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Wild camping in the Lake District

People inside a tent at night at Wasdale Head campsite, Cumbria
Wild camping the Lake District | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

There’s a long tradition of wild camping in the Lake District but it's important to know the difference between true wild camping and illegal fly camping. Please read these guidelines carefully to help you decide whether wild camping is right for you or whether an established campsite would be a better option.

Where you can wild camp

Stay out of sight and for only one night

A wild camp pitch should be above the highest fell wall (approximately 400m or 1200 feet high) and shouldn't be noticed by anybody else. This means staying away from any buildings or other wild campers. Don't camp next to streams or springs to avoid contaminating the water. Arrive late in the day (dusk) and move on at dawn.

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'll need to move on – these special places cannot sustain large numbers of campers.

Wild camp, don't fly camp

If your planned pitch is not above the highest fell wall this is illegal fly camping - not wild camping. We don't give permission for camping in valleys, by lakeshores or any lowland area unless it's on an official campsite.

A view along the Buttermere valley towards the lakes in the distance
A wild camp pitch should be above the highest fell wall | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Be prepared

Travel light
A well prepared backpack should contain 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 a better option. Use a small and lightweight tent that blends into the landscape – part of the enjoyment really is experiencing unspoilt landscapes.

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.

Be a champion of ‘Leave no trace’

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.

Walkers resting against a dry stone wall on the fellside at Stickle Ghyll, Cumbria
Make sure you've got the right equipment, skills and experience to wild camp safely | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Enjoy the outdoors safely

Plan ahead

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 checking the weather, having the right equipment and being confident you have the skills and experience to safely spend a night away from civilisation. You must be able to look after yourself and your group in remote locations.

Visit Adventure Smart for more tips on how to keep yourself and others safe in the Lakes.

Be Adventure Smart

Follow the Countryside Code

Please follow the Countryside Code when you visit the Lake District. By taking your litter home with you, keeping your dog under control, keeping gates, driveways and roads clear and sticking to designated footpaths, you can help us care for the Lake District and the wildlife and people who call it home.

The Countryside Code

An official campsite?

The other responsible way to go camping in the Lake District is to stay at a recognised campsite. We look after four 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 the environment.

Find out more about our campsites

Two Herdwick sheep sitting in the grass with Wastwater and the surrounding mountains in the background on a spring day

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