
Ciccerone
We think Trailblazer's guide is better overall, but the Ciccerone book is available as an eBook, handy for lightweight packing.
Ear plugsMack's EarplugsEssential for getting a good night's sleep!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in hostels or campgrounds on the Coast to Coast Walk.
Travel adapterAll-in-one Travel AdapterGreat for all of your travels.
Digital watchCasio digital watchWe recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times.
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraIan loves his Sony mirrorless camera!
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 10000Great for charging electronics when you don't have access to an outlet.
Biodegradable soapSierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor SoapPerfect for doing the dishes or washing a few clothing items.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.
Coast to Coast Walk women's packing list

Women’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious walking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials for your Coast to Coast Walk. Plus, if you’re anything like us, you have no idea how many pairs of socks to bring. This list is also a handy (and experience-backed)  guideline for quantities of items such as shirts and socks. 

Emily’s most valuable clothing item: Columbia Storm Surge Rain Pants 

English weather is temperamental. You’ll get to experience a wide range of elements (rain, sun, wind, etc), often all in one day! For the times when the weather turns, you’ll want to be able to quickly and effortlessly adapt your clothing to stay dry and comfortable. These Columbia rain pants are simple, effective, comfortable, and easy to get on and off over boots. Check them out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Women's UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports BraBrooks Women's Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 CrewA great merino wool base layer for chilly mornings.
Short sleeve hiking shirt (3)Smartwool Women's Merino Short SleeveMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Leggings or hiking pantsprAna - Women's Halle Roll-upStylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsFor those heavy English downpours!
Hiking bootsKeen Targhee II Mid Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're outside all day. And these are stylish too!
Basic black dressColumbia Women's PG Freezer III DressVery optional. For the nights we went out to dinner in town, it was nice to have one non-hiking outfit. This comfortable, versatile dress was easy to pack and worked great.
Underwire/standard braAfter a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.
GlovesSmartwool Liner GlovesOptional. Perfect for cold evenings, but not necessary in the summertime.
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep both the sun and rain off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1Great to change into after a long day of walking!
BandanaI used this for everything from a towel to extra sun protection.
Coast to Coast Walk Men's Clothing
Another perk of hiking socks-really cool tan lines!

Men’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials.

Ian’s most valuable clothing item: Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks

The conditions on the Coast to Coast Walk are such that hikers are at a particularly high risk of getting blisters at some point on their walk. The wet environments, long mileage, and stony paths conspire to create the perfect environment for blisters to sabotage your walk. Fortunately, a good pair of socks can greatly reduce your chance of foot issues. This is one of those times where you really do get what you pay for. We love Darn Tough socks because they keep our feet dry and comfortable in a variety of conditions. They have just the right amount of cushion without being too bulky in boots. Plus, the Merino wool keeps them smelling fresh for days. Check them out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxer BriefHighly recommended! You can bring 2-3 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)SmartSmartwool Men's Merino Short Sleeve shirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion Hiking ShortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Down jacketPatagonia Down Sweater HoodySuper warm and super packable
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Men's Helium II JacketA good rain jacket is a must for the Coast to Coast Walk!
GlovesSmartwool Merino Wool Liner Gloves Optional. Perfect for cold evenings, but not essential in the summer.
Rain pantsMarmot Precip PantsFor those heavy English downpours!
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep both the sun and rain off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandalsSuper comfortable to change into after walking in boots all day!
Hiking bootsSalomon Men's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking BootVery comfortable and super waterproof!
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in outdoors all day. And these are stylish too!
BandanaThis can be used for everything from a towel to extra sun protection.
Coast to Coast Walk Camping Gear

Camping Gear

Camping on the Coast to Coast Walk is definitely worth carrying the bigger backpack. We loved the flexibility and independence it gave us. Plus, campgrounds along the trail are plentiful, convenient, and generally quite comfortable. With the right gear and a manageable pack size, you are guaranteed to have an amazing experience conquering the Coast to Coast Walk with your own tent.

Most valuable camping gear: MSR 2-Person Mess Kit

Many people choose to camp along the Coast to Coast Walk because of the tremendous money they can save on their accommodation. The budgetary benefits go beyond your sleeping arrangements, though. Camping allows you to self-cater your meals, saving you from spending tons on overpriced pub food every day. This MSR Kit is super lightweight, easy to pack, and convenient for all of those al fresco dinners and trailside coffee breaks.


ItemOur recommended gear 
TentSierra Designs - Clip Flashlight 2
or
MSR Hubba Hubba Tent
The Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 is the best budget tent on the market, while the MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is the best overall tent you can buy.
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 30A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the Coast to Coast.
Sleeping padNemo Astro Insulated Sleeping PadIf you are a side sleeper this is a must! Even if you're not, this is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there.
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowIf you're camping more than a few nights you will be glad you packed this!
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking potGSI Halulite
UtensilsHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR 2-person mess kitWe find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.
Black Sail Hostel Coast to Coast Walk
The delightfully cozy Black Sail Hostel.

Hostel/Bunkhouse Gear

If you are sticking strictly to hotels, B&B’s, and guesthouses, you shouldn’t need to worry about the items on this list. However, for those staying in communal/dorm-style accommodations, there are some essential items you need to pack. Keep in mind that most hostels provide bedding, but you should check with individual places in advance to be sure. On the other hand, you will be responsible for providing your own towel (although some places will rent you one for an additional fee).

Most valuable item for bunkhouses & hostels: Mac’s Ear Plugs

Hiking is infinitely less fun when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. There are many wonderful hostels along the Coast to Coast Walk, but Olympic-level snorers and other noisy neighbors seem to hang out in all of them. These earplugs do an excellent job of blocking out sleep-sabotaging sounds. We find that they work better, stay in longer, and are more comfortable than those cheap foam earplugs.


ItemOur recommended gear 
EarplugsMack's EarplugsThe perfect defense for that snorer next door!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in dormitories.
Sleep sheetVumos Sleep SheetA nice item to have for nights in bunkhouses and hostels.
Travel towelSea to Summit Drylite TowelMany hostels and bunkhouses on the Coast to Coast do not provide towels.
Sandals/SlippersCrocsWhile not the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect bunkhouse/hostel shoes!

What’s Next?

Check out our other great Coast to Coast Walk Resources:

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The Ultimate Guide to the Coast to Coast Walk

Back in 1973, a legendary man named Alfred Wainwright devised a new walking route across Northern England, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea and through three incredible national…

Back in 1973, a legendary man named Alfred Wainwright devised a new walking route across Northern England, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea and through three incredible national parks along the way. The walk was popularized by his detailed book, A Coast to Coast Walk, and even became the star of its own TV series. Decades later, the Coast to Coast (C2C) Walk continues to inspire walkers from all over the world, with its varied scenery, natural beauty, and cultural experiences.

The Coast to Coast walk remains an unofficial trail, though it makes good use of the U.K.’s plentiful access paths and public rights of way. In many ways, the fact that the C2C doesn’t have National Trail status actually adds to its appeal. It has an eclectic and grassroots kind of feel to it, and it’s clear that both hikers and locals feel a real sense of responsibility for the well being of this special trail.

In this post:

Looking out over a tarn and green hills in England's Lakes District on the Coast to Coast Walk
A beautiful sunny day in the Lakes District.

Why Walk the Coast to Coast?

How often do you get the chance to walk across an entire country? And, better yet, without having to quit your job or spend several months on the road? Traversing the nearly 200 miles between the western and eastern coasts of England is profoundly rewarding. It is incredible to watch the landscape change from the dramatic mountains of the Lakes District, to the rolling pastures of the Yorkshire Dales, to the agricultural heartland in the center of the country, and finally through the bleak and stunning North York Moors before reaching the sea at the picturesque bluffs near Robin Hood’s Bay.

Perhaps even more wonderful than the incredible landscapes are the people and communities you’ll encounter along the way. The Coast to Coast Walk is undoubtedly an amazing outdoor adventure, but it is also a rich cultural experience and a rewarding personal journey.

A trail sign on the Coast to Coast Walk shows the distances to St. Bees and Robin Hood's Bay
A trail sign on the Coast to Coast reminds walkers of the incredible distances they’ve covered!

How Long is the Coast to Coast Walk?

Official Distance: 192 miles (309 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: 29,000 feet (8,850 meters)

The Coast to Coast walk is purported to be 192 miles from St. Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay. While this is certainly a close estimate, we measured (via GPS) the Coast to Coast to be 186 miles long for those who stick to the traditional route. For those on the metric system that’s a whopping 300 km!

Of course, measuring the exact distance of the Coast to Coast has little practical value, as walkers will certainly end up walking further than the specific measured distance. The taking of alternate routes, detours, and the occasional jaunt off the trail to visit the local pub will assuredly make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.

How long does it take to walk the Coast to Coast?

Wainwright originally broke his route into twelve stages, each ending in a place with overnight accommodation. However, most of today’s guidebooks break up the walk into a more reasonable thirteen stages, which averages out to about fourteen miles per day. Even a thirteen-day itinerary will be quite challenging for many walkers. Towards the end of this guide, we’ve provided 17-day, 14-day, and 12-day itineraries to give you a sense of the possibilities.

Generally speaking, allow yourself about two weeks to complete the Coast to Coast Walk. Some walkers may want to move at a more relaxed pace and/or build some rest days into their itineraries. Others may want to push themselves to cover great distances each day. Remember, you don’t have to do the whole route in one go. Many walkers are happy to cover just a segment, based on their individual schedules and preferences.

  • Fast pace: 11-13 days
  • Moderate pace: 13-16 days
  • Relaxed pace: 16-19 days
Rainy weather on Ennerdale Water in the Lakes District, Coast to Coast Walk
Moody weather is part of the Coast to Coast experience.

When is the best time to walk the Coast to Coast?

There are some hearty souls who attempt the Coast to Coast during England’s dark, cold, wet winter months, but most mere mortals will enjoy it much more in the summer season. Due to the fact that you’ll be traversing a variety of landscapes and climates, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter a wide range of weather conditions any time you walk.

Generally speaking, here’s what you can expect in each month of the hiking season:

April: Cool temps, moderate rainfall, and sparse crowds make this an attractive month to hike. Be aware of the shorter days, which allow for fewer daylight hours on the trail.

May & June: The weather tends to be a bit milder and more settled than in April and the days are longer, but it’s still pretty quiet on the trail. These are great months to walk to C2C.

July/August: School holidays and warm weather mean that these are the busiest months on the Coast to Coast. July and August (August in particular) tend to be wetter than May and June, but you can also get some brilliant sunny days, too.

September: With few crowds, mild temperatures, and relatively less rainfall, September is a wonderful time to be on the trail.

October: The days begin to get shorter, colder, and wetter as you enter October. You may get some incredibly clear and crisp autumn days, but you’ll also need to be prepared for harsh conditions.

Rainbow in Yorkshire Dales on the Coast to Coast Walk
Magical moments occur year-round on the Coast to Coast Walk.

Which Direction to Walk the Coast to Coast?

Wainwright devised the original Coast to Coast route to be traversed from west to east, but it can easily be walked in either direction.

West to East

Begin with the stunning Lakes District and tackle the most challenging terrain with fresh legs. Traditionalists will appreciate following in Wainwright’s footsteps, and the prevailing winds are likely to be at your back. This is the more popular direction to walk so you’ll make friends with the other hikers you encounter again and again.

