What is the Yorkshire Three Peaks?

The hiking challenge known as the Yorkshire Three Peaks has become one of the most popular endurance events in the UK. So, what’s involved in completing the 3 Peaks Yorkshire? Read on to find out.

23 August 2022

Every year, around 100,000 people challenge themselves to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Their motivations are varied, with some seeking to test themselves against the might of some of Yorkshire’s highest mountains and others for good causes, with an estimated £6 million raised for charity annually.

Along the way, the Three Peaks Yorkshire offers views of aqueducts and ancient forts, waterfalls and stunning countryside. It is little wonder that 3 Peaks Yorkshire holds its own against the equivalent national hiking challenge of a similar name.

In this guide we’ll explore all things Three Peaks Yorkshire, including:

  • What are the Yorkshire Three Peaks?
  • What is the Yorkshire Three Peaks distance?
  • What is the Yorkshire Three Peaks route?
  • How long does it take?

Got your hiking boots on? Good. Let’s go.

The Origins of 3 Peaks Yorkshire

Whernside seen from Coverdale, Yorkshire Dale (Photo: Photos by R A Kearton via Getty Images)

In July of 1887, two local school teachers, D. R. Smith and J. R. Wynne-Edwards, completed a circuit of the peaks of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent in the Yorkshire Dales. The hike took them 10 hours and would become the first ever recorded completion of what is now known as the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

Today, the official challenge of the 3 Peaks Yorkshire is to complete a circuit of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent in under 12 hours, with some hundred thousand people taking part each year, and many more enjoy hiking the individual peaks.

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Route

Pen-y-Ghent rising in the background in the Yorkshire Dales (Photo: Michael Honor via Getty Images)

Whilst there are numerous ways to navigate the challenge, the official Yorkshire Three Peaks route is a 24-mile long circuit around the valley head of the River Ribble and includes 5200ft of ascent. It takes place within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and begins in the village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale. Most people take on the mountains in the following order:

  • Pen-y-Ghent (2,277 ft)
  • Whernside (2,415 ft)
  • Ingleborough (2,372 ft)

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Distance

Ingleborough from Bowland, Yorkshire Dales, UK. (Photo: Ashley Cooper via Getty Images)

As stated above, the total Yorkshire Three Peaks distance is approximately 24 miles. A portion of this is navigating between the peaks.

In order to complete the challenge, estimated timings to cover the Yorkshire Three Peaks distance within 12 hours are as follows:

  • Pen-y-ghent Summit: 1 hour 20 mins
  • Whernside Summit: 5 hours 5 minutes
  • Ingleborough Summit: 3 hours 10 mins
  • Horton-in-Ribblesdale: 2 hours 25 mins

However, many people choose alternative completion times, most commonly between 8 and 14 hours. In terms of how the Yorkshire Three Peaks distance divides proportionately, it is estimated that summiting Pen-y-ghent is 11%, Whernside is 42% and Ingleborough 26%, with 21% in between.

Yorkshire Three Peaks Races and Records

Participants competing in the three Peaks Cyclo-Cross Race (Photo: Bryn Lennon via Getty Images)

In addition to the walking challenge, several races take place at the Three Peaks Yorkshire. Amongst these are the Yorkshire 3 Peak Ultra and the Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross. There is also the Three Peaks Race. Held since 1954, it was during the 1996 event that the fastest ever time of 2 hours 46 minutes and 3 seconds was achieved.

And that’s the 3 Peaks Yorkshire in a nutshell, including the Yorkshire Three Peaks distance and Yorkshire Three Peaks route.


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