Janets Foss Gordale Scar and Malham Cove

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Distance: 7 miles (11.5 km)
Height: 300 m (984 ft)
Difficulty: Hard (climbing Gordale Scar)
Estimated Time: 4 hours 
Route: View in Google Maps.
GPX File: Download GPX file (desktop only) – What is a GPX file?
Map: OL02 Yorkshire Dales: Southern and Western Areas

Malham Cove is one of the most visited attractions in the Yorkshire Dales.

Malham Cove used to be a waterfall. Erosion from the falling water created the curved shape of the cove. Water no longer falls from Malham Cove but is transported in underground streams. Malham Beck, a flowing stream at the bottom of Malham Cove, originates in a cave beneath Malham Cove.

After Storm Desmond in 2015, water was plunging down from the top of Malham Cove for the first time in centuries. A local filmed the temporary waterfall. The rare occurrence briefly topped Malham Cove as the highest single drop waterfall in England. Malham Cove is 80 m (260 ft) high, which is almost triple England’s usual top above-ground waterfall, Hardraw Force.

Harry Potter

Harry Potter filming Malham Cove

It’s not just the picturesque views that attract visitors to Malham Cove. The limestone rocks have appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2019), Wuthering Heights (1992) and The Trip (2010).

Car Parking

The address for Malham Car Park is

Malham National Park Centre
Chapel Gate
BD23 4DA

It’s a large car park but it does get busy. It’s recommend to arrive early.

2 hours = £2.70 
More than 2 hours = £4.80

There are toilets at the car park and a visitor centre with staff and information leaflets for the surrounding area. Proceeds from the car park go to maintaining the pathways in the Yorkshire Dales.

Public Transport

There are buses from Settle to Malham. Settle is well connected by train. You can view the bus times and plan your journey on Traveline.


If your sole purpose is to visit Malham Cove you can make it from Malham village in less than 20 minutes. The following guide takes the scenic route.

The route has a waterfall (Janet’s Foss), a climb and scramble (Gordale Scar), a visit to Malham Tarn, and reaches Malham Cove towards the end of the walk.

Malham Cove Route

View route in Google Maps.

Gordale Scar

Gordale Scar is an enticing and exciting part of the Malham Cove route, but it won’t be for everyone. There’s a climb/scramble up the bottom section of Gordale Scar. The rocks can be slippery. No specialised climbing equipment is required but you must be comfortable with heights and climbing.

If you cannot complete Gordale Scar safely, you can take an alternative route to bypass Gordale Scar. The detour will add approximately one hour to your walk.

Gordale Scar climb

Image credit: Richard Heeley

Malham Tarn

Malham Tarn after Gate

Malham Tarn is one of only eight upland alkaline lakes in Europe. At 377 metres (1,237 ft) above sea level it is also one of England’s highest lakes.

Malham Tarn is home to the only crayfish native to Britain, the white-clawed crayfish. The white-clawed crayfish are endangered due to invasive species from North America. In 2016, water voles were introduced to Malham Tarn, the biggest reintroduction of water voles in the UK.

Image credit (vole): Peter Trimming
Image credit (crayfish): David Gerke

Malham Cove Route

From the car park, head towards the Malham National Park Centre.

Malham Cove Car Park

Turn left onto Chapel Gate road.

Start of Malham Cove Walk

Malham Beck is on your right-hand side.

Walk to Janets Foss

Just before the The Buck Inn, turn right over a little bridge crossing over Malham Beck.

Right turn to Janets Foss
Small bridge 1

The route is level and clear to follow to Janet’s Foss.

Route to Janets Foss
Path to Janets Foss
Path leading to Janets Foss

It is one mile to Janet’s Foss, identified by the signpost

Gate and signpost to Janets Foss
Leading to Janets Foss

There’s a couple of gates to go through on your way to Janet’s Foss.

Gate along Janet Foss path
Clear route to Janets Foss

It’s a simple route to follow as Gordale Beck leads you to Janet’s Foss.

