Everyone knows that Scotland has some incredible hiking and the trails at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park are no exception. With 21 Munros (Scottish mountains over ~914 metres), 19 Corbetts (Scottish mountains between ~760 and 914 metres) and 22 lochs (lakes), there is much to see! There are obviously many Loch Lomond hikes to choose from; but, what if you only had one day to explore them?
Beck and I found ourselves in this position! With most of our speed hikes planned in the West Highlands on our first 9 day trip to Scotland, we didn’t have much time at this national park. But, to get to the West Highlands from Manchester, we would be passing Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. So, it would be rude not to spend at least one day hiking in this beautiful national park.
Basically, if you’re a keen hiker and you find yourself with just a day at Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, look no further than hiking the Cobbler (Ben Arthur) and Ben Lomond. Admittedly, you’re looking at ~1,890m in vertical gain, so this isn’t for the faint-hearted. Personally, I had a pretty grumbly knee by the end of the day, so you’ll want to make sure you’re hiking-fit and prepared for a lot of elevation!
Besides the sore knee, hiking the Cobbler and Ben Lomond was an incredible way to experience the best Loch Lomond hikes in just one day. By doing so, you’ll get to hike a Munro (Ben Lomond), a Corbett (The Cobbler), and better yet; enjoy the stunning views of many lochs, including the famous Loch Lomond!
For more Scotland hiking content, read our guides on the West Highlands, Green Lochan and NC500.
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Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park | Day Trip
Of course, who wouldn’t want to spend longer at the stunning Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park? But, if you’ve only got a day to play with, this one-day Loch Lomond hiking itinerary is for you. We’ll detail the two best Loch Lomond hikes that you can cram into one epic day of hiking.
In terms of the order, it doesn’t really matter which hike you choose to do first. We decided to hike the Cobbler first as this made sense with our 9-day itinerary, which meant doing Ben Lomond afterwards. However, it’s worth noting that Ben Lomond is a very popular trail and can get very busy on the weekend, particularly around midday. Many people choose to do an out and back, and so, it can be quite crowded from the car park to the peak.
With that in mind, it may be better to start with Ben Lomond to beat the crowds. In saying that though, the Cobbler is also a popular trail that is narrower in most parts, so may even feel busier, even if there are fewer people hiking there compared to Ben Lomond. Either way, it’s best to get an early start, so you can enjoy at least one peaceful and quiet ascent of one of these Loch Lomond hikes!
Alternatively, for an easier but equally spectacular day of Loch Lomond hikes, consider choosing either the Cobbler or Ben Lomond and pairing it with Ben A’an (only 3.7km | 2 hours | Elevation gain: 340m | Trailhead: Ben A’an Car Park). Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to hike Ben A’an, but we’ve heard that you’ll get exquisite views for much less effort.
1. The Cobbler (Ben Arthur)
- Type: Out & Back with Peak Loop
- Distance: 13km
- Time: 3.75 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 890m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Loch Long Car Park
The ascent to the Cobbler starts with a fairly tedious zig-zagging ascent through forestry on uneven terrain. But your hard work will soon pay off as stunning views of Loch Long appear in the opposite direction as you emerge from the forest. You’ll also catch sight of the marvellous three peaks of the Cobbler ahead. Continuing through this gorgeous valley will have you following the charming Allt a’ Bhalachain (stream) to your left.
As you gradually ascend, you’ll pass by incredible rock formations known as the Narnain Boulders to your right. The sides of the valley do start to narrow as another glorious prominence takes shape to your right – the Yawning Crag of Beinn Narnain.
Hiking to the Summit of the Cobbler
You’ll then arrive at a junction, make sure to turn left! The stone steps steeply ascending to the Cobbler are a gruelling affair and is why we rated this hike as moderate difficulty.
Nearing the Cobbler, the path is less defined, but there is a straightforward ridge to follow, which takes you to the small summit plateau nestled between the North and Central peaks. At the summit, there is an epic rock pinnacle with sensational views of Loch Lomond to the left of it and Loch Long to the right of it.
Once you’ve enjoyed the views, you can simply retrace your steps; but, it is quicker to descend on the path leading southeast, marked by a cairn at the top.
