Before you launch into this wild camping Lake District guide, check out my more general wild camping UK guide. Here you will find a broader overview of gear to take, how to go to the toilet in nature and best practices.
The lake District is my absolute favourite place to wild camp. There are countless spots to pitch for the night, all with lush views and never far from a lake. It’s a great place to start wild camping if you are a beginner.
In this wild camping Lake District guide, I will cover everything you need to know to get you started – from legalities, to where the best areas are to pitch in this National Park. My goal is to get more people outdoors adventuring…so I hope my advice will make that a little easier!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Since the Covid Pandemic there has been a rise in anti-social wild camping behaviour. PLEASE read this guide carefully and commit to being a conscious ‘leave no trace’ camper. This protects the natural spaces and ensures we can all continue to enjoy Wild Camping in the National Parks.
Before we start….
If you are new to this blog, I’m Bex Band – a full-time UK adventurer and founder of the women’s adventure community, Love Her Wild. I’m on a mission to make the outdoors and adventures as easy as possible. You can read more about me here. I share all my advice in this Lake District Wild Camping guide to help make your overnight adventure as smooth and easy as possible.
Also, grab a copy of my best-selling adventure memoir – Three Stripes South.
Is wild camping in the Lake District legal?
No….it is illegal to wild camp in the Lake District. Confusing, I know!
The only place you can legally wild camp in the UK is in Scotland and in Dartmoor (although there are some restrictions – more details here).
While on paper it is against the law, generally the practice is tolerated if you are considerate and follow good practices. This is especially so for the Lake District which is a large National Park with many remote places. Wild camping is commonplace in the Lake District.
This is highlighted clearly as even on the official Lake District website they have provided tips for wild camping in the region. So there is no reason why you should have any problems.
Just remember to stick to the expected rules! Make sure you are away from roads. Don’t jump over any fences or walls and don’t camp in large groups or for more than 1 day in the same place. It’s very important that you Leave No Trace….the full list of those rules can be found on this page.
How to choose a wild camping spot in the Lake District
You are going to want to get yourself an OS map for the area (see ‘resources’ heading below for a link to the correct map). Before heading to the Lake District, take a look at the map and decide what area you want to explore. Most likely this will be dictated by a hike that you want to do.
You could either hike in, camp and then hike out. Or do a multi-day trip, camping in a different spot each night. If it is your first wild camp I’d suggest doing an overnighter first to test all your gear properly before committing to something bigger.
Using the map and seeing where the end of your hike will take you, decide on a rough area that you might want to camp for the night. Note down 2-4 potential spots that look like they might be good for wild camping.
These spots should be on flat ground (the further apart the contour lines, the flatter the terrain) and not exposed (peaks can get very windy). Not somewhere boggy or rocky and not too far from a water source. Ideally, you want to be away from any big paths although this isn’t always possible.
Really you won’t know if it is a good spot until you see it in person. On the day you can take a closer look at the potential camp spots to see if they are suitable. Make sure you aren’t in a ditch or camping under any potential rockfall.
Tarns and lakes can make great wild camping spots if they aren’t too boggy. In the summer months, the most popular spots in the Lake District can get busy so you may not have the place to yourself.
Places to wild camp in the Lake District
Here are a few suggestions of places you can wild camp in the Lake District. It is best to use these as a guide. See what they look like on a map and then search out your own….working out your own wild camping spot really is all part of the fun. And much more satisfying than following someone else’s suggestion!
- There’s a lot of spaces filled with heather – find a quiet spot away from any path. This works especially well for bivvy bag campers
- Sprinking Tark, Rosthwaite is a fantastic high tarn sitting at 600m. A great spot for swimming and close to Scafell Pike
- Ennerdale Valley, Western fells. Head to the woods to find a spot for the night. The area has been part of a re-wilding project and walkers are encouraged to leave the path to explore
- Codale Tarn is harder to get to but not likely to be busy
- Lingmoor Fell is really easy to reach – just 5 miles from Ambleside. It’s a popular route but offers great views and plenty of camping spots which are easy to get to
- If you are aiming to camp on a peak (only recommended on a day with little wind) you can pitch a small tent on the peak of Great End and also Great Knott
Getting to the Lake District
Please do prioritise taking public transport if you can to help reduce your impact on the planet!
