Hardknott Pass

Hardknott Pass is one of the steepest roads in England

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

Can you drive the Hardknott Pass?

This single track road right through the middle of the Lake District National Park, in the region of Cumbria 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 destroying the existing road surface. After the war the wartime damage was repaired and tarmaced. It’s the most brutal of the grueling Lake District passes. The pass takes its name from Hard Knott which is derived from the Old Norse harthr (hard) and knutr (craggy hill).

How dangerous is the Hardknott Pass?

The road is totally paved. It’s a heart-stopping series of sharp and narrow hairpin bends. The pass itself has a series of hairpin bends that can be unnerving for drivers of cars and minibuses (heavier vehicles are advised not to use the pass), especially as the tarmac has become quite smooth in places. 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. Drivers are expected to give way to oncoming traffic that is ascending the pass.

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. Before climbing, it is worth looking around to see if there is traffic jam in front or behind you. It is best if you can climb unimpeded by traffic.

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 metres 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.