Located in the north of England, York is a city with a history that stretches back to Roman times and beyond. And it's the historic significance of the city that brings many tourists to Yorkshire in the first place. But along with this history, York offers a chance to encounter a wilder side of England. Located virtually halfway between two national parks, York lies within striking distance of some of the most impressive scenery in the whole of the UK.
You don't need to stray far from the city to enjoy some of the best walks in and around York. A stroll through York itself can be a perfectly pleasant way to burn off some calories while still enjoying what the city has to offer. But if you're willing to venture a little further outside the city, you'll find miles of walking opportunities through the Yorkshire Dales that make this one of the best hiking destinations in the whole country. Taking a hike is also one of the best free things to do in York, as well as a healthy and enjoyable one.
Don't forget your hiking boots when you travel to York. And don't forget to drop off your unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage in York, either. Traveling light will make it much easier to explore the city and the surrounding countryside on your walking holiday.
Our Top Hiking Trail Picks In York
York City Center
In an ancient city like York, often one of the best things to do is just take a walk around and soak up the atmosphere. There are lots of places you can do this right in the center of York. For instance, a walk around the historic city walls will let you see the heart of York and experience some of that fascinating history up close. The walls cover around two miles, making this a fairly easy walk for all the family to enjoy. Alternatively, if you're looking for ways to keep the kids occupied, set out on the York Cats Trail. There are 22 statues of cats on buildings throughout the city, part of a tradition that goes back to the medieval era. You can download a map and set out to explore the city and see how many cats you can find. It's a great way to explore, and because you're staying close to the heart of the city and York Station, when you've finished your walk you can explore further afield. How to get around York can help you with these adventures.
York is surrounded by some truly impressive countryside. An easy walk through Rievaulx Terrace lets you explore both history and the countryside within an hours' drive from the city. Rievaulx Terrace is a stately home that is now open to the public, and the 18th-century gardens are the perfect place for a gentle stroll. Try to visit in spring or early summer when the gardens are in full bloom and at their impressive best. If you want to explore a little further, you can head to the atmospheric ruins of Rievaulx Abbey on a walk that covers seven miles and lets you explore quaint Yorkshire villages as well as impressive historical monuments. There's also the circular route to Nunnington Hall, which covers 16 miles and lets you explore a manor house that has been in the area since medieval times.
River Derwent Loop
The River Derwent winds its way past York and through the North York Moors landscape on its way to the sea. Along the path of the river, you'll find many favorite walks beloved by locals who want to enjoy the natural splendor of the region. If you don't want to travel too far from the city, check out the Kexby to Stamford Bridge section that lies just outside York. You can park at either Kexby or Stamford Bridge, since this circular walk will bring you back to where you started. The relatively easy walk covers around eight miles round-trip, and there are lots of quaint cafés and pubs in Stamford Bridge where you can take a break and refresh yourself. The terrain is very flat, and the riverside views make this a very pleasant walk that's close to the city but feels a long way away.
The North York Moors National Park covers over 550 square miles of Northeast Yorkshire and offers some of the UK's best outdoor activities. The sprawling national park contains some of the best hikes in the area and even the country, and the many public footpaths and rugged trails over the open moorland make this a fantastic place for a walk. Best of all, sections of the park can be reached from York in less than an hour. So you can work up an appetite with an early morning hike and still be back in the city in time to sample the best brunch in York!
Although the name doesn't sound particularly inviting, Cold Moor is one of the best hikes in North York Moors National Park. This eight-mile loop lets you explore more of North Yorkshire and the rugged scenery it offers. You'll see the Wainstones, a fascinating rock formation that is popular with climbers and one of the most well-known features of North York Moors National Park. The walk to the Wainstones is an eight-mile loop, but the elevation gain makes it moderately challenging. The reward is an encounter with the atmospheric heather moorland of Yorkshire and impressive views of the Yorkshire Dales from the highest point in North York Moors National Park.
Mallyan Spout and Beck Hole
Head out from York to explore the charming village of Goathland, and you'll also encounter the highest single waterfall in North York Moors National Park. The 20 m high fall of Mallyan Spout makes it a popular place to explore in the region, and its limestone ravine offers an almost fairytale-like environment to visit outside the city. The terrain around the waterfall and in Beck Hole means you'll need good hiking boots and a decent sense of balance, and exploring Goathland and Mallyan Spout means you'll cover around eight miles of sometimes challenging terrain, making this hike best left to moderate hikers or better.