I’ve used buses and trains many times for camping in the Lake District and it’s very easy. You also get a great view from the window and get to visit some quaint little railway stations.
You can catch a train to the west of Lake District calling in at Oxenholme, Penrith or Carlisle. Or to Windermere, Kendal or Staveley. From these stations, it is easy to jump on a local bus to get you closer to the hills.
National Express also run coaches to various towns in the Lake District.
Parking in the Lake District
Parking is pricey in the area, especially if you are planning to leave your car overnight. You can see the list of managed car parks in the National Park here. A lot of the pubs in the region also offer an overnight parking fee and this should be advertised on their website.
There’s also a really great park and bus initiative which might provide better value. I couldn’t see clearly though if they will allow you to leave a car overnight.
Where to base yourself in the Lake District
Personally I like to head to Winderemere (or Ambleside which is close by but a bit smaller) or Keswick to start any hikes or wild camping adventures.
Winderemere has coaches and trains running directly to the town. To reach Keswick you catch a train to Penrith and then jump on a local bus.
Both offer good bases with shops to top up on supplies and plenty of good pub food and fry-ups to keep you fuelled.
My recommendations for Winderemere accommodation:
- For something a little luxurious try Applegarth Villa Hotel, prices starting at £125 (they have rooms with hot tubs!)
- The Ravensworth is basic but very comfortable and their prices start at £32
My recommendations for Keswick accommodation:
- The Ravenstow Manor Hotel has rooms starting at £79
Resources for wild camping lake District
You are going to want to get an OS map to help you plan and navigate when you are in the Lake District. There are 3 maps that cover the National Park depending on the area you are planning to head to:
- OS Lake District OL4 (North Western area)
- OS Lake District OL5 (North Eastern area)
- OS Lake District OL6 (South Western area)
- OS Lake District OL7 (South Eastern area)
For wider reading on the Lake District and wild camping check out:
- Wild Guide Lake District and Yorkshire Dales (inspiring book with lots of adventure ideas in the region)
- Great Mountain Days in the Lake District (ideas for hikes to do in the Lake District)
- Britain’s Best Small Hill’s (a great all-around wild camping guide for suggestions across the UK on where to sleep wild for a night)
For reliable weather forecasts check out the:
If you are thinking about taking a bivvy bag rather than a tent for a more wild experience, check out my Bivvy Bag camping guide. I’ve also written wild camping guides for other areas in the UK including:
For a bit of inspiration
If you are undecided then watching these videos about wild camping in the Lake District should sway you pretty quickly!
They provide a bit of an idea for what you might expect a good Lake District wild camping spot to look like:
A few top tips
- A lot of people head to the Lake District to climb Englands highest mountain, Scafell Pike. If you want a quieter experience avoid this area – especially during sunny holidays and weekends
- There are lots of tarns and lakes in the Lake District so boggy areas are not uncommon. More than once I’ve put my foot knee-deep in a bog!! It’s worth keeping this in mind if you are going off tracks. This can also be a problem when looking for a wild camping spot so I tend to not cut it too fine when it comes to searching for a camping spot close to nightfall in case I need to try a different area. Hiking poles are a great tool for testing boggy ground
- As is good practice with wild camping, you should always tell someone where you are heading and what time they should expect you back
- Make sure you fully understand the Leave No Trace rules to protect the land you are camping on. For more details check out Wild Camping UK
- You should be monitoring the weather continuously throughout your adventure as it can change with little notice. Listen to any weather warnings
Other relevant posts to help you get ready:
- How to pack a hiking backpack like a pro
- 7 tips for staying warm when camping
- 19 Fun camping games for adults
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