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The best family friendly waterfall walks in the Yorkshire Dales

With over 50 waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales of varying sizes, you will never be far from one wherever you are.

Waterfall walks are one of our favourite types of walks as a family. They are such a spectacular sight so a reward on the walk which always keeps little ones going.

The geology in the Yorkshire Dales is perfect for waterfalls. The steep valleys, limestone bedrock and the odd bit of rain, means that this water has to go downhill somewhere. The best time to visit any waterfall is a day after a rainfall event when you will see it in full force. However, with the abundance of water in the area they are usually trickling in one form or another all year round.

Below are 10 amazing waterfall walks in the Yorkshire Dales:

Gemma Holmes
January 16, 2022

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Janets Foss and Gordale Scar, Malham

One of our favourite walks in the area in general, the Malham area really does have something for everyone. Janets Foss is an easily viewed waterfall just off the Gordale Scar Road. It can be reached by walking from the village following the beck upstream for about a mile where the waterfall is at the top of the small wood. The story of Janet’s Foss is that it is the home of Janet, Queen of the Fairies – she had her home behind the waterfall.

This is a popular walking spot as well as a wild swimming spot with a small drop plunge pool in front so expect to not have it to yourself. The section through the wood either side of the waterfall can be very tricky to negotiate with a little ones so take care especially when wet.

From Janet’s Foss you can exit onto the road above the waterfall and cross over (past the butty van) to continue walking up to Gordale Scar. Gordale Scar is a large open gorge with the waterfall at the end approx 1 mile away. This section is accessible and takes you very close to the base of the waterfall. From here it is a huge scramble to the base and if you are a real dare-devil you can actually climb up the side of the waterfall onto the top of the scar.

Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

Ingleton Waterfalls Trail is another popular waterfall walks in the Yorkshire Dales. This route is paid entry (£8 adults £4 kids) but totally worth it. The walk is approx 5 miles long and is quite a challenging walk for little ones so make sure you pack the picnic!

There are numerous falls on the trial, 8 in total. The route follows the River Twiss up and the River Doe down. There is a mix of terrains including a lot of steps. The most famous waterfall on the route is Thornton Force, which in the summer months can get extremely busy with everyone wanting a dip in the pool.

Check out my full walk review and what else there is to do in Ingleton below.

Stainforth Force and Catrigg Force, Settle

Near Settle, the village of Stainforth offers 2 brilliant waterfalls; Stainforth Force and Catrigg Force.

The easiest waterfall to access is Stainforth. From the village you can follow the public footpath from the main car park onto the road down to river. Once over the packhorse bridge the waterfalls are on your left. You can also watch the salmon jumping in the Autumnal months which is a sight to behold – nature at its best. From here you can follow the river bank downstream to Langcliffe or head back to the village. The walk from the village to Stainforth Force and back is 1.5km.

Catrigg Force is above the village, following the track up onto the moor. This single drop waterfall is located in the woods and you hear it long before you see it! The route from the track through the wood down to the waterfall can be quite slippy. There is a great plunge pool though for a dip once you reach it if you are brave enough. Heading back to the village takes the same route back which is in total is 4km. You can however keep heading up onto the moors and you will come across Victoria Caves, Jubilee Cave and Attermire Scar. A great place to explore and discover with little ones.

Scaleber Force, Settle

Scaleber Force is a dramatic waterfall on the moors above Settle. This is an incredibly short walk as you can park right next to it. The route down to the waterfall is pretty poor and slippy so be extra careful with little ones.

The waterfall is a series of smaller waterfalls which after rainfall can be roaring.

Check out my full walk reviews on the link below for Stainforth, Catrigg and Scaleber Force..

Linton Falls, Grassington

Linton Falls just below Grassington is a beautiful walk at any time of year. Just above the Falls there is a great wild swimming spot which is very popular with families in the summer for paddling and picnics as it is flat, calm with lots of little pebbly beaches. Under the footbridge, 100m downstream it is another story. A raging, turbulent, twisting and turning arrangement of rocks where the water throttles through making the loudest roar. The Falls are beautiful but deadly so admire from the footbridge and viewing platform only.

There are a couple of short circular walks you can do from here. Parking in the small car park in Linton follow the road down and through the church yard to the stepping stones. You can then cross and follow the Dales way path back up the other side. Or from the Falls walk upstream alongside the river to Ghaistrills Strid then back to the village of Grassington.

Posforth Falls, Bolton Abbey

Posforth Falls otherwise known as the Valley of Desolation is the Bolton Abbey waterfall that no one can seem to find!

The route is off the beaten track and doesn’t follow an especially well signposted route which makes it even more exciting the first time you discover it!

The waterfall can be viewed from afar or you can gingerly make your way down the steep banking to the bottom to get a closer look at the plunge pool. Apparently if you go the left hand side too there is another one just upstream but we have not managed to confirm that yet.

The walk can be done from the Cavendish Pavilion (or Riverside car park) and from there is a 4.5km walk there and back, across fields and farm tracks.

This waterfall is always quiet, I’ve only ever seen one other couple there when we have visited so it is a great one to have all to yourself.

Hardraw Force, Hawes

Hardraw Force is the highest (above ground) single drop waterfall in the country. So with a claim to fame like that it is certainly worth a visit!

The waterfall can only be accessed via a gated entrance behind the Green Dragon Inn and it is paid entry (£4 per adult, £2 per child, under 5’s free).

The walk up to the waterfall is accessible and only a very short walk.

Aysgarth Falls, Leyburn

A very popular spot for a walk – this is a great short walk that is accessible with ample of parking.

There are 3 falls in total, the Higher, Middle and Lower Falls. The linear walk starts in the car park and takes you down through the woods, past the Middle Falls to the Lower Falls. Retrace your steps back up to the car park and out the other side for the Higher Falls.

You can get closer to the action, there are viewing platforms but these are not all accessible. To get down onto the rocks (in low flow) is possible but the rocks are slippery so be careful with little ones.

The Higher Falls is the most accessible part with picnic benches, good paths and calmer beach areas above the cascades.

Lower Force Gill (Low Force), Horton in Ribblesdale

Lower Force Gill, otherwise known as Low Force (and not to be confused with Low Force waterfall situated in the North Pennines) is a great little stop off on the way up Whernside.

From Horton in Ribblesdale (parking in the lay-by for the viaduct) follow the path signposted Yorkshire 3 Peaks – Whernside. You will pass the amazing structure that is the Ribblehead Viaduct and then start to climb up on the right hand side (do not go under the viaduct). Once over the little footbridge you will see that the path veers off down to the left following the beck. This is the route to Lower Force Gill. The total distance from the car to the waterfall and back is about 4.5km.

If you fancy carrying on however, up to Whernside, then this amazing but challenging walk is around 14km which took us 3.5 hours. The path is well sign posted and you can’t get lost. The trig point is hidden behind the wall at the top so don’t miss that! Once you descend Whernside fully then turn left at the little barn and follow the footpath across the fields emerging under the viaduct. All in all, a great area to explore for all the family as there is something for everyone. Get checking out the train timetables soon so you can time it with a train going over the top!

Buckden Beck, Upper Wharfedale

This short walk just behind Buckden main car park is a wonderful walk. At just over a mile in total it is perfect for little ones to explore. There are 4 waterfalls that tumble down the hillside, with little pools to paddle, rocks to climb and a few scrambly bits makes for a real adventure.

For the more epic adventurer with bigger kids then you can actually carry on up (via a precarious path) all the way to Buckden Pike.

For more waterfall walks in the Yorkshire Dales then head across to my instagram page @Girlaboutyorkshire

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Gemma Holmes
January 16, 2022
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