Kilburn Woods and White Horse Walk
Also located in North York Moors, Kilburn Woods gives you the chance to explore the nature of Yorkshire while also taking in some of its fascinating history. The Kilburn Woods and White Horse Walk covers nearly six miles and will take you through a beautiful woodland which is particularly impressive in spring when wildflowers are in bloom and some of the area's wildlife is at its most active. The walk will bring you to the White Horse figure carved into a local hillside. Although not as old and mysterious as some similar figures in other parts of the country, having been created in 1857, the White Horse nevertheless makes a great photo opportunity on your Yorkshire hike. With around 400 m of elevation gain, this is a very strenuous hike best left to advanced hikers.
Forge Valley Woods
Forge Valley Woods National Nature Reserve takes its name from the many foundries and forges that existed in the area back in the 14th century. However, today this area is protected, and instead of the ringing of hammers, all you'll hear is the song of birds and the wind whispering through the trees. The trail covers four miles and travels along easy terrain along the riverbank, including a boardwalk, so it's a good choice for beginner hikers or families who want to get out and see nature without great difficulty.
Lyke Wake Walk
The Lyke Wake Walk is one of the biggest challenges of any walking trail in Yorkshire, and it has a fascinating story behind it. This 40-mile path through North York Moors National Park is often attempted as a challenge to travel the entire path in less than 24 hours. The path commemorates the route taken by those carrying dead bodies, and you'll encounter many mysterious burial mounds and standing stones along the lengthy route of the trail. This path is steeped in Yorkshire folklore, so it's a fantastic option for history buffs who like a long walk.
Of course, you don't need to travel the entire route, and certainly not in under 24 hours. You can explore the Lyke Wake Walk in sections, including a circular route that starts and ends in Osmotherley. Covering a more manageable six miles, this will allow you to get a glimpse of one of Yorkshire's most famous walking trails without having to commit to a multi-day adventure. Of course, if that's what you want to do, you have that option too.
This multi-day national trail is one of the best-known and most challenging in North York Moors National Park. The Cleveland Way covers more than 100 miles, beginning in Helmsley and making its way over the rugged scenery of the moors to reach the sea. Along the way, you'll get to explore the smuggler's village of Robin Hood's Bay and the legendary Whitby Abbey, among other iconic locations.
This lengthy trail links up with many others in North Your Moors National Park and in other areas, so chances are good you may explore some of this trail by following shorter hiking trails around York. But if you want a real challenge and to see the astonishing variety of landscapes Yorkshire has to offer, the Cleveland Way offers a challenge for even the most experienced hiker — and rewards to match.
Coast to Coast Walk
Another long-distance hiking trail near York is the Coast to Coast Walk. In fact, this 190-mile path cuts across the entire country from St Bee's on the western edge of Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire. Along the way, it travels through three national parks - the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District, and North York Moors. Depending on your speed, you can expect to take around 14 days to travel this route, and if you do you'll be able to boast about your achievement for years to come. However, you can also explore this lengthy walk in sections if you don't want to commit to a two-week adventure. Check out the section from Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank for an 11-mile point-to-point trail of moderate difficulty that offers exciting encounters with the scenery and wildlife of the area.
Easy Hikes in York
If you want to take it easy on your vacation but still stretch your legs and see more of the city, you can do all that without leaving York itself. This ancient city is full of fascinating walks, including the walk around the city walls and the York Cats Trail. Alternatively, if you want to see a little more of nature on your trip, Forge Valley Woods is a fantastic option.
Intermediate Hikes in York
For those looking for a bigger challenge, Yorkshire has plenty to offer. The section of the Coast to Coast Walk from Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank lets you cover a lot of ground and see some great scenery. Mallyan Spout is also a good option, and the stunning waterfall is well worth the occasionally challenging walk to get there.
Difficult Hikes in York
The rugged scenery of North Yorkshire offers hiking trails to test even the most experienced walkers. Kilburn Woods has enough elevation changes to make a relatively short walk plenty challenging for those who like to get their heart pumping. And if you really want to test yourself, try one of Yorkshire's incredible long-distance hikes, such as the Lyke Wake Walk or the Coast to Coast Walk to see parts of the country that most people never get to experience for themselves.