Peak District Kids writer: Gemma from Families Can Travel
This High Peak Trail and Cromford Canal walk is great for kids as they will love climbing on the old train carriage and wandering around Cromford Mills. Plus there are lots of giant rocks for kids who love climbing and the views across the quarry, Cromford and Riber Hill are stunning.
The High Peak Trail runs across the southern part of the Peak District and ends just outside of the national park border near Cromford.
This circular pram friendly walk follows the High Peak Trail down the former railway line at the Sheep Pasture Incline in Derbyshire. You can see what’s left of the old railway operation with the engine house still standing at the top, and the Catch Pit for runaway wagons at the bottom.
There’s an old train carriage for the kids to climb on at the High Peak Junction before walking along the beautiful Cromford Canal to Cromford Mills. You might want to wander around the Cromford Mills which is free to enter and now houses shops and cafes.
Looping back round to rejoin the High Peak Trail, this part of the walk is a steep incline so little legs might need the pram or buggy at this point (which means a good workout out for mums and dads).
If you want to skip part of the incline and make this a shorter 4.5km walk, you can instead start at Cromford Wharf Car Park (details below).
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.
High Peak Trail and Cromford Canal 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, starting from Black Rocks Car Park.
Need to know
DISTANCE OF WALK: 7.3 km
TYPE OF WALK: well-surfaced paths, pram friendly, steep incline (1 in 8 gradient) to walk down and back up (approximately 1.5 km of the route is uphill)
PARKING: Parking at Black Rocks Car Park – click here to see location on Google Maps, postcode: DE4 4GT. Parking costs: 2 hours – £1.60, 4 hours – £3, all day – £4.80. Make sure you have change as the machine only takes coins. For pram friendly and closer access to the trail, take the second entrance on the left to the car park (the first car park entrance has steps up to the trail).
WALK HIGHLIGHTS: Climbing on the giant rocks, Sheep Pasture engine house (top of incline), Catch Pit and train carriage (bottom of incline), Cromford Canal, Cromford Mills
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE: This walk can be done in 2 hours but allowing time for the kids to play and having a wander around Cromford Mills, allow 3-4 hours.
ACCESSIBILTY: Pram friendly, well-surfaced paths, steep incline (1 in 8 gradient) so little legs may need the pram/buggy for the uphill section. You may choose to walk up to Black Rocks (a rocky outcrop just 150 yards from the car park) at the start/end of the walk but this is not pram friendly, so it’s best to leave the pram/buggy in the car.
TOTAL ASCENT: 177 metres
PUBLIC TOILETS: There are public toilets at Black Rocks Car Park and High Peak Junction (at 2.4 km mark) You can get refreshments and snacks from Badger Barista (Black Rocks), High Peak Junction Coffee Shop or Cromford Wharf
This route description follows the above OS Map in an anti-clockwise direction.
Start: Black Rocks Car Park – click here to see location on Google Maps, postcode: DE4 4GT.
1. With the Badger Barista cafe and toilets on your right, walk to the end of the car park. Walk through the gate and turn left onto the High Peak Trail, following the signpost ‘High Peak Junction 1 ½ miles’.
2. Follow this flat part of the trail, admiring the views across the quarry, Cromford, Matlock Bath and Riber Hill. After 1 km, you’ll reach the Sheep Pasture engine house which once housed the haulage engine that pulled the wagons up the incline.
3. Walk through the gate and continue down the incline (the path gets a little bumpy here but soon evens out). Approximately 400 metres down, you’ll notice a path to the right signposted to ‘Intake Lane’, You’ll return back along this path but for now, continue walking down the incline.
4. Continue for a further 1km, until you reach the High Peak Junction. On the way, you’ll pass the Catch Pit where an old runaway wagon still lies on it’s side. Shortly after, you’ll walk through a small tunnel and then come to the track and train carriage at the High Peak Junction Workshops. Here’s a great spot to grab a drink from the coffee shop and watch the kids play by the canal.
5. Cross the bridge over the canal and follow the signpost to Cromford, walking with the canal on your left hand side. Continue for 1.8 km along the canal path, passing under a bridge until the path meets the road at Cromford Wharf.
You may even spot people canoeing along here. This is a fantastic family activity (click here to find our more about canoeing along Cromford Canal).
6. You may want to cross over the road to wander around the Cromford Mills yard, shops and cafes. To continue the walk, turn left and walk along the pavement alongside Cromford Mills.
7. After 400m, you’ll reach the main road (A6). Turn left, walking along the pavement and taking care alongside the busy road.
8. After 100 metres turn right onto Intake Lane, following the road round to the left. Follow this steep road uphill for 600 metres until it narrows off at the top and turns into a track. Take a moment to catch your breath and admire the beautiful views to your left.
9. Follow the path for 450 metres, keeping to the right. After passing under a bridge, turn right onto a path signposted to the High Peak Trail
10. Continue for 150 metres until the path meets back up with the High Peak Trail (you’ll remember walking past this point on your way down). Turn left and follow the High Peak Trail for the final 1.4 km, back up the steep incline and along the final flat stretch to the car park.
Want a shorter route?
Park at Cromford Wharf Car Park, and start at step 6. Then where the route says to turn left at the High Peak Trail to go uphill (step 10), instead head down to the right and then follow steps 4-5. This would make it into a 4.5km walk.
Click here for location of Cromford Wharf Car Park in Google Maps; postcode is DE4 3RQ.
Fancy a bite to eat on this walk?
You really are spoilt for choice on this walk for cafes and stops for a drink and bite to eat. At the beginning or end of the walk, you have the Badger Barista cafe at Black Rocks and there are plenty of picnic benches.
If you fancy sitting by the canal, you have a couple of choices with the cafe at the High Peak Junction or at Cromford Wharf.
Alternatively, Cromford Mills is a lovely setting to stop for light refreshments and snacks too.
What else is there to do in the area?
Check out our guide to visiting Matlock and Matlock Bath.
However, just 800 metres from the start of this walk in the other direction along the High Peak Trail, is the National Stone Centre. This is a fantastic place to visit with young kids, as they will love the gem panning, the playground, fossil hunting on the geo-trail, and can even try their hand at drystone walling. There’s also a café! The National Stone Centre is free to enter, but it’s £3 each for gem panning and you may want to pick up a map of the geo-trail for £1. Click here for more information.
Peak District Kids is a free online resource. If you enjoyed one of our walks, you can show your support by buying me a coffee. Thanks so much! You may also want to share your own photos from our walks in our Peak District Kids Facebook Group.
Or visit the Peak District Kids shop. £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.
Also, feel free to share your walk photos with us on Instagram. Please follow us and use the #peakdistrictkids hashtag so we can share with our wider community.
Want more ideas for family walks?
Check out our Best Family Walks in the Peak District and our Pram Friendly Peak District walks. Or you may be looking for shorter 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.