Wild camping in the Lake District

Wild camping at Wastwater

There’s a long tradition of wild camping in the Lake District and the National Trust has always acknowledged this activity can take place as long as it’s within recognised guidelines. In 2021, we're seeing a surge in people wanting to camp in the Lake District. We really want visitors to have a wonderful experience so it's important to know the difference between illegal fly camping and acceptable wild camping. Please read these guidelines carefully to help you decide whether a commercial campsite might be the best option for you.

If you plan to wild camp...

It's important to be unobtrusive and above the highest fell wall

If your planned pitch is not above the highest fell wall (approximately 400m or 1200 feet), this is illegal fly camping - not wild camping. We do not give permission to camp in valleys, by lakeshores or any lowland area unless this is on an official campsite.

Keep your group small and be prepared to change your plans

Many traditional wild camping locations are attracting unsustainable numbers of campers so we’re asking you to remain true to the wild camping ethos of being completely inconspicuous. If there are two tents already in your spot, you will need to move on – these special places cannot sustain large numbers of campers. Could you consider postponing your trip to a quieter time of year?

Do you have mountain and navigation skills? Have you considered the risks and are prepared?

Part of the fun of wild camping is finding your own route and spot for the night using your navigation skills. Planning and preparation is essential including having the right equipment and experience to survive safely for a night away from civilisation. Mountain rescue teams were inundated with record numbers of call outs in 2020. You must be able to look after yourself and your group in remote locations.

Travel light

A well prepared backpack contains enough equipment for a basic overnight stay. If this isn’t enough and you need more stuff, that’s an indication an official campsite will be better.

Two men in blue tshirts laughing as they walk through the green countryside of the Lake District

Enjoy the outdoors safely 

Enjoy a great experience in the Lakes by being properly prepared. Checking the weather, carrying the right kit and being confident you have the skills for your planned adventure are just three ways you can enjoy the outdoors safely. Visit Adventure Smart for more tips on how to keep yourself and others safe in the Lakes.

Be a champion of ‘Leave no trace’

We’ve been saddened to witness so much anti-social behaviour and illegal camping this year. Clearing up discarded rubbish and camping equipment takes us away from our vital work to care for the Lake District we all love. Help us look after the Lakes by leaving no trace at all. This includes all human waste. If you need a bin or a toilet, this kind of camping isn’t for you

We ask you to help us spread the message about respectful enjoyment of the countryside and show others how it is done – this way everyone can continue to enjoy this activity for years to come.

Don't light fires or BBQs

We all need to play our part in protecting this precious environment. Fires can cause a lot of damage and risk starting uncontrollable wild fires. The right equipment, and stoking up on good camp food warmed on a lightweight camping stove is the way to keep toasty.

Stay out of sight for only one night, and tread lightly

A wild camp pitch should not be noticed by anybody else. This means staying away from any residences or other wild campers. Use a small and lightweight tent that blends into the landscape – part of the enjoyment really is experiencing unspoilt and vast landscapes. Maintain a safe distance from all water courses to prevent any contamination. Arrive late in the day (dusk) and move on at dawn.

An official campsite?

The other responsible way to go camping in the Lake District is to stay at a recognised campsite. We look after five campsites in the Lakes, offering amazing locations that are perfect bases for exploring the great outdoors. 

We’d go as far as saying the experience at our campsites is on a par with the wildest of campsites, without impacting any on the environment. You can find out more about our campsites below.

Campers relax at one of the National Trust's camping pods Great Langdale, Lake District

Places to stay 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, there's so much to explore on a holiday in the Lake District. Discover craggy fells, wildflower-rich meadows, traditional sheep farms and crystal-clear lakes. We have a wide range of accommodation across the Lake District, from lakeside cottages to rustic bothies and campsites for you to browse and plan your stay.