East to West

Meet new hikers each day and shake up tradition. This direction allows you to save the dramatic Lakes section for the grand finale, and also approach it with the enhanced fitness you’ve built along the walk. International travelers will enjoy the easier connection to Manchester upon finishing.

Rainbow in Yorkshire Dales on the Coast to Coast Walk
Whichever way you choose to walk, St. Bees head makes for a dramatic start or finish to your adventure!

How Difficult is the Coast to Coast Walk?

Let’s start by saying this: any long-distance hike that requires two weeks’ of nonstop walking is going to be challenging. The cumulative stress on your body adds up after several consecutive long days on the trail. When it comes to a thru-hike like the Coast to Coast, it is definitely important to respect the distance.

That all accounted for, compared to many of its counterparts, the C2C is quite approachable.

The most physically strenuous sections of the trail are found in the Lakes District. In these stages you’ll find the biggest elevation changes and steepest climbs.

In the middle section of the walk, you’ll have some days where you’ll need to cover great distances (often 15-20 miles in a single day). These stages mostly entail flat, easy walking, but they require endurance and the repetitive motion can be hard on the body.

It’s important to take into account the mental challenges of a long-distance walk, as well. There are some very long stretches of road walking through uninteresting farmland that seem to go on forever. These can often feel harder than summiting a mountain! However, finding a strong headspace and pushing through our mind’s own limitations is the very reason many of us love with hiking in the first place. These challenges are the very best!

Road walking in the North York Moors Coast to Coast Walk
Long stretches like this one can challenge both the mind and body.

Finally, England’s temperamental weather can add a significant level of challenge to your trek. From relentless rain, to gale-force winds, to blazing sunshine, the elements will certainly add another layer of difficulty to your walk at some point or another.

Conclusion: With the proper preparation, any reasonably fit hiker can complete the Coast to Coast Walk. This is not a super-technical mountaineering endeavor reserved for only the hiking elite. Families, older adults, and less experienced walkers can certainly find enjoyment and success on the C2C. The trail rarely ventures too far from civilization, allowing for plenty of shortcut opportunities and easy logistics. Just remember to train in advance, take time to prepare your route, logistics, and kit, and, of course, respect the distance.

Weather

As we mentioned in the When to Go section, you’ll encounter a wide range of weather conditions throughout your walk (see that section for a month-by-month weather breakdown, too). One thing is nearly certain: it’s going to rain at some point along your walk. Be sure to pack some good waterproofs so you can enjoy England’s wet climate to the fullest!

Don’t be fooled by the relatively low elevation profiles on this walk; the conditions can quickly change in the mountains and hills. This can be dangerous if you’re not prepared (especially in the Lakes District where you’ll be on exposed peaks and ridgelines). If there are very high winds, torrential rains, or thunderstorms predicted, you should not attempt to hike.

The Met Office has an excellent app and website for forecasting England’s ever-changing elements. Make sure to pay special attention to the “Hazards” section, as this gives a useful rating of any potential inclement weather in the forecast. The Met Office allows you to search locations by postal code, interactive map, town name, or landmark. This is important, as weather events can be quite localized, so try to search as close to where you’ll be hiking as possible.

Cloudy skies in the Lakes District on the Coast to Coast Walk
The weather can change quickly in the mountains and fells.

Accommodation

Walkers of every style and budget will find plenty of excellent lodging options along the Coast to Coast. In fact, the unique and friendly accommodations are a highlight of many C2C walkers’ experiences. The available options vary greatly from place to place, but we’ve outlined all of the types of accommodation you’ll encounter along the Coast to Coast Walk.

For a complete accommodation directory, be sure to check out our Coast to Coast Accommodation Guide!

B&B’s and Guesthouses

These are what the Coast to Coast is all about. With their warm hospitality, incredible full English breakfasts, and cozy decor, independently-run guesthouses are at the heart of the C2C experience. Expect to pay about £65 per person in a double room.

Our favorite Coast to Coast B&B’s

Castle House, Richmond: Richmond is a charming town located roughly halfway along the C2C, making it an ideal place for a rest day. If you want to take your relaxation to the next level, don’t miss staying at the Castle House! Everything is top-notch here, from the well-appointed rooms to the sumptuous breakfast spread.

Fernleigh B&B, Robin Hood’s Bay: With the friendliest owners, thoughtful touches everywhere, a peaceful location, and luxurious amenities, this is the perfect place to treat yourself upon finishing your C2C walk.

Full English Breakfast at a B&B on the Coast to Coast walk
If you choose to stay at B&B’s, expect to eat like a king!

Hotels

While certainly less plentiful than B&B’s, there are a fair number of hotels located along the Coast to Coast route, mostly in larger towns. These hotels are not of the big, chain variety, but rather smaller, independently-owned establishments. They vary quite a bit in terms of price and quality, but most are very well-appointed and include amenities such as wifi, tea/coffee, and often breakfast. A double room will typically cost you about £100 a night.

Our favorite Coast to Coast Hotels

Scafell Hotel, Borrowdale: This hotel mixes the classic charm of a historic countryhouse with the modern luxuries of recently renovated guestrooms. Plus, there’s a fabulous free breakfast.

Burgoyne Hotel, Reeth: Hungry hikers always rave about the delicious meals at the Burgoyne (breakfast is included). Beyond the food, the rooms are quite comfortable and hotel’s setting is convenient and beautiful.

Coast to Coast Walk hotel accommodation
Hotels along the Coast to Coast tend to be smaller, independent, and quite charming.

Bunkhouses and Hostels

Bunkhouses and hostels provide an excellent budget option for those who are not keen on camping. There are several hostels run by the YHA along the route, and these are particularly good. Facilities vary widely across the many bunkhouses and hostels along the C2C, but generally you can expect dorm-style accommodations with shared bathrooms (sometimes mixed gender). Many places provide communal kitchens and lounge areas, drying rooms, wifi, and meals for purchase. Most bunkhouses and hostels require you to bring your own sleeping bag and towel. The average dorm bed in a bunkhouse or hostel costs about £40 a night.

Our Favorite Bunkhouses and Hostels

YHA Patterdale: With a beautiful kitchen and lounge area, spotless facilities, and piping hot showers, this is undoubtedly one of the best hostels along the Coast to Coast.

YHA Grasmere: We can’t speak highly enough about the YHA hostels, and their Grasmere hostel is a prime example of why we love them. Set in a perfect location and housed in a charming historic building, a night at the YHA Grasmere feels more like staying at friend’s mansion than at a hostel. It’s more expensive than other options in the area, but the great facilities make it a good value.

Black Sail Hostel Coast to Coast Walk
The delightfully cozy Black Sail Hostel.

Camping

Camping on the Coast to Coast is a budget-friendly option that allows for maximum flexibility and freedom on your walk. Wild camping is not permitted anywhere in Northern England, although it is possible to pitch your tent in a low-profile way in a few places along the route, particularly in the Lakes District. For those who prefer official campgrounds, there are numerous camping options located throughout the Coast to Coast Walk. These range from luxurious holiday parks to basic pub gardens, but most campgrounds provide toilets, showers, and electronics charging. Prices vary widely, but expect to average around £10 per person to camp in an organized campground.

Our favorite Coast to Coast Camping

Orchard Caravan and Camping Park, Reeth: Set in a tranquil location within a few minutes’ walk to town, this campground has thoughtful touches, excellent facilities, and plenty of flat, grassy pitches.

Intake Farm B&B, Littlebeck: Instead of stopping in Grosmont, campers should push on further to this gem in Littlebeck. The friendly B&B owners welcome campers in their lovely garden and allow them access to the shower and toilet inside the main house. Complimentary tea, cake, and chit chat is served upon arrival, and meals can be purchased on request.

Don’t forget to check out this post for a comprehensive list of C2C accommodation!

Camping on the Coast to Coast Walk
Camping provides great value and maximum flexibility.

Food & Drink

Delicious food and drink are plentiful along the Coast to Coast, making your adventure as much a culinary delight as an outdoor endeavor. If you plan on staying mostly in guesthouses and B&B’s along the route, expect to fill up on lavish breakfast spreads each morning. Many of these accommodations will also provide packed lunches for an additional fee. Dinner is served at the many guesthouses, inns, and pubs located at frequent intervals along the route, although many require that you book your meal a few hours in advance. These meals are generally hearty and delicious, but you’ll pay handsomely for the convenience.

Those on a tighter budget can self-cater quite easily along the Coast to Coast Walk. There are grocery stores and shops at several points along the route, allowing you to resupply frequently and carry less weight in your pack. Many hostels have communal kitchens where walkers can prepare meals, but campers should bring their own stove and cookware.

Honestly boxes stocked with candy bars, snacks, and soda can be found in a few places along the route. These can be the most wonderful surprise pick-me-up on a long day of walking!

Regardless of your approach to food and drink on the Coast to Coast, there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Always plan ahead to ensure you have enough food with you at all times. Look to see where the next restaurant or shop is located, and prepare accordingly. Carry an extra meal and some snacks to have in case your plans change.
  • Don’t miss out on some of the best gastronomic experiences the Coast to Coast has to offer. Be sure to enjoy a real ale in a cozy pub, a cup of tea on a wet afternoon, and a full English breakfast at least once along your route.
Food and drink on the Coast to Coast Walk
Everything tastes more delicious after a long day of walking!

Water

You can fill up on clean drinking water at most pubs and guesthouses along the route. It’s a good idea to carry 1-3 liters with you each day, depending on the weather and total mileage. Unless you’re certain you’ll be able to refill along the way, fill up for the entire day before setting off in the morning. Do not drink from rivers, streams, or other sources without filtering first.

Drinking Water on the Coast to Coast Walk
It may be tempting, but don’t drink from streams without filtering first!

Getting to and from the Walk

The Coast to Coast Walk is bookended by St. Bees on the western coast of England and Robin Hood’s Bay on the eastern coast. Both towns are accessible via public transport. Most international travelers will fly into Manchester as that is the nearest major airport to St. Bees, the traditional start of the walk.

Getting from Manchester to St.Bees

It’s quite easy to travel by train from Manchester to St. Bees, as there’s a railway station in the center of St. Bees that receives several trains each day (except Sundays). The journey from Manchester Piccadilly Station to St.Bees takes 3-4 hours and requires 1-2 transfers depending on the booking. Tickets can be purchased at Manchester Piccadilly or in advance through TransPennine Express.

Depending on how far in advance you purchase your ticket, time of year, and time of day, one-way ticket prices range from £20-£60.

Getting from Robin Hood’s Bay to Manchester

Getting between Manchester and Robin Hood’s Bay is a little less straightforward.

The cheapest option is to travel by bus. Arriva runs a service from Robin Hood’s Bay to Middlesbrough. From there you can take another coach service to Manchester (Megabus and National Express both offer service). The entire journey takes 5-8 hours and costs about £30.

If you want to travel by train, you’ll first need to get a railway station in one of the nearby towns that have stations, either Whitby or Scarborough. It’s possible to take an Arriva bus from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby or Scarborough. TransPennine Express operates a rail line that runs from Whitby and Scarborough to Manchester. The entire journey takes about 4-6 hours and costs about £60.

Manchester Piccadilly Station Coast to Coast Walk transportation
Many walkers will connect through Manchester’s Piccadilly Station to get to and from the Coast to Coast.

Maps and Guidebooks

Given that the Coast to Coast is not a National Trail in the UK, you won’t find the usual trail signs giving clear directions at every turn. Rather, the Coast to Coast is often very poorly marked and can be difficult to navigate on. For that reason we highly recommend that every walker have some sort of map (digital or paper, preferably both) that they bring with them on their Coast to Coast trek.

