Thrilling bridleways over rugged moors, peaceful lanes between wildflower meadows, idyllic lakeside paths, untold viewpoints and myriad spots to stargaze in solitude at the end of a ride – the Peak District is the perfect place for a gravel bikepacking adventure.
This two-day gravel Tour, which totals 126 miles (203 km), makes a dramatic loop of the UK’s first national park. From technical singletrack assaults to iconic road climbs, exciting gritstone-edge descents to leisurely trails through limestone dales, and canal towpaths to panoramic shepherd tracks, variety is the very essence of this enchanting escapade.
When planning the route, I was looking for a ride that showcased the many different personalities of the Peak District. I was hoping for a physical and technical challenge, an adventure right from my doorstep, and the chance to become immersed in breathtaking natural landscapes. I completed the ride in late June 2023 and I’m pleased to say that it exceeded my expectations in every sense.
Starting from Sheffield train station, the first stage climbs out of the city into the rugged expanse of the Dark Peak. Exploring the spellbinding landscapes of Stanage Edge, Ladybower and the Midhope Moors, the Tour then joins the Trans Pennine Trail towards Lantern Pike and onto the town of Whaley Bridge.
While shorter, at 56.5 miles (91 km), the first stage is the more demanding of the two, with more uphill than down and some technical terrain in places. The Tour finishes above Fernilee Reservoir, a picturesque place to settle down undisturbed and watch the sunset.
The second stage takes you into the more pastoral White Peak. It winds through the Goyt and Manifold valleys before taking traffic-free former railway lines into the heart of the Peak District. Here, it explores a landscape of limestone dales, wildflower meadows and pretty villages. The final stretch to Sheffield takes you back into the Dark Peak for a sublime ride over the Baslow, Curbar and Froggatt edges and down into the city.
At 69 miles (111 km), it’s another challenging ride. But, with more downhill than up, fewer technical trails and plenty of cafes en route, it’s a more leisurely conclusion to the ride.
A gravel bike with around 40mm tyres is a good choice for this route. As alluded to, there are some tough sections which, in reality, are pure MTB territory. While these are few and far between, you’ll need a head for rough-and-ready riding and some trail skills.
I go into detail about the most technical sections in the Tour descriptions, as it’s possible to replan these on the road if that’s your preference. You can hike-a-bike or push over the very toughest stuff, of course. I rode the vast majority of these technical sections on a loaded-up gravel bike and enjoyed them tremendously (my preference does swing towards MTB rather than road, though). And the upshot is no busy roads, heart-melting views and a sumptuous sense of solitude.
That being said, most of the route follows compacted gravel trails and quiet country lanes. So, having a lightweight, rigid bike will allow you to make good progress and claw back time lost on the rough stuff.
While I’d recommend bringing a couple of litres of water and a few energy-rich snacks on each ride, there’s no need to load up with too much food and water as there are plenty of places to stop and resupply en route. I mention important pit-stop points ahead of unserved stretches. Each stage ends close to accommodation, detailed in the Tour descriptions.
As this is a loop (extension to Sheffield station aside), you can start it at any point and complete it in any direction. You could easily begin from the train stations in Hope Valley, for example. It’s also possible to divide the route into more stages, as accommodation is relatively abundant. A good three-day option could be Sheffield to Hadfield, Hadfield to Ashbourne, and back to Sheffield. You could complete this Tour all year round. However, winter (and the months bordering it) could be pretty punishing on some sections.
If you’re looking for a physical challenge that explores some of the most iconic parts of the Peak District, this is a wonderful loop and one I enjoyed tremendously. Let me know if you give it a try, I’d love to hear any feedback.
Ready to get going? Create and customize your own version of this adventure using the full Tour below as a template.
Last updated: July 12, 2023
Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.
Stage 1 explores the Dark Peak and is the tougher, rougher and wilder of the two rides. Traversing gritstone edges, rugged moors, idyllic lakes and countless hilltops, you can expect breathtaking views and spellbinding scenery throughout.
Before getting to the details, it’s important to note that the…
by Dan Hobson
After a demanding first day in the Dark Peak, this stage winds through the gentler landscapes of the White Peak. With more descent than ascent, and less technical trails, it’s a more leisurely conclusion, despite being longer. Expect picturesque limestone dales, wildflower meadows, pretty villages and…
by Dan Hobson
Bike Touring Collection by Halfords UK
Bike Touring Collection by Cycling UK
Hiking Collection by Kit P
Hiking Collection by Bayern Tourismus