Since 1949, the UK's National Parks have provided incredible playgrounds for outdoor adventures of all stripes - these are the runs, bike rides and swims to help you make the most of these epic spaces.
The UK's National Parks represent an incredible triumph, major challenges and epic opportunities all at once.
Since the National Parks Act was passed into law in 1949, 15 separate areas of stunning natural beauty and heritage have been created into National Parks across England, Scotland and Wales. They were created both to preserve the natural beauty of these areas and to provide recreational opportunities for the public, since which they have been enjoyed by walkers, runners, cyclists, swimmers and climbers for generations.
The huge popularity of National Parks can cause issues, like littering in the wild New Forest or degrading mountain paths in the Lake District. Responsible use of these incredible areas is key to overcoming those problems, which is where active events like the ones below can have a major impact.
As well as runners, walkers, cyclists and more heading into National Parks under their own steam, active events pop up across these 15 stunning areas that provide opportunities for more and more people to enjoy their natural beauty in a responsible and managed way.
Think of it as a mutually beneficial relationship:
Active events make best use of the hills, rivers, forests and cliffs of the UK's National Park to create unforgettable moments for their participants. In return, they ensure that those spaces are being used in a responsible and safe way, often working closely with the park authorities and rescue teams.
We've created a rundown of some of the best active events across the UK's National Parks, to help you make the most of these incredible opportunities!
Recently renamed into Welsh, the Brecons represented a fantastic playground for walkers, runners and cyclists in South Wales, including the formidable bulk of peaks like Pen y Fan.
With five different distances on offer ranging from a 50-mile ultra to a 12K trail run, this great off-road event is the perfect way to explore Bannau Brycheiniog and the neighbouring Black Mountains. You will be immersed into the mountains and supported with well-stocked checkpoints to keep you moving, with some testing climbs and a great event village at the finish line in which to celebrate your achievement.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads offer a different landscape to most other National Parks, with miles and miles of wetlands that provide the perfect habitat for rare wildlife, as well as a great location in which to run and cycle.
The latter of those is what we're interested in here: the Tour de Broads, which is a collective of five sportives that set out from Plumstead to explore the roads weaving through the beautiful Norfolk Broads. Ranging from six to 100 miles, these rides will see around 2,000 cyclists arrive in the East of England for a fantastic day in the saddle, enjoying an open and rolling landscape.
One of the largest National Parks, the Cairngorms lie to the South East of Loch Ness and includes a rich variety of landscapes, from huge mountains and expanses of moorland to ancient forests and glistening lochs.
Making the most of that incredible scenery is this 100K ultra marathon, which runs from Aviemore to Buckie, on the coast. This race has been held since 1994 and passes through famous whisky towns, with the 50K version beginning at Tamdhu Distillery. Expect great views of rivers, mountains, forests and lochs, as well as shortbread factories and distilleries!
Famous for both its literary history and its stunning heather moorlands, Dartmoor is a wild and rugged National Park that provides fantastic opportunities for outdoorsy people of all types to explore.
Advertised as the toughest cycling challenge in the South West, these three sportives are championed by the appropriately named Legend, a 200-mile ride that clocks up a monumental 18,000ft of ascent along its journey. You will be racing against the clock and any rider who fails to make the checkpoints will be removed from the course. Those beautiful hills in Dartmoor will seem more brutal by the end!
Also in the South West, Exmoor is defined by its fusion of high moors and towering coastal cliffs, with 1,000K of rights of way making it perfect for walkers.
From its base camp at Dunster Castle in Somerset, this ultra challenge heads west into Exmoor National Park and along the South West Coast Path, enjoying stunning views across the sea and along these famous cliffs. You can run, walk or jog depending on how you feel but either way you'll be challenged by the steep hills and cliffs that lie ahead, with a fantastic event village waiting at the end.
Perhaps one of the most iconic National Parks in the UK, the Lakes is a stunning blend of towering fells, craggy rocks, lush forest and, of course, pristine lakes. Outdoorsy people of all types flock to the Lake District year round to enjoy its incredible scenery.
Picking one event in the Lakes isn't easy - there's a rich plethora of runs, bike rides, swims and hikes to choose from throughout the year. This multi-day hiking challenge organised by Meningitis Now is perfect because it tackles eight of the park's highest peaks across two days of hiking, with fantastic support on the fells and great camaraderie within the group throughout the whole experience. From Skiddaw to Scafell Pike, you'll take on the best that the Lakes can offer!
Scotland's lowlands rise into highlands within this National Park, with open moorlands punctuated by deep forests and icy lochs giving way to craggy mountains in the north. The result is a varied landscape with plenty to be explored.
