The best family bike rides in the Lake District

If you're searching for a scenic location to go cycling with your kids, Cumbria in northwest England is an excellent choice. Whether you're visiting the Lake District on holiday or live locally there's plenty of options for family cycling - for all ages and abilities, this best family bike rides in the Lake District guide is a brilliant place to get you inspired! 

Cumbria and the Lake District provides an array of cycling paths, so it is easy to find child-friendly bike rides as well as more challenging trails for older children. 

In this best family bike rides in the Lake District article, we'll show you some of the best cycle routes for families in the Lake District and the county of Cumbria, for different abilities and hopefully inspire you to try them out.

A word of warning about cycling with kids in the Lake District

Cycling with your children in the Lake District can be an exciting adventure, but it is important to be aware of the area's steep hills and potential challenges even on the best family bike rides in the Lake District!

There are some really great flat cycling routes around lakes and along old railways, plus some brilliant pump tracks that are suitable for balance bikes and upwards. However, things can quickly get steep and remote when you head into the mountains.

Remember these are mountains, not hills and you can't rely on mobile reception - always take a map. The weather can change quickly and Cumbria is England's wettest county so be prepared for all eventualities.

Safety should always be your top priority, so take necessary precautions such as checking if the route is suitable for your child and their bike (and you!) before setting out.

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Best family bike rides in the Lake District

Keswick to Threlkeld cycle route

Key facts:

  • Suitable for: all ages and abilities. Fully accessible for trailers and tagalongs
  • Length: 6.4 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: easy 
  • Elevation: relatively flat 
  • Traffic: traffic free route
  • Starting point: Keswick Leisure Pool
  • Public transport: none that take bikes. There are regular buses to Keswick from Penrith train station if you're walking the route with a balance biker.
  • Parking: Keswick Leisure Pool
  • Points of interest: Ice cream van and Threlkeld coffee shop.
  • Keswick to Threlkeld komoot route
Family cycling routes around Cumbria and the Lake District - Keswick to Therlkeld cycle route
Family cycle routes in the Lake District

This cycle route starts at Keswick and is a short, easy, and traffic free journey following the route of the old railway line to Threlkeld.   

It's a great family friendly bike route suitable for all ages and abilities - if little legs don't want to do the entire length you can just turn around and head back. 

The route is very scenic; it runs next to and crosses over the River Greta.

There are various spots you can stop and get down to the river for a paddle or bring a picnic filled with all your favourite snacks which is a great idea on a sunny day. 

There's even a tunnel for some great photo opportunities and echo fun!

The cycle route itself has only recently been completed so it is like riding on a brand new road - great for smaller children who are looking to build their confidence riding their bike.

The Keswick park run uses this trail from 9am to 10am every Saturday morning, so we don't recommend clashing with this.

Keswick to Threlkeld cycle route on komoot

Langdale Valley Cycle Route

Key facts:

  • Suitable for: Mountain or hybrid bikes to complete the full length. Elterwater stretch suitable for all including balance bikes.
  • Length: 11 miles full route - 3 miles short route
  • Difficulty: Easy to medium
  • Elevation: Relatively flat route but there is a section involving some hills on the full route
  • Traffic: Mainly traffic-free with parts on quiet lanes on the full route
  • Starting point: Stickle Ghyll (full route)  or Elterwater Village (short route)
  • Public transport: this route is difficult to access by public transport, unless you're taking a balance bike on the bus from Ambleside
  • Parking: Stickle Ghyll Car Park (full route) or Elterwater (short route)
  • Point of interest: Chesters cafe (Vegetarian cafe with brilliant cakes!), Cafes also in Elterwater and Langdale.
  • Langdale Valley Komoot route
Family cycling routes around Cumbria and the Lake District

Langdale Valley Cycle route takes in some of the most iconic scenery in the Lake District. The entire there and back cycle route is more suited for older kids riding geared bikes as it has a couple of hills.   

The real attraction on this route is the stop off at a wonderful vegetarian café called Chesters By the River. There are also places in Elterwater village if you can't make the entire distance or are a confirmed carnivore.

