High Force

Forest-in-Teesdale / North Pennines, England, UK (Great Britain)

About High Force

Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2014-08-16
Date last visited: 2014-08-16

Waterfall Latitude: 54.65042
Waterfall Longitude: -2.18732

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

High Force impressed us with its gushing flow as it plunged 21m into a wide but turbulent plunge pool thanks to the River Tees flowing in full spate.

All that water volume was augmented by the unsettled weather that the area had been experiencing thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Bertha prior to our visit.

High_Force_052_08162014 - High Force
High Force

Even without the help of a broken up hurricane, it seems that the river typically experiences powerfully reliable flow as almost all the photos I’ve seen of the falls in the literature tended to show the falls in a gushing state.

Adding to its scenic allure were vertical cliffs flanking the funneling of the river over the waterfall.

Meanwhile, the plunge pool was fringed with jagged boulders that I’d imagine were once part of these cliffs.

It was essentially Nature that was as raw and powerful as we’d encounter throughout England.

The High Force Hike

Our visit began from a large car park requiring a 2 pound fee to park the car (see directions below).

High_Force_010_08162014 - Julie on an open path flanked by prertty flowers on the way down to High Force
Julie on an open path flanked by prertty flowers on the way down to High Force

Then, we had to pay an admission of 3 pounds total for both Julie and I as Tahia was able to tag along for free.

Next, we had to cross the busy B6277 road (being extra cautious with Tahia given how quickly cars zoomed by here) before getting onto a wide, mostly open, and gently downhill trail.

Alongside the trail were blooming wildflowers as well as some gorge walls, and some trees.

To explain the open nature of the early part of the trail, a sign here informed us that this walk and the surrounding area ended up being cleared and destroyed by one of the most severe gales ever experienced in January 1992.

Old growth softwoods over 100ft high were uprooted or blown over while the trail to the falls itself had to be re-built.

High_Force_015_08162014 - Julie going through a forested path alongside the River Tees, which is rushing in the gorge below to our left
Julie going through a forested path alongside the River Tees, which is rushing in the gorge below to our left

In place of many of the old growth softwoods were imported exotic and commercial conifers, which I’d imagine explained the trees that we were seeing.

These days, we noticed that the trail itself was quite popular as there always seemed to be someone we’d encounter the whole way either going towards the falls or coming back from it.

The trail eventually started to narrow as it bridged a small brook, then started to follow directly above the River Tees.

At about 10 minutes from the road, we finally started to see High Force further upstream on the river.

From this vantage point, the falls looked very tall and impressive, and it really hastened our steps to get closer.

High_Force_022_08162014 - Context of Julie on the short walk leading closer to the High Force
Context of Julie on the short walk leading closer to the High Force

Eventually after another five minutes of walking, we then encountered stairs that brought us amongst the jumble of jagged boulders fringing the large plunge pool fronting High Force.

It appeared that the trail continued to switchback further uphill before the stairs, but a sign there said a fence further ahead near the top of the falls was locked indefinitely due to safety issues.

We didn’t pursue going to the top of the falls, but we did see quite a few people lingering up there so perhaps they hopped the fence anyways.

But as for the base of the waterfall itself, the falls appeared to be shorter than what when we had seen it earlier on the trail.

However, we still marveled at the geology lesson that literally was on display thanks to three noticeable layers of rock (said to be Whin Sill, Sandstone, and Limestone) comprising the cliffs flanking the falls.

High_Force_063_08162014 - Context of the bouldery fringe of the turbulent plunge pool fronting High Force
Context of the bouldery fringe of the turbulent plunge pool fronting High Force

A short distance further downstream, I also noticed what looked to be basalt-like formations on the cliffs across the River Tees.

That would suggest to me there used to be some kind of interaction between lava and ice.

In any case, as we were just chilling out amongst the jagged boulders fringing the plunge pool, we had to hold onto Tahia since there was nothing to keep her from getting dangerously close to the turbulent river.

Overall, we spent a little over an hour doing both the hike and just relaxing at the falls.

This didn’t include the 30 minutes or so of restroom time both before and after the hike given Tahia’s active bladder at the time.

The Force Behind High Force

High_Force_076_08162014 - Looking back at the forceful flow of High Force
Looking back at the forceful flow of High Force

Finally, a sign here talked about some of the reasons behind the place names we had been encountering while in the Yorkshire Dales, the Lakes District, and the Northern Pennines.

