Monsal Head circular walk (2.4 km)

Monsal Head is one of the most iconic beauty spots of the Peak District. This is where the impressive Headstone Viaduct, which forms part of the Monsal Trail, straddles the verdant Monsal Dale and the River Wye meanders aimlessly through.

This short Monsal Head circular walk takes you from the main view point by the Monsal Head Hotel, down into the dale to the weir, then across the other side of the River Wye to emerge under the viaduct, with a climb back up to the view point. As this walk loops to the weir along the River Wye, we sometimes call this the ‘Monsal Head waterfall walk’. Footwear with good grip is essential as this walk can get very muddy in wet weather, and arrive early to secure parking during weekends and school holidays as this is a Peak District hot spot.

If you’re looking for a longer Monsal Head circular walk, read our Ashford-in-the-Water walk to Monsal Head (6.2km).

If you are planning a visit to the National Park, please arrive early or late in the day to avoid crowds, and respect social distancing. Please also take all litter home with you, don’t bring BBQs and park your car in designated parking areas.

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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.

Monsal Head 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.

Need to know


TYPE OF WALK: A circular walk, with a descent to the River Wye and a short steep ascent back up to the view point at the end. Can get muddy in wet weather.

PARKING: Pay and display car park at Monsal Head car park, next to the Monsal Head Hotel. Click here for Google Map point on your phone. Postcode is: DE45 1NL.

WALK HIGHLIGHTS: Amazing views of Headstone Viaduct across Monsal Dale, an impressive weir, and you walk right underneath the viaduct too. There’s also a little beach to play on just past the weir.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE:  Without kids this would be a 45 minute walk, but as always we take our time with the boys and this walk took us closer to 1.5 hours.

STILE: Only one stile.

TOTAL ASCENT: 133 metres

PUBLIC TOILETS: There are toilets at the Monsal Head car park, although these were shut on our last visit. The Stables Bar next to the Monsal Head Hotel is a characterful rustic pub for a drink and bite to eat after your walk. There’s also an ice-cream van here, which is usually open weekends and school holidays.

Monsal Head car park
Monsal Head car park

The route

1. From Monsal Head car park, head to the view point in between The Stables Bar and Monsal Head Hotel. On the other side of the road is a small short-stay car park. Take a moment to appreciate the fantastic view.

Monsal Head circular walk

2. Cross the road to the footpath sign and follow the footpath to the left.

Monsal Head circular walk

3. After 50 metres the path splits in two. Take the footpath on the right that leads through the woodland and down towards the River Wye. Be careful with your footing as there are tree roots and stumps that stick up along the footpath and there is a steep drop to the right.

Monsal Head circular walk

4. Continue along this footpath for 800 metres until you reach the weir (you will hear it before you see it).

Monsal Head circular walk

5. Continue along the footpath for another 100 metres and walk over the footbridge to cross over the River Wye. Once you’re over the other side, there is a small beach area of the river for the kids to play in the mud/sand.

6. Turn right and follow the footpath towards the viaduct, with the River Wye on your right.

7. You can take one of the footpaths on the left up the bank, which leads up and onto the Monsal Trail. However, this walk continues alongside the River Wye and takes you right underneath the Headstone Viaduct. It’s not until you stand right underneath it that you can appreciate its sheer size.

Monsal Head circular walk

8. Continue along the footpath that veers to the left for 200 metres, until you reach another footbridge to cross back over the other side of the River Wye.

9. Walk to the left of the buildings and through the gate.

Monsal Head circular walk

10. Immediately after the gate, next to the building, is a footpath on the right hand side. Follow this path for 380 metres. This leads you back up to the main viewpoint where this circular Monsal Head walk began.

Monsal Head circular walk

11. Time for an ice-cream from the van or a pint in the Stable Bar.

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!

Want more ideas for family walks?
Check out our Best Family Walks in the Peak District
or come and join our friendly Peak District Kids Facebook Group

You may also like to read:
Cycle the Monsal Trail with kids
Ashford-in-the-Water walk to Monsal Head (6.2km)
Cressbrook Dale woodland walk (1.8km)