The stone steps are initially simple to descend; but, the path becomes rough and steep in sections, requiring some very mild scrambling down a gully. The path has amazing views back up to the Cobbler and across to the south peak. Eventually, turn right to rejoin the outward path for the return hike!
SIDE NOTE: Beware that in summer, you’ll be greeted by many midges atop the Cobbler. So, you may not have much time to stay still and relax as the swarm of midges start to attack you!
2. Ben Lomond
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 12.5km
- Time: 4.25 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,000m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Ben Lomond Car Park
With just over 1km of vertical gain, expect the hike up to Ben Lomond to be quite physically demanding, particularly if you’ve already completed the Cobbler trail. The Ben Lomond Mountain Path initially makes its way through oak woodlands, which are known as Creagan Breac.
The narrow trail eventually emerges from the woods, and as you begin to steadily climb more exposed areas of forest regeneration, the path becomes rockier underfoot. With many stone steps to conquer, the path eventually reaches Sron Aonaich (577m) with increasingly impressive views of Loch Lomond, which will keep you preoccupied.
Basically, it’s more of the same as you continue to Ben Lomond (974m) – the uncompromising steps just keep on going! Admittedly, we were pretty knackered most of the time and required far more rests from speed hiking than usual. If you’re also feeling buggered; hopefully, the cone-shaped summit will soon reveal itself, if not consumed by mist!
Thankfully, as you approach Ben Lomond, the gradient eases. But, it’s fairly short-lived as the trail steepens once again in two final considerable zig-zags up the summit. As well as the incredible views of the islands of Loch Lomond, you’ll also get to enjoy an amazing view east over the Trossachs, with Loch Chon and Loch Àrd in the distance.
Once you reach the peak, let’s hope you’ll get to enjoy the marvellous 360s of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Personally, we experienced a bit of a white-out; but, that’s the luck of the draw! Even so, the rolling mist created some epic scenes that we captured for our video production.
The Ptarmigan Ridge Path
From the summit, most hikers will retrace their steps for the return journey. This is why the Ben Lomond Mountain Path gets so crowded. A much quieter option is to descend via the Ptarmigan Ridge Path. You’ll see far fewer hikers on this path; plus, there are different views to enjoy, that are just as superb as those seen on the Ben Lomond Mountain Path.
The Ptarmigan Ridge Path is a rocky trail initially heading in a northwest direction. You’ll pass a col before the path takes a southwest direction to, you guessed it – Ptarmigan (729m). The steep descent eventually tapers as a more gently sloped path continues through luscious green forestry with Loch Lomond to your right. It was at this point of the hike, that we could get back to some speed hiking after the steep rocky descent forced us into a more measured approach.
What’s this about speed hiking? Beck and I love nothing more than a bit of speed hiking to help us conquer as many trails as we can squeeze into a day. Read our comprehensive guide on speed hiking to find out more!
From there, you’ll descend further, meeting the forest once again. You’ll pass a lovely waterfall, a youth hostel and a memorial sculpture, as you return lakeside where it all started! Make sure to spend a moment taking in the spectacular Loch Lomond!
Read more: Hiking Ben Lomond: The Ultimate Guide To A Bonny Scotland Trail
2 Phenomenal Loch Lomond Hikes in 1 Epic Day Recap
The Cobbler and Ben Lomond are certainly some of the best Loch Lomond hikes that can be accomplished in one spectacular day of hiking. Of course, this itinerary isn’t for everyone – we appreciate that ~1,890m vertical gain in just one day isn’t for everyone. But, if you’re physically (and mentally) prepared, climbing both the Cobbler and Ben Lomond is certainly doable in a day and an awesome experience.
Getting to Scotland
Flights: To do this trip from abroad, it makes sense to fly to Glasgow or even Edinburgh. When booking flights, you should definitely use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search. Although, with the pandemic, we recommend booking directly with the airline, because it will be much easier to cancel or reschedule flights.
Additionally, if you’re UK or US-based, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money on international travel. For the Aussies, we recommend subscribing to I Want That Flight for the best flight deal alerts, where you can usually find cheap flights with Jetstar or Tiger Airways.
Getting to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Although bus and train services are available in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, we still recommend a car to maximise your day of hiking. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, consider renting with RentalCars.com – they have an unbeatable free cancellation policy.