Maps

When we walked Wainwright’s Coast to Coast we did not use paper maps, other than those included in our guidebook. Instead, we utilized downloadable GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where our next stop was. Given that cell phone service can be spotty along the route, especially in the Lakes District, it is critical to have a good offline mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to ensure you’ll be able to access your location.

If you’re interested in utilizing this method of navigating, you can learn more in our Coast to Coast Maps and Routes post.

Even with the convenience of GPS navigation, we still recommend carrying a paper map or map booklet for the Coast to Coast. This will provide a bit of insurance should that trusty phone of yours get dropped in a puddle or soaked in one of the many downpours you’ll surely encounter.

Given the long distance of the Coast to Coast walk we highly recommend bringing a compact map booklet that contains the entire route. We like the version created by Cicerone, which contains Ordnance Survey maps (Ordinance Survey is the UK’s national mapping service) for the entire Coast to Coast route at 1:25,000 scale. You can purchase that map booklet here.

If you’d prefer to carry full-size Ordnance Survey maps for the entire Coast to Coast, you can find the entire set here.

If you do plan to carry paper maps, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Navigating on the Coast to Coast Walk
A map is an essential piece of gear for the Coast to Coast Walk!

Guidebooks

Both Cicerone and Trailblazer make excellent guides for the Coast to Coast Walk. Both are filled with tons of great content, from local history to practical information and insider tips. We highly recommend bringing either along on your walk, as it will make your journey smoother and your experience richer.

The Trailblazer book is the best overall guide in terms of its organization, in-depth trail narratives, and accommodation/logistics information.

Ciccerone’s guide is slightly less user-friendly and a little lacking in on-trail information, but it offers an Ebook version (Trailblazer does not). This is a great option for those trying to keep their packs as light as possible!

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the guide that started it all: Wainwrights original book, A Coast to Coast Walk. This one is less useful as a guidebook, but still a wonderful source of inspiration chock full of incredible illustrations and colorful anecdotes.

Shap Abbey, Coast to Coast Walk
Shap Abbey. Bringing along a guidebook will ensure that you appreciate sights like this one to the fullest.

Budgeting and Money

The UK is expensive. It’s easy to spend a fortune on your Coast to Coast Walk. If you want to stay in plush B&B’s, eat most meals in restaurants and pubs, and treat yourself to modern conveniences (such as baggage transfers), you’re going to need deep pockets.

However, it is absolutely possible to walk the Coast to Coast on a small budget, and still have a great time doing so. Self-catering most meals and camping along the route are the two best ways to save money on the C2C.

Here’s a very general breakdown of various expenses on the Coast to Coast:

  • B&B/Guesthouse/Hotel: £75 (per person/per night)
  • Bunkhouse/Hostel: £40 (per person/per night)
  • Camping: £10 (per person/per night)
  • Meal at pub/restaurant: £15-£20
  • Pint of beer: £4-£5
  • Cup of tea/coffee: £3
  • Regional transport: £50
  • Local transport: £3-£10
  • Baggage Transfer: £10 (per bag/per day)

Money

Credit cards are accepted at many shops, restaurants, and accommodations along the Coast to Coast. That being said, plenty of smaller places (such as some guesthouses, campgrounds, and cafes) still require cash. As it may be many miles before you reach the next ATM, it’s always a good idea to carry enough cash to cover your expenses for a few days.

You’ll also need cash or a contactless card for most local buses, so keep that in mind if you plan on taking any shortcuts or detours.

Coast to Coast Walk budgeting
At least the million dollar views on the Coast to Coast don’t have to cost a fortune (just a bit of physical effort)!

What to Pack for the Coast to Coast Walk

Regardless of fitness level or hiking style, there is one golden rule that rings true for all walkers: the lighter your pack the better off you’ll be. It can be tempting to carry a lot with you on your C2C trek- you’re walking across an entire country after all! In reality though, it’s what you don’t pack that will help you the most on your journey.

To be clear, we’re not suggesting you need to be an extreme minimalist, but simply that you put some thought into what goes in your rucksack. That’s where we can help! Read on for our very best, tried-and-true packing advice.

For a full kit list, check out this post!

Footwear on the Coast to Coast

Taking care of your feet is of the utmost important on a long-distance walk like the C2C. Blisters, chafing, and other ailments can completely sabotage your experience, and the Coast to Coast’s wide range of underfoot conditions and wet environments can increase your risk of issues. The right shoes and socks can make all the difference.

Hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail running shoes will all work for the Coast to Coast Walk, provided that they will work for your unique needs. The most important thing is that they’re adequately broken in and that you’ve tested them on multiple walks to ensure they are comfortable.

In terms of waterproofing, there are two opposing schools of thought about this. It is inevitable that your feet will get wet at multiple points along your walk, from driving rains, flooded paths, bogs, and so on. Many hikers prefer to use sturdy boots with a thick layer of waterproofing to keep the moisture out as much as possible. This is a good strategy, but keep in mind that when these heavier shoes get wet they can take a long time to dry. Other prefer to use breathable trail shoes. These will get wet right away, but they’ll also be dry again within a couple hours and allow your feet to get some air in the meantime. It’s totally a matter of personal preference, but it’s a good idea to try a few options out prior to setting off on your C2C journey.

Good socks are also a game-changer on the Coast to Coast. We love merino wool socks like these for their comfort, breathability, and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister-prone, consider trying toe socks, sock liners, and/or body glide.

Coast to Coast footwear
Good footwear and rain pants are necessities for the Coast to Coast Walk!

Don’t forget to check out our Complete Coast to Coast Packing List for a detailed kit list and expert advice!

Good Waterproofs

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad rain gear! You will undoubtedly face plenty of wet days on your Coast to Coast, so good waterproofs are an important investment.

At the very minimum, make sure you have a lightweight rain jacket, rain pants, and a pack cover. Some hikers pack their clothing and other items inside trash bags or waterproof packing cubes as an extra precaution. A hat can be nice to keep the rain out of your face. A waterproof carrying case for your map and/or phone isn’t a bad idea either. Finally, many walkers like to use gaiters for especially boggy or flooded areas.

Coast to Coast packing list waterproof gear
Glad to have our waterproofs and pack covers!

Choosing a backpack for the Coast to Coast

Just like with footwear, a properly fitting backpack is crucial on the Coast to Coast walk. Also similar to your boots, your pack needs to be broken in for optimal comfort. We recommend carrying a weighted pack on your training walks to get used to the extra weight and ensure it fits well.

If you plan on staying in B&B’s along the route, you won’t need a very large rucksack. A 25-liter pack should be enough to hold a few clothing items, food, water, and toiletries.

Those staying in dorms and bunkhouses will most likely need to carry a sleeping bag and towel. A 30-40L pack will be more than enough space for everything you need.

If you plan on camping, you’ll need a larger pack to fit your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and cooking equipment in addition to your basic supplies. A 45-60L pack will be suitable for most campers.

How to Train for the Coast to Coast Walk

The Coast to Coast walk is not extremely strenuous relative to most long-distance hikes, but it is still very important to get in shape before attempting it. You will have a much more enjoyable experience if you are not dragging your miserable, exhausted body to the end of the trail each day!

Endurance

The best thing to do to prepare your body for two weeks of daily long walks is to build your endurance base. Ideally, you should aim to hike, walk, or do another moderately-paced cardio-building activity (like jogging, rowing, cycling, or swimming) 3-4 times per week for at least three months leading up to your trip. Even 20-30 minutes of walking is helpful, although you should try to get in at least one longer effort (1-4 hours) every week or two.

Strength

It’s also a good idea to incorporate some strength training to prevent injuries and imbalances as you increase the time spent on your feet. Core exercises are important for stability and will help you manage the weight of your pack. You should also aim to regularly complete a variety of leg exercises to prepare for the demands of the trail.

Mental

Finally, don’t forget to train your mind for long hours of walking! Being mentally strong is critical for those seemingly endless stretches or unexpected challenges that arise on a long-distance trek. Positive mantras, favorite daydreams, and simple mind games can all be helpful when you’re struggling mentally.

Coast to Coast Walk Difficulty
The greater the challenge, the sweeter the reward.

Itineraries and Stage Descriptions

There are limitless ways to walk the Coast to Coast. Some people do just a segment at a time, others spend weeks meandering across the entire route, and others fastpack it in much less time. It’s up to you to determine your perfect itinerary, keeping in mind your time-frame, fitness, and travel style.

As a starting point, we’ve provided a detailed guide for a classic, 14-day itinerary. We’ve also provided basic 12-day and 17-day itineraries. All itineraries follow the traditional west-to-east direction, but could easily be reversed.

Little Beck Wood, Stage Fourteen Coast to Coast Walk UK
The final stage of the walk meanders through the gorgeous Little Beck Wood.

Classic 14-Day Itinerary

Stage 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

Distance/Elevation: 14.04 mi // +2,542 ft, -2,214 ft

Where to Stay: Thorntrees B&B

Begin your walk by completing two very important Coast to Coast rites of passage. Head down to the water’s edge to dip your boots in the Irish Sea and pick up a pebble. You’ll dunk your boots in the North Sea and deposit your pebble upon finishing in Robin Hood’s Bay. Once you’ve savored these great traditions, follow the trail atop ruggedly beautiful seaside clifs as it makes its way out of St. Bees. Once you turn inland, it’s mostly flat walking past farmland and through a couple of quaint villages. There’s a final climb over Dent Fell (and phenomenal views) before a few more easy miles to Ennerdale Bridge.

Stage One of the Coast to Coast Walk from St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge.
Stage One of the Coast to Coast Walk from St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge.

Stage 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite

Distance/Elevation: 14.71 mi // +2,320 ft, -2,385 ft

Where to Stay: Hazel Bank Country House

Stage Two is arguably one of the most beautiful of the entire walk, and certainly showcases the best of the Lakes District. Begin on a rugged path that traces the length of Ennerdale Water before winding your way up to the remote Black Sail Hostel. The hostel is as cozy and charming as can be, set against a stunningly wild backdrop. Pop in for a cup of tea before tackling the steep ascent to Honister Pass. Finish with a picturesque descent into Rosthwaite.

Stage two of the Coast to Coast Walk from Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite.
Stage two of the Coast to Coast Walk from Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite.

Stage 3: Rosthwaite to Grasmere

Distance/Elevation: 7.23 mi // +1,987 ft, -1,992 ft

Where to Stay: Beck Allan’s Guest House

Enjoy more incredible Lakeland beauty on this stage, which starts with wild landscapes and rugged trails. There is one section that requires mild scrambling as you make your way up to Lining Crag. Cross the vast, boggy Greenup Edge before choosing between the more straightforward main route down or the dramatic variant over Helm Crag. A delightful evening in Grasmere is the perfect reward for your efforts.

Stage three of the Coast to Coast Walk from Rosthwaite to Grasmere.
Stage three of the Coast to Coast Walk from Rosthwaite to Grasmere.

Stage 4: Grasmere to Patterdale

Distance/Elevation: 7.53 mi // +1,948 ft, -1,739 ft

Where to Stay: Old Water View Hotel

This stage begins on a gently climbing path that leads walkers through attractive farmland before entering more untamed hillsides. As you ascend towards Grisedale Hause (the high point of this stage), incredible vistas open up first behind you and later in front of you. Follow a rocky, rugged path for a bit before the trail becomes gentler as you approach Patterdale. Be sure to stop in at the atmospheric White Lion Pub in Patterdale to commemorate your final night in the Lakes District.