If you are taking younger children on smaller wheeled bikes or toddlers on balance bikes you can park at Elterwater and then cycle 1.6 miles on the flat multi-use path (pictured) which is also suited for buggies, wheelchairs and adapted cycles. Mobility scooters are available to hire from the Langdale Hotel too.

If you're taking this option you can continue on to the last little bit to the café, which also passes a waterfall viewing point (please note this last stretch is not fully accessible for wheelchairs).

It is the perfect pitstop to refuel, sit and take in the beautiful views, and watch the river go by before cycling or walking back. 

More information about the route on the National Trust website.

Western Shore of Windermere (northern end)

Key facts: 

  • Suitable for: for all ages. Trailers and tagalongs can be taken on car ferry
  • Length: Up to 11 miles there and back trip depending on start point
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: undulating
  • Traffic: traffic free cycle path (with a very quiet road if you are coming via Windermere Car Ferry)
  • Starting point: This route can be accessed from the east side of the lake via the Windermere ferry from Bowness or Wray Castle
  • Refreshments: Joeys Cafe at Claife Heights and Wray Castle
  • Public transport: Train to Windermere then down a hill (busy roads) to the Car ferry, or the 599 bus can take 2 bikes at a time for 20p each.
  • Parking: Ferry Nab car park.
  • Points of interest: Ferry, Castles and cafes, as well as beaches to play on.
  • Western shore of winderemere komoot route
Family cycling routes around Cumbria and the Lake District - Western side of Windermere
group of children on the Windermere ferry

This family friendly cycling and walking route runs for 10 traffic free miles along the western shore of Lake Windermere.

It's relatively flat and as there's no traffic to worry about this is an enjoyable route for all the family. 

You can make this into a really fun day out for the kids by including a boat ride from the eastern shore.   

Take your bikes, trailers and tagalongs on the ferry from Bowness which allows for a longer bike ride north along the shore. (We recommend checking the website, webcam or twitter in the morning the day you'd like to travel as it is regularly out of service)

As you set sail with your bikes across Lake Windermere you can take in the picturesque views and when you arrive you are instantly transported to a much more tranquil place as you leave the crowds of the east shore behind you.

Head north along the cycle path towards the National Trust owned Wray Castle which is a stunning Victorian Folly. If you make it that far there is plenty of space for a picnic or you can stop at the cafe that are situated right next door to the castle.

If you are looking for more excitement there are lots of activities inside the castle but there are admission fees.

The trail has a couple of short hills, and is mostly undulating. The terrain has some potholes but is mostly well-compacted gravel, so suitable for trailers and rear seats.

a large group of colourful cyclists riding along the shore of windermere

West Windermere Way- Perfect for Balance bikes

Key facts:

steam train and cyclists along the west windermere way

This short stretch of cycle track from Lakeside is PERFECT for balance bikers and little riders.

Lakeside has a large car park, a boat launch, an aquarium, steam trains and a cafe- so is a brilliant family day out even without the bikes!

The West Windermere Way follows the steam railway track, over some bridges and weaves its way towards Newby Bridge.

Simply turn round when you've had enough.

The terrain is all hard-packed gravel cycle tracks or tarmac, so is suitable for all bikes. There are several gates, but all wide enough for trailers and wheelchair users.

West Windermere way komoot route

Pump tracks in the Lake District and Cumbria

Key facts: 

  • Locations: Keswick (Fitz Park), Windermere (Queens Park), Seascale, Bolton Village and Allithwaite
  • Suitable for: for beginners (including little ones with supervision) and advanced cyclists 
  • Difficulty: Pump tracks can be used by everyone from beginners on balance bikes through to advanced riders on mountain bikes and BMXs 
  • Traffic: traffic free 
  • Parking: Available close to all the pump tracks
Family cycling routes around Cumbria and the Lake District - bike pump tracks

Keswick Pump Track, a good place for kids to ride their bikes whilst on holiday in the Lake District, Cumbria

If you want an exhilarating cycling experience for the kids without having to venture too far, then Cumbria has a number of different pump tracks. 

The tracks are suitable for riders of all skill levels with the chance for older kids to practice berm corners, step-ups, rollers, doubles, triples and more challenging jumps.

