Hardknott Pass is one of the steepest roads in England

Hardknott Pass is a mountain pass at an elevation of 400m (1,312ft) above sea level, located in the Duddon Valley of Cumbria, in England. It’s said to be the steepest road in England with a gradient of 1 in 3 (about 33%).

Hardknott Pass

Where is Hardknott Pass?

Located in the middle of the Lake District National Park, in the region of Cumbria, it’s the most brutal of the grueling Lake District passes.

Why is it called Hardknott Pass?

 The pass takes its name from Hard Knott, which is derived from the Old Norse harthr (hard) and knutr (craggy hill).

Can you drive Hardknott Pass?

The single-track road through the summit is 20.76km (12.9 miles) long, running west-east from Eskdale to Little Langdale. It’s known as one of Britain's most challenging roads. The road was totally destroyed during the Second World War because the tank training completely destroyed the existing road surface. After the war, the wartime damage was repaired and tarmacked. The road is suitable for cars and light vehicles only.

How dangerous is Hardknott Pass?

The heart-stopping road to the summit is totally paved but extremely narrow in parts, with only a few passing places and a series of sharp and narrow hairpin bends. The drive can be unnerving for drivers, especially as the tarmac has become quite smooth in places. Drivers are expected to give way to oncoming traffic that is ascending the pass. Before climbing, it is worth looking around to see if there is a traffic jam in front or behind you. It is best if you can climb unimpeded by traffic.

Is Hardknott Pass open?

This very steep road is usually open all year round but can be closed for long periods in the winter months as ice makes the bends treacherous. The road is fairly exposed, so expect some wind and rain to liven things up too. It is unsuitable for all vehicles in winter conditions.

How hard is Hardknott Pass?

It’s one of the hardest and most epic climbs you can ride on two wheels. The road becomes especially dangerous for the brakes on a couple of particularly steep turns, and it’s one of the most challenging sections of road in England. It’s said to be the steepest road in England with a gradient of 1 in 3 (about 33%). Even the very best cyclists are at their limit on gradients like that. The descents are pretty tricky too – check your brake blocks before riding. Also, it is so steep; cars and larger vehicles can really struggle. A cattle grid at the start sucks any speed you may have had, before the road kicks up with an extremely steep opening ramp. There’s some respite for a few hundred meters, and then it’s into the switchbacks which measure over 30 percent on the apex. If you survive that, it’s a grind to the top with most of the last 800m between 20-25 percent. At the top, it’s worth stopping to have a look behind you – it’s hard to believe what you have just climbed.