Stage four of the Coast to Coast Walk from Grasmere to Patterdale.
Stage four of the Coast to Coast Walk from Grasmere to Patterdale.
Patterdale Coast to Coast Walk
The charming village of Patterdale.

Stage 5: Patterdale to Shap

Distance/Elevation: 15.25 mi // +3,291 ft, -2,955 ft

Where to Stay: New Ing Lodge

One of the best parts of the Coast to Coast Walk is the way it allows walkers to witness the changing landscapes that make up the diverse patchwork of Northern English terrain. Stage Five is one of the best examples of this. The first section is marked by a challenging final climb to Kidsty Pike, the highest point of the entire walk. From there, you’ll leave the mountainous Lakeland behind as you descend to Haweswater. It’s a tedious but scenic walk as you trace the length of the lake. When you finally leave Haweswater, a new landscape of rolling hills and pastures opens up before you. Take a short detour to explore the historic Shap Abbey before resting up in the small village of Shap after a long day on your feet.

Stage five of the Coast to Coast Walk from Patterdale to Shap.
Stage five of the Coast to Coast Walk from Patterdale to Shap.
Shap Coast to Coast Walk Stage Five
Beautiful pastoral scenery awaits as you near the village of Shap.

Stage 6: Shap to Kirkby Stephen

Distance/Elevation: 19.3 mi // +1,714 ft, -1,977 ft

Where to Stay: Fletcher House

Stage Six covers quite a bit of distance, but those weary of the Lakeland climbs will find some relief. Alternate between colorful moors and tidy farmland, all while marveling at the wide-open spaces. The sky feels boundless and the green stretches on forever. You’ll learn to use new muscles as you navigate the many stiles that you’ll cross as you pass through farmland. End the day in the well-appointed town of Kirkby Stephen, which offers many shops, restaurants, and other services.

Stage six of the Coast to Coast Walk from Shap to Kirkby Stephen.
Stage six of the Coast to Coast Walk from Shap to Kirkby Stephen.

Stage 7: Kirkby Stephen to Keld

Distance/Elevation: 11.54 mi // +1,910 ft, -1,431 ft

Where to Stay: Frith Lodge

If you brought along your gaiters and waterproof boots, today is the day to use them! Stage Seven packs plenty of excitement (and a good deal of challenge) into a relatively short distance. Start the day with a climb to the legendary and mysterious Nine Standards Rigg, which marks the watershed of Britain. From there, the bog-hopping begins! Pay close attention to the color-coded routes, as the appropriate route varies by time of year to prevent excessive erosion and environmental impacts. After a wet and wild traverse of the bogs, descend to a stream set in a picturesque valley. An undulating and scenic path (with a bit of road walking) carries you to Keld.

Stage seven of the Coast to Coast Walk from Kirkby Stephen to Keld.
Stage seven of the Coast to Coast Walk from Kirkby Stephen to Keld.
Nine Standards Rigg Stage 7 Coast to Coast Walk
Nine Standards Rigg.

Stage 8: Keld to Reeth

Distance/Elevation: 10.66 mi // +1,818 ft, -2,200 ft

Where to Stay: The Burgoyne Hotel

There are two route options between Keld and Reeth and both are splendid. The high-level route takes walkers on a rugged climb to bleak moorland scattered with fascinating old mining remains. This is the more challenging option, both in terms of physical exertion and also because poor waymarking makes navigation quite difficult. The low-level route ambles alongside the River Swale for much of the way, providing delightful glimpses of waterfalls, wildflowers, pastures, and forests. This stage showcases some of the best of the Yorkshire Dales.

Stage eight of the Coast to Coast Walk from Keld to Reeth.
Stage eight of the Coast to Coast Walk from Keld to Reeth.

Stage 9: Reeth to Richmond

Distance/Elevation: 10.36 mi // +1,360 ft, -1,576 ft

Where to Stay: The Castle House B&B

Stage Nine is characterized by mellow walking through rolling pastures and farmlands. There is a good bit of road walking on this stage, but the numerous points of interest more than make up for it. At the beginning of the walk, you’ll pass the remains of the 12th century Marrick Priory (worth a short detour), in the middle section you’ll pass through the lovely village of Marske along with its 12th century church, and you’ll end the day by meandering through the peaceful woods of Applegarth farms. Richmond makes a delightful and well-located place for a rest day.

Stage nine of the Coast to Coast Walk from Reeth to Richmond.
Stage nine of the Coast to Coast Walk from Reeth to Richmond.
Richmond Coast to Coast Walk
Exploring Richmond is a perfect rest day activity.

Stage 10: Richmond to Danby Wiske

Distance/Elevation: 13.36 mi // +427 ft, -750 ft

Where to Stay: The White Swan

Begin the day by following an idyllic path along the River Swale. Eventually, you’ll bid the river farewell and begin a long trek through endless farm fields. It certainly feels like you’ve made it into England’s heartland at this point in the walk. There’s quite a bit of road walking on Stage Ten, but many trekkers will welcome the easier change of pace. Be sure to check out the beautiful Norman church while in Danby Wiske.

Stage ten of the Coast to Coast Walk from Richmond to Danby Wiske.
Stage ten of the Coast to Coast Walk from Richmond to Danby Wiske.

Stage 11: Danby Wiske to Osmotherley

Distance/Elevation: 10.29 mi // +829 ft, -253 ft

Where to Stay: Vane House

Stage Eleven is yet again filled with flat, easy, pastoral walking. Savor the relaxed pace as you enjoy your final stage in this middle portion of the walk before tackling the North York Moors. There’s plenty of road walking, although history buffs will appreciate that part of it is on an ancient Roman road. Pause for a moment at Ingleby Cross, the official boundary of the North York Moors National Park and the final fifty miles of your adventure.

Stage 11 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Danby Wiske to Osmotherley.
Stage 11 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Danby Wiske to Osmotherley.

Stage 12: Osmotherley to Blakey Ridge

Distance/Elevation: 18.47 mi // +3,106 ft, -2,506 ft

Where to Stay: The Lion Inn

The first half of Stage Twelve largely uphill as you make your way through the scenic Cleveland Hills and eventually to the high point at Urra Moor. The incline is a refreshing change of pace after days of flat walking, as are the expansive views as you gain elevation. Once atop Urra Moor, take in the seas of heather (which turn a beautiful purple in late summer and fall) for miles and miles. There are virtually no services between Osmotherley and Blakey Ridge, but most accommodation providers in the area will pick up and drop off hikers at various points along the way as needed to break up this long stretch.

Stage 12 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Osmotherley to Blakey Ridge (The Lion Inn).
Stage 12 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Osmotherley to Blakey Ridge (The Lion Inn).
North York Moors Stage 12 Coast to Coast Walk
Beautiful purple heather in the North York Moors.

Stage 13: Blakey Ridge to Grosmont

Distance/Elevation: 13.17 mi // +504 ft, -1,693 ft

Where to Stay: Grosmont House

There’s a long, bleak stretch of road walking through the moors at the beginning of this stage, interrupted only by the infamous “Fat Betty.” Betty is actually one of many centuries old moorland crosses that can be found in the area, but she is unique in that she’s become an informal trading post of sorts for hikers to leave and take food and gear as they near the eastern terminus of the walk. Once the monotony of the road is behind you, you’ll be rewarded by a gorgeous traverse over high moors as you descend towards Glaisdale. Once out of the Moors, follow peaceful lanes into the charming village of Grosmont. Be sure to check out the authentic steam trains while you’re there.

Stage 13 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Blakey Ridge (The Lion Inn) to Grosmont.
Stage 13 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Blakey Ridge (The Lion Inn) to Grosmont.

Stage 14: Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay

Distance/Elevation: 14.99 mi // +2,115 ft, -2,197 ft

Where to Stay: Fernleigh B&B

This final marvelous stage of the Coast to Coast seems to give you a little taste of everything you’ve encountered on your journey thus far: woodlands, moors, bogs, farms, seaside cliffs, villages, and maybe even a variety of weather elements if you’re lucky! After a stunning traverse of the coastal bluffs, you’ll wind your way down through the incredibly quaint village of Robin Hood’s Bay. Mark the end of your journey by dipping your boots and depositing your pebbles in the North Sea. The Bay Hotel, conveniently located at the water’s edge, is the traditional spot for a celebratory pint and the place to add your name to the C2C logbook.

Stage 14 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay.
Stage 14 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay.
Robin Hood's Bay Coast to Coast Walk
Robin Hood’s Bay.

Fast-Paced 12-Day Itinerary

This option is best for experienced walkers who have limited time to complete the C2C. To traverse the entire route in just twelve days will require you to cover significant distances each day. If you are short on time but not physically and mentally prepared for such long days of walking, you can always do just a section of the walk instead of attempting to complete the entire thing.

StageStartFinishDistance (miles)Elevation Gain (feet)Elevation Loss (feet)
1St.BeesEnnerdale Bridge14.04+2,542-2,214
2Ennerdale BridgeRosthwaite14.71+2,320-2,385
3RosthwaitePatterdale14.77+3,744-3,538
4PatterdaleShap15.25+3,291-2,955
5ShapKirkby Stephen19.3+1,714-1,977
6Kirkby StephenKeld11.54+1,910-1,431
7KeldReeth10.66+1,818-2,200
8ReethRichmond10.36+1,360-1,576
9RichmondIngleby Arncliffe21.98+702-866
10Ingleby ArncliffeClay Bank Top11.62+2,755-2,162
11Clay Bank TopGlaisdale17.51+1,142-1,493
12GlaisdaleRobin Hood's Bay19.2+2,186-2,686
Yorkshire Dales Coast to Coast Walk
An idyllic scene in the Yorkshire Dales.

Relaxed-Pace 17-Day Itinerary

If you’ve got the time, it’s worth considering this 17-day itinerary. With daily distances averaging a little over ten miles each day, this itinerary is approachable for a wide range of ability levels while still allowing you to achieve rewarding feats. Even better, incorporate a rest day or two into your itinerary to really savor the experience to the fullest.

StageStartFinishDistance (miles)Elevation Gain (feet)Elevation Loss (feet)
1St. BeesEnnerdale Bridge14.04+2,542-2,214
2Ennerdale BridgeBlack Sail Hostel9.05+1,269-676
3Black Sail HostelRosthwaite5.66+1,217-1,875
4RosthwaiteGrasmere7.23+1,987-1,992
5GrasmerePatterdale7.53+1,948-1,739
6PatteraleShap15.25+3,291-2,955
7ShapOrton6.84+827-702
8OrtonKirkby Stephen12.45+977-1,365
9Kirkby StephenKeld11.54+1,910-1,431
10KeldReeth10.66+1,818-2,200
11ReethRichmond10.36+1,360-1,576
12RichmondBolton-on-Swale7.08+302-574
13Bolton-on-SwaleIngleby Cross15.14+497-424
14Ingleby CrossClay Bank Top11.37+2,788-2,159
15Clay Bank TopLion Inn (Blakey Ridge)8.55+924-503
16Lion InnGrosmont13.17+504-1,693
17GrosmontRobin Hood's Bay14.99+2,115-2,197
Dipping Boots in the North Sea at the end of the Coast to Coast Walk.
Dipping our boots in the North Sea to celebrate the end of the journey!

