6 Peak District waterfall walks with the wow factor

Rural, Walking, Nature

Posted by Ruth King on 24th August 2023

Peak waterfalls in a gorse covered hillscape

The Peak District National Park is one of the best places in the UK to enjoy long walks, and hikes to experience the region's celebrated stark beauty. Whether you choose to explore the dramatic Dark Peak or the rolling White Peak for a moorlands walk, you’ll be spoilt for choice wherever you go.

But for a day out on the trail in the Peak District National Park that offers the wow factor in abundance, seek out one of the region's waterfalls. The natural elements of the national park come together at these sites to create huge torrents of water that plunge from the craggy heights, resulting in a spectacle that is too good to miss.

We’ve picked out six of the Peak District’s most breathtaking waterfall walks; visit just one or tick off all of them with a big road trip as you discover the Peak District – the choice is yours. And if you’re searching for a cosy Peak District cottage to relax in afterwards, just click the button below to find your perfect place to stay.

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Looking down on the torrent of Kinder Downfall

Kinder Downfall – the tallest one

If there’s one Peak District waterfall that you must visit on your next holiday, it’s this one. Kinder Downfall is one of the best Great British waterfalls, where you can watch as a 30-metre torrent of water tumbles from a moorland plateau at Kinder Scout. It’s best to time your visit for after heavy rain when the waterfall is really in full force. Or even better – combine the heavy rain with wind and it’s possible to see the waterfall blowing back on itself, creating a huge spray! 

As the waterfall is close to Kinder Scout, a visit makes a great day out exploring the many walks in the area. Watch out for Mermaid’s Pool, beneath the waterfall, which is said to be the home of a beautiful mermaid who tries to entice men to their death. 

Good to know

  • Distance: 7.5 miles (linear) |  Difficulty: Challenging
  • Nearest car park: Bowden Bridge Car Park, Hayfield, SK22 2LH
  • Stay nearby: Kinder Cottage | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

There are three routes to get to Kinder Downfall; here is the least strenuous one: 

  • Turn left out of the car park and head up Kinder Road towards Kinder Reservoir. 
  • Soon you will arrive at the foot of a steep hill called White Brow - look out for a signpost (the cobbled path can be slippery after rain).
  • At the top, you will arrive at Kinder Reservoir on your right-hand side - eventually, you will reach a little wooden bridge. 
  • Cross over the bridge and go straight on, the path is little more than a sheep path.
  • When you reach the top, turn right and you will have reached the top of Kinder Downfall.
  • For views, you then cross the River Kinder where you can see Kinder Downfall from the other side. Return to the car park the same way you came.

A bridge over Panniers Pool

Panniers Pool – the off-the-beaten-track one

This waterfall is a bit tricky to get to, but is well worth the effort. You’ll have to tackle some rough trails and some boggy patches before arriving at Panniers Pool, situated close to the point where the counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire meet. Under the stone bridge, the water flows down a gentle step before joining a stream; it’s said that horses used to drink from this pool when they passed by. 

If wild swimming is your thing, why not take a dip in the pool? Or, if you’d rather keep your feet on dry land, Panniers Pool and the Three Shires Head can be enjoyed on a meandering walk from nearby Macclesfield.

Good to know

  • Distance: 3.75 miles (circular) | Difficulty: Moderate
  • Nearest car park: Gradbach Car Park, Gradbach, Buxton, SK17 0SU 
  • Stay nearby: Quarnford Cottage | sleeps 4 + 3 dogs

This trail is known as the Three Shires Head circular.

  • Head east from Gradbach Car Park to the junction with Love Lane. Follow the sign towards Bennetshitch Farm followed by Hole Edge Farm. 
  • Look out for The Roaches - an iconic jagged series of rock formations where a colony of wallabies once lived.
  • Also look out for the ruins of Greenhill Colliery which worked a coal seam in the 19th century; a U-shaped earthwork is still visible.
  • The next landmark is Robins Clough which is a valley that is characterised by a stream and the remains of Robinsclough Colliery. There are lots of fenced-off mine shafts in the area.
  • Once out of the other side of the clough, look out for a public footpath near Knar Farm.
  • The public footpath heads diagonally across until fields give way to an area of boulder-strewn moorland, before a rough track that skirts the slope of Cut-thorn Hill.
  • Eventually, the track bends northwards and descends a ravine to the Pannierspool Bridge.
  • You can return to Gradbach Car Park via Turn Edge Ruins (follow the signposts) or return the way you came.

