Challenging Off-Road Mountain Bike Routes

Challenging Off-Road Rides – Know your cycling level

See also: Easy & Moderate.

Are you an expert mountain bike rider used to physically demanding routes with long uphills and fast descents? Do you want to tackle technical routes that are tougher, rougher and steeper than you may have ridden before? The southern Lake District has some of the best off-road routes in the UK – guaranteed to test your skills, fitness and endurance. No need to suggest what to wear as you already have everything you need!

Suggested bikes: Mondraker Foxy Full SuspensionTrek Mountain E-Bike Powerfly 625 Gen 4Mondraker CraftyMondraker Mountain E-Bikes.

Blawith, Torver, Banishead Quarry, Coniston, Tilberthwaite, The Langdales, Hodge Close, Tarn Hows, Grizedale Forest, Parkamoor

A spectacular route that circumnavigates Coniston Water with stunning views over the low fells and on to the towering Langdales, returning via the beautiful Tarn Hows, Grizedale Forest and wonderful Parkamoor. In the words of Lou Reed – ‘Just a perfect day’! Approximate distance between 25 and 30 miles.

On leaving Lowick there is a quick 2 mile warm up on the road before turning on to a narrow Lakeland lane heading to Blawith Knott and Woodland Fell. Dropping down into the Woodland Valley and on into Torver, take the Tranearth Bridleway onto Torver Common passing the deep disused Banishead quarry and waterfall. Onwards and upwards until you meet the Walna Scar Road, which winds its way downhill into Coniston Village from where a gravel cycle path follows the road leading to Tilberthwaite. Cycling through long abandoned slate mines, the track leads uphill towards the mighty Langdales which loom ahead. Ride downhill heading towards Hodge Close, then cross country to Tarn Hows before uphill again and into Grizedale Forest. Keeping high on the forest roads leads you to a singletrack which exits the forest onto Parkamoor. This undulating track with phenomenal views leads to a gnarly descent into Nibthwaite from where you can now relax on the two mile flat road back to Lowick where a quick pint in the Red Lion awaits.

Nibthwaite, Parkamoor, Grizedale Forest, Claife Heights and return via Ickenthwaite

Challenging climbs, undulating moor tops, singletrack, Grizedale North Face trail, awesome views. Approximate distance 25-30 miles.

In 2020 only 3 riders leaving Lowick managed to climb up from Nibthwaite onto Parkamoor, without stopping, so this is a real challenge after a short two mile warm up on the road. This gnarly track with steep sections is your first test and once on the crest of Parkamoor, you are rewarded with spectacular, iconic views over Coniston Water, Crinkle Craggs and The Old Man of Coniston.

Enter Grizedale Forest straight onto a singletrack which leads into the heart of the forest with its wide variety of tracks and trails. Spend as much time as you want in the forest. Try the North Face Trail combining specially made singletrack sections, boardwalks, forest tracks and slippery narrow twisting sections. Eventually bob out of the forest close to Esthwaite Water before heading to Claife Heights, nestling invitingly between Esthwaite Water and Lake Windermere. Maybe head to Hawkshead for a ‘coffee and cake stop’?  Leave the centre of Hawkshead and up into the forest for a cheeky climb before heading south and eventually arriving at the small hamlet of Ickenthwaite. Follow the open fells with superb views before a final steep fast descent into Nibthwaite to shake the crap off your bikes.  This route offers everything that the off-road rider wants in a great day out, and its distance can be altered to suit conditions on the day.

Woodland Fell, Torver, Seathwaite, Dunnerdale, Walna Scar Road, Coniston

This is a route for experienced mountain bikers and involves crossing high mountain country with difficult technical climbs and storming descents. Expect to shoulder your bike at times but it is well worth it to nail one of the classic Lakeland Passes. This is best ridden clockwise to descend down the Walna Scar Road into Coniston. Approximate distance 25 to 30 miles.

Ready for this challenge? There is a quiet stretch on the road leaving Lowick as the route heads north to Blawith, before it ventures onto Woodland Fell with its wide, open spaces. Continue on to Torver, climbing the ‘steepy’ of Hummer Lane before venturing into Broughton Moor Forest. Follow the contours to arrive at Park Head Road in the lovely Dunnerdale, an area with very few tourists. This track leads to Seathwaite, (maybe grab a bite to eat at the Newfield Inn) before arriving at the base of Walna Scar Road. Climb this grass covered track to the summit and now the fun begins. It is downhill all the way to Coniston on this technical ‘road’. Once a pack horse route linking the two valleys, it has been severely eroded and the descent is steep, rocky and loose. Today, not even a four wheel drive tractor can climb up here – get the idea?  The descent has at least one 4 ft drop off and expect the unexpected as tourists and Herwick sheep roam free on this track.

There is a choice here in Coniston, either to ride back on the quiet east side of the Lake or to have one more off-road adventure? After the climb at the head of the lake a singletrack takes you on a relaxing climb to Lawson Park followed by a fast gravel descent back to the road and to Lowick. You survived!  Ready for a beer now in Spark Bridge at the Royal Oak.

Always check the weather forecast before venturing on this route as the climate on the pass top can be severe.