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking to push your physical limits, explore world-class cultural sites, or just enjoy the simplicity of long walks in beautiful places, the Coast to Coast Walk definitely won’t disappoint. With a variety of transportation connections and itinerary options, you can truly make the experience your own. Wishing you a memorable and rewarding C2C adventure!

What’s Next?

Check out our other great Coast to Coast Walk Resources:

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10 Essentials for the GR20

The GR20 is an intimidating trek. Between the complicated logistics and the serious physical challenges, traversing the rugged spine of Corsica is no small feat. The GR20 doesn’t allow much…

The GR20 is an intimidating trek. Between the complicated logistics and the serious physical challenges, traversing the rugged spine of Corsica is no small feat. The GR20 doesn’t allow much room for error or easy outs; little oversights can quickly become big issues on the trail. The reward for all of your toil? An unforgettable adventure like nothing else.

You’ll work hard enough on the trail without having to deal with avoidable snafus that result from poor preparation. We were infinitely glad that we did our homework ahead of time, and now we want to share our experience with others. Below we’ve listed our best, most essential advice for anyone hoping to tackle the GR20. It’s in no particular order, but it’s all guaranteed to help you have a smoother, safer, and more enjoyable experience on the GR20.

 

Trail in the foreground with a peak in the background on the GR20.

Your GR20 adventure awaits!

 

1. Start Early

Morning people rejoice! There are so many reasons why it’s important to get on the trail at daybreak each day.

First, as most hikers will be trekking the GR20 in the summer season, it is imperative to minimize your exposure to the intense Corsican heat.

Furthermore, the afternoon thunderstorms on the GR20 (an almost daily occurrence in July and August, but common throughout the year) need to be taken seriously. Getting caught in a storm on high, exposed peaks or ridgelines is extremely dangerous. Starting early will allow you to get off these sections of trail before the storms roll in.

Beyond the crucial safety reasons for hitting the trail early, there are some additional perks. These include getting your pick of the best bunks and campsites before the crowds (and avoiding the long line for the shower!), witnessing incredible sunrises from the trail, and having ample time to relax and recover in the afternoons. Your exact starting time will depend on your hiking pace, the time of year, and your daily distance goal, but many hikers choose to start just before sunrise (somewhere between 5:30-6:30 am). If you’re starting in the dark, don’t forget your headlamp!

Sunrise over a rocky outcropping on the GR20

Just one of the many incredible sunrises we enjoyed on the trail!

 

2. Carry Plenty of Cash

We wrote more extensively about GR20 money and budgeting in this post, but this advice is important enough to earn a spot on the Essentials list too. You will not find ATMs or banks at any point along the GR20, and very few shops, refuges, hotels, and restaurants accept credit cards. Therefore, you need to carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses for your entire trek.

Running out of money can completely sabotage your trek, as you’ll need to leave the trail to find an ATM (which will take a full day or more). Even if you plan on traveling frugally, you’ll need to restock food and other supplies along the route. It is also important to have some backup funds in case unexpected emergencies arise. Make sure you check out our How Much It Cost Us to Hike the GR20 article to estimate your expenses and avoid this common GR20 pitfall.

 

The well stocked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio

The well-stoked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio- You never know when you’ll need to resupply on cookies and crisps!

 

3. Think Through Your Logistics

Corsica is known for many wonderful things (incredible beaches, rugged mountains, rich history), but excellent tourist infrastructure isn’t one of them. It can be quite difficult to get to and from the GR20. This is due to limited and infrequent transportation connections, unclear and constantly-changing schedules, and a general lack of accessible information.

It’s a very good idea to plan ahead of time for how you will get to and from the GR20, as you’ll need to make sure that busses/trains are running when you want to start and finish your trek. Additionally, we highly recommend booking your lodging in advance and researching any luggage storage or transfers you may need.

Fortunately, our in-depth GR20 Logistics article covers all of this and more. It’s an excellent place to start sorting through all of the important nuts and bolts of your trip.

 

Bus ticket for Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio to Bastia

Most buses and trains use high-tech ticketing systems like this one 😉

 

4. Ditch Your Ego

When it comes to the GR20, all previously held notions of your hiking speed will need to go out the window. When looking at the time estimates for certain stages in your guidebook, you might be inclined to think there’s been a mistake, but indeed they are accurate (or perhaps even underestimated). The GR20 requires so much scrambling and careful navigation of technical terrain that it can take several hours to cover even a couple of miles.

Here’s the thing: it’s okay to move slowly. The rugged nature of the trail is exactly what makes it so fun and rewarding; make sure to give yourself enough time to actually enjoy it. Furthermore, it is incredibly unwise and unsafe to try to move faster than you can realistically manage. We met so many hikers who thought they could “double-up” on stages only to end up burnt out, nursing injuries, or just downright miserable. If you don’t have enough time to complete the entire trek, it’s better to simply cut out a stage or two instead of trying to rush through all of it.

Read More: How to Train for the GR20

 

A hiker uses a fixed chain to scramble up a rocky section of the GR20

Some sections require you to slow down quite a bit!

 

5. Book Ahead

Unless you plan on carrying your own tent, it is pretty much essential that you reserve your accommodation in advance. During the peak season (June-September), the refuges are full every night. While you can try to show up early and score a bed without prior booking, it is unlikely that you’ll get lucky every stage of the way. Bookings are strongly encouraged for the refuges, and they are just as necessary if you plan on renting a tent. Additionally, it’s a good idea to reserve your accommodation in Calenzana, Conca, and Vizzavona, as these towns are quite small and the lodging options are limited.

Another important note on bookings: At many of the refuges, the warden will want to see a printed copy of your reservation. It’s not uncommon for people to lose their spot or pay twice if they don’t have a printed booking. If your itinerary changes due to weather or other issues, you can call ahead to the refuges and try to modify your reservation.

Check out The Ultimate Guide to the GR20 for details on how to reserve refuges and tents. 

 

Tents outside the Refuge de Matalza

A full campground on the GR20. The refuge was even more packed!

 

6. Feast on Local Delicacies

Because the GR20 doesn’t pass through many villages, hikers have very few opportunities to experience traditional Corsican culture during their trek, which is a shame. However, you can get a [literal] taste of Corsica through the incredible culinary delights you’ll encounter along the trail. Not only are these foods fresh, local, delicious, and reasonably-priced, but they are a great way to learn a little more about the place you’re lucky enough to be exploring. Here are a few can’t miss items:

  • Charcuterie: Known worldwide as some of the best, many of the refuges serve up uber-local varieties.
  • Cheese: Most of the traditional Corsican cheeses are made with goat and/or sheep’s milk, including Brocciu, arguably the most popular and widespread varietal. Be sure to sample the local cheeses whenever you get the chance!
  • Canestrelli: These treats are very similar to biscotti and they come in a wide range of delicious flavors. They’re available at nearly every refuge and they make an excellent hiking snack.
  • Pietra Beer: Made with chestnuts from the island, Pietra beer has a complex, slightly sweet, and entirely unique flavor. Even though beer is shockingly expensive across Corsica, we think you’ll find that enjoying a cold Pietra after a big day in the mountains is money well spent.

 

Block of Corsican cheese.

That block of local cheese may be calling your name after a long day!

 

7. Take A Rest Day

As we mentioned earlier, the GR20 is a very difficult endeavor. It will put both your physical and mental endurance to the test. Throughout your trek, it will be imperative that you make a conscious effort to take care of yourself in order to prevent injury and burnout. One of the best ways to do this is to plan for a day off in your itinerary. Obviously we know that the GR20 is already very long, and not everyone will have the time to make this work. However, if it’s at all possible, we strongly recommend that you take a rest day. Not only will you give your body time to recover and rejuvenate, but you’ll have a chance to explore Corsica in ways that don’t involve hiking.

Vizzavona, located halfway through the route, is arguably the best place to spend a rest day. There are a couple of good shops where you can restock supplies, and there are several lovely restaurants and hotels where you can indulge in some creature comforts. Our GR20 Logistics article has tons of helpful information on rest day options and considerations.

Woman with a glass of wine in front of Casa Alta B&B in Vizzavona Corsica

Living it up on our day off in Vizzavona!

 

8. Make New Friends

Many people are drawn to the GR20 because it offers the opportunity to experience solitude while trekking in wild and rugged landscapes. This is without a doubt one of the best parts of the trek, and you’ll certainly get to savor many moments alone in the mountains. Therefore, it might come as a surprise that time spent socializing with other people is one of the most memorable parts of many GR20 hikers’ experiences.

Since you’ll be starting and ending at the same refuges as many others each day, you’ll become familiar with those following a similar itinerary. You’ll have ample opportunities to chat along the trail, share a beer and a picnic table at sunset, cook your meals alongside your camp mates, and swap stories with new friends. Don’t pass up these opportunities! Meeting people from all over the world who share your love of the outdoors will make your experience so much richer. It was definitely one of the most fun, rewarding, and memorable parts of our GR20 adventure.

Trekkers sitting on rocks at Refuge de Manganu.

Kicking back and making friends at Refuge de Manganu.

 

9. Practice Your French

We’d be lying if we said it was utterly impossible to trek the GR20 without knowing any French. You could likely get yourself to and from the trail, navigate refuge check-ins, purchase food and supplies, and muddle your way through any unexpected issues that might arise. But just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should try. You’re going to have a much, much easier and more enjoyable experience if you take the time to brush up on your French skills before your trek. Not only will people appreciate your efforts (and therefore be more friendly and helpful), but there will undoubtedly be situations where English isn’t spoken and you need to communicate something.

You don’t need to be fluent, but you should learn some basic phrases relating to accommodation, weather, navigation, transportation, and food and drink.

 

Chalkboard menu at Refuge de Carozzu

Learn how to order food and drinks in French before your GR20 trek.

 

10. Leave No Trace

The GR20 traverses some truly stunning wild places. It is our responsibility to respect these places so that others can enjoy them now and many years into the future. This might seem unnecessary to discuss; after all, as hikers we have shared passion for the outdoors. However, if I had a Euro for every piece of trash or used toilet paper I saw on the trail, I would easily have enough money to take a luxury vacation. It’s simple: pack it in and pack it out. Stay on the designated trail. Don’t pick flowers or other vegetation. Furthermore, carry a small bag with you so you can pick up any trash you find along the trail, leaving it even more beautiful for those who come after you. Do your part and the mountains will reward you with their awe-inspiring beauty. 

Do your part to protect this incredible place!

 

That’s it!

We hope you found this list to be helpful and we genuinely believe following this advice will allow you to have a less stressful and more rewarding experience.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget to check out all of our other great GR20 content: 

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How to Train for the Laugavegur Trail

So you’ve decided to trek the Laugavegur Trail. Congratulations! You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ve started creating your itinerary, putting together a packing list, and booking…

So you’ve decided to trek the Laugavegur Trail. Congratulations! You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ve started creating your itinerary, putting together a packing list, and booking your accommodation, but have you thought about your physical preparation? Obviously, you’ve at least taken the first steps since you’ve found your way to this post, and for that your future self will thank you. That’s because being physically prepared for a tough trek like the Laugagevur is the single most impactful action you can take to ensure your trip will be as enjoyable as possible. 

Training for the Laugagevur will make your experience exponentially more rewarding for a number of reasons, including…

  • You’ll be able to focus on the beauty of your surroundings instead of the pain and fatigue in your body.
  • You’ll eliminate the unnecessary stress of falling behind schedule due to spending longer-than-anticipated days on the trail.
  • By taking the time to prepare in advance, you’ll enjoy the anticipation of your upcoming trip and completing your trek will be immensely rewarding.
  • You’ll improve your fitness and health by working towards a goal that is exciting and meaningful.