Younger children will have fun just riding around on their balance bike or pedal bike, picking up speed and confidence, and I'd highly recommend having a go yourself! 

All this can be enjoyed whilst enjoying stunning views of the surrounding countryside. 

All the pump tracks are well-maintained, with most being either newly built or recently resurfaced.

They're a great way to have some cycling fun in the most beautiful natural settings.

More information on the Keswick Pump Track.

More information on the Windermere Pump Track.

More information on Bolton Village Pump Track

 



Arnside to Grange Over Sands train and balance biking adventure

Key facts:

  • Suitable for: balance bikers
  • Length: Train journey then short cycling area
  • Difficulty: very easy
  • Elevation: flat
  • Traffic: promenade is traffic free
  • Starting point: Arnside or Grange-over-Sands railway station
  • Public transport: train to Arnside or Grange-over-Sands
  • Parking: Arnside Promenade
  • Points of interest: Trains, sea side, ice cream and a duck pond in Grage.
  • Grange Over Sands prominade komoot route
child riding an orange bike along grange prom
Family cycle routes around Cumbria and the Lake District

If you've got a very young child who is keen on riding their balance bike whilst you walk alongside them, then an exciting trip can be to go on the train from Arnside to Grange Over Sands.  

The train crosses Morecambe Bay in just over 5 minutes with fabulous views over the Lake District.  

Once at Grange there's a lovely traffic free 1 mile-long promenade that you can access from the railway station. It is great for safe balance biking and ice cream eating which always goes down a treat! 

Once back at Arnside if it's low tide you can enjoy some muddy beach fun especially if you’re lucky to venture out on a sunny day! Although be aware the tide comes in very fast so don't stray too far from the shore. 

Grange Over Sands prominade komoot route

Lowther Castle

Key facts:

 

Lowther castle cycle routes - cumbria family cycling
Lowther castle cycle routes - cumbria family cycling

The cycle trails at Lowther Castle have everything you could want for a cycling adventure. Whether you're into wildlife, history, the stunning landscape or just plain good fun, the area has something to offer for everyone.

The trails cater for all abilities and range from easy, moderate, to challenging.

Lowther Estate has developed this wide range of cycle trails to allow free access to this beautiful estate and ancient woodlands.

The routes are well sign-posted and graded to suit every rider.

Mountain bikes suit the terrain of the 30km of dedicated trails which range from open fell side with views over Ullswater to quiet lanes & tracks.

You can bring your own bikes, or cycle hire is available at the Castle through, Arragons cycle hire Lowther. Tagalongs and trailers are also available.

Both the car park and the cycle trails at Lowther Estate are free to use.

There is a good cafe and BRILLIANT adventure play area (paid entry) for a full family day out.

Ennerdale Valley to Black Sail YHA

Key facts:

group ride through ennerdale valley

Trailer friendly riding, and brilliant balance biking and small bike terrain, you just might need to give a tow to make it all the way to the hostel, or pick a nice place for a picnic and turn around as far as little legs can make it.

This is quite possibly the most stunning gravel ride there is in the Lakes - and the quietest too!

The ride takes you through the Wild Ennerdale Valley. Starting at the road end car park, you pootle along Ennerdale shoreline before heading through some incredible woodland. You’re very likely to bump into a red squirrel, which we think is awesome!

The Ennerdale Valley has an incredible re-wilding project happening, so make sure to stop and read the info signs and look out for the wildlife. It truly is one of the most wild feeling valleys in the Lake District.

Before you arrive at the YHA you have a little river crossing to contend with - it is ridable at most times of the year, but please be cautious after rain and risk assess the crossing for yourself.

The route takes you to Black Sail Youth Hostel, which during the spring, summer and autumn hosts an honesty cafe for a mid-ride brew and chocolate bar. It's one of the most remote YHAs in the country and only accessible by foot or bike. To make this route into even more of an adventure why not stay overnight?

After you've peeled yourself away from the YHA, hopefully, full of coffee and chocolate, it's a wonderful downhill gravel trail all the way back to the car, with not too much pedalling required!

