It’s easy to forget about what’s on your front doorstep, particularly with travelling. We had one week to play with but in a bid to limit our carbon footprint we decided to adventure closer to home. Rather than jetset across continents we decided to rent a cabin and have a winter hiking holiday in the Peak District, UK. We always have shit questionable luck when travelling. Our trip was booked for the beginning of March and the week before we were set to leave the Beast from the East struck. With heavy snow, freezing temperatures and strong winds terrorising the UK we didn’t know how feasible hiking in the Peak District would be at this time of the year. Turns out it was feasible (mostly) and we had an incredible time following footprints in the snow. Here’s our experience hiking in the Peak District in the snow plus tips on whether winter is the right time for you to visit, what you should bring and some winter hiking tips.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak DistrictIf you like hiking and the outdoors then the Peak District should be high up on your list. I’ve not been to another part of the world (besides possibly America) where such beautiful hikes are so well documented and mapped out. All the information you need is just a click away on the internet and geographical maps are in every shop and petrol station. Besides the hikes, there’s also great pubs and it’s an easy journey from London and the South of England. We found a beautiful little cabin tucked away in the hills with a big kitchen, so we’d hike by day and cook and drink wine by night. In between the towns of Hayfield and Chinley it was the perfect place for the hikes we wanted to do. Take a look here for a great list of hikes in the Peak District.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
Trails in every direction

As the winter weather was bad we didn’t know if it was the best time for a hiking holiday in the Peak District. The accommodation owner told us that the snow had cut-off the village for a week but the roads were now improving and we could reach the cabin with a 4×4… Due to our lack of 4×4 our host offered to pick us up from the station, take us to do a food shop and then take us to our cabin in the hills. We found Sykes Cottages to be the best priced place to find self-catering accommodation but Air BnB also had a good selection although was more expensive. A lot of the accommodation you’ll find is small and family run, with the owners happy to help and advise.

Unlike coastal places only popular in the summer, the Peak District pulls people in throughout the year. As we drove through town, there were beautiful blue skies with snow capped peaks and hills. A combination of the bright green fields, the white snow and the clear blue sky was amazing. We hadn’t even reached the cabin but I thought we couldn’t of asked for better hiking conditions. On arrival, the cabin was perfect. It was £48 a night and included a nice vegan hamper with wine. It had a large kitchen, was in the middle of beautiful fields and led to all the hiking trails we wanted to explore.

If you’re looking for the most famous, challenging and rewarding hikes in the Peak District National Park, it has to be Kinder Scout

It had snowed overnight but we kept to our original plan of a 20 km hiking loop of Kinder Scout. Described as the most famous, challenging and rewarding hike in the Peak District, it sounded perfect. (click here to find a map of the hike). As the Veggie Vagabonds we like to make things hard for ourselves. We added in another 10 or so kilometres to take us to the famous Snake Pass, Kinder Reservoir and Kinder Downfall; a waterfall which can freeze over in winter.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
A Peak District hiking holiday wouldn’t be complete without Kinder Scout

Within 10 minutes we realised that our 20 km hike might take slightly longer than planned. The snow was heavy and as soon as we went uphill visibility went, paths vanished and even the sheep were looking at us like it was a bad idea.

We marched through the snow, unable to see and shivering from the cold and eventually reached the beginning of Snake Pass, which gave us the option of A) continuing uphill on the hike and really moving away from all forms of life or B) turning towards Hayfield, the closest village and having a cup of tea. We came here to hike so we chose A pretty much ran to Hayfield and found the closest tea shop without a second thought.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

Rosie’s Tea Shop was perfect and quintessentially Yorkshire, with proper brews of tea, Parkin cakes and even a vegan fudge cake. As we warmed up in the small tea shop we realised how under prepared we were. Other hikers came and joined us looking like they’d walked straight from a North Face commercial. I’m talking gaitors, walking sticks and snow goggles. We decided to admit defeat, slowly find our way back to the cabin and learn from our mistakes the next day.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

Not willing to be beaten a second time, the next day we set out for the same hike with a better weather forecast and more layers of clothes. From the start things went a hella lot better, we were actually able to see where we were going. The sheep looked happier, the skies were bluer and importantly we were warmer. We got to Snake Pass and instead of heading towards vegan fudge cake and tea, headed North towards the snowy peak in the distance.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
Kinder Scout on the horizon

Reaching the Kinder Reservoir we knew we were on the right track, and, it was a bloody beautiful day. Bright clear skies, empty paths, inquisitive sheep and a big hill in front of us. You wouldn’t have believed we were snowed out yesterday. We met our first fellow hiker, a local to the area who told us we had either a short steep option or a longer flatter option. Opting for the short scramble, we arrived to the top, sweaty and breathless but with an incredible view in front of us. For miles you could see the rolling snow capped hills and we still had blue skies.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
Our first checkpoint, Kinder Reservoir

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
It felt taller than it looks!

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
Short and steep rather than long and flat!

