This is one of our more challenging Peak District family walks as it is steep, muddy and rocky in places. But the views from Pike Low down on to the reservoirs on this Derwent Dam walk are simply stunning and make it all worthwhile.
Starting from Fairholmes car park, this walk takes you right up to Derwent Dam, then along the shores of Derwent Reservoir, climbs steeply up to Pike Low and across the open moors of the Dark Peak, to then descend back down to Ladybower Reservoir with an easy walk back to the start.
If you’re looking for a more gentle stroll with the kids, check out our pram friendly Ladybower Reservoir walk, which does a 9.1km loop and is well surfaced all the way around; this follows a slightly different route to our Ladybower cycle route. Alternatively, if you loved this walk, why not try our Win Hill walk on the other side of Ladybower Reservoir?
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If you are planning a visit to the National Park, please arrive early or late in the day to avoid crowds if visiting over sunny weekends or school holidays. Please also take all litter home with you, don’t bring BBQs and park your car in designated parking areas. Also, please use these walks as a guide; access and stiles may change.
During the winter months, it’s important to be extra prepared and safe when out walking and adventuring in the Peak District. The weather can change so quickly, especially on the exposed escarpments, and we don’t want you to get caught out.
Read our top tips for safe winter walking with the kids.
PARKING INFORMATION: Please do not rely solely on the postcode for parking directions. In the National Park, a postcode can cover a large area. Postcodes are only provided as guidance. Please either use the Google Maps point provided for every walk, or what3words.
Do check out our top tips for hiking with young kids, as well as our essential items to take on a family hike in the Peak District.
Download and print out our walking guides ready for your family walk. There are over 80 downloadable walk guides available, and these include all the main Peak District family walks, pram-friendly walks, and toddler walks.
Each printable download is just £1.50, whether it’s a short 1km stroll or an epic walk up Kinder Scout.
Derwent Dam walk map
On all Peak District family walks it’s a good idea to have an Ordnance Survey paper map with you, even if you have your phone on you. For this walk you need the OS Explorer Map OL 01 (Dark Peak). It’s also a good opportunity to show young kids the map features and get them started with map reading.
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This route follows a clockwise direction.
Get a printable download of this walk
Want to print off this walk guide rather than rely on your mobile? Then click here to download the PDF to print out at home. Perhaps print out a copy for the kids to follow the step-by-step directions and/or photos? It’s a great way to get them engaged with the walk and gives them a sense of responsibility.
All printable downloads are £1.50 each. Click here for the full list of Peak District Kids printable downloads.
Please note that your download link expires 72 hours from order, so make sure you save your PDF somewhere where you’ll remember it. If you are unsure where your download folder is on your mobile device, we recommend you download the PDF on your laptop or desktop.
Need to know
DISTANCE OF WALK: 6.8km / 4.2 miles
TYPE OF WALK: A circular walk with a steep rocky climb
PARKING: Fairholmes car park at the Upper Derwent Visitor Centre. Click here to see location on Google Maps. Postcode is: S33 0AQ. All day parking is £6 (or £3.50 up to 2 hours). There are both cash and card payment machines.
WALK HIGHLIGHTS: Derwent Dam, walking alongside Derwent Reservoir and Ladybower Reservoir, incredible open views from Pike Low.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE: Without kids this would be a 2.5-3 hour walk. Allow for 4 hours with young kids.
ACCESSIBILTY: The paths alongside both reservoirs is flat and easy for a pram. But once you climb up into the hills, it’s not at all pram friendly and is a steep climb. A couple of stiles along the way.
TOTAL ASCENT: 249 metres
PUBLIC TOILETS: At Upper Derwent Visitors Centre there are toilets, and a small takeaway café with outdoor picnic benches. There are no other facilities along this Derwent Dam walk.
START: Fairholmes Car Park
Click here for Google Map point
Grid reference: SK 1721 8940
Post code: S33 0AQ
Route follows a clockwise direction.
1. From Fairholmes car park, with the Visitors Centre on your left, follow the waymarked path toward Derwent Dam. You can walk across the grass to stand right in front of it. When there’s been a lot of rain, it’s an amazing site to see the dam overflowing.
2. Walk along the edge of Derwent Dam to the steps at the right, and climb up.
3. At the top of the steps take a left, walk through the wooden gate, and follow the edge of the reservoir along an easy flat path for 1km.
4. You will then notice a footpath sign on your right, just next to a little brook. Follow the footpath up the hill, taking the fork on the right (see photo below), and then through the wooden gate.
5. Keep following the footpath up, following the waymarked signs. This section is quite steep, so take lots of breaks to appreciate the view. The footpath veers left towards the top.
6. When you reach the top at this main footpath sign (see below photo), take a right.
7. Continue along this footpath for 400 metres, climbing slightly, to this gate below. Look back for final views of Derwent Reservoir.
8. Walk through the gate and continue straight ahead to follow the footpath signs that lead towards Ladybower Reservoir.
9. After 700 metres, you will walk alongside this wall.
10. Just as the footpath veers to the left, Ladybower Reservoir comes into view. Keep following the footpath back down.
11. Once you reach the tarmac lane, take a right, and follow this all the way back to the car park for 1.9km, passing Derwent Dam again.
Peak District Kids is a free online resource. If you have found this website useful for planning your family adventures, you can show your support by buying me a coffee. Thanks so much!
Or perhaps purchase a Peak District Kids iron-on patch. £1 from every sale of the iron-on patches goes towards the Peak District National Park Foundation, a registered charity established to raise funds to care for the Peak District National Park.
Want more ideas for family walks?
Best Family Walks in the Peak District
Pram Friendly Peak District walks
Toddler walks in the Peak District
Also, come and join our friendly Peak District Kids Facebook Group for any questions or to share photos of your walks.