Brimham Rocks is known for its unique rock formations and amazing scenery, making it one of the top short walks in Yorkshire.
The Brimham Rocks Walk starts from a dedicated walkers’ car park on the edge of the hiking area. It’s 15-20 minutes drive from Ripon or Harrogate, and 50 minutes drive from Leeds or York.
Parking at Brimham Rocks
Brimham Rocks is free to enter, but you have to pay for the car park. Payment is via coins at the machines, card at the kiosk (open 10am-4pm), or via the PayByPhone app. Signal isn’t great in the car park, so download the app beforehand if this is how you want to pay.
Brimham Rocks Hiking Map
Get the route by downloading the .gpx or .kml file below. For navigation with Maps.me on your mobile phone, simply download the .kml file and open to add it to the Maps.me bookmarks.
- Brimham Rocks area is open from 9am until dark. The car park kiosk and visitor centre are open from 10am-4pm.
- On sunny summer days, it can be very busy so aim to arrive early.
- The Brimham Rocks Visitor Centre provides information about the area, including maps and trail details.
- The visitor centre and toilets are both about 500 metres from the car park.
- Brimham Rocks is free to enter, but you have to pay for the car park (see above).
- Brimham Rocks is a National Trust property, and members don’t have to pay for the car park (scan your card at the machines).
- The rocks can be slippery, so be careful climbing on them and supervise children at all times.
- Parts of Brimham Rocks can be very wet and muddy at times, waterproof boots are recommended if it’s recently rained a lot.
- The map to take for this hike is the Ordnance Survey Explorer 298 of Nidderdale*. This is useful if you want to explore the wider area or go on extended walks.
- For other hikes nearby, try the short hikes up Beamsley Beacon, Almscliffe Crag, Sharp Haw and Flasby Fell, or Embsay Crag.
- You can find other Yorkshire ideas in our Yorkshire Guide.
Brimham Rocks Walking Route
The route described below is the most popular walk at Brimham Rocks. There are many small paths, so it might be hard to follow this route exactly, but wherever you walk you’ll find interesting rock formations! This simple route is roughly 2 km long, though it’ll take you longer than expected to walk around since there are so many fun rocks to see.
The walk around Brimham Rocks is generally fairly easy, though depending on which paths you take, then can be a bit narrow. Additionally, after heavy rain there can be a lot of mud about. If you don’t want to get your shoes dirty, you can always stick to the main track. This leads between the car park and the visitor centre.
Walking Towards the Rocks
From the car park, head left on the smaller path to the left-hand side of the main track. Follow this path and you’ll soon come to the first cool rocks, slightly hidden in the woods. Continuing further, you’ll reach an open area with some rather spectacular, large rock formations. There are loads of little routes and paths here, ducking in and out of the rocks.
Make sure at some point you head left, away from the largest rocks and slightly into the woods. You’ll soon reach the edge of the plateau and be greeted by lovely views across the Yorkshire countryside.
How did Brimham Rocks form?
Sandstone which formed about 320 million years ago makes up the rocks at Brimham. Geologists call this specific rock type Millstone Grit, which is common across Yorkshire. Long ago, large rivers flowed here, depositing sand, which was later compressed and turned into rock. You can see evidence of water movement from the lines that are common in this rock – called ‘cross-bedding’.
After formation, the rocks were sculpted by erosion over millions of years, from both glaciations, wind and water. The final stage of erosion lasted from roughly 100,000-10,000 years ago during the last ice age. Today the rocks have many names, such as the ‘Turtle’ and the ‘Baboon’s Head’.
Return towards the visitor centre. Here you can find information about Brimham Rocks such as how they were formed and the local vegetation. You can also pick up maps and leaflets about the nearby walks and hikes. Additionally, on sunny days you might find an ice cream van here.
Continue the walk around the back of the visitor centre and bend right along the path. You’ll reach some more cool rocks and come out slightly onto the more open moor.
Longer or Shorter Walk Options
If you want a longer walk, then head left and out onto the moorland. There aren’t so many rocks here, but the heather is really beautiful in the summer (the best heather is often in August). Brimham Rocks moorland is actually a special area since it is home to three native heather types: ling heather, bell heather and cross-leaved heather. The extension makes the walk roughly 3.1km instead of 2 km.
If you want to keep the walk short, head right to circle back towards the car park. Again, there are many trails, and it doesn’t matter exactly which one you take. As long as you head gently downhill, you’ll end up either at the car park or on the main track. If you reach the main track, turn left to get back to your car and the end of the Brimham Rocks Walk.
Guidebooks to explore more of Yorkshire
The Rough Guide to Yorkshire* is a great little guidebook and has a section on Ilkley and things to do nearby. The Yorkshire Dales Pathfinder Guide* has a good collection of short hikes suitable for the entire family and the Guide to North Yorkshire Pub Walks* has some fun walks in the Dales for those who are hungry and thirsty.