Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge - walk route & best tips for planning with photos


Yorkshire Three Peaks walk challenge questions route map photos height distance training Whernside Ingleborough Pen-Y-Ghent Ribblesdale Horton
The Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge is an excellent challenge for serious walkers and I'd definitely recommend it if you've thought about doing the walk. It's a long hike of 25 miles and there are some tips and useful bits of info that I've learned from doing the 3 peaks that I thought I'd share below to help you plan your own Yorkshire 3 Peaks walk.

Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge walk - essential info & tips learned from our Yorkshire Three Peaks experience 

The Yorkshire 3 Peaks walk is a fantastic must-do challenge for any experienced walker to tick off the list and a great day out for a group of people and it's one of the best challenges me and my mates have done together. The full walking route is 25 miles and the popular challenge is to try and do the full walk in under 12 hours. The distance is twice as long as my previous longest walk and would be the furthest my feet had carried me in a day. I wasn’t too sure how it would go, if I’d enjoy it all and if my legs would carry me that far haha. But having now completed it - the walk was a great challenge, didn’t seem as long as I thought it would and I really enjoyed the full day. Don’t get me wrong my legs where weary after about the 20 mile mark - but I felt a lot better than I expected. We completed the full route in a total time of 9 hours 40 minutes and having done so I now have a few bits of essential info to share that might be useful to you if your planning your own Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge. 

Yorkshire Three Peaks walk challenge questions route map photos height distance training Whernside Ingleborough Pen-Y-Ghent Ribblesdale Horton
Read on for the common Yorkshire 3 Peaks questions answered and my essential tips to help you plan well for your walk 

3 Peaks Yorkshire - common questions:

How long does it take to walk the 3 Peaks in Yorkshire?

The popular challenge is to walk the Yorkshire 3 Peaks in under 12 hours. Most experienced walkers with good fitness should be able to do it in 10-12 hours. When I did it we weren't walking exceptionally fast - just normal pace with maybe 4/5 10 min stops and it took us 9 hours and 40 minutes.

How far is the 3 Peaks in Yorkshire?

The Yorkshire Three Peaks is 25 miles on the best, most popular walking route, as shown on the map below.

Is the Yorkshire 3 Peaks hard?

The Yorkshire 3 Peaks is not to be taken lightly - you'll be walking a marathon distance for around 12 hours and the combined ascent is more than 1,800m, which is greater than Ben Nevis, the UK's tallest mountain at 1,345m.

Which of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks is the hardest?

Pen-Y-Ghent (694m) is the steepest peak if you walk it from the south and you'll need to use your hands and scramble (I found this the hardest). Whernside is the tallest at 736m but it seemed the easiest if you go up the more gentler path from the east and I'd say Ingleborough (723m) was the second toughest. It can be subjective though - and perhaps for many the hardest is the last peak they do :-)

Pen-Y-Ghent above is the smallest in height of the 3 Peaks - but the most challenging. It's best walked up on the steepest south side (pictured right above) and walk down the more gradual way.

Yorkshire Three Peaks - tips from my experience:

What direction should you walk the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

The best direction to walk the Yorkshire Three Peaks is in an anti-clockwise direction, no matter where you start from. The means you will go up each Peak the optimum way and come down a better route. On each peak we climbed I was pleased we went up & down the way we did. On Pen-Y-Ghent in particular I think it’s best to go up the steeper southern section and come down the more gradual way (otherwise you’ll be coming down on your bum a lot :-) Also Whernside & Ingleborough seems easier to walk to their summit if you go in the anti-clockwise route.

Here's the best Yorkshire Three Peaks walk map route IMO, which everyone can use no matter your starting point [You can click the image to enlarge/save or click the button below to view the interactive OS Map]. As mentioned I do recommend walking in an anti-clockwise direction, to tackle the peaks in the best direction to go up/down them and in my opinion Ribblehead Viaduct is the best place to start and park and then head up Whernside as the first Yorkshire 3 Peak.

If you don't have a Phone Map App - I really recommend the one by Ordnance Survey. You can download the Yorkshire Three Peaks map route featured in this page to your phone and the app will show you exactly where you are when walking the route even when you have no signal - so no taking a wrong turn :-)

Where should you start your Yorkshire Three Peaks walk?

The most popular place to start the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk is from Horton-in-Ribblesdale - this is because traditionally people would clock-in/out at the Pen-Y-Ghent cafe, which is sadly now closed [May 2022]. Most big charity group challenges also start from Horton-in-Ribblesdale. However I would recommend starting from near the Ribblehead Viaduct. There is plenty of free parking and it means you stay ahead of the Horton-in-Ribblesdale crowds if you do this walk on a weekend in the warmer months. If you walk the recommended anti-clockwise direction, you'll tackle Whernside first (tallest), then Ingleborough and then Pen-Y-Ghent last, with a nice flat-ish walk back of just over 7 miles. You’ve also got the option of getting the train from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Ribblehead if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew!

Ribblehead Viaduct car parking
There is plenty of free car parking spaces on the roadside around Ribblehead Viaduct - which makes for a good place to start the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk 

When is the best time to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

It’s a very popular walk and on most weekends in good weather in spring/summer/autumn there will be lots of people doing it. Unless you are in a big charity event then I’d suggest doing it when these events are not on if you want a bit more of a quieter walk. Mon-Fri is also a good time to do it. The walk can take up to 14 hours so you’ll want plenty of daylight hours too so the best months are mid April - mid Sept. 

How much water should you take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

In typical UK temps, 3-4 litres of water should get you through the walk. You don't need to carry the full amount of water you need though, as you can refill on route. The best and most welcome place to refill is at Philpin farm (Chapel-le-dale, after Whernside) - where they have a roofed barn to sit down and fill your bottles from their free drinking water tap. There's also a vending machine here for hot & cold drinks (and toilets). There's sometimes a mobile cafe at Ribblehead to buy drinks, and there's a pub near here (Station Inn). At Horton-in-Ribblesdale, which is quite a small, the Pen-Y-Ghent cafe is now sadly closed, but there's a small local post-office to buy refreshments (not open all the time as we found out) and a pub also which is your best bet. You'll also find public toilets here. On my 3 Peaks walk (cloudy day) I took 2 x 750ml water bottles which I refilled once at Philpin Farm and also a couple of small bottles of lucozade. Depending on the time of year you do the walk and what sounds most appealing as a summit treat, you might also want to take a flask of warm coffee or a chilled icey drink. It’s also a good idea to have a nice drink waiting for you in the car at the finish. 

What toilets are there en-route on the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

If your desperate for a toilet stop, you'll find the most accessible ones at Philpin Farm Barn (Chapel-le-dale, near Whernside) and public toilets in Horton-in-Ribblesdale. There's also the Station Inn Pub (Ribblehead) but it would be common courtesy to buy something while your there. 

Philpin Farm barn Yorkshire Three Peaks walk challenge questions route map photos height distance training Whernside Ingleborough Pen-Y-Ghent Ribblesdale Horton
Philpin farm barn - one of the most essential stops on route and where topping up water is easiest and there's also toilets here. This is probably the place which is most welcoming for Yorkshire Three Peaks walkers and is guaranteed to be open no matter what.

Philpin Farm Barn water
As you can see Philpin Barn is rustic - but a much welcome stop on the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk. Here you will find a drinking tap for water bottle filling (pictured inset near the door), toilets and a vending machine selling snacks & hot drinks (taking card payments). If the weather is not the best it's also a great place to take shelter.  