Lumsdale Falls – the historic one - sheer waterfall in dell

Lumsdale Falls – the historic one

If you feel like stepping back in time, take a trip to Lumsdale Falls. The area includes many 17th-century mill buildings which used to be powered by the nearby rivers, and the moss-clad ruins create a timeless atmosphere in the already beautiful Lumsdale Valley. You can watch as water from the Bentley Brook, which once powered the mills, cascades over the stone to a stream below. 

This spectacular force is only 2.5 miles from Matlock, creating the opportunity for a great day out combining the peaceful sights of the waterfalls with the bustling vibrancy of the thriving town. 

Good to know

  • Distance: 1.5 miles (linear) | Difficulty: Easy to moderate (lots of steps) 
  • Nearest car park: Along Lumsdale by Highfields School, DE4 5NA 
  • Please note: The path is only open to the public between the 1 May and the 1 October each year
  • Stay nearby: Millside Cottage | sleeps 6 + 1 dog
  • From Highfields School, walk along Lumsdale for 0.5 miles in a southerly direction past Lumsdale House. 
  • The pathway to Lumsdale Falls is 100 metres beyond this.
  • Climb 73 steps past the old mill ruins and you will be close to the top of the waterfall.

Padley Gorge – the family-friendly one - wooded low slung waterfall

Padley Gorge – the family-friendly one

The journey to this Peak District waterfall has an enchanting, fairytale feel, making it perfect for a fun day out as a family. Starting at the Longshaw estate in Sheffield, you’ll walk over a wooden bridge (are there trolls living underneath?!) across the babbling Burbage Brook before arriving at Padley Gorge. 

Once you’re there, you’ll discover the beautiful waterfall which cascades over giant stones. The walk is around an hour each way, but there are plenty of picnic spots where you can all refuel, as well as areas for little feet to safely paddle in the chilly water.

Good to know

  • Distance: 0.5 (linear) | Difficulty: Easy
  • Nearest car park: Grindleford Railway Station, Station Road, Grindleford, S32 2HY
  • Stay nearby: Stanton Lodge Cottage | sleeps 4
  • From Grindleford Station, head north along Windses Estate.
  • On the right-hand side, you will encounter the entrance to the Padley Gorge Trail. 
  • The gorge is visible on the left-hand side where you can see Burbage Brook below.
  • If you have more time, walk a further 3 miles to Surprise View.

Rivelin Valley – the photogenic one - timelapse photography - ferny gully background

Rivelin Valley – the photogenic one

Make sure you pack your camera when you visit this waterfall in the Rivelin Valley, as it’s one of the most picturesque spots in the Peak District. Follow the nature trail through the park and woodland where you’ll find dams, reservoirs, brooks and a series of very pretty waterfalls. Set amongst verdant greenery, it’s also a great place to find some peace on the edge of Sheffield. 

The walk is only 2 miles long and fairly flat. Keep your eyes peeled for the wide variety of flora and fauna living in the valley, and then refuel at the café in the park afterwards.

Good to know

  • From the Rivelin Valley Car Park, you are right next to the River Rivelin.
  • Follow the river via the road path towards the city, taking in all the sights of the gorgeous valley.
  • Walk 2 miles to Rivelin Valley Park and turn around.
  • Once you are back at the car park, why not walk a few hundred metres in a westerly direction, still following the river, to Rivelin Dams?
  • The dams are a great place for bird spotting.

Waterfall Swallet – the secret one - tall waterfall - tree branches almost obscure it

Waterfall Swallet – the secret one

Blink and you’ll miss it – Waterfall Swallet is hidden from view behind some trees between the villages of Foolow and Eyam. The land it’s on is privately owned, so you’ll need to view this torrent from the roadside. The sight is spectacular – a large stream of water plunges over rocks to the gentle pool below. In the summer months, you can scramble through the wilderness to get to the bottom, but it’s too treacherous in the winter. 

The waterfall is situated close to the Pennine Way, a short drive away, so it’s a lovely beauty spot to visit before or after a walk on the famous long-distance footpath. Like all waterfalls, but particularly for smaller ones like Swallet, it's best to visit after there has been a period of rain.

Good to know

  • Distance: 1 mile (linear) | Difficulty: Easy
  • Nearest car park: Eyam Car Park, Hawkhill Road, Eyam, S32 5AD
  • Stay nearby: The Trap House | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs
  • Follow the unsealed, unnamed lane that's headed north from the road and runs east/west between Eyam and Foolow. You can identify the road's entrance by the presence of a safety mirror for drivers.
  • Down the lane, you will encounter a gate on the right. Through the gate, you will meet some downward stone steps.
  • Follow the steps downwards and you will reach the foot of the gorge.
  • The distance from the gate to the waterfall is just 100 metres. Wear wellies all year round for this trip as the ground at the bottom of the gorge is very boggy.

A map of the top Peak District waterfalls

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.