The Dales are broad and winding u-shaped valleys, carved out by glaciers, that sometimes narrow near the bottom. The effect is of wide, gentle hills often cut by steeper slopes that finish in rivers, streams and woodlands. The 680 square miles of the park covers part of West Yorkshire and Cumbria, across the Pennine Hills in the center of England.
Established in 1954, The Yorkshire Dales National Park, with its great variety of habitats and varying topography, is one of England's most popular areas for walking -- for gentle strolls and more strenuous hikes.
Landscape and NatureThe Dales are marked by several distinct landscapes, each with its own ecosystem, flora and fauna:
- Wildflower-rich hay meadows, scarce elsewhere in the UK
- Some of the best limestone karst landscapes in Britain, with limestone pavements, outcrops and caves.
- Scarce woodlands that give each dale its special appearance.
- the Howgills - grassy rounded hills with deep ravines that are markedly different from the rest of the park.
- Drumlins and stepped valleys
- Several spectacular waterfalls including Hardraw Force with a 90 foot single drop and Cautley Spout with a broken drop of 600 feet.
Among the Yorkshire Dales features, several that are man made are characteristic of this region. An intricate, and ancient, pattern of dry stone walls creates enclosures across valleys and valley sides. Traditional stone field barns are thicker on the ground in Swaledale, Wharfedale and Wensleydale than anywhere else in Britain.
National Park Centers located throughout the park help visitors with planning and booking accommodations. Downloads available at the centers include geocaching routes, audio trails and digital guides. GPS devices and audio trail MP3 players are available to rent at the centers.