What food should you take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

I'd recommend taking all your food with you. There are places you could buy food from (same places where you could refill your water) but don't rely on them. Your food is your fuel for the day, so high-carbs is the name of the game. Have a high-carb tea the night before (eg.pasta), a good breakfast (porridge etc). Also use the travel time to the start of the walk to get some good energy onboard. To take on demanding walks I personally like peanut-butter bagels, bananas, sandwiches, cereal bars, jaffa cakes, nuts, chocolate bars as a treat, and it's also a good idea to take a bag of sweets (jelly babies, fruit pastilles etc) for mini-treats and instant energy at the bottom of each peak, as well as energy gels etc.   

What footwear should you wear on the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

First and foremost wear footwear that you have walked in before over many miles and are broken in. The Yorkshire Three Peaks is not a walk to try out brand new footwear (or footwear you’ve only used a couple of times) or you will end up with blisters which will make your walk much more difficult and painful. It can be done in Trail running type shoes as the path is well marked most of the walk and either gravel or stone slabs. Waterproof footwear is a must though if rain is forecast. One of my best tips: Take 1 or 2 extra pairs of socks and change them on or just after each peak. Your feet will sweat on this long walk, making your socks damp and moisture makes blisters more likely to form - so try and keep your feet dry. Even give your feet a bit of fresh air when you stop if the weather is good. One of our group had only done a couple of walks in their new footwear and ended up with the worst blisters I had seen - he some hoe powered on though. Someone else in our group forgot their walking boots lol - but managed it in trainers (which weren’t in the best of states by the end of it :-)

What clothes shall I take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

You'll want to walk in specialist walking t-shirts that dry quickly (not cotton), and depending on the temperatures you'll wear walking trousers or shorts. If rain is forecast then take your waterproofs and take an extra layer for the summits as it's often blowy and much cooler up on the summits when you stop. A cap will help keep the sun off (if warm) and a beanie will keep your head warm if temperatures are at the low end. Gloves may also come in useful depending on time of the year - mine did on the summits in May!

Other recommended items to take when doing the the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

  • Walking poles may come in handy for the summit descents, especially if your knee's aren't what they used to be! 
  • Plasters might come in handy as blisters are a common occurrence over 25 miles of walking.
  • Take a head-torch if you are doing this walk at the time of year when days are shorter -  just incase it takes longer than you think or there’s any injuries or sudden mobility issues. 
  • You'll be on the walk for 10-14 hours - and a phone battery power bank might help keep your phone in use (important if you are using your phone for directions - bare in mind the signal is poor or non-existent on a lot of the walk)
  • Route Maps - to keep you on the right track - make sure you have the Yorkshire 3 Peaks route downloaded to your smart watch or phone (to work without phone/internet signal as you won't get signal on much of this route) Also take a paper map as a back up as you never know! The paths are pretty clear though.

How much training should you do for the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

This walk is only for reasonably fit, experienced walkers. You'll want to get some miles on your feet before you do it, so make sure you get a few long walks under your belt before (at least 10 miles) and some with steep hills in them. The max distance some in our group done before the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge though was a 15 mile walk, and my personal training plan, well didn't go to plan. I done a few steeper walks in the Lake District mountains, but didn't have the time to get any walks in over 10 miles. I do run though on a regular basis so a few 5k weekly runs kept my fitness levels up and I used the gym to try and get my leg muscles prepped. I'd say the key is to get your fitness up, not necessarily by doing long flat easy walks - but anything that gets you out of breath, improves your cardio fitness and gets them leg muscles in good shape and ready for the ascents and descents. So think steep shorter walks, running, spinning classes and the gym for leg conditioning. If you can walk 15 miles, the buzz of the day will carry you through the extra 10 miles. 

Yorkshire Three Peaks - photos of our walk [May 13th 2022]

So now you know a bit more about the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge based on my experience and here's some photos of our little rabbles experience. We done the full walk in 9 hours & 40 minutes (inc stops) so not too bad eh!

