Buy the OS Route Map and instructions for this route

Trapped in a mountainous void between the Lakes and the Dales, the Howgill Fells are often overlooked by mtb’ers anxious to shred a few northern trails. Yet concealed behind their lofty, grass-covered tops is some of the best riding in the country, including the awesome Bowderdale — surely the finest section of singletrack in the UK, outside of the forestry centres.
It starts high — about 650m above sea level if you want to be accurate — and cruises easily in the early stages, allowing you plenty of time to gawk at the breathtaking panoramas that stretch away in all directions. But it soon steepens, plummeting down the hillside in a challenging and seemingly never-ending ribbon of narrow, stone-strewn trail that demands every ounce of your concentration and riding skill. The gradient eases by Bowderdale Beck, but the fun’s nowhere near over yet. This baby is over 7km long in total.
Enjoy a tricky, techie bounce along the valley bottom — only the best will clean it all — but don’t forget to stop occasionally because the scenery is as mouth-watering as the riding. A short climb marks the end of the party, but there’s still a long way to go. Roads and tracks cut east to Ravonstonedale, where a steady climb gets you back in the thick of it again. These trails can be frustrating in places — nothing that a little more use wouldn’t sort out — but there are still a couple of sweeter sections, and the views remain wonderful throughout.
Some would suggest riding it the other way, saving the best for last, and avoiding the very steep push onto Whitefell. It’s an option, and as always, it’s down to personal choice; but Bowderdale definitely offers more when you have gravity on your team. If in doubt, try both… it’s good enough to make it worthwhile.