Path and Gordale Beck

Head left up the steps to keep on the main path. It can be slippy in this area after rainfall.

Stairs new Janets Foss

In spring, you may be able to smell wild garlic in this area.

Janets Foss 2

It’s slightly steep coming away from Janet’s Foss and the rocks are slippery when wet.

Route away from Janets Foss 2
Janets Foss to Gordale Scar 2

The path from Janet’s Foss leads you to Gordale Lane. Turn right onto the road.

Route to Gordale Scar 2
Road to Gordale Scar 2

After a couple of minutes walk, take the left turn from the road. This path leads to Gordale Scar.

Left turn to Gordale Scar 2
Path leading to Gordale Scar 2

Gordale Scar is a remarkable place and a great scramble, but it’s not for everyone. Most people come for the view and not for the opportunity to climb Gordale Scar.

Gordale Scar is the reason this walk is labelled ‘hard’. If you are not comfortable climbing Gordale Scar, you can take an alternative route to Malham Tarn, which will add approximately one hour onto your walk.

Chances are you’ll get a bit wet climbing up Gordale Scar and that is part of the fun. Just take it slow and steady.

Gordale Scar 2
Gordale Scar flowing water 2
Gordale Scar scramble 2

Gordale Scar is a difficult climb, but it’s a short one. Once you pass the waterfalls, it’s a steep incline of steps and a gravel path.

Steps after Gordale Scar
Gordale Scar to Malham Tarn

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Once you reach the top, climb over the stile and continue along the grassed route. The flat route provides some respite after the Gordale Scar climb.

Route to Malham Tarn
Grassed route to Malham Tarn

At the end of the grass route, you will find another stile in the stone wall. Climb over the stile.

Stile in wall

Join the main road leading to the left.

Cross roads

Turn right onto the gravel path.

Right turn to Malham Tarn
Gravel pathway to Malham Tarn

The gravel path leads to Malham Tarn.

Clear route to Malham Tarn

You will reach a signpost and gate. You can go through the gate if you wish to take in more of Malham Tarn – you will need to come back on yourself to continue to Malham Cove. You will still pass Malham Tarn on the way to Malham Cove.

Signpost for Malham Cove

To continue towards Malham Cove, follow the signpost across the grass towards the stone wall.

Grass path to Malham Tarn
Grass path

You will reach Malham Tarn after a few minutes.

Malham Tarn

Malham Tarn to Malham Cove

Keep following the grassed route. You will pass Watersinks Car Park.

Grass pathway
Watersinks Car Park

Keep right of the Watersinks Car Park and head for the road.

Watersinks Car Park to Malham Cove

Turn right onto the road and pass through the stone wall.

Path away from Watersinks Car Park

Head left through the gate and signpost for Malham Cove.

Signpost for Pennine Way and Malham Cove

The next signpost highlights the way for Malham Cove and the Pennine Way.

Boggy path
Route to Malham Cove

Head right at the stone wall.

Grassed route to Malham Cove
Rocky pathway
Stoney path to Malham Cove

Step over the wooden stile and follow the decline.

Path to Malham Cove
Descending path towards Malham Cove
Left turn over stile
Scenic path to Malham Cove

The route is easy to follow to Malham Cove.

Route leading to Malham Cove

Pass through the hole in the stone wall and keep heading in the same direction. You will shortly arrive at the top of Malham Cove.

Malham Cove entrance

The top of Malham Cove is a limestone pavement. It almost looks man made, but the limestone formation was created naturally in the last Ice Age, over 12000 years ago.

Malham Cove rocks
Top of Malham Cove
Malham Cove height

To come down from Malham Cove, cross over the limestone to the stairs. This tends to be a busy area as the stairs are used for visitors coming both up and down Malham Cove from Malham Village.

Malham Cove steps
Malham cove steps 2

At the bottom of the steps, you can head closer to Malham Cove and appreciate the height of Malham Cove from Malham Beck.

The bottom of Malham Cove

Follow the gravel path away from Malham Cove.

Malham Beck and pathway

Keep following the road back to Malham Village. It will lead directly to the car park at the Malham National Park Centre.

