Hiking in Scotland: TOP 5 Single-Day Trails

Majestic mountains rise in the distance, their peaks framed by the still waters of a pristine lake in the foreground

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Hiking in Scotland offers a breathtaking array of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, from the towering peaks of the Highlands to the rugged coastlines and pristine lochs.

In this post, we’ll delve into the world of hiking in Scotland in more detail. We’ll provide essential tips to help you prepare for your adventure and showcase the best single-day hiking trails that you can conquer in a day.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Want a longer trek? See our backpacking in Scotland guide where we list the best multi-day trails.

Key Tips for Hiking in Scotland

  • What to bring: For first-time hikers or those unsure of what to bring, refer to our day hiking checklist. Otherwise, be prepared for unpredictable weather by packing proper gear like waterproof clothing, sturdy footwear, and layered clothing.
  • How to stay safe: In addition to layered clothing, you need to protect yourself from midges with insect repellent and constantly check for ticks, especially if you stop and take a break trailside in grassy areas.
  • Best times to go are from May to September when the weather is milder, days are longer, landscapes are in bloom, and crowds are smaller, allowing for ideal outdoor adventures and a quieter experience.

Top 5 Hiking Trails in Scotland

These are the best hiking trails in Scotland that can be completed in a single day:

1. Ben Nevis Mountain Track

A winding gray rocky path leads up a grassy slope towards the majestic snow-capped peak of Ben Nevis mountain against a brilliant blue sky

Length: 9.9 mi / 15.9 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Hard
Duration: 7-9 hours
Elevation Gain: 4,402 ft / 1342 m
Location: Fort William
Permissions and Fees: None
Active Calorie Burn: 3100 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The grueling 9.9-mile out-and-back Ben Nevis trail climbs the UK’s highest peak (4,413 ft) in the Scottish Highlands via a rocky, steep path. Proper preparation is critical, including warm/waterproof layers, trekking gear, and supplies, as the summit is prone to extreme wind, cold, and potential snow year-round. The challenging 7-9 hour effort is rewarded with stunning 360° views from the top on clear days.

2. Ben Lomond Mountain Path

A scenic view of a green grassy field stretching towards mountains in the distance, all under a clear blue daytime sky

Length: 7.7 mi / 12.4 km
Type: Out and back
Difficulty: Hard
Duration: 5-6 hours
Elevation Gain: 3,087 ft / 941 m
Location: Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
Permissions and Fees: Only for parking
Active Calorie Burn: 2700 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 7.7-mile out-and-back Ben Lomond trail climbs Scotland’s most southerly munro (3,193 ft) from Rowardennan. The well-maintained path through woodlands leads to open mountainsides with incredible views of Loch Lomond and nearby peaks. The narrow final ridge requires caution. Proper hiking gear is essential as weather can rapidly deteriorate. The strenuous roundtrip rewards with stunning panoramic vistas from the summit on clear days.

3. West Highland Way: Kinlochleven to Fort William

A breathtaking panoramic view of a tranquil lake surrounded by towering mountains in the scenic landscape of Kinlochleven, United Kingdom

Length: 15.6 mi / 25.1 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Duration: 7 hours
Elevation Gain: 2,486 ft / 758 m
Location: Kinlochleven
Permissions and Fees: None
Active Calorie Burn: 2550 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

This sublime 15.6-mile point-to-point trail traverses the rugged Scottish Highlands from Kinlochleven to Fort William. After ascending through woodlands to open moorlands, the well-marked route traces mountain slopes, glens, lochs, and riverside trails, culminating with views of Ben Nevis. Overall a spectacular journey showcasing Highland majesty.

4. Ben Nevis via Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête

A rugged green and brown mountain peak rises towards a brilliant blue sky, capturing the scenic beauty of a hiking trail on Ben Nevis in Scotland

Length: 11.1 mi / 17.9 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Duration: 6-8 hours
Elevation Gain: 4,993 ft / 1522 m
Location: Fort William
Permissions and Fees: None
Active Calorie Burn: 3300 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

For expert hikers only, this grueling 11.1-mile loop summits Ben Nevis (4,413 ft) via the exposed, scrambling Càrn Mòr Dearg Arête ridge. Climbing pathless terrain to Càrn Dearg, it traverses the narrow, cliff-edged arête requiring careful navigation before a final scramble to the summit plateau. The boggy, pathless descent involves river crossings. Mountaineering gear, route-finding skills, scrambling experience, and ideal weather mandatory. A full-day mountaineering epic not to be underestimated.

5. The Quiraing Circuit

Majestic mountains with unique rock formations tower over tranquil small lakes, showcasing the surreal and beautiful landscape of Quiraing in Scotland

Length: 4.3 mi / 6.9 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Duration: 2-3 hours
Elevation Gain: 1,253 ft / 382 m
Location: Grealin
Permissions and Fees: Only for parking
Active Calorie Burn: calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

This exposed 4.3-mile loop traverses the iconic craggy landscapes of the Quiraing, winding below towering cliffs with steep dropoffs. Requiring careful footwork, route-finding skills, and a head for heights as paths frequently disappear. The steep climb to the high point overlooks Staffin Bay before a boggy, eroded descent. Only attempt in dry, calm conditions – proper hiking gear and navigation tools essential.


What are the most popular national parks in Scotland?

Scotland has two national parks – the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs. The Cairngorms National Park in the Eastern Highlands is beloved for its vast mountainous landscapes, ancient pine forests, and opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, mountaineering, and wildlife watching. With lochs, glens, and munros (mountains over 3,000 feet), it draws many visitors. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park near Glasgow contains the famous loch (lake), dense woodlands, and rolling hills. Both parks aim to conserve Scotland’s iconic natural scenery and cultural heritage.

What are some tips for hiking on a budget in Scotland?

Scotland offers excellent hiking opportunities that can be enjoyed inexpensively. Pack simple food like sandwiches, trail mix, and snacks instead of buying meals to save money. Use public transportation or carpool to trailheads instead of paying for gas. Camp at inexpensive campsites or take advantage of Scotland’s right to wild camp in many areas. Borrow or rent gear like tents and backpacks rather than buying new. Stick to free hiking trails and avoid costly guided tours or permit areas. Check for student, senior, or family discounts on accommodations.

Do U.S. citizens need a visa to hike in Scotland?

U.S. citizens can hike in Scotland for up to six months without a visa by taking advantage of the Visa Waiver Program for tourism in the United Kingdom. As long as their stay is less than half a year, they just need a valid U.S. passport to enter.

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Why you should trust us

At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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