Keeping reading to learn how to feel strong and prepared for your Laugagevur Trail adventure.

Everything you need to to plan your Laugavegur Trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, or something in between, we’ve got you covered. Our downloadable Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Pick your digital guide for under $20 below:

Laugavegur Trail Guide

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The 50+ page guide contains resources you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Custom GPS files for the entire trek
  • Three unique stage-by-stage itineraries
  • Complete packing list for campers and those staying in huts
  • Detailed information on getting to/from the Laugavegur
  • A 15-week training plan to ensure you’re prepared for your hike

We truly believe this is the best guide available for the Laugavegur.  Pick up your guide below and if your not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!

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What’s in this post?

landscape near Hvanngil on the Laugavegur Trail
Beautiful landscape near Hvanngil. The views make all of the training worthwhile!

How Difficult is the Laugagevur Trail?

As far as long-distance hiking trails go, the Laugavegur is very approachable in terms of difficulty. There are several factors that impact the challenge of this hike, including the distance covered in each day (see our itineraries for more on this), the weight of your backpack (it will be much larger if you choose to camp), the direction you hike in (there is significantly more uphill walking if you trek from south to north), and the weather and trail conditions.

Therefore, someone carrying camping gear and hiking northbound in two days will have a much different experience than someone staying in huts, heading southbound, and completing their trek in four days. Most reasonably fit hikers with some trekking experience will have no problem completing the Laugavegur in three days. 

Beyond the physical challenges of the Laugagevur, there are a few other factors to keep in mind when understanding the difficulty of this trek.

River Crossings: You will encounter several river crossings along the Laugavegur Trail. These can very from ankle-deep to waist-deep depending on the time of year, recent rainfall, and weather conditions. We can’t stress enough that you need to check with the wardens at each hut about the current condition of the rivers, and always cross in the designated areas. Also, you’ll want to bring a pair of sturdy sandals or other water shoes to make these crossing. Flip-flops will be pulled right off your feet by the swift currents and walking across barefoot is a dangerous endeavor.

A river crossing near the Alftavatn Hut on the Laugavegur Trail
River crossing after Álftavatn. Be prepared for lots of these!

Weather: Icelandic weather should not be taken lightly. Weather conditions are a major factor that can greatly increase the difficulty of your trek.   Whiteout snowstorms can occur any time of the year on the Laugavegur, as can gale-force winds and freezing temperatures. It is imperative that hikers check the weather conditions before setting out. The easiest way to stay up to date on the weather is to talk to the wardens at the huts. Weather updates are usually posted outside, but you can also ask the warden for more information. If they advise you not to hike in the conditions, be sure to listen to them! Additionally, the Icelandic Met Office’s website provides quality forecasts for wind, precipitation, and temperature in specific areas. 

Read more: Check out our Trip Report to get the full scoop on what the Laugavegur was really like!

Fimmvörðuháls Trail Extension: Many hikers opt to extend their hike by taking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, which connects Þórsmörk and Skogar via a very difficult 15-mile trek. The Fimmvörðuháls trail is quite a bit more technical and challenging than the Laugagevur. There are some very exposed and steep sections that require the use of cables, chains, and holds to navigate them. Depending on which direction you choose to hike, you’ll either start or end your trek with a very big day which will add to the overall difficulty of your experience.

A large section of snow on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.
A long and tiring snow crossing on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.

The Laugavegur Trail in Numbers:

Laugavegur Trail Only

Total Distance: 55 kilometers (34 miles)
Total Elevation Gain: 1450 meters (4758 feet)

Laugavegur Trail + Fimmvörðuháls Trail

Total Distance: 79 kilometres (49 miles)
Total Distance: 2428 meters (7967 feet)
A deep canyon on stage 2 of the Laugavegur Trail
Fortunately, you can enjoy these views without too much climbing!

I don’t live near mountains…Will I be able to get fit enough?

Okay, so hopefully the first section of this post convinced you that yes, you CAN complete the Laugagevur, but also that you really, really should take our advice and train ahead of time. However, if you’re like a great many people who aspire to trek the Laugavegur Trail, you don’t have trails in your backyard on which to complete said training. If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We’ve known plenty of people who’ve become incredibly strong hikers without the benefit of mountain training. Here are some ideas for flatlanders:

  • Use the stairclimber machine at your local gym. Go slow, as this torture device machine definitely induces greater perceived exertion than most sections of the Laugagevur.
  • Walk or run up and down the stairs at a nearby high school stadium or similar venue.
  • Get on a treadmill and walk at a brisk pace. Play around with setting the incline to a variety of levels, ranging from 5-12%.
  • Many bridges make excellent artificial hills. Make sure the one you choose has a safe pedestrian area and then walk back and forth across that sucker a bunch of times. Sure, it’s not the most exciting option, but consider it an opportunity to build both physical strength and mental fortitude.

As much as possible, complete the above activities while wearing a weighted pack similar to the one you plan on hiking with. Commit to one or more of these moves and you might be shocked at the high level of hiking fitness you can build without ever leaving sea level.

A hiker walks on rocky terrain on the Laugavegur Trail
WAY better than the stairclimber machine!

Basic Laugagevur Trail Training Plan

Six Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Endurance Base

Even if you’re taking four days to complete the Laugagevur, you can expect to spend long days on the trail. Most walkers complete their trek in 2-4 days, meaning they’ll need to average well over 15 kilometers (10 miles) per day. To prepare for extended periods of hiking, you should try to build a solid foundation of aerobic endurance. So what does that actually mean? Simply put, your body needs to be accustomed to sustaining low(ish)-intensity exercise for longer than an hour.

Like a lot of training, the best way to get your body used to moving for a long time is-you guessed it- to regularly move for extended periods of time. You can achieve this a lot of different ways, but the important factor is that you’re frequently and consistently doing cardio exercise. Aerobic activity (AKA “cardio”) includes things like jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, using the elliptical machine, or anything else that requires moderate, sustained exertion (your heart rate should be elevated, but you should be able to maintain a conversation and keep up the activity for at least 30 minutes).

Starting six months prior to your trek, aim to complete 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 3-5 times per week. If your fitness regimen already includes this kind of thing, just keep on keeping on!

Build your endurance base to cross vast landscapes like this one.

Three Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Strength

In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should begin to increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to continue to build your aerobic endurance while also training your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline (4-12% grade), or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to.

Additionally, now is the time to start incorporating a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Many hikers neglect strength training for any number of reasons; they don’t think they need it, they don’t know how, they don’t have time, or they just find it boring (this last one is the favorite excuse of yours truly!) However, strength training plays a huge role in giving you the power needed to tackle hard climbs, build stability, stay light on your feet, and prevent injury. You don’t need to spend a ton of time in the gym to get results, either. Even just a few minutes a week in the comfort of your home can make a world of difference.

Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build Laugagevur-ready legs:

  • 10 goblet squats (with medium weight)
  • 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase the challenge)
  • 10 step-ups on each leg (weights optional)

Complete three sets of each exercise.

A trail sign on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.
Your leg strengthening routine will certainly pay off on this difficult section of the Fimmvörðuháls.

Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight.

Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! In the two months before your Laugagevur trek, try to complete at least one challenging hike at least once a week while wearing your pack. Your backpack should mirror the weight you intend to carry on your Laugagevur Trail hike, including food and water. Ideally, you should work up to hikes that are 15-18 kilometers (5-10 miles) long with 500 meters (1,500 feet) of elevation gain. If that’s not possible, try to complete a weekly long walk (5-10 miles) while wearing your pack and with as many hills as possible (see the previous section for more ideas on this). As an added bonus, these hikes/walks are a great opportunity to start breaking in new hiking boots and other gear.

Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections, simply replacing one of your weekly aerobic workouts with a long hike. 

A hiker walks through a large snow field on the Laugavegur Trail
You can still expect to encounter lots of snow on the trail in July!

One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run (Hike)

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the Laugagevur, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking.

This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to hiking consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Keep up your established aerobic and strength training until 10 days to one week before the hike. In the last week before your trip, continue doing some light cardio and strength, but take extra rest days and don’t do any big, challenging hikes so your body is fresh for your upcoming adventure. Finally, pat yourself on the back and take pride in showing up to your Laugagevur trek fit, prepared, and the best version of yourself!

Camping at Alftavatn.
If you plan on camping along the Laugavegur, try to do a test run before your trek.

Adapting the Hike for Varying Ability Levels

Unfortunately, the Laugagevur Trail is not the friendliest trek in terms of accessibility and adaptations.  Detours and shortcuts are nearly impossible, as there are few road connections along the route.  That being said, there are actions you can take to minimize the difficulty of your Laugagevur trek. If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hike from north to south to minimize elevation gain and avoid the most strenuous climbs.
  • Skip the Fimmvörðuháls Trail extension, as it is much more difficult than the Laugagevur Trail.
  • Carry as light a pack as possible to reduce the strain on your body. You can store additional luggage in Reykjavik if needed. Check out our Laugagevegur Trail Logistics article for more details on luggage storage.
  • If possible, allow yourself four days to complete the Laugagevur. With this itinerary, you’ll never have to walk more than ten miles in a single day. See our Itineraries article for details.
Hvanngill Hut Laugavegur Trail
Staying in huts like this one will allow you to carry a lighter pack and reduce the overall challenge of the trek.

The Bottom Line

Move, preferably uphill and with weight on your back, as much as possible. Do this and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter. I can’t stress enough how glad we were that we’d prepared for the challenge of a thru-hike like the Laugagevur Trail, and I hope these training tips can help you have your best possible trip.

Disclaimer: This training plan  is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor is it a replacement for seeking medical treatment or professional nutrition advice. Do not start any nutrition or physical activity program without first consulting your physician.

Snow covered mountains on the Laugavegur Trail

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the Laugavegur Trail to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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How to Train for the GR20

While the GR20 gets a lot of hype for its spectacular beauty (and it doesn’t disappoint), it’s perhaps even better known for earning the title of being the “toughest trek…

While the GR20 gets a lot of hype for its spectacular beauty (and it doesn’t disappoint), it’s perhaps even better known for earning the title of being the “toughest trek in Europe.” There is no doubt that hiking the GR20 is an exceptionally challenging endeavor, but it’s not one that is reserved only for the superhuman elites. Nearly any healthy hiker with a decent fitness base can successfully complete the GR20, given they are willing to put in the work to get physically prepared.

Let’s be really clear about this: the GR20 is not a trek that you should attempt without proper training and preparation.

A rocky mountainside on the GR20
You’ll be glad you trained your body and mind to handle tough terrain like this.

 

Trying to “wing it” on the GR20 will set you up for a miserable and potentially unsafe experience. On the other hand, put in the work ahead of time and you’ll have an exponentially more enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Here’s a few reasons why that’s true:

  • You’ll be able to focus on the beauty of your surroundings instead of the pain and fatigue in your body.
  • You’ll eliminate the unnecessary stress of falling behind schedule due to spending longer-than-anticipated days on the trail.
  • By taking the time to prepare in advance, you’ll enjoy the anticipation of your upcoming trip and completing your trek will be immensely more rewarding.
  • You’ll improve your fitness and health by working towards a goal that is exciting and meaningful.

So keep reading to learn how to train for the GR20, and then get started! Your future self will thank you.

What’s in this post?

A high rocky path on the GR20
High up on the GR20.