Starting in the western reaches of the National Park in Callander, this charity hike follows the Rob Roy Way to Aberfoyle, passing north of Loch Venacher before skirting around the shores of Loch Drunkie. Organised by Macmillan Cancer Support, this pair of hikes - one marathon and one half marathon - explore some beautiful parts of the lowland Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, with great support from the event organisers and a supportive, inclusive atmosphere running throughout the event.
An ancient royal hunting ground in the South of England, this unique landscape is typified by its mix of dense woodland, wide heathland and diverse array of plants and animals, including its wild ponies.
Trail running is one of the best ways to explore the New Forest, with forest paths and gravel trails disappearing into the heathland in every direction for miles. The Maverick Adidas Terrex New Forest Original series of races, featuring three routes all starting at Roundhill Campsite in Brockenhurst, venture deep into the heart of this National Park, with some steep inclines but generally an undulating profile suitable to all runners.
Ranging from 44,000 hectares of heather moorland to wide open bays on the coast, the North York Moors have some of the most astounding scenery in the UK, with active events taking advantage of that natural beauty.
An epic ultra marathon through some of the most impressive areas of the North York Moors, this 200-mile race is not for the faint-hearted. Starting in Kingston upon Hull, the route variously follows the Transpennine Trail, Wolds Way, Yorkshire Wolds Way and Cleveland Way, with a 60hr time limit for this single stage run. This is a very tough route and will attract fell runners and endurance athletes who are intested in a real challenge through some breathtaking terrain.
The northernmost National Park in England, Northumberland boasts England's cleanest rivers and darkest skies, as well as being the quietest and least visited of all the UK's National Parks, despite a huge amount of epic opportunities to get active outdoors.
Named after the hardy Cheviot goats that are the only animals left out on the hills during the bleak, cold winter, this ultra marathon will test not only your running endurance but your physical and mental determination to keep going in blisteringly cold conditions. Covering 57 miles on trails and clocking up an impressive 12,500ft of ascent, this is an ultra run with a real bite, though you will be supported by the Cold Brew Events and Montane team at regular intervals.
Designated as a National Park in 1951, the Peak District is the oldest of the 15 and is still hugely popular among walkers, runners, cyclists, swimmers and climbers for its craggy hills, wide open bracken and beautiful valleys.
Organised by the British Heart Foundation, this collection of three off-road rides - ranging from 23 to 43 miles - is an epic opportunity to explore the hills and trails of the Peak District on two wheels. Starting in Hope Valley, you'll embark on a grand tour of the Peaks, racing down steep downhills and cruising along open trails. There's a great event village at the finish line in which to raise a glass with your fellow challengers!
Found at the southernmost reaches of Wales, this breathtaking stretch of coastline is one of the smallest National Parks in the UK but is also filled with some incredible wildlife and outdoor adventure opportunities.
While the distance of this swim-bike-run is 'standard', i.e. the Oympic format of a 1,500m swims, 42K bike ride and 10K run, the event is anything but standard. After diving into the beautiful sea off Broad Haven, the bike rides tours the hills outside the town and clocks up 400m of ascent, before the run explores the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. This is a truly epic part of the UK and the swim-bike-run format is perfect for experiencing its natural beauty.
As well as hosting the highest mountain in England and Wales, Snowdonia contains a rich history of prehistoric monuments, medieval castles and ancient roads, many of which now play host to fantastic active events.
As with most of the UK's National Parks, picking one event to showcase Snowdonia is far from easy, given the huge array of hikes, runs, bike rides and more that take place throughout the year. This challenge walk from Macmillan Cancer Support is fantastic for not only taking on the iconic summit of Snowdon but doing so at night, enjoying a spectactular sunrise that should showcase the National Park in stunning circumstances.
Easily accesible from London and major cities like Brighton, the South Downs is a hugely popular outdoor playground for runners, walkers and cyclists. Its green hills, chalk grassland and dark night skies showcase nature at its pristine best.
Choose to walk this charity challenge organised by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, exploring the rolling green hills that typify this beautiful National Park. Walkers of all ages and abilities are welcome and you'll be supported along the entire journey by experienced guides. Based in Lewes, you'll explore the easternmost stretches of the South Downs National Park.
A blend of rural industry and wild hills, the Dales are an outstanding location for active events, with dry-stone walls and field barns providing a picturesque backdrop to outdoor adventures. Cyclists, walkers and many more return to the Dales again and again for its inimitable beauty and spirit.
How could it be anything else? This classic walking challenge tackles the three highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales: Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent, with a wide variety of charity challenges and independent groups taking on the challenge throughout the year. Organised events will take walkers of all ages and abilities, like the challenge being hosted by Birmingham Hospice, setting out from Horton in Ribblesdale and tackling the peaks in the classic order.