Located in the northwest of England, Manchester is a city that rivals London on many levels like nightlife, commerce, and culture. For example, have you seen Old Trafford, a must-see Manchester spot? But what if you want to take a break from city life, get out of the Manchester city center, and go for a walk in the great outdoors? Where can you go for some fresh air?
There are some truly great hill and mountain areas to go for a walk or hike, like the beautiful estate Lyme Park (owned by the National Trust), Macclesfield Forest, Pennine Hills, and many others. The great thing about these walks is that you don’t have to travel too far to get to them.
Most of the walks and hikes will be found in Peak District National Park which has over 150 walking trails of all levels. Whether you are looking for a leisurely stroll or some serious rock climbing you will find it all here. A key thing to remember is that there are a lot of bogs and muddy areas and we recommend that you wear appropriate clothing.
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Our Top Hiking Trail Picks In Manchester
Tegg's Nose Country Park
At only 2.5 miles, Tegg’s Nose is not a long hike. But it is one that will test your cardio if you are not much of a hiker. Located in the Cheshire Peak District the trek provides incredible views of the Cheshire plain from the 1245 ft summit. On a clear day, you can see the Welsh hills and the cathedrals of Liverpool.
The park also provides a host of other activities such as rock climbing, horseback riding, and in wintertime kids will love to go sledding. You will even find burial chambers that date back to the Bronze Age and quarries from the 16th century.
At just over 4 miles in length, this walk is good for almost everyone. Although not steep the uphill climb will take you to the highest point in the West Pennines Moors. You can also turn it into an 8 mile, either will provide you with plenty of sights along the way, like the old mill village of Barrow Bridge.
Choosing the 8-mile walk will take you through the more rugged moorland, so you will need to have proper footwear. Once reaching the TV tower at the top of the 1500 summit, you will enjoy stunning views of the Blackpool Tower, Lake District mountains, and the Jodrell Bank Observatory.
South Pennine Water Trail
The 5-mile circular route has a little something for everyone. The starting section is an easy flat walk through Ealees Valley and the Rochdale Canal pathway but then becomes a little more of a workout as it turns uphill. At the peak, you can soak in the view of Littleborough, Rochdale, and the surrounding valley.
If you are not in a rush then this is the hike to do, with little side treks to the picturesque Clegg Hall and maybe relax at Hollingworth Lake for a bit. There are quaint little shops to check out or maybe pop into one of the local pubs for a break. The trail can be broken up into shorter sections if you don’t want to head up to the top, but you will be missing out on the view.
Holcombe Hill & Bull Hill Loop
The West Pennine Moors are often overlooked as hiking spots, which can make it a perfect place for a quiet walk. This easy to moderate walk is a gradual uphill climb from the top of Harcles Hill to the old Peel Tower. At just under 5.5 miles, this hike will get you the exercise you are looking for with views that will make you catch your breath.
The walk is mainly on cobbled streets but you can take a few side trails to add some difficulty. The trail is also dog friendly, but they do have to stay on the leash. After this fantastic break from the hustle and bustle, head back into the city to look for tasty Manchester street food.
Pendle Hill Walk
This is less of a walk and more like a hike. The hike is rated moderate but leans more to an advanced one as you need to be in pretty good shape. It takes around two and a half hours to complete unless you make numerous stops, which is not a bad idea. The surrounding countryside is spectacular and from the top, you can even see Blackpool Tower (on a clear day).
This area in the Hope Valley was the site of the famous Pendle Witches Trials where, in 1612, twelve people were hanged for witchcraft. The dark and gloomy history aside, it is a beautiful untamed area of England.
There are quite a few walks and hikes to choose from that range from easy to advanced. All the hikes will give you great views, but there are two that need special mention.
The Dovestone Reservoir Circuit is the main one and is approximately 3 miles long around the reservoir. This relaxing and tranquil walk in Saddleworth Moors is great for beginners with its smooth level surface. It is perfect if you want to walk with a stroller and it is also wheelchair accessible. There is a trail that can extend the walk to 5 miles but it is not quite as stroller and wheelchair-friendly.
The Trinnacle Dovestones Circular is for those of advanced levels. It starts off easy enough but when you reach the Greenfield Waterfall it becomes a steep climb and muddy at times. At the top, you will see the grand Trinnacle, a climbable rock formation, but take caution as there is a dangerously steep cliff drop-off.
Following the trail back down is easier as it passes by the waterfall, and you can do this hike in reverse as well. When you reach the top you will have stunning views of Manchester and Oldham. All the hikes start and finish at the car park off Holmfirth Road.