Road leading back to carpark

That’s the end of the Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove walk!

Frequently Asked Questions

What equipment do you need to complete Malham Cove and Gordale Scar?

You need the OL02 Yorkshire Dales: Southern and Western Areas OS map to plot your route. You will need warm clothes (it may be cold, even in summer) and a backpack to keep it all in. Visit the hiking equipment page to ensure you have all of the required equipment.

Can you visit Malham Cove all year round?

You can visit Malham Cove on any day of the year. It can be cold and windy due to the open nature of the countryside, especially outside of summer. If you wish to visit Malham Cove in sunshine with chances of better weather, it is recommended to plan your trip between April-September.

Is Malham Cove in Harry Potter?

Yes, Harry and Hermione are at the top of Malham Cove in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

How hard is Gordale Scar?

Gordale Scar is difficult for those who are not used to climbing or scrambling. The rocks can be slippery to grip with your hands or shoes. To complete Gordale Scar, ensure you are comfortable with heights and have good balance and coordination. If you can hold your own bodyweight, you shouldn’t have a problem with Gordale Scar.

Is Malham Cove an easy walk?

If you’re walking directly to Malham Cove from Malham Village, it is an easy walk, with a short section of steps to the top of Malham Cove which may require a few rest stops for those not familiar with hiking.

This guide takes the scenic route to Malham Cove via Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar. The walk isn’t strenuous, but scrambling up Gordale Scar may be above some hiker’s difficulty level. The bypass walk of Gordale Scar takes roughly 1 hour and can be steep in areas.

What can I do if I cannot complete Gordale Scar?

There is an alternative route to Malham Tarn which bypasses Gordale Scar. You can also go straight to Malham Cove from Gordale Scar without visiting Malham Tarn.

Can you complete the Malham Cove walk in trainers?

It is not recommended to complete Malham Cove in trainers, but many people do. It’s not recommended to use trainers if you particularly want to complete Gordale Scar.

Is Malham Cove suitable for dogs?

Yes, dogs are allowed in the Yorkshire Dales and on the Malham Cove route. You will see plenty of dogs on your Malham Cove walk, regardless of the route you take.

During the breeding season of spring and early summer, new-born lambs and ground-nesting birds are particularly vulnerable to harm from dogs. Always use a short lead if you can’t rely on your dog’s obedience.

How many steps are at Malham Cove?

There are approximately 400 steps leading up/down Malham Cove. The route provided here takes you down the 400 steps. The steps can be busy, as many walkers come up and down the steps for their visit, but there is ample room to have a short rest.

Can you swim in Malham Tarn?

No. Swimming is not allowed in Malham Tarn. There are signs advising that swimming is prohibited around Malham Tarn. Due to the important nature and geology of Malham Tarn the National Trust do not allow people to swim due to the increase in pests and diseases from humans swimming in the Tarn. Potentially toxic blue-green algae can also be found in Malham Tarn.

How much food/water will I need to take?

A backpack is required to carry enough food and drink for the 4-hour hike. It is recommended to take at least 2 litres of water. The weather and temperature needs to be taken into consideration and adjust the required amount of water as necessary. A hot day will require more fluids.

Is Malham Cove free to complete?

Visiting Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss is free to complete.

How many people visit Malham Cove each year?

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority estimate that 185,000 people visit Malham Cove each year.

Are there any toilets on the Malham Cove route?

There are public toilets in the Malham Cove car park. There are no other toilets on the route.

Do you need any specialist climbing equipment for Malham Cove?

No. You complete Janet’s Foss and Malham Cove by walking. There is some scrambling required at Gordale Scar but no climbing equipment is required.

Do you need a guide to complete Malham Cove?

No. You can arrange your own walk with a map and compass. If you wish to attend a guided walk, contact Lost Earth Adventures. 

Download the Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove eBook

The eBook will guide you through the Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove route, step by step. No getting lost!

Risk Free
100% refund if you are unhappy with the ebook

View more information

Preview the Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove eBook