In terms of parking for the Cobbler, there are two privately run car parks located at the head of Loch Long in Arrochar. Succoth Car Park is conveniently located at the trailhead; but, you’ll be charged an astronomical rate for parking (~£10). We recommend using the Loch Long Car Park, which is free, and connected to the trailhead by a footpath, positioned away from the main road.
Parking for Ben Lomond is located in Rowardennan, on the east shore of Loch Lomond. The Ben Lomond Car Park is much more reasonably priced at £3/day.
Personally, we booked this trip quite last-minute, and so, all centrally-located campsites in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park (with shower facilities) were booked out. Yes, wild camping is always an option in Scotland and is a great adventure in its own right; but, after lots of hiking, we generally opt for a campsite with a shower and basic amenities. With no options left near Loch Lomond and the fact we were heading northwards to the West Highlands next, meant we chose to camp in the northeast corner of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park in Killin.
Even around this area, there weren’t many options, and so, we were thankful that the Cruachan Farm Caravan and Camping Park had availability. Booking through Pitchup.com, was £15/night, which is not badly priced for this part of the world. The small amenities block was much appreciated and there was plenty of space to pitch our tent. The downside was definitely the swarms of midges, known for their terror during a Scottish summer.
Otherwise, if you’re not keen on camping, we recommend searching for accommodation using Airbnb or Booking.com. Although, during the pandemic, be sure to book somewhere with a good free cancellation policy, just in case!
Five Hiking Gear Essentials for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
These are our five hiking gear essentials for exploring Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Five Camping Gear Essentials for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park
Camping in Scotland is a fantastic experience; but, you’ll need to have the right gear when visiting in summer to avoid being eaten alive by midges – they are notoriously vicious! Thankfully, there are a few helpful preventative measures you can implement to stop these wee blighters from feasting on your skin. This involves having the right camping equipment, including the Camping Living Room, which is one of our best EVER purchases (see below). It works similar to a gazebo with walls; but, without the heavy poles and difficult setup. In fact, it’s most similar to a tent, in how to set up and with general design in mind.
So, without further ado, these are our five camping gear essentials for Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. You can find more information on camping gear by visiting our in-depth packing checklist and travel essentials guide.
- Vango Banshee Pro Tent 300: a high-quality but affordable compact and lightweight tent, perfect for multi-day hiking.
- Vango Ultralite Pro 200 Sleeping Bag: this sleeping bag will keep you warm, particularly in cold climates.
- Sea to Summit Anti-Insect Mummy Style CoolMax Adaptor Sleeping Bag Liner: you’ll have a surprisingly warmer sleep with an extra layer and it’ll keep your sleeping bag clean.
- Sea to Summit Aeros Premium inflatable Pillow: a compact and convenient pillow to take camping.
- Head Torch: a necessary camping accessory to see where you’re going at night.
The Cobbler and Ben Lomond trails are fairly straightforward routes; but, if you’re unfamiliar with the area, it may be worth having GPS directions. Feel free to use our Wikiloc GPS-guided maps for both the Cobbler and Ben Lomond.
For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during your hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although, you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.
- Factor in the time it takes to drive from Long Loch Car Park to Ben Lomond Car Par: You’ll have about an hours drive between the Cobbler and Ben Lomond car parks. To ensure you can fit both hikes in one day, make sure to get an early start!
- Be prepared for midges during the Scottish summer: Oddly enough, when we visited, there were no midges lakeside at the eastern shores of Loch Lomond; but, there were swarms at the peak of Ben Lomond. As surprising as that was, the moral of the story is, always be prepared to encounter midges on mountain trails in Scotland during summer! We were actually recommended Avon Skin So Soft; but, didn’t find it overly effective. Nothing beats a good-old fashioned insect repllent with DEET.
- Consider hiking Ben A’an also: We had initially planned to hike Ben A’an as the third hike of the day ; but, my knee was far too grumbly to tolerate a third hike. So, if you have time to do more Loch Lomond hikes, definitely give this one a look in!
Who is going to spend a day speed hiking the Cobbler and Ben Lomond with you? Share this epic day trip with your hiking buddy.
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