How difficult is the GR20?

There’s no doubt about it- the GR20 is a challenging trek. Some of the major factors that contribute to its difficulty are the large amount of scrambling, steep ascents and descents, overall distance, heat and weather, and exposed nature of the trail. We believe that most reasonably fit people can complete the GR20, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should.  You’re much, much more likely to actually enjoy it if you are in good hiking shape and have backpacking experience. Most of the scrambling is pretty manageable; it is just tricky and awkward at times and can become tiring after you’ve been at it for awhile. If you are judicious about avoiding storms and careful on exposed sections, it really isn’t much more dangerous than other hikes. 

For an in-depth look at the various challenges of the GR20, be sure to check out this post.

A hiker uses a fixed chain to scramble up a rocky section of the GR20
Fixed cables and chains like this one can help on tricky sections.

I don’t live near mountains…Will I be able to get fit enough?

Okay, so hopefully the first section of this post convinced you that yes you CAN complete the GR20, but also that you really, really should take our advice and train ahead of time. However, if you’re like many people who aspire to trek the GR20, you don’t have trails in your backyard on which to complete said training. If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We’ve known plenty of people who’ve become incredibly strong hikers without the benefit of mountain training. Here are some ideas for flatlanders:

  • Use the stairclimber machine at your local gym. Go slow, as this torture device machine definitely induces greater perceived exertion than most sections of the GR20.
  • Walk or run up and down the stairs at a nearby high school stadium or similar venue.
  • Get on a treadmill and walk at a brisk pace. Play around with setting the incline to a variety of levels, ranging from 5-12%.
  • Many bridges make excellent artificial hills. Make sure the one you choose has a safe pedestrian area and then walk back and forth across that sucker a bunch of times. Sure, it’s not the most exciting option, but consider it an opportunity to build both physical strength and mental fortitude.

As much as possible, complete the above activities while wearing a weighted pack similar to the one you plan on hiking with. Commit to one or more of these moves and you might be shocked at the high level of hiking fitness you can build without ever leaving sea level.

Lac de Nino
Lac du Nino makes a lovely lunch stop and provides a very rare flat stretch of trail.

Adapting the GR20 for Varying Ability Levels

Unfortunately, the GR20 is not the friendliest trek in terms of accessibility and adaptations.  Most sections that don’t allow for shortcuts or detours and the ones that do exist can be less than perfect.  That being said, it is still possible to complete significant portions of the hike, even if you’re not able to do the whole thing. If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If possible, consider adding an extra day or cutting out a segment to reduce the average distance you’ll need to cover each day.
  • Use a luggage transfer service to eliminate the extra demands of carrying your heavy pack (note that these do not service all stops along the GR20 and require you to take a different route at times)
  • Plan for a rest day midway through your hike. Vizzavona is the best option.  See our logistics article for more information about luggage transfers, rest days, and detour options.
  • Enlist a few friends or family members to come with you and rent a car. You can alternate between hiking and driving the support vehicle to customize the amount of time spent on your feet.  Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy much of the same spectacular Corsican scenery from the road.
  • Plan to only complete the GR20 Sud. While still plenty challenging, the southern half of the GR20 is generally less strenuous and closer to civilization than the GR20 Nord
A rocky ridge on the GR20 Nord.
A typical section of “trail” on the GR20 Nord.

Basic GR20 Training Plan

Six Months Before Your GR20 Trek: Build Your Endurance Base

You should be prepared to spend many long days on the trail while hiking the GR20. Most walkers complete their trek in 13-16 days, meaning they’ll need to average around 11 kilometres (7 miles) per day. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, remember that it is slow and tiring to move across much of the terrain encountered on this trek. To prepare for extended periods of hiking, you should try to build a solid foundation of aerobic endurance. So what does that actually mean? Simply put, your body needs to be accustomed to sustaining low(ish)-intensity exercise for longer than an hour.

Like a lot of training, the best way to get your body used to moving for a long time is -you guessed it- to regularly move for extended periods of time. You can achieve this in a lot of different ways, but the important factor is that you’re frequently and consistently doing cardio exercise. Aerobic activity (AKA “cardio”) includes things like jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, using the elliptical machine, or anything else that requires moderate, sustained exertion (your heart rate should be elevated, but you should be able to maintain a conversation and keep up the activity for at least 30 minutes).

Starting six months prior to your GR20 trek, aim to complete 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 3-5 times per week. If your fitness regimen already includes this kind of thing, just keep on keeping on!

Hiker crosses a large rock slab on Stage 14 of the GR20
All smiles and fresh legs 11 days into the trek!

Three Months Before Your GR20 Trek: Build Your Strength

In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should begin to increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to continue to build your aerobic endurance while also training your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline (4-12% grade), or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to.

Additionally, now is the time to start incorporating a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Many hikers neglect strength training for any number of reasons; they don’t think they need it, they don’t know how, they don’t have time, or they just find it boring (this last one is the favorite excuse of yours truly!) However, strength training plays a huge role in giving you the power needed to tackle hard climbs, build stability, stay light on your feet, and prevent injury. You don’t need to spend a ton of time in the gym to get results, either. Even just a few minutes a week in the comfort of your home can make a world of difference.

Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build GR20-ready legs:

  • 10 goblet squats (with medium weight)
  • 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase the challenge)
  • 10 step-ups on each leg (weights optional)

Complete three sets of each exercise. For extra credit, try to incorporate some core strengthening exercises (such as planks) into your routine.

Clouds surround a peak on Stage 15 of the GR20
The pay-off for all of that training? Enjoying views like this!

Two Months Before Your GR20 Trek: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try to get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight. This is especially true when it comes to navigating the awkward scrambles that are plentiful on the GR20.

Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! In the two months before your GR20 trek, try to complete at least one challenging hike every week while wearing your pack. Your backpack should mirror the weight you intend to carry on your GR20 hike, including food and water. Ideally, you should work up to hikes that are 15-18 kilometres (5-10 miles) long with 500 meters (1,500 feet) of elevation gain. If that’s not possible, try to complete a weekly long walk (5-10 miles) while wearing your pack and with as many hills as possible (see the previous section for more ideas on this). As an added bonus, these hikes/walks are a great opportunity to start breaking in new hiking boots and other gear.

Important Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections, simply replacing one of your weekly aerobic workouts with a long hike. 

Goats on the GR20 trail
Optional training exercise: channeling your inner Corsican mountain goat.

One Month Before Your GR20 Trek: Time for a Test Run (Hike)

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the GR20, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking.

This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to hiking consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Keep up your established aerobic and strength training until 10 days to one week before the hike. In the last week before your trip, continue doing some light cardio and strength, but take extra rest days and don’t do any big, challenging hikes so your body is fresh for your upcoming adventure. Upon arriving in Corsica, try to give yourself a day or two to rest and acclimate before starting your trek. Finally, pat yourself on the back and take pride in showing up to your GR20 trek fit, prepared, and the best version of yourself!

Disclaimer: This training plan  is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor is it a replacement for seeking medical treatment or professional nutrition advice. Do not start any nutrition or physical activity program without first consulting your physician.

The mountains are waiting for you!

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The GR20: How Difficult is it?

So how tough is Europe’s toughest trek? Short answer: pretty tough. And what about the GR20 makes it hard? Short answer: lots of things. Medium answer: the physical challenges, the…

So how tough is Europe’s toughest trek? Short answer: pretty tough. And what about the GR20 makes it hard? Short answer: lots of things. Medium answer: the physical challenges, the sheer length of the trek, the weather conditions, and the technical nature of the trail (Keep reading for the long answer).

What’s in this post?

 

Map of the GR20 in Corsica.

The GR20 takes trekkers across the island of Corsica.

 

The GR20 in numbers:

Total distance: 182 kilometers (113 miles)

Total elevation gain: 10,500 meters (34,500 feet- that’s about the same as climbing to the top of Mt. Everest from base camp three times!)

Average Daily distance*: 11.3 kilometers (7 miles)

Average daily elevation gain*: 655 meters (2,150 feet)

*Averages are based on a traditional 16-day itinerary

Read More: GR20 Maps

 

Hardest Sections of the GR20

On long treks, sometimes the toughest times come when we’re least expecting them: the “easy day” that feels endless, the downhill cruise that crushes our knees, or that chilly morning that we can’t summon up the willpower to unzip our sleeping bag. Those moments will undoubtedly occur on your GR20 adventure, adding a little spice and character-building to the experience (how’s that for a positive spin?) That being said, in addition to the parts that are personally challenging, there are sections of the GR20 that are universally tough for everyone.

It’s important to get physically and mentally prepared for these sections, but you shouldn’t be too intimidated. The purpose of sharing this information is certainly not to scare you, but to give you an idea of what to expect so you can approach your trek feeling prepped and confident. We’ve listed these in order by stage (not toughness), assuming you’re hiking in the traditional north-south direction.

Read More: Check out our Trip Report for an honest, in-depth account of our experience on the GR20.

The ridge walk between Bocca Piccaia and Bocca Carozzu (Stage 2): This is the first of many long, slow, and undulating ridge walks and arguably one of the hardest. Be prepared for lots of scrambling.

The Spatismata Slabs (Stage 3): Perhaps the most infamous of the entire trek, the so-called “Slabs of Doom” have the reputation for being sketchy and vertigo-inducing. These large, steep rock slabs are fitted with cables in many places. If you’re heading uphill, they actually aren’t too scary, but downhill hikers have reported feeling uncomfortable with the steep grade. The slabs can be extremely slippery and dangerous when wet.

Ascent to Pointe des Eboulis (Stage 4): Pointe des Eboulis is the highest point on the entire GR20 trek, and getting to it is no small feat. The ascent is long, very steep, and requires some pretty technical scrambling on the final push to the top. Additionally, in our opinion Stage 4 is the toughest stage overall, so your effort on the ascent is compounded by the other challenging aspects of the day.

View from Bocca Piacca Stage 2 GR20

The view from Bocca Piacca.

 

Ascent to Bocca a e Porte and ridgewalk to Bocca Muzzella (Stage 7): These sections are very characteristic of the GR20 Nord. Expect a very steep and strenuous climb followed by a long, slow ridge walk with lots of scrambling.

Descent into Vizzavona (Stage 9): If you don’t think hiking downhill can be hard, think again. Stage 9 entails nearly 5,000 feet of elevation loss, much of that on steep and stony paths. It’s a physical and mental grind, but the small luxuries waiting in Vizzavona make it all worthwhile.

Monte Renosu high-level variante (Stage 11): This optional alternate route is pretty straightforward on the initial ascent to the summit of Monte Renosu, but the following section requires some pretty technical scrambling and good navigation skills (the route is not well-marked).

Stage 12: Those who claim that the southern half of the GR20 is easy fail to take this stage into account. If you didn’t make it to Refuge de Prati on the previous day, you have a big ascent to start the day. Then there is a long, slow ridge walk in the middle, followed by yet another challenging climb and a final, maddeningly rocky descent.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to the GR20

Sunrise on the Spasimata Slabs

Sunrise on the way up to the Spatismata Slabs.

 

Does it matter which direction I hike the GR20?

The traditional GR20 route starts in Calenzana in the north, passes through the midpoint in Vizzavona, and finishes in Conca in the south. However, it is possible to hike in either direction. The northern half of the GR20 has a reputation for being the toughest, while the southern half is a bit gentler. Some trekkers prefer to start in the south to get accustomed to the trail before tackling the tougher sections in the north. Others would rather start in the north in order to put the biggest days behind them early and do so with fresh legs.

