Beyond the Yorkshire 3 Peaks

June 28, 2024

Close to 100,000 people hike the Yorkshire 3 Peaks each year. It is immensely popular, maybe the most popular challenge walk in Britain. The satisfaction of completing the full circuit is immense and for anyone living nearby it is surely a rite of passage. However the Yorkshire 3 Peaks is just one of a number of excellent challenges in the area.

As a mountain guide I have spent many years taking groups on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. I have stopped doing so now. I have done it too many times and frankly now find it tedious and hard work. Most of the route is paved, it is often over crowded and the views (good as they are) have become too familiar. As a guide it is a little bit of a fraud, it is almost impossible to get lost and he/she is only there to provide encouragement.

Queues on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. Quieter challenges below
Queues on the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. Quieter challenges below

As a guide I want to take walkers to places they would not normally go to. The Yorkshire 3 Peaks is not that. However there are many other challenges in the Dales which may be unfamiliar to the irregular walker. These are walks which are full of interest, ones that are away from the crowds and as a guide I can add to the experience with my local knowledge.

I have listed 5 alternative challenges which will bring about a much greater understanding of the Dales, much greater interest whilst doing them and just as satisfying on completion. All can be completed with or without a guide.

1. Wharfedale 3 Peaks

Hag Dyke hut on Great Whernside
Hag Dyke hut on Great Whernside

The Wharfedale 3 Peaks is the most comparable challenge to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.

Starting at Kettlewell this is an 18.5 mile (30km) hike over Great Whernside, Buckden Pike and Birks Fell, a combined climb of 4,000 ft (1200m). It is a little shorter than the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge but many see it as harder due to the mixed terrain including some intermittent paths in wet, sometimes boggy land.

I find the route very enjoyable, the views in Upper Wharfedale are some of the best in the Dales. The uphill and downhill sections never seem too bad on this walk, the high ridges broad and easy. The biggest challenge is the peaty ground particularly on the long southern slopes of Buckden Pike coupled with the endless ridge of Birks, compounded by the extra 2 miles to find its true summit!

The Wharfedale 3 Peaks can be done with a guide or without (bear in mind the route can be confusing in low cloud with no obvious path to follow).

2. The ‘Dales 30’ Mountains

Great Knoutberry summit
Great Knoutberry summit

Likened to the Wainwrights and Munros the ‘Dales 30‘ these are the 30 mountains (a mountain being over 2,000 feet high) across the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They can be done one a day, doubled up or even three in a day, a genuine multi day challenge. Some are harder than others. The mountains are spread across the Dales so completing the mountains will bring you to different parts of the area, towns such as Kirkby Stephen, Sedbergh and Hawes which you may not normally visit. Its part of the pleasure of the ‘Dales 30’.

The mountains all have their own character. Personally I enjoy walking the Howgills more than most, the fells circling Mallerstang offer a real wilderness experience whilst a hike over Great Knoutberry Hill is a fascinating historical experience.

You will find details of the ‘Dales 30’ here, you can buy the Official Guide Book here and if you want to join one of our guided ‘Dales 30 Weekenders’ just continue reading below.

3. ‘3 Peaks in 3 Days’

Hull Pot on Pen-y-Ghent
Hull Pot on Pen-y-Ghent

Rather than take the one day Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge pick them off one at a time in our own ‘3 Peaks in 3 Days‘ challenge. Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside are climbed over 3 days, they are climbed by the best routes (not those on the 1 day challenge) and include ‘extras’ to make the day so much more fun. Hull Pot, the 3 Tarns of Whernside and the best limestone pavements in England are all part of the ‘3 Peaks in 3 Days’ experience.

We run the ‘3 Peaks in 3 Days’ Guided Holiday a few times each year. However it is perfectly possible to organize it yourself, just make sure you plan your routes carefully and look for the most interesting not the most popular ones.

4. ‘Dales 30’ Weekenders

Great Shunner Fell on the Hawes Weekender
Great Shunner Fell on the Hawes Weekender

Returning to the ‘Dales 30’ mountains one of the best ways to enjoy them is through a series of weekend breaks. A weekend break in a nice pub with a walk planned on Saturday and Sunday is one of the finest ways to spend a weekend in Britain. The Dales pubs and villages are full of character and an excellent retreat after a day on the hills. Planning how to fit the 30 mountains in to weekends is also an interesting way to wile away a few hours.

If you do not have the confidence to tackle the mountains without a guide then look at our ‘Dales 30 Weekenders’ which include a guide. The ‘Dales 30 Weekenders’ where we look after and guide a group of roughly 8 to 10 like minded walkers are some of my favourite times in the mountains. Great fun both on the mountains and in the pub after.

Long Distance Walks

For those who have not done a Long Distance Walk before, they are a good way to immerse yourself in to an area. There is a satisfaction (deep in our nature) to move from place to place…taking a journey through the countryside. It is essential to pre book your accommodation and preferable to have your bags moved daily, the idea of carrying a tent on your back and pitching it where you want is a rarity these days.

Rarely visited Whernside 3 Tarns
Rarely visited Whernside 3 Tarns on the Bracken Way

We can organize your Walking Holidays for you.

Here are some of the best long distance walks in the Yorkshire Dales.

Bracken Way

95 miles over 7 Days and in my opinion simply the finest way to enjoy the Yorkshire Dales. An excellent circular walk over hills, down dales and through the best of the Dales.

Dales Highway

90 miles over 6 days. Running close to the Settle Carlisle Railway the Dales Highway from Ilkley to Appleby visits many of the best mountains and upland areas.

Lady Anne’s Way

 Lammerside Castle on Lady Anne's Way
Lammerside Castle on Lady Anne’s Way

A 100 mile route from Skipton to Penrith inspired by the incomparable Lady Anne Clifford who owned castles and land in the 18th century. Highly enjoyable.

The Pennine Journey

A 247 mile walk to and from Settle and travelling north to include Hadrian’s Wall. Its tough, usually done in 3 or 4 sections and visiting many remote areas. I’ve not done it but sounds excellent!

Dales Way

An 81 mile walk through the heart of the Dales ending in Windermere. It is the most popular walk, relatively straightforward, well signposted and a good first long distance trail.

All of these challenges (1 to 5) provide alternatives to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. Once you have completed it once (which everyone who can…should) start looking for alternatives. Many will not need a specific goal, just enjoying walking in the Dales is enough, but others need a challenge (or goal) to entice them out. The above suggestions will hopefully help.

I wrote a blog a year ago about some of the groups I have taken out in a 2 week period and the variety of challenges they were on. Have a read.

Enjoy your Walking


  • Duncan Bicknell says:

    Can I join your group, if you are a group or is this an information website ??

    • Jonathan says:

      This is an information website but feel free to join our guided walks and navigation course in the Dales

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