From the top you could really see the natural beauty of the Peak District National Park and Kinder Scout was definitely living up to it’s reputation as an incredible hike. Now on higher ground we could see that there was still a LOT of snow. Once again, the path disappeared in the whiteness and we ended up following footprints in the snow for the next hour. It didn’t occur to us that they could’ve been heading to a different destination from ours. So, we carried on sliding around in the snow with socks soaked through from the puddles we were stepping in.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
Hmm, that’s where we’re heading!
Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
Following Footprints in the Snow – A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

Arriving to Kinder Downfall and we were blown away. I didn’t actually know we had frozen waterfalls in the UK. If you showed me a picture I would’ve thought of Northern Europe of one of the Poles but the Kinder Downfall was nothing short of amazing. We spoke to other hikers who had gone past and in the previous week when the weather was colder groups of ice climbers were scaling the frozen wall.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

4 hours into the hike and extremely impressed with the beauty around us we thought it would be a great space to stop for a picnic and a snowball fight. We sat by the semi-frozen stream leading to the waterfall, ate our peanut butter jelly sandwiches and watched other hikers slip on the stepping stones over the stream. Once again we could see the majority of other hikers were very well kitted out. I’ll bet they all had dry feet, ours definitely weren’t.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
Frozen stream leading to Kinder Downfall

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
I hope these guys know where they’re going!

From Kinder Downfall it was a long and relatively flat walk around the reservoir and back home. Although the route here had been fairly straightforward, after looking at our map we could see that there were many different routes now we were on top of Kinder. So, obviously, we just carried on following the footprints in the snow.

We weren’t lost but we definitely didn’t know which way we were going. A local hiker hiked with us for about an hour and pointed us in the right direction, all the while telling us about the history of the area. People around the Peaks are honestly some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. He did tell us that the local rescue team have to come up to Kinder Scout almost every other day to rescue people. In the winter whiteouts are common with people getting lost in the snow and people regularly get stuck overnight after hiking injuries.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
Our local guide we picked up. Gotta love the people in Peaks!
Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
Which way?

The Kinder Scout route is popular and you’re likely to come across other hikers. If we didn’t find a hiker when we did, there’s a good chance we would’ve gone in the wrong direction for miles. The weather can change quickly and people often get caught in whiteouts (definitely not a good situation to be in). For this reason, I definitely wouldn’t advise Kinder Scout when it’s snowing as it would be easy to get lost. If you get a chance to hike Kinder Scout after the snow then it’s an incredible experience, just make sure you have a map and are able to navigate.

The rest of hiking Holiday in the Peak District was filled with blue skies and clear paths. We discovered some abandoned quarries, walked through disused train tracks and got chased by some menacing sheep. We didn’t actually see a drop of rain until left the Peak District and got off the train in Sheffield. We did get absolutely soaked though.

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For anyone considering a winter hiking holiday in the Peak District we had an absolutely amazing time. It reignited my love for UK travel and hiking however it may not be for some. Here’s some pros and cons to help you decide

Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District

pros

Hiking in the snow with blue skies and green fields is a unforgettable experience

Accommodation will be cheaper and easier to book

Trails will be quieter

Coming home after a long days hiking in the cold and sitting next to the fire is a priceless

cons

Heavy snow can stop hiking altogether and freezing temperatures need to be prepared for

Trails are harder to see and in worse condition

You’ll need to take more gear

Less hours of daylight

Picnics are not as enjoyable when you’re sitting in a puddle

Realistically, the Peak District is not famous for great weather at any time of year. Any month can have cold temperatures and rainfall but did you come for the weather? After hiking around the world, we can safely say the Peak District National Park has some of the most enjoyable and accessible hikes around. The more popular routes, like Kinder Scout, do get busy in the summer time so we think it’s definitely worth the cold feet to go in wintertime. Hiking through the snow will be an unforgettable experience as long as you don’t get stuck in a blizzard!

Make sure you go prepared. There were points on the trip when we realised we’d underestimated the conditions. Here’s our list of  essentials to take on your winter hiking holiday in the Peak District

What to take

Map & Compass – On the top of every packing list for good reason.

Maps.Me – This is the best free navigating app we’ve come across. It shouldn’t be relied on as you can lose signal so make sure you also take a map & compass.

High ankle hiking boots 

Gaitors – Not essential but if you want to keep your feet nice and dry then these are a good idea.

Here’s a great list of things to take (I don’t think ice axes and crampons are necessary though 🙂

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
‘You have no idea how wet my feet are right now’

Tips

Try and find self-catered accommodation so you can make lunch for your hiking. Especially for vegans, you don’t want to spend the day hiking and then not be able to find any food locally.

Don’t be scared to turn back. It’s definitely better to change your hiking plans then get lost in the snow!

Make sure you get your layers on properly! 

Check the weather and speak to locals. They know better than you, face it.

Drink that water! It might not feel like you’re sweating but you are.

Following Footprints in the Snow - A Winter Hiking Holiday in the Peak District
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