Unsurprisingly, due to it’s stunning beauty and iconic stepping stones across the River Dove, Dovedale is one of the most popular hotspots in the Peak District National Park, and Dovedale car park (£3.50 cash only, free for NT members) is often exceptionally busy. However, this Dovedale circular walk starts from the much quieter village of Thorpe, and leads you around Thorpe Cloud, across Dovedale Stepping Stones. It’s easily one of our favourite Peak District family walks.
This is a much quieter route. But to avoid crowds at Dovedale Stepping Stones, plan to start this Dovedale circular walk either early or late in the day, especially on sunny weekends.
This route also includes an optional detour up Thorpe Cloud from Dovedale Stepping Stones. This is a steep 20 minute climb (1.4km detour up and down) with superb views. Or perhaps just leave that to another day; it’s up to you.
Did you know that there are other Peak District stepping stone walks? You may also want to try out Chee Dale Stepping Stones and Hathersage Stepping Stones. Or perhaps check out our Peak District river walks.
If you are planning a visit to the National Park, please arrive early or late in the day to avoid crowds. 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.
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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.
Dovedale circular 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 Active Map OL24 (White Peak). It’s also a good opportunity to show young kids the map features and get them started with map reading.
The route directions below follow this map in an anti-clockwise direction.
Need to know
DISTANCE OF WALK: 5.3km (add on 1.4 km if you take the detour up Thorpe Cloud)
TYPE OF WALK: circular, river walk with stepping stones.
PARKING: FREE parking at Thorpe Station Car Park. Click here for Google Map point, postcode is DE6 2AT.
WALK HIGHLIGHTS: Dovedale Stepping Stones, Thorpe Cloud, paddling in the River Dove.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE: Without kids, this is a 1.5 hour walk, but with young kids it is closer to 2.5 hours (longer if it’s a sunny day and you want to picnic by the river and maybe have a paddle).
ACCESSIBILTY: This Dovedale circular walk is not pram friendly or wheelchair friendly (although the short section between Dovedale car park and Dovedale Stepping Stones is). The path down to Dovedale Stepping Stones is a steady descent, and there’s also a short steep section uphill towards the end of the walk.
TOTAL ASCENT: 183 metres (it’s an additional 138 metres if you climb the detour up Thorpe Cloud)
PUBLIC TOILETS: There are public toilets and a little ice-cream hut (card only) at the main Dovedale car park. There is also the Dog Inn pub at the start/end of this walk, do check their website for opening times.
This route description of our Dovedale walk follows the above OS Map in an anti-clockwise direction.
1. Starting from Thorpe Station Car Park, take a right and walk towards the The Old Dog pub. Cross the road, and continue straight ahead with the pub on your left.
2. Continue for 400m down the road, along the pavement, past the sign for Thorpe. At the bend in the road, take the footpath on the right next to The Peveril of the Peak sign.
3. Follow this footpath for 100m through a wooden gate, to a stone stile.
4. Take a left, following the public footpath to Dovedale. The angular summit of Thorpe Cloud will soon come in to view. Follow the footpath to the right of Thorpe Cloud, keeping the ‘Danger – When Red Flags are flying’ signs as the rough route of the footpath (the footpath isn’t entirely obvious, but keep aiming for the right hand side of Thorpe Cloud).
5. Follow the footpath in the valley, with the drystone wall separating you and Thorpe Cloud on your left. The fencing prohibits you crossing over to take the footpath up to Thorpe Cloud. Continue the footpath down to Dovedale Stepping Stones.
Once your arrive at Dovedale Stepping Stones, you can take the footpath back up to the summer of Thorpe Cloud should you wish. It’s a 20 minute steep ascent (1.4 km extra there and back) and the views are incredible. You can follow this Thorpe Cloud walk from step 3.
The view from the summit of Thorpe Cloud below, should you wish to take the detour:
6. Cross over Dovedale Stepping Stones. You may have to wait your turn on a busy day. When there has been very heavy rain, the stepping stones are sometimes submerged. If you are unable to cross (or you’ve caught them at a busy time and don’t want to wait), you can follow the footpath to the left of the River Dove (with the river on your right).
7. Once you’ve crossed over the Dovedale Stepping Stones, take a left and continue the flat and even footpath for 500m to a wooden bridge on your left.
8. Cross over the footbridge and take the footpath immediately on your right, climbing over a wooden stile. Then follow the footpath across the fields, keeping close to the River Dove on your right.
9. This footpath leads out on to the road, to the left of St. Mary’s Bridge. Turn left and walk along the road for 100m. Just after the small group of buildings, there is a footpath on the right.
10. There are two footpaths here. Take the one on the right that leads right up the hill to this gate (see photo below). This section is a bit steep.
11. Once you’re through the gate, continue straight ahead, a bit more uphill. The footpath then levels off as you approach the farm buildings. The footpath then leads you out to a lane, through a metal gate, to the left of the farm building. Continue on the footpath straight ahead.
12. This leads you out onto a road, and you’re back in the village of Thorpe. Continue straight ahead along the road to St Leonard’s Church, which was founded in Norman times.
13. Take the footpath to the left of the church, continue around the back of the church to the right, and then you will see a footpath baring a sharp left. Take this sharp left through the woods, eventually leading you back out onto another road.
14. Once you reach the road, take a left to the T-junction and then a right. Follow this road back to the car park. You will soon be retracing your steps from the beginning of this Dovedale circular walk.
Peak District Kids is a free online resource. If you enjoyed this walk, you can show your support by buying me a coffee. Thanks so much! You may also want to share your own photos of this walk in our Peak District Kids Facebook Group.
Or purchase the Peak District Kids iron-on patch! £1 from every sale goes towards the Peak District National Park Foundation, a registered charity established to raise funds to care for The Peak District National Park.