So in terms of difficulty, one way isn’t significantly more or less challenging than the other. It is totally a matter of personal preference, although we hiked from north to south and would definitely recommend it. We benefited from the confidence boost that came with conquering the most challenging sections early on, and we felt the ascents and descents were more manageable in this direction. While slightly less people hike in the northbound direction, you probably won’t notice a significant difference in crowds since hikers headed both ways stay at the same refuges. 

Views of a sheer rock face from Refuge d'I Paliri

Views from Refuge d’I Paliri…Not a bad way to spend your last (or first) night on the trail!

 

Physical Challenges of the GR20

The GR20 does not require advanced mountaineering experience, but its challenges certainly should not be taken lightly. It is a very strenuous endeavor, with a staggering 34,500 feet or 10,500 meters of elevation change. When averaged out over the 16 stages, hikers have over 2,150 feet or 655 meters of elevation change to tackle per day. Many trekkers will complete the GR20 in fewer days, meaning they’ll have an even greater challenge! You’ll be carrying all of your necessities on your back and much of the hike requires walking on steep, loose, and rocky terrain, all of which add to the toll on your body.

One other consideration involves the health of your knees and overall leg strength. There are very long, steep descents on nearly every stage of the GR20, and these can create problems and irritate chronic injuries for those with sensitive knees, backs, and hips.

Read More: How to Train for the GR20

Hiker scrambling up a rocky gully on stage 2 of the GR20

Scrambling up a steep section on Stage Two.

Distance/Duration Challenges of the GR20

With a few exceptions (say, relaxing on a beach), it is difficult to get up and do the same activity all day every day for two weeks straight. Whether you complete the GR20 in twelve days or sixteen, that is a long time to be out there. Not only can the repeated long days on the trail wear you down physically, but they can also impact you mentally. Don’t despair- although the GR20’s length presents a major challenge, it is also one of the best parts. There is a beautiful and gratifying simplicity in the routines of life on the GR20, a simplicity you’ll likely yearn for long after your adventure ends.

Food and drink on the GR20

Enjoying the simple things on the GR20.

 

Weather Challenges of the GR20

No matter what time of year you choose to trek the GR20, weather conditions are more than likely to add to the challenge of your experience. The vast majority of hikers complete their trek in the summer months, which certainly has advantages (such as snow-free trails and stocked refuges). However, the heat can be absolutely brutal. Much of the trail is very exposed, meaning you’ll be laboring under the very strong Corsican sun. This increases your risk of dehydration and heatstroke and will totally sap your energy.

Additionally, the afternoon thunderstorms in July and August are nothing to take lightly. Lightning is especially dangerous when you’re on a high ridgeline or exposed peak. Fortunately, if you’re willing to get an early start, you can avoid the worst of the heat and get off the most exposed parts of the trail before the storms roll in.

Regardless of whether you choose to trek in May, July, or September, you will encounter weather elements that add to the challenge of the trek, be it gale-force winds, frigid mornings, glaring sun, or torrential storms. Get on the trail at sunrise, use good judgment, give the mountains the respect they deserve, and you’ll be just fine.

Sunrise on the GR20

One upside of unsettled mountain weather? Dramatically beautiful sunrises!

 

Technical Challenges of the GR20

In addition to the basic physical challenges, there are also many sections of the GR20 that are technically difficult. This reality really begins to sink in when you look at the time estimates for some stages of the trek. For example, the time estimate for completing Stage 3 is 5.5 hours, and yet the distance covered is just 3.75 miles. How is it possible that it could take such a long time to go such a short distance? you might ask. Welcome to the GR20.

The GR20 is a very technical hike, but it is still a hike. There are no points where you’ll need to use ropes or climbing implements, but there are a few things that make it technical. First and foremost, many stages require quite a bit of scrambling. Think of scrambling as slightly less vertical rock climbing. It’s not like you’ll need to shimmy straight up a sheer rock wall, but you’ll need to use your hands and really lean into the rock to get up or down certain sections. Additionally, there are cables and chains fixed to the rock to help you navigate some areas. These can seem intimidating, but they’re actually not so bad. Finally, the trail conditions add to the overall technicality of the GR20. Much of the rock can become slippery and treacherous if wet, and other sections of trail are quite loose and stony.

A hiker uses a fixed chain to scramble up a rocky section of the GR20

Fixed cables and chains like this one can help on tricky sections.

Many stages of the GR20 (particularly on the GR20 Nord) follow a similar pattern: long steep ascent, undulating ridge walk with lots of scrambling, long steep descent. Despite the fact that the ascents can be tiring and the descents knee-crunching, they are relatively straightforward. The ridge walks, however, can be very slow and arduous, due to the amount of scrambling involved. If you keep your mental game strong, you will discover that scrambling is actually really FUN and one of the most unique and wonderful parts of the GR20 experience!

 

A GR20 hiker silhouetted in the sunset

 

The bottom line…

If you approach it with a solid fitness base and some trekking experience, you should be well suited for the GR20. There’s no need to be too intimidated by this trek, but it’s a very good idea to train ahead of time, be realistic about your abilities and expectations, and use good judgment in the mountains.

Check out all of our great GR20 resources:

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West Highland Way | Maps

The West Highland Way meanders its way through the best of the Scottish Highlands. The route is typically completed in 8 stages, beginning in the town of Milngavie and finishing…

The West Highland Way meanders its way through the best of the Scottish Highlands. The route is typically completed in 8 stages, beginning in the town of Milngavie and finishing in Fort William. Covering 94 miles, the West Highland Way is a truly can’t miss experience in Scotland!

This post will provide all of the West Highland Way map and navigation resources you will need to familiarize yourself with the route, location, and all things map-related so you can be sure you’re ready to tackle this epic adventure!

In this post

Where is the West Highland Way?

The West Highland Way winds from Milngavie, just north of Glasgow, all the way to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. The route covers 94 miles and passes countless green pastures, serene lochs, and dramatic Highland scenery and is typically completed in 8 stages. Starting just outside of Glasgow makes getting to and from the trek a breeze. You can learn more about getting to/from the West Highland Way in our logistics article here. 

The West Highland Way is traditionally walked from south to north, although it is certainly possible to hike it from north to south. Following the traditional route, you’ll pass the iconic Loch Lomond, watch the landscape transform as you enter the Highlands, pass though the stunning Glencoe region, and finish near the base of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak. The stages for the traditional south to north route are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Milngavie to Drymen
  • Stage 2: Drymen to Loch Lomond (Rowardennan)
  • Stage 3: Loch Lomond to Inverarnan
  • Stage 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum
  • Stage 5: Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy
  • Stage 6: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse
  • Stage 7: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
  • Stage 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William

Did you know we offer West Highland Way trip planning support? Check out how we can help you below!

 
Map of the West Highland Way
 
 

Interactive West Highland Way Map

The interactive West Highland Way map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route. The map also displays the common alternate routes that are a part of the West Highland Way. You can click on each stage to see its total length, listed in both kilometres and miles.

 

How long is the West Highland Way?

The West Highland Way is approximately 94 miles or 151 kilometers long. This is based on following the traditional route from Milngavie to Fort William and not taking any of the possible alternates. Of course, many trekkers will opt to take side trips or shortcuts, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen. 

The maps below show the approximate distance of each stage in both miles and kilometres, giving you a sense of the distances encountered on each section of the West Highland Way. For more detail on each stage be sure to check out our interactive map in the section above!

West Highland way map miles

Approximate stage distances of the West Highland Way in miles.

 

West Highland Way map kilometress

Approximate stage distances of the West Highland Way in kilometres.

 

What is the elevation profile of the West Highland Way?

Over the 94 miles it takes to complete the West Highland Way, you’ll traverse nearly 13,000 feet or 3,960 meters of elevation change! Given that most trekkers will take 8 days to complete the trek, you’ll average around 1,625 feet or 500 meters of elevation change per stage.

Looking for a custom itinerary for the West Highland Way? We can help!

LEARN MORE 

Of course, the elevation gain and loss isn’t spread out evenly from stage to stage. You’ll have days with a tremendous amount of climbing and you’ll also have days with much less (although always some!). Surprisingly, the section of trail along Loch Lomond has some of the most elevation change of the entire trek, as the shoreline is constantly climbing or descending.

Given that the West Highland Way is a point to point trail (meaning it does not start and finish in the same location) you’ll lose a tad more elevation that you’ll gain over the course of the entire route.

The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the West Highland Way is like in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 8-stage West Highland Way route, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy is rather short in distance, while the stage from Kingshouse to Kinlochleven has a lot of elevation change.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the West Highland Way be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine. Don’t forget, we can also help create a custom itinerary for your trip!

West Highland Way elevation profile

Elevation profile for the West Highland way in feet and miles.

 

West Highland Way elevation profile

Elevation profile for the West Highland way in meters and kilometers.

 

Which maps should I carry on the West Highland Way?

On the whole, the West Highland Way is very well marked and relatively easy to navigate. There are signposts bearing the trail icon at frequent intervals and at most junctions.  However, it can still be easy to get turned around, mixed up, and generally off the main trail in some capacity. You may find yourself walking in a steady rain, struggling to look up to find the trail, or simply have taken a wrong turn at the last trail junction. For this reason we highly recommend that all trekkers have some form of wayfinding for the West Highland Way.

When we hiked the West Highland Way we did not rely on traditional, paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred utilizing GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where we were in relation to it. Cell phone service is very limited along sections of the West Highland Way, so it is critical to have a good offline mapping app such as Gaia GPS to ensure you’ll be able to view the map at any point along the route.

With all this considered, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery or you drop it in a puddle along the West Highland Way you’ll be glad you had your handy paper map to rely on.

There are several options available to ensure you have the entire West Highland way route covered via paper maps. 

We recommend the Cicerone West Highland Way map booklet, a convenient booklet that includes the entire West Highland Way in a pocket-sized book, or the West Highland Way Footprint Map, a more traditional folding map.

For those who have trekked in the United Kingdom before you’ll likely have used Ordnance Survey maps. These detailed maps provide an excellent level of detail for the West Highland Way, although you’ll need to carry six maps to cover the entire route:

Alternatively, the Ordnance Survey also offers a package of all six maps for a significant discount here.

In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Want custom GPS maps for your West Highland Way adventure? Learn more here!

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West Highland Way GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our West Highland Way GPS files for only $4.99. When you download the GPS files, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the West Highland Way as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.

If you want to learn how to use the GPS data to navigate on the trail, be sure to check out our post on How to Navigate on the West Highland Way.

You’ll be able to load the GPS file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Map of the West Highland Way

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West Highland Way map app/offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while hiking the West Highland Way. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also isn’t reliant on a cell phone signal to display the map.

Our How to Navigate on the West Highland Way post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your West Highland Way map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.

Want more West Highland Way content?

Be sure to check out all of our great West Highland Way content including packing listscamping guides, and much more. We also have a FREE West Highland Way Starter Kit and comprehensive West Highland Way planning service that we know you’ll love!

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Get Your FREE TMB Starter Kit!

This 10-page booklet will help you jumpstart the planning process for your Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. Our printable guide covers all of the need-to-know basics about the trek, including…

TMB Starter Kit cover page

This 10-page booklet will help you jumpstart the planning process for your Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. Our printable guide covers all of the need-to-know basics about the trek, including accommodation, when to hike, food and drink, typical costs, packing lists, and more!

Enter your email address to receive our awesome starter kit.

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