Nestled in a quiet corner of the Derbyshire hills in the Peak District lies a sleeping dragon whose spiky, grass covered back you can clamber across. But fear not, the dragon has fortunately lain asleep for millions of years and it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll wake anytime soon! This wonderful walk takes in the two jagged limestone hills of Parkhouse and Chrome Hill and as you look back over the dramatic ridge lines, it’s easy to see why it goes by the nickname of “The Dragon’s Back”. The route along these mini mountains that appear to burst through the ground from nowhere can be started from many different places but this route starts from the tiny village of Earl Sterndale and crosses over the top of both hills; be careful in wet weather as this can become an incredibly slippery and treacherous route.
At a Glance
Difficulty: Moderate - some steep paths onto the top of both hills as well as slippery paths during and after bad weather. The top of each hill has a ridge line which are rocky and uneven
Total Ascent: 340m
Est Time: 2.5hours depending on rest stops and walking speed
Starting location: Roadside parking in Earl Sterndale near The quiet Woman Inn. Parking is free but be mindful of parking considerately and not blocking roads.
Dog friendly: yes if used to ascent and rocky terrain. The route also goes through farmland where there are sheep so keep them on a lead and under control.
The quiet village of Earl Sterndale is your starting point for this route and the free roadside parking near The Quiet Woman Pub is your aim (it’s the pub with a painted sign of a decapitated barmaid!). The pub has been closed for a while now and there aren’t any other facilities here unfortunately. The pretty village is in the middle of some gorgeous Peak District countryside in the Upper Dove Valley in Derbyshire and is a popular starting point for walks, especially over to Dovedale.
Once you’ve found a suitable place to leave your car, there’s a signposted path out the back of the pub which leads across fields and along the side of Hitter Hill, a 362m little rounded peak and before descending down the hill towards the road you get some brilliant views of the two peaks you’ll soon be heading up.
The first peak of the route is Parkhouse Hill and the path winds steeply up the closest end to you. It requires some scrambling and sure footedness as well as a good level of fitness and it is steep on the way up! However, once you’re at the top, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views.
This unusual hill is actually the remains of a reef formed when the Peak District was covered by a tropical sea! It’s crazy to imagine that now as you walk along the top of the ridge and down onto lush, green farmland but this is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for it’s unusual geology and flora.
Most interestingly though, this is where a double sunset can sometimes be seen. From late March to early April and again in September, when the sun sets to the south of the hill it disappears and then appears to re-emerge again before finally disappearing at the foot of the hill. This was first captured by the photographer Chris Doherty and if you'd like to know how to maybe photograph this for yourself take a look at how to see it here.
Once you’re finally on the top of Parkhouse Hill, the walk is a traverse of the ridgeline. At the end, there is a very steep path down so I would only recommend this if you are confident with steep slopes. At the bottom, you’ll be close to the base of Chrome Hill and there isn’t much time to rest; it’s a quick cross of the track before hedging straight up the side of Chrome Hill.
Chrome Hill, the slightly larger “mini mountain” of the two hills, is another challenging leg burner with a steep incline to get to the summit. Be sure to look back here for incredible views and to see the dragon in all its beauty as well as sweeping views across the hills and farms which dot the landscape. It's quite exposed and the wind can pick up so I'd definitely recommend the the Rambler Zip Through Fleece paired with the Get Up and Go gilet to keep the wind off you up there.
After you descend Chrome Hill, you’ll start heading back in the direction you came from but this time alongside the bottom of Chrome Hill and through farm land until you reach a farm track. Following this track all the way back and finally across some more fields, will take you back to the main road by Parkhouse Hill, where you can retrace your steps back into Earl Sterndale.
Map and key locations
Access the route on the OS Map App here.
1: Roadside parking in Earl Sterndale near The quiet Woman Inn
2: Beginning of the ascent up Parkhouse Hill
3: Beginning of the ascent up Chrome Hill
4. Flat walking back towards the starting point
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.
- Parking is limited in the village of Earl Sterndale and there are no facilities in the village
- In bad or wet weather, the ascents and descents of both Parkhouse and Chrome Hill can be incredibly slippery.
- There are some steep inclines if you want to head onto the top of each hill
- If you don’t want to walk onto the top of each hill, the views from the base are still beautiful
- If you’re feeling peckish, there’s an honesty hut in Hollinsclough which you can easily detour to. It sells lots of different refreshments and you can pay with cash and card.