Coniston Shore

Key facts:

coniston mountains in the background of a child riding his bike

This cycling route along Coniston shoreline is brilliant for all ages. From balance bikes to full family bike rides, trailers and tagalongs, its a beautiful ride sure to keep everyone happy!

It follows gravel trails and farm tracks out along the shore of the lake and returns along the same way, so you can turn around when little legs have had enough.

The route starts and finishes at the cafe and carpark at Coniston Boating Centre.

There is a cafe, ice cream stall and boats to keep little ones entertained off the bike. You can even add to the route, cycling north up the lake and into Coniston village to visit the Ruskin Museum where the Bluebird is now housed after breaking many world speed records on Coniston between 1955 and 1959.

Green Quarter Fell

Key facts:

  • Suitable for: confident riders on mountain bikes
  • Length: 10.7 miles 
  • Difficulty: medium to hard 
  • Elevation: Has sections that ascent and descent. Be mindful, what goes up must come down. Descending at speed, either on or off road requires skill.
  • Traffic: mostly traffic free but sections involve quiet roads, remote and steep bridleways, and farm tracks
  • Starting point: Staveley or Kentmere 
  • Public transport: train to Staveley
  • Parking: Staveley or Kentmere
  • Green quarter fell komoot route
Family cycling routes around Cumbria Kentmere Green Quarter is good for older kids on road bikes or mountain bikes
Family cycling routes around Cumbria Kentmere Green Quarter is good for older kids on road bikes or mountain bikes

For this challenging bike ride in the Lake District fells you can start in either Staveley or Kentmere. However, it is important to note that Staveley has cafés, pubs, bike shops and toilets whereas Kentmere does not. 

This cycle route is an amazing adventure if you're up for the challenge! Just keep in mind that it's quite remote and you'll need to be prepared for anything that comes your way.  It's definitely one for older kids and teenagers, who are competent at mountain biking and have a well maintained bike. 

The terrain can be challenging, especially after heavy rain (which happens often in the Lake District), so be sure to wear the right gear and stay together as a group. 

And just in case low clouds roll in, it's always a good idea to know how to navigate with a compass and map. But don't worry, with some careful planning and a positive attitude, you're sure to have a great time on this remote but stunning cycle route! 

More information about the route including the GPS files read my write up on the Cycling UK website.

Whinlatter Forest mountain bike trails

Key facts:

Family cycling routes around Cumbria and the Lake District
Family cycling routes around Cumbria and the Lake District - Whinlatter Forest

Whinlatter Forest a is brilliant mountain biking destination that boasts blue and red trails designed to get the adrenaline pumping. 

The blue trail is named Quercus and is a great route for those who want all the thrills of singletrack mountain biking without having to ride over rocks and roots. You get to enjoy some wonderful fast sweeping berms which make the uphill sections more than worth it. 

If you are wanting to build confidence and get familiar with a singletrack then you can ride the blue route in sections. 

It begins with a short loop which is perfect for beginners as it is only around 300 meters long so younger children can enjoy going round and round without ever straying too far from the car park and visitor centre. It may be short but in my experience it will keep the kids entertained for hours! 

If you're looking for more challenging mountain biking routes, there's two red routes that can be ridden individually or in a figure of eight.

These are difficult and remote routes with some very steep uphills and lots of technical sections. You need a proper mountain bike and very strong legs (or e-bikes) to ride the red routes at Whinlatter.

Remember this is mountain biking in Cumbria, and these are proper mountains! Start short and easy and build up when you know what your kids (and you) are capable of in terms of skill and stamina.

Kentmere Valley Road ride

Key facts:

  • Suitable for: road bike, or hybrid. Suitable for trailers and tagalongs.
  • Length: up to 12.5 miles round trip from Staveley (or 25 miles if you are starting from Kendal)
  • Difficulty: medium to hard
  • Elevation: undulating road which steepens significantly as you begin to approach the head of the valley.
  • Traffic: low traffic
  • Starting point: Staveley (or Kendal for a longer day out)
  • Public transport: Train tation in Stavely (or Kendal).
  • Parking: Staveley Mill Yard or on-road parking
  • Kentmere Valley road ride route on komoot
Cumrbria & the Lake District cycle routes - Kentmere Valley
Family cycle routes in the Lake District - Kentmere valley

The Kentmere Valley road ride is a true gem for any road cycling enthusiast and is a great place to introduce younger riders to the joys of riding a road bike.

