Helvellyn or Scafell Pike walk? Two mighty mountains in the beautiful Lake District National Park but if you only have time to pick one which do you choose to hike?
I’ve walked up both recently, Scafell Pike last year on my UK National Park Challenge and Helvellyn a few months ago (as well as back in 2012). Both hikes to the summits are equally awesome but to help you make your decision here’s my lowdown on facts, figures and fun for these two Lake District beauties!
Here you can decide which walk is best for you, including which routes you can take up to the summit of Helvellyn and Scafell Pike.
Where are the mountains located in the UK?
Both Helvellyn and Scafell Pike are in the gorgeous Lake District National Park in the northwest of England in Cumbria.
Scafell Pike is located in the southwestern area of the Lake District, at grid reference OS Grid Ref: NY 21545 07216. The closest towns are Borrowdale north of Scafell Pike where you can start one of the walks from and Ravenglass towards the southwest of the Lake District.
Helvellyn is further north in the Lake District, at grid reference NY 34257 15104. Patterdale and Glenridding are the closest towns to the east and Wythburn to the west. From Helvellyn summit, you have views to the east of Ullswater and to the west Thirlmere Reservoir (on a clear day of course!)
Which OS map do you need?
Scafell Pike – OS Explorer OL6 – The English Lakes (South-western area)
Helvellyn – OS Explorer OL5 – The English Lakes (North-eastern area)
- You can also use Ordnance Survey online to plot and save your routes
Which mountain is highest Helvellyn or Scafell Pike?
For those of you that didn’t know Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England. A towering 978 m/ 3,281 ft it also makes up the ultimate UK hiking challenge, the National Three Peaks. Hiking Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in 24 hours!
But Helvellyn mountain is not far behind at 950 m/ 3,117 ft which makes it the third highest mountain in England.
Of course, height comes with awesome views of the Lake District and on a clear day, you’re treated to 360-degree views for miles.
- Scafell Pike – 978 m/ 3,281 ft
- Helvellyn – 950 m/ 3,117 ft
The official public vote – which mountain is best?
In 2018, the British public voted on their top 100 best hikes in the UK. It was an epic list with some gorgeous walks all around the UK, showcasing the best places to go hiking. Both mountains finished in the top 10 of epic walks, but which one came top?
Drum roll please…. in fifth place was Scafell Pike and the top spot for the best hike in the UK went to Helvellyn and hiking along Striding Edge.
These were the top 10 hikes voted by the public:
- Helvellyn walk, Lake District
- Snowdon, Snowdonia
- Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales
- Catbells, Lake District
- Scafell Pike hike, Lake District
- Tryfan, Snowdonia
- Buttermere, Lake District
- Coniston, Lake District
- Dunstanburgh, Northumberland
- Mam Tor, Peak District
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How many routes are there up each mountain?
Helvellyn walk routes
Helvellyn has several different routes up to Helvellyn summit. The most popular (and more challenging) options are from Glenridding and Patterdale on the east and Wythburn and Thirlmere to the west.
Starting from Glenridding car park you have three routes, one that takes you up via Swirral Edge, one over the famous Striding Edge (or you can do both as a circular route) and there’s the longer Pony Pass. Patterdale is a few miles down the road and takes you up the longest route.
On the west side of Helvellyn, there are the two shortest routes up to the summit, from Wythburn or Thirlmere.
Helvellyn hike routes
- Glenridding via Catstye Cam, Swirral Edge and down Striding Edge – 7.2 miles
- Glenridding via Pony Pass (up and down the same route) – 12 miles (To shorten you can descend via Swirral Edge or Striding Edge)
- Patterdale via Grisedale Tarn and Dollywagon Pike (walk up and down the same route) – 13.6 miles (To shorten you can descend via Swirral Edge or Striding Edge)
- Wythburn (up and down the same route) – 4.6 miles
- Thirlmere (up and down the same route) – 4.5 miles
Scafell pike walk routes
Scafell Pike has three main routes – Corridor route, Hollowstones route or Mickledore route.
Wasdale Head, (parking at NY 182 075) there are two options, via the Corridor route or the Hollowstones route. I opted for ascending up the Corridor route and then back down via Hollowstones. A circular route, that although makes the hike a little longer but gives you more variety on your walk.
Scafell Pike hike routes
- Wasdale Head via Hollowstones (up and down the same route) – 5.5 miles
- Wasdale Head via Corridor and Hollowstones (up and down different routes) – 7.1 miles
- Wasdale Head via Mickledore and Hollowstones (up and down different routes) – 5.5 miles (Steeper, more challenging walk)
Borrowdale, which is further north of Scafell Pike, park at Seathwaite (parking at NY 236 123) and go up via the Corridor route.
- Borrowdale via Corridor route (up and down the same route) – 8.2 miles
- Borrowdale via Corridor route and Great Gable (up and down different route) – 9 miles
I opted for a circular route up to Scafell Pike summit, from Wasdale Head, via the Corridor route and back on the Hollowstones path.
I stayed at nearby Boot at Eskdale campsite, which is 12 miles/ 40 minutes drive from Wasdale Head. You can read my review here of the camping pods that I stayed in at the campsite.
Which hike is more difficult?
There are many routes for hiking both mountains, some more challenging and some easier and therefore more popular especially at weekends.
Both have easier and more difficult routes so even if you’re a novice hiker then you can still take on these amazing hikes.
If I were to pick the hardest route up out of the two mountains it would easily be hiking along Striding Edge up (or down) from Helvellyn. This jagged edge takes both skill and nerve to safely navigate across this route. Sadly, there have been accidents and even deaths along this section so take it slow and steady. Plus if you’re not confident then drop down to the lower path on the left (as you are hiking down from the summit).
- Top tip – check the weather before your hike. In strong winds, it’s better to take an alternative route down Helvellyn.
Long distance hikes/ Challenges (including Scafell Pike or Helvellyn)
A challenge that includes both Helvellyn and Scafell Pike is completing the Wainwrights. These are 214 fells in the Lake District which are described in Alfred Wainwright’s books. Many people strive to complete these hikes over a number of years, although some hikers hike them quicker.
Back in 2012, I completed the challenging long distance hike, from St Bees on the west coast of the UK to Robin’s Hood Bay, known as the Coast to Coast trail. It’s 192 miles/ 309 km across three of the UK’s beautiful National Parks.
The first national park is the Lake District and on day 3 or 4 of your hike, you’ll encounter the mighty Helvellyn and Striding Edge. You do have the option to do a detour and miss Helvellyn but I’d highly recommend including it in your hike, it’s an awesome experience.
Being the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike makes up the awesome UK National Challenge, hiking the three highest summits in the UK in 24 hours. Starting with Ben Nevis in Scotland, next is Scafell Pike and finally Snowdon summit in Wales.
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Are you trying to decide whether to hike Helvellyn walk or Scafell Pike walk in the Lake District? Unsure which hike to do or maybe which route is best for you? Ask me any questions in the comments
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