Here is our gang - all 10 of us and some carrying a bit of extra weight (and I'm not talking about the bags haha)

Yorkshire Three Peaks - our walk overview:

Yorkshire Three Peaks Walk Distance: 25 miles

Yorkshire Three Peaks Walk Time: 9 hours 40 minutes

Yorkshire Three Peaks Difficulty: Hard! 

Ribblehead to Whernside - Yorkshire Three Peaks route: 

Ribblehead Viaduct
The date of our Yorkshire Three Peaks walking challenge was Friday 13th May. Not the best omen haha - and as you can see the weather was pretty rubbish at the start at Ribblehead Viaduct with fine drizzle. Fortunately it wasn't tanking down with rain, but very windy and poor visibility. We started at 8am and the forecast was to dry out later so that was enough to keep spirits up knowing we weren't in for a full day of rain and wind on this 25 mile walk.

Although Whernside was our first peak to walk too (and the highest) we felt the ascent from the east was pretty easy going, with clear footpaths and not very steep on the way up. This is one of the reasons I recommend doing the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk in an anti-clockwise direction. It's just a shame the visibility was bad.

Stunning views from Whernside summit lol - the first of our Yorkshire Three Peaks. It was very windy on our walk - gales at times and the dry stone walls did give us useful shelter to have a snack and refuel.

Whernside to Ingleborough - Yorkshire Three Peaks route: 

Yorkshire Three Peaks walk challenge questions route map photos height distance training Whernside Ingleborough Pen-Y-Ghent Ribblesdale Horton
Heading back down from Whernside, with the next Yorkshire Three Peak of Ingleborough in the far distance and again covered in cloud. We did find the going between each of the Peaks relatively flat once you are at the base of the Peaks.

Yorkshire Three Peaks walk challenge questions route map photos height distance training Whernside Ingleborough Pen-Y-Ghent Ribblesdale Horton
Looking back up at Whernside, the summit now with good visbility - typical eh! It was quite steep coming down from Whernside - and we did pass people going up this way, and I'm glad we went up and down the way we did.

The route inbetween Whernside and Ingelborough goes by Philpin Farm and their Barn is the best place on the entire route to fill water bottles from their tap, use the toilet and you can also get snacks & a hot-drink from the vending machine. It's very welcoming towards Yorkshire Three Peak walkers and there isn't many places to stop on the entire route so make the most of this place :-)

One Yorkshire Peak down and now onto the next one!

Yorkshire Three Peaks walk challenge questions route map photos height distance training Whernside Ingleborough Pen-Y-Ghent Ribblesdale Horton
We now make our way to Ingleborough and the going is flat for a while to get warmed up again after our stop. The path up to Ingleborough heads to the left of the main summit towards the far left of this pic and you then take a sharp right at the top of the dip towards the higher summit plateau.

Yorkshire Three Peaks walk challenge questions route map photos height distance training Whernside Ingleborough Pen-Y-Ghent Ribblesdale Horton
Approaching the 2nd Yorkshire Three Peak of Ingleborough. Before the walk I did wonder about the paths and what they would be like, and I did read some places where boggy. Maybe there's been work on the paths throughout the entire route but all paths where well marked and at no point did we go through boggy places on this route, and on the occasion the ground was a bit soft - either wooden walkways or gravel path had been laid.

The ascent of Ingleborough - this section zig zags up as it's quite steep - so you'll probs want to take a few stops to "admire the views"

The summit top of Ingelborough is quite expansive and very open to the elements. What this photo doesn't show is the very windy conditions which was right in our faces.   

The summit of Ingelborough and our 2nd of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. It's very open and exposed up here so can be windy. There is a little stone wall shelter for maybe 20 people, but if it's busy and windy you might just have to bag the summit and take a rest on the descent. 