Starting at Wildboarclough in the Macclesfield forest, the 7-mile moderate walk will take you on a little adventure through several different environments. As you traverse the up and downhill you will cross green fields through the Ridgegate and Trentabank Reservoirs spotting a variety of wildlife.
Shutlingsloe, as known as the Matterhorn of Cheshire, will give a nice challenging 3 - 4 hour workout that rewards you with outstanding views of the surrounding countryside.
Whaley Bridge to Taxal in Goyt Valley
Most of the walks in the Goyt Valley are moderate to easy and if you are looking for an easy one, they don’t get easier than this one. Rated as a very easy walk, this light 3-mile stroll is a great way to take in the country air as you meander past the church at Taxal.
Once past the Church, the path leads back to the start along the peaceful Goyt riverbank. If you want to extend your walk, continue on to Fernilee Reservoir and still further to Errwood Reservoir.
Macclesfield and Lyme Park Circular
Like most of the areas around Manchester, Macclesfield has a lot of walking trails to choose from. There is the easiest one, the quarter-mile Macclesfield Forest walk, which is an easy loop around the Trantabank Reservoir. A simple walk for beginners with a good chance to see wildlife like red deer.
Or step it up to the 4.5-mile walk of the Macclesfield Canal and Lyme Park Circular. With some steep steps and one hill to conquer it will definitely get your heart rate up. It can be pretty muddy after rain, so make sure you wear appropriate footwear.
Mam Tor Circular Walk
This is a walk that all the family can enjoy. A little over 2.5 miles the paved route leads you on a short walk up to the top where you will enjoy spectacular views of Edale Valley, Kinder Scout, and Derwent Waters.
There are two other trails, Castleton to Mam Tor and Hope To Mam Tor, although they are both family-friendly they are much longer - 6.5 and 9 miles respectively. The Mam Tor Circular Walk is one of the most popular ridge walks, so it is best to get there early in the morning.
Located near Bolton, the 3-mile walk is a fairly steep trail that passes waterfalls, terraced gardens, and Pigeon Tower, before you reach Pike Tower at the top. Once there you will get a wonderful view of Winter Hill and Lever Park, and if it is sunny you can see all the way to the Isle of Man.
If you still have the energy (and time) you can extend the walk to the Rivington Reservoir and Winter Hill. It is a rewarding walk but you need to have the legs for it.
Kinder Scout Walk
The mountain plateau of Kinder Scout is one of the more challenging trails on this list. Reaching the highest point in the Peak District gives it gives one of the most scenic views in the entire region. The route goes past the beautiful Kinder Downfall, the tallest waterfall in Peak District Nation Park.
As challenging as the trail is, it is well worth the effort, as from the summit you can see as far as Snowdonia in North Wales. The trail distance is between 8 and 10 miles, depending on the route you take, and will take around 5 hours to complete.
Worsley Village Circular
Not your typical walk in the country, this history-filled 3-mile circular walk takes you through the village along the canal. And fairly level and paved walking surface makes it not only a historian's delight but a good walk for families, strollers, and wheelchairs.
Walking through the quaint village it is hard to believe this site helped set off the Industrial Revolution. It was also the start of the transport revolution, linking local coal mines to the Manchester city center.
Easy Hikes in Manchester
For other easy hikes in Manchester try these ones, they are great for beginners.
Livingston Park Loop is just over a mile in distance and has very few changes in elevation, a gravel path, and dogs on leashes are allowed. Just on the outskirts of Manchester is Tower Hill Pond Loop, a 4-mile old road grade trail that is fairly flat with nice views.
Intermediate Hikes in Manchester
If you want to push yourself a little bit but don't want a long drive, try these moderate hikes just outside of Manchester.
Just south of Manchester is the Musquash Loop Hiking Trail, a good 6.5-mile workout that takes you through a forested area with a mix of smooth and rocky terrains. 18 miles to the south east of Manchester you will find the Purgatory Falls Out-and-Back, it is just over 5 miles of ascents and descent that lead you to three waterfalls.
Difficult Hikes in Manchester
Thrill-seekers will love these hikes, short, sweet, and just a quick drive away from the city.
There are two tough but great hikes in the same area of Musquash Conservation Area, Shoots & Ladders and Overlook Trail. Both are just over a mile long and will test your fitness level, with rope ladders, rocky outcrops, and steep climbs, and both will reward you with excellent views.
To Peak District and Beyond
Looking for trails to walk and hike in the Manchester area is easy than most people think. With a whole host of choices from lazy day walks along canals and reservoirs, to steep trails that lead to some of the most breathtaking views in the country – whatever your fitness level, there is a trail for you, so get out there and start walking!