The picturesque scenery offers captivating views and the valley is usually reasonably quiet traffic wise. 

The road is undulating, gently rising all the way from Staveley up to the hamlet of Kentmere before a steep climb up to Kentmere Church.

If you're feeling strong you can carry on up the private gated road towards Kentmere reservoir for a couple more hilly miles until the road runs out.

When you've had enough riding uphill then you just turn around and head back to Staveley with it's cafes and ice cream shops for a well deserved treat.

The return journey is much quicker, with some sweeping bends and a chance to pick up some real speed, so good bike control and confidence in braking is a must.

If you're staying in Kendal you can extend this route by about 14 miles by cycling via Burneside and Bowston which is a reasonably low traffic route all the way.

Kentmere Valley is a great introduction to road riding in the Lake District, without any of the big hills and with very little traffic. And it's one of my favourite routes so do say hello if you see me!

More information about the route on our komoot profile

Grizedale Forest mountain bike trails

Key facts:

  • Suitable for: Hybrid bikes (green route) Mountain bikes (red/black route) 
  • Length: 2 to 10 miles
  • Difficulty: easy (green) - hard/very hard (red/black) 
  • Elevation: steep slopes/declines
  • Traffic: traffic free on most routes (some trails have short on road sections)
  • Starting point: Grizedale Visitor Centre, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0Q
  • Parking: Grizedale Visitor Centre
  • Points of interest: Visitor centre, play area, cafe and sculpture trails.
  • Red MTB route on komoot
Family cycling routes around Cumbria and the Lake District
Family cycling routes around Cumbria and the Lake District - Grizedale Forest

Grizedale Forest is a remote location high above Hawskhead village. There are some short green rated cycle routes which are designed for younger and novice riders, that make use of the forest roads. 

Some kids love this type of riding, others find it a hard slog. I don't think I've ever been there and not seen at least one young child in tears due to being taken on a bike ride that is too long, too steep, too boring, or a mixture of all three.

For that reason I really recommend choosing routes such as the Silurian Way or the Mushroom Trail for younger children as they have things to find and explore on the way around. This really helps keep up morale - yours and theirs. 

Sadly Grizedale doesn't have a blue trail or a skills park so it's not an ideal location for children just starting out single track mountain biking (check out Whinlatter instead).

For advanced riders able to cope with very technical trails there are red and black routes. They do involve significant portions of uphill slogging on forest roads so you need very strong legs and a tolerance for this sort of riding (or an e-bike) as well as be very competent technically to cope with the downhill single track.

Remember to pack plenty of snacks and be ready for the weather to close in quickly, and know there's no mobile signal.

If you're looking for a family cycling challenge with older kids and teenagers and aren't afraid of hills or forest roads then Grizedale is an absolutely stunning location. 

More information about the route on the Forestry England website.

Family cycling in Cumbria and the Lake District

Overall, Cumbria and the Lake District host a variety of family friendly cycling routes for children of all levels of experience.

Whether you're looking for a leisurely ride or a challenging adventure, there's a route for you and your family. 

Cycling in Cumbria is a great way to explore the region's beauty, from the magnificent views of the Lake District to the peaceful coast.

Just remember to  be prepared for the changeable weather, and that if you're cycling any distance you're likely to come across steep and challenging terrain with limited mobile reception.

So, whether you're riding with toddlers on balance bikes or teenagers on mountain bikes be sure to try out one of the cycling routes in the Lake District and experience the Cumbrian scenery for yourself.  Do drop us a comment in the box below to tell us how you got on. 

Want to see all of our family bike rides in Cumbria and see our most up to date route edits, head over to our komoot collection.

Photo Credits:
Toby Cummins - Cold Dark North
Penny Millar - Pink Spaghetti Kendal
Emily Wormald- Lakes Gravel Gang
This article was written by Paige Harrop, who did a work placement with Cycle Sprog in 2023 as part of her Journalism degree at the University of Chester.

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