Ingleborough to Pen-y-Ghent  - Yorkshire Three Peaks route: 

Yorkshire Three Peaks walk challenge questions route map photos height distance training Whernside Ingleborough Pen-Y-Ghent Ribblesdale Horton
Onwards we walk to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, with Pen-Y-Ghent in the far distance 

As you can see the footpaths are well maintained and clear and at times it's like walking on the pavement and you feel like your cheating - but you’ll be glad of it to make the 25 miles walk a bit more easy going 

There's quite a few signs about to keep you on track - as pointed out here by Mossy

The distinctive summit of Pen-Y-Ghent is straight ahead and visible all the way from Ingleborough 

The walk leads us next to Horton-in-Ribblesdale

Horton-in-Ribblesdale is where many start the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk from, and I hadn't been before, To be honest I expected it to be a bigger village than it is and more facilities for the Yorkshire Three Peak walkers (I'd imagine on special charity events there are more temporary facilities here?). You'll find public toilets here, but nothing much else. The famed Pen-Y-Ghent cafe is closed [May 2022], there is a small shop/post-office (but this was also closed on the Friday we where there so I wouldn't rely on it). The best place to refuel or grab a drink would be the local pub.

Onwards to Pen-Y-Ghent- the third and final of our Yorkshire Three Peaks. We'll walk up the steep section (pictured right) and descend the more gradual route on the left.

This route up to the summit of Pen-Y-Ghent is the steepest section on the entire Yorkshire Three Peaks route

You'll need to scramble in sections and use your hands. If you don't like steep and exposed walks you may want to modify the route and ascend and descend up the more gradual northern Pen-Y-Ghent path. Although my leg muscles where pretty shot after this steep section - it was a good challenge and we got to the summit in no time

The Pen-Y-Ghent summit - we could actually see from the top of our third and final Yorkshire Three Peaks summit haha. There is a stone shelter and wall up here and it's a good place to stop, refuel and be happy there's no more uphill sections :-) 

Pen-y-Ghent to Ribblehead - Yorkshire Three Peaks route: 

The descent of Pen-Y-Ghent is much more gradual this way and we've got about 7 miles left to go that is pretty easy going. Strangely enough just after summiting Pen-Y-Ghent that’s when I had my little dip in energy - I think I got complacent and thought I’d completed it on the 3rd Peak summit - then realised there was still a bit of distance and graft to do in the leg muscles on the descent! Once down to base level I got my mo-jo back lol

Looking back at Pen-Y-Ghent on this Yorkshire Three Peaks walking challenge

The going back to Ribblehead is pretty flat, just as well as the legs are now tired! One member of the group got cramp about here.  The summit of Whernside is just visible in the far distance here and you realise there is still a bit of distance to go, but the group banter & chat helps keep spirits up and pass the time. I think doing this walk on your own would be much more of a challenge mentally and I’m def glad there was a few of us doing it

The last section of this route is on the roadside for about 30 mins and spirits are high that we have nearly completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks walking challenge. 

Boom! What a sight for sore eyes! The Ribblehead viaduct - which means we have done it. We completed The Yorkshire Three Peaks walking challenge in 9 hours and 40 minutes. Much better than we hoped tbh. We aimed for under 12 hours - and thought at best we'd do it in 11 or 10.5 hours, so we smashed it. For anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and if you don't stop for too long at various points  I think 11 hours is very achievable.

And there you are. I hope this blog post has helped in shedding some light on the Yorkshire Three Peaks walking challenge. It was a great unknown to us before we did it, and whilst there are websites out there with information, we still had a few questions and weren't exactly sure what to expect on the route. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who is into walking and wants a good challenge. It got us lot fitter in training for it and it's one of the best days walking we've had. After the walk we all stayed the night in Hawes which is a 10 min drive away and has a few pubs for food & drink - so makes for a good place to stay, have a few beers and a laugh and take the strain off the legs. My legs where certainly stiff after the pub and the next day, but within a couple of days we where already planning the next walking challenge..  

Happy Hiking!

Post by Stuart Hodgson 
'The Hiking Photographer'

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