One of the most breathtaking sights in Glencoe, Scotland are the majestic Three Sisters. The majority of the people who see them stop at the viewpoint, take a few pictures, then get back in their car and leave. But did you know that one of the best Glencoe walks is a short hike up into a river valley between two of the sisters? It’s a bit challenging with small kids (ours were aged 6 & 3), but it can be done.
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The Lost Valley walk begins from the parking lot for the viewpoint of the famous Glencoe Three Sisters. Be sure to stop and enjoy the view with the tour bus crowd as it really is amazing.
The trail begins with an easy downhill walk into the valley towards the River Coe. As you approach the river, you descend a steep set of steel stairs to reach the bridge to cross the river. After crossing the river, you begin your ascent up the hill into the Alt Coire Gabhail river valley.
At first, the trees are really thick, blocking a lot of daylight, making it prime midge territory. After a little while you exit the forest through a gate and enter a clearing. The views of the valley all around you are breathtaking.
The trail continues to ascend the valley with the sounds of the river raging below. The trail is single file at this stage and there are several spots where the drop-off is significant, so stay close to your