Best Autumn walks in Yorkshire: Hardcastle Crags, Gibson Mill and Lumb Falls circular

A popular location for a beautiful Yorkshire walk is Hardcastle Crags with over 15 miles of footpaths to choose from taking you through peaceful woodland, alongside flowing rivers, past a 19th century cotton mill, across moorland, through rugged valleys and to the beautiful Lumb Falls. This 9km circular route takes in all the best sites on this Yorkshire walk and can be done in either direction. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a solo explorer, a dog walker or a busy parent looking to take the kids somewhere, I guarantee that you’ll have a great day out at Hardcastle Crags. Just don’t forget to stop at the wonderful cafe at Gibson Mill on the way round for a cake and a cuppa.

Woodland walk in Yorkshire near Hebden Bridge

At a Glance

Difficulty: Moderate - some rocky/slippy paths and uphill sections. Some pathless navigation needed. 

Distance: 9km loop

Total ascent: 312m

Est Time: 3 hours (not including rest stops)

Starting location: Midgehole National Trust Car Park

Parking Cost: £5 (coins only) but free for NT members. 

Dog friendly: Yes!

Key features: The beautiful Gibson Mill built in 1803, the rocky outcrop of Hardcastle Crags, beautiful woodland walks, Lumb Falls - a spectacular waterfall and a great place for a wild swim.

Where is Hardcastle Crags? 

Hardcastle Crags is located in West Yorkshire in the South Pennine Moors. Not far from Hebden Bridge, public transport links make this walk a good option if you don’t drive or have access to a car although this will increase the distance of your overall walk. With over 15 miles of trails for you to explore, the National Trust have made it easy for visitors by providing a waymarked map with colour coded paths and ideas for different routes to follow.

With so many beautiful sites to see in this area, I wanted a route that would combine a few routes together and allow us to see lots of the best sites in one go so keep reading for the route I followed and don't forget to download the map

Route Details

Riverside walk in Yorkshire

Leaving Midgehole Car Park, head downhill to the river as the first part of this walk takes you through a woodland paradise, which during Autumn is home to all the beautiful colours you would expect. Remember to wrap up warm over Autumn and Winter because it's certainly chilly in those woods. I recommend the Oversized Colourblock Fleece paired with the Get-up-and-Go gilet to keep you toasty warm all day. The path follows alongside Hebden Water in the valley where the path is well maintained, although maybe a little muddy after some rain. It’s not long until you’ll reach the mill (around just 30 minutes) so enjoy your time in the woodland here - look out for squirrels and deer playing in the woodland too!

Abandoned building on a riverside walk with stepping stones near Hebden Bridge

Gibson Mill

Gibson Mill next to the river near Hebden Bridge part of the Hardcastle Crags walk in Yorkshire

As you reach the mill from the woodland, you’ll see the back of it first (along with the cafe) and the old toll bridge used to cross the river. We decided to walk around the side to the mill pond where there was a little path on the edge of the water that you can follow to get the beautiful reflection of the mill. Unfortunately it was covered in scaffolding when we visited but it’s still a beautiful site nonetheless. 

Reflection of Gibson Mill on the mill pond at Hardcastle Crags in Yorkshire

Built in 1803 and used as a cotton mill with an internal water wheel, Gibson Mill has been through quite the transformation over the years. After the production of cotton ceased here in 1890, the mill then became an entertainment venue before World War II offering visitors a dance hall, roller-skating and boating on the pond. Now, the National Trust maintains it while also providing an educational visitor centre where you can learn about its history.

Heading to Hardcastle Crags

House at Gibson Mill in Yorkshire walks around Hebden Bridge

From out the back of the mill, it's a short ten minute stroll to Hardcastle Crags, a unique rocky outcrop which is signposted to the left. One thing that shocked me is that there was nobody else who had ventured further than the mill, with most people turning back around, maybe unaware of the crags not too much further along the path. Maybe they’d visited before but either way, we had this and the rest of the walk all to ourselves, which was a real treat for a nice Friday in the school holidays. The views from up here are beautiful and worth a quick stop before continuing with the walk.

Autumn walks in Yorkshire looking down the valley near Hardcastle Crags

Making your way to Lumb Hole Waterfall - a great spot for a wild swim in Yorkshire

When we first arrived at the car park, the NT staff working there told me that they didn’t think there was a way to get across to Lumb Falls without coming back to the car park but I can assure you there is. Following the forestry track uphill through the woodlands we eventually reached a quiet road which we followed for just a few minutes before cutting right, following the public footpath towards Turn Hill. Navigation on this section is down to you as the path isn’t marked so I recommend downloading the Ordnance Survey or Komoot route or getting your map out to find your way. 

Woman walks across moorland in Yorkshire near Hardcastle Crags

This section really opened up the views for us and as we wandered across the boggy, squelchy moorland we couldn’t help but remark how wild this little section felt compared with the enclosed woodland we had just come from. 

Walks in Yorkshire near Hebden Bridge

Eventually, after some successful navigation back to the path, we headed downhill and then down a steep grassy bank which led directly to Lumb Hole Waterfall.

The Waterfall

This little gem isn’t a hidden one and has been enjoyed by many for years as well as lots of wild swimmers. The two waterfalls cascade down over the slabs into a deep pool below and with the moss and fern growing around the outside it could be mistaken for somewhere more tropical (although the weather really ruins that thought). 

Lumb Hole Waterfall perfect for wild swimming in Yorkshire

During the summer months, Lumb Falls becomes crowded as visitors flock to this accessible waterfall so I’d definitely recommend leaving this one for out of season.

Woman looks down into Lumb Hole Waterfall

Returning to the car park

Heading back to the car park couldn’t be simpler. Retrace your steps away from the waterfall and follow the path along the hillside which leads you directly down the valley and back to where you started. 

Autumn colours in the trees Hebden Bridge Yorkshire

Map and key locations 

Access the route on the OS Map App here.

Locations

1: Parking at Midgehole National Trust Car Park

2: Through the woodlands alongside Hebden Beck

3: Gibson Mill & cafe 

4: Hardcastle Crags and through the woodland 

5: Following the path along Turn Hill

6. Heading back downhill towards Lumb Falls

7. Lumb Falls and a great swim spot if the river isn’t too fast flowing

Komoot App

Have you ever tried Komoot? Komoot allows you to access routes planned by others or plan your own which you can then download to your phone to follow while you are out. Komoot is free to join and access and you can find the route for his walk here.

Top Tips

  • The parking area fills up quickly at weekends and on nice days so arrive early
  • There is a larger car park slightly further up the hill if the lower one is full
  • There are visitor toilets nearby to the car park
  • Collect a map from the welcome hut as you arrive - some of the popular routes are colour coded with matching waymarkers so you can choose your route and easily follow it. 
  • The cafe at Gibson Mill serves delicious cakes and food and a variety of hot and cold drinks and is the perfect place to stop
  • The middle section of the route isn’t signposted so confident navigation will be needed - don’t forget to download the route to your phone before you go or use your map
  • Lumb Falls is a great place for a swim but be careful if the river is in full flow

For additional UK outdoor adventures, wild swimming, hiking routes and more, check my other blog posts here on MY URBAN TRAIL and follow me @Wild_0utdoors on Instagram.

Happy adventuring! 

Izzy

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