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Walk up Helvellyn from Thirlmere – Swirls Car Park

By Emma Knipe   

on April 30, 2019    5/5 (9)

Walk up Helvellyn from Thirlmere – Swirls Car Park

Further Details

Route Summary:

While more straight forward than approaching Helvellyn from Striding Edge, this is a fantastic route in its own right. Helvellyn from Thirlmere avoids the crowds and follows a wide, high-level path before descending to Grisedale Tarn. The final section of the route runs through a forestry track with impressive views over Thirlmere.

This walk includes the 3 Wainwrights of Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywaggon Pike

This walk includes the 2 Hewitts of Helvellyn, Dollywaggon Pike

This walk includes the 3 Nuttalls of Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, Dollywaggon Pike

Route Start Location: Swirls Car Park

15.42 km 1014 m 5 hours

Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

Activivity Type: Hard Walk

Summits and Places on this Route


Toilets at start


Slightly steep and slippery descent to Dunmail Raise.

Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Mountain Safety , Navigation and what equipment you’ll need.

Parking : CA12 4TW

Swirls car park, which is currently free or lay-by parking on the A591 just north of Swirls.

Public Transport:

Bus 555 from Kendal to Lancaster City Centre, via Grasmere, Ambleside and Windermere.

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Walk up Helvellyn from Thirlmere – Swirls Car Park Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download file for GPS

Walk up Helvellyn from Thirlmere – Swirls Car Park

Helvellyn is one of the most popular walks in the Lake District and was voted the nation’s favourite walk in 2018. Helvellyn is often ascended from the more rugged eastern side of Patterdale and Glenridding which sports the famous ridges of Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, the more sedate western approaches still offers good walking. Highlights of the walk include the views towards Thirlmere, Striding Edge and the ridge walk back to Grisedale Tarn. Starting at the east side of Thirlmere, this circular route steadily climbs to Helvellyn, Nethermost Pike, High Crag and Dollywaggon Pike.

1. Head to the far left-hand corner of Swirls car park. Cross the footbridge and bear right through the wooden gate.

2. Keep right at the fork, following the signposts for Helvellyn.

3. The wide stone pathway steadily climbs the hillside, with stunning views back across Thirlmere and the surrounding fells.

4. The path gradually becomes increasingly steep and there are a few small sections of scree.

5. Keep right at the junction and follow the wide, rocky path to the summit, which is marked with an OS trig point. Striding Edge, Red Tarn and Swirral Edge are all visible on a clear day.

6. From the OS trig point, continue following the path along the ridge to reach a stone shelter and a junction. Take the right-hand footpath. The path descends before reaching a fork. Take the left path and continue for a few metres before turning left to climb to Nethermost Pike summit, which is marked with a low cairn.

7. Continue on the faint grassy path, which slowly bears left to High Crag. The summit is marked with a cairn.

8. The path descends and meets a more defined track.

9. Turn left and follow the more defined track to reach a fork. Take the left fork, which runs just below a section of rocks and a cairn. The path gradually bears left to climb across the hillside, heading to a second cairn. Continue straight on to Dollywagon Pike summit, which is at the start of The Tongue and marked with a pile of stones.

10. From the summit, retrace your steps a few metres to the closest cairn and then turn slightly left. Follow the very faint grassy footpath, heading south-east, to reach a junction and a metal post. Turn left and continue on the well-defined rocky footpath. Grisedale Tarn soon comes into view and the steep pathway zig-zags down towards the edge of the tarn.

11. As the path begins to bear left, take the very faint right-hand footpath, which looks more like the start of a small stream than a pathway.

12. Keep the tarn on your left. The grassy path gradually becomes more defined as it bears right and steadily climbs across the hillside.

13. The path soon levels out and reaches a wide junction. Turn right, heading towards the metal posts. From here the stone path is very clear and runs alongside Raise Beck towards Dunmail Raise.

14. As the path levels out and approaches the road, turn right and follow the fence to the far right-hand corner of the field. Go through the wooden swing gate and immediately bear slightly right, following the direction of the public footpath sign.

15. The grassy path soon reaches a wide river. Walk upstream for a few metres to find an easier crossing. After crossing the river, turn left and head towards the stone wall and footpath sign. Turn right, keeping the stone wall on your left and follow the path, with great views of Thirlmere appearing ahead.

16. At the fork, keep left. The path approaches another stone wall and then bears right before turning left to cross a footbridge.

17. Go through the gate and turn right. The gravel road continues for just over 2km before reaching a fork. Take the left path and go through the gate. The path crosses a series of bridges, with fantastic views of the reservoir.

18. Continue on the main track for approximately 2km to return to the car park.

For more walks up Helvellyn, visit our All the Walking Routes up Helvellyn article.

Based in the Lake District and with frequent trips to Snowdonia, Emma spends most days in the mountains. She splits her time between leading group hikes, volunteering with the National Trust, mountain biking, hiking with the dog and planning the next adventure.
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