It turned out that Vikings had settled in the area 1100 years ago.

With this settlement, they left their linguistic mark on the culture and landscape with English-adopted vocabulary that was ultimately derived from Scandinavian words.

For example, the word “force” came from the word “foss” meaning waterfall (something you’ll undoubtedly encounter in our waterfall writeups of Norway and Iceland).

We also learned that several other words had Scandinavian roots as well such as “dale” from “dal” or valley, “gate” from “gata” or street, “beck” from “bekk” meaning brook, and “fell” from “fjell” meaning mountain.


High Force resides near Forest-in-Teesdale in Durham County, England. It is administered by the High Force Hotel. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can visit their website.

High_Force_005_08162014 - A couple about to cross the B6277 road to start on the hike just opposite from the High Force Hotel
High_Force_006_08162014 - Julie and Tahia about to start on the short walk down to High Force
High_Force_013_08162014 - Once we got past this brook, the trail then narrowed as it got closer alongside the River Tees en route to High Force
High_Force_018_08162014 - Looking ahead at the impressive High Force in the distance
High_Force_031_08162014 - As we got deeper into the gorge, the trail now passed before tall cliffs like this as we got closer to High Force
High_Force_070_08162014 - Right before the stairs leading down towards the plunge pool of High Force. Note that we did go up the ascending trail to the right side of this picture
High_Force_065_08162014 - At the base of High Force looking at the River Tees gushing through the chute
High_Force_034_08162014 - Another look at the gushing force of High Force as seen from the opposite end of the turbulent plunge pool
High_Force_038_08162014 - Context of the High Force gushing through the vertical cliffs and into the rippling plunge pool at its base
High_Force_049_08162014 - Close and focused look across the plunge pool of High Force from the rocky boulder-fringed edge of that plunge pool
High_Force_073_08162014 - Julie and Tahia starting the uphill walk back to the car park for High Force
High_Force_079_08162014 - Back at the clearing where I noticed these attractive pink flowers as we were near the end of our High Force hike

We actually went a little out of the way to drive all the way to High Force in Forest-in-Teesdale from Hardraw Force.

While there were many ways to get here, we can only describe the route that we took, which we’ll get into.

Heading west on the A684 from Hardraw, we drove west for a little over 4 miles before leaving the A road to turn right onto the narrower B6259 road.

High_Force_003_08162014 - Julie and Tahia approaching the High Force Hotel to pay to go on the hike
Julie and Tahia approaching the High Force Hotel to pay to go on the hike

We’d follow the B6259 road for a little over 10 miles to the town of Kirkby Stephen, where we then followed the A685 road for about 4 miles north towards the A66 at Church Brough.

After reaching the A66, we then crossed it onto the B6276 road as it passed through more pastures and rolling hills towards the B6277 road.

We had to be careful on this stretch of road because there were free roaming sheep often right on or right next to the narrow road.

Once we kept left onto the B6277 road, we then followed this road for about 5.3 miles to the well-signed car park for High Force.

This drive from Hardraw Force to get here took us about 1 hour and 10 minutes (most of it following behind slower vehicles on the narrow roads).

High_Force_082_08162014 - Looking back at the car park for the High Force Hotel and car park, which was also where we paid to go onto the walk to the waterfall as well as to park the car
Looking back at the car park for the High Force Hotel and car park, which was also where we paid to go onto the walk to the waterfall as well as to park the car

Conversely, we also could have driven to High Force from Kendal, which probably would take about 90 minutes along the A684, A683, and A685 roads before getting onto both the B6276 and B6277 roads.

Finally, for some context, Kendal was 87 miles (over 2 hours drive) west of York, 73 miles (90 minutes drive) north of Manchester, 236 miles (4.5 hours drive) north of Bath, and 271 miles (over 5 hours drive or 3-4 hours by train) northwest of London.

Find A Place To Stay

Left to right sweep starting from some basalt-like formations across the River Tees before panning over to the falls itself along with its plunge pool

Left to right sweep of the falls from before the stairs showing its full plunge pool as well as a close-up sweep of its turbulent drop

Close-up bottom up sweep of the falls before zooming out to show its entirety and its context

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Tagged with: forest-in-teesdale, north pennines, durham county, england, uk, united kingdom, waterfall, river tees, northern pennines, kirkby stephen

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
Read More About Johnny | A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls.