This walk takes you from Hawes, along the beautiful River Ure, and through the fields, to reach Hardraw Force, Englands largest single drop waterfall.
What I’m going to do in this guide, is give you a bit of an overview of the walk to Hardraw Force, with full logistics, tips, and a map. Then I will provide a detailed step by step route description with photos.
How long is the Hardraw Force walk?
From Hawes, there and back it’s under 4 miles. You don’t have to do the full walk to see the waterfall though, as there is car parking right outside.
Do you have to pay to see Hardraw Force?
Yes. To see Hardraw force (at the time of writing) is £4 per adult, and £2 per child, and £10 for a family ticket. This is because the land is privately owned.
My thoughts the Hardraw Force walk from Hawes….
My favourite part of the walk, was not Hardraw Force, but the drive to get there, and then the walk along the river through the fields.
I came from Aysgarth and was just gasping at the views on the drive over. Then as I walked through the fields, along the river route, I felt like I was walking in a painting.
Hardraw Force itself was not for me. The waterfall is cool. Quite unique actually. It’s the £4 I paid to see it that I didn’t like. I totally get that the money goes to upkeep, and if I owned the land, I sure as hell would charge people to come onto my land to see it. But for me, as someone who hikes a lot, and has seen many gorgeous waterfalls for free, it felt like a bit of a rip off.
I must stress though, that I’m not the right crowd. I think this would be a wonderful place for families. Or if you are someone who isn’t into bigger hikes, and wants something nice and simple.
I’m not here to tell you not to pay to see it. I’m here to show you what it’s like, so you can decide if it’s right for you.
My favourite waterfall out here is the one in the Valley of Desolation, as part of the Simons Seat walk. That’s completely free, although it’s a much more challenging walk. I was also very impressed with Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar.
Tips for walking from Hawes to Hardraw Force
- Take the river route! There is a slightly more direct way to walk to Hardraw Force, but I would urge you to take a slightly longer route along the river. It’s simply stunning. This was my favourite part of the whole walk. I tried the shorter route for the way back, and it doesn’t compare.
- There is the occasional muddy patch, but I think you could get away with trainers. Saying that, it hadn’t rained for a while, so I can’t say for sure how muddy it can get.
- Take cash for entry to Hardraw Force.
- Start/Finish: Hawes, Yorkshire. Post code: DL8 3RQ.
- Public transport: There are a few bus options to get to Hawes. You can see the latest bus timetables here. They run from numerous locations, including Grassington, Reeth, Middlesborough, Leeds, and York.
- Distance: There and back it’s about 4 miles.
- Time: I did the walk in just under an hour, but didn’t stop. So add more if you want to spend more time at the waterfall and exploring the grounds.
- Difficulty: Easy
- Terrain: Grass, dirt trail, small bit of road.
- Amenities: Anything you need in Hawes. A cafe at Hardraw Force.
- Dog friendly: Yes. There is livestock in the fields on the walk to Hardraw Force, so as long as you keep your dog under control. Dogs are allowed around the waterfall on a lead. No stiles.
- Time of year: I walked to Hardraw Force in winter
Parking to see Hardraw Force
If you don’t want to do the full walk, there is a car park at the cafe and entrance to the waterfall. In Hawes, there is a pay for car park (Gayle Lane car park), or free street side parking. I have read that you can pay for the car park by app. I don’t know the exact details as I chose to park on the street for free.
Map for the walk to Hardraw Force from Hawes
You can find my more detailed route map for the walk to Hardraw Force on AllTrails.
As you can see, I made it circular, as I wanted to see what the more direct route was like to get back to Hawes. However, I would recommend going back along the river. So you go out and back the exact same way.
-More local river and waterfall walk routes I recommend will be at the end-
A guide to the walk from Hawes to Hardraw Force
To get to the start of the trail, you need to take a side road off the main road. It’s this one in the photo below with the blue ‘private road’ sign. It’s one house away from the Board Inn.
Follow this past the houses, then go through a small gate to the left of the house on the end. It might feel a little like you are walking in someones private grounds, but don’t worry.
You now follow this trail all the way down to the river. You will go through a few more small wooden gates, and under a bridge.
Then when you go through the wooden gate next to the stone shed in the photo below, turn right. This will lead you to a wooden gate and the river. At the river turn right.
Follow the River Ure
The next bit is easy, as you simply follow the river.
I found this bit to be exceptionally beautiful. My photos don’t do it justice. The fields, the river, the hills in the distance.
I had been apprehensive about doing this walk to Hardraw Force. In fact, I had already decided I wouldn’t bother with it due to the fee. However, after finishing the Aysgarth Falls walk, as Hardraw Force was just down the road, I figured I might as well. It was a long drive out here from where I was staying, so it made sense to go and check it out.
Walking this section along the river, my apprehension vanished. If Hardraw Force ended up not being that great, then this bit of the walk made up for it.
Walk to the cute bridge and the road
Some way along here, the trail will take you away from the river slightly and to a gate in the stone wall. Once through the gate, to the right, you should see a wooden bridge ahead. Go over to it.
I could see a really interesting group of trees on a hill way in the distance. So unique. Ollie would like that.
Once over the bridge, walk over to the bigger bridge to cross over it along the road. If you took the shorter more direct route from Hawes, this is where you will get to.
Walk back through the fields
A short way along the road, there is a gate to the left. Go through this and into the fields. It’s now lots of field walking the rest of the way to Hardraw Force.
Once through this gate, continue walking straight ahead, towards the trees on the other side, and the hills in the distance.
There is a wooden gate at the end of this first field which I found impossible to open, so had to climb over. I know it is possible though. On the walk back, some people had to open it for an elderly lady trying to get through. She got stuck like me.
Then a little further along, there is a gate in the stone wall to the right.
Through that gate, head to the left in a diagonal, to reach the next gate.
Through there you will be on a proper laid out path. Follow this through some more fields, and mini wooden gates in stone walls, to reach the stone houses and road.
Walk to Hardraw Force
At the main road, turn right and you will see a massive sign pointing the way to the waterfall. Follow it. This will lead you through the car park, and to the cafe building heritage centre.
It was quite nice and quaint inside, with a sign letting you know how Hardraw Force was doing. It told me it was powerful today. I felt happy, but then a little bitter as I handed over £4 to go in.
Once in, follow the main path.
I wasn’t quite sure where I had to go once inside. There is nothing telling you the way. What there is though, are lots of signs warning of danger.
To walk to Hardraw Force, I decided not to complicate things, and stayed on this main path, this led through a big metal gate at the end, then along the river….
It really is as simple as that, as very very soon, Hardraw Force appeared.
I must admit, there was a moment when I saw it, where I wondered if this was it. It didn’t look very powerful. Saying that, I had just come from the Aysgarth Falls which were very aggressive.
I had to remind myself that these are very different kinds of waterfalls though. This one isn’t big, it’s just very long. Quite beautiful actually.
After watching it for a moment, I turned back. I had just payed £4 to walk for 2 minutes to see a waterfall.
As I made my way back, I repeated to myself ‘I didn’t pay for parking, I didn’t pay for parking’. That’s the only saving grace. I payed almost this much for parking at the Aysgarth Falls, so it balances out.
To be fair though, the whole area here is actually quite nice, and a bit dramatic, but also pretty. It’s also very well maintained. The money is spent well at least.
If I had a young family, I would probably really like it here. It’s easy. Lots of nice benches and picnic areas, a few other trails to wander about.
Another thing I might add, is the place was practically empty. Nothing like at the Aysgarth Falls. Was I lucky today? Or maybe the entry fee puts people off? I would pay money for that, to have less people about.
Walk back to Hawes from Hardraw Force
To get back to Hawes, just make you way back the way you came. As I mentioned earlier, I took the quicker route back. I would only recommend doing that if you are either short on time, or your legs hurt, and you want to walk less.
It’s almost the same though. You need to initially go back the same way, until you reach the bridge.
If you want to take the quicker more direct route back, at the bridge, go over it, and through a gap in the wall on the left. Then a very short way along, cross over the road and through a gate on the other side.
Keep following the paved path until you reach the road again. At the road, turn left then right. This will take you back into Hawes.
More river and waterfall walks
My favourite waterfall so far out here is the one in the Valley of Desolation. I highly recommend a visit to that. I did it as part of the Simon’s Seat route, so it is on the more challenging side of walks.
If you want to keep things easy, then you can still see the Valley of Desolation waterfall as a short detour from the Bolton Abbey river walk, which I highly recommend.
I really enjoyed the Linton Falls as part of the Burnsall to Grassington walk. That is a very pretty river walk with stepping stones. You can find out more about that one here.
I have mentioned a few times the Aysgarth Falls. It’s quite busy there, but you could do this wonderful circular route which takes you away from the crowds, and along some really fun stepping stones.
A very well known and popular set of waterfalls are Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar, which are along the Malham Cove Circular. I found these ones super impressive, although very busy.
A bit further north you have Swinner Gill and East Gill force waterfalls, which you can see as part of this Muker circular walk. I really loved that one. The scenery is amazing. Nearby Muker, you have the valley of Gunnerside Gill, which is my favourite. You will find a few waterfalls with dipping pools along this route. Both of these trails are more challenging than the Hardraw Force walk…and the waterfalls are free. Much more my style.
To explore all kinds of routes in the Dales, then check out my guide for all the walks I recommend in the Yorkshire Dales.
Pin it for later: Hardraw Force Waterfall Walk
For more info about things to do in the area, you can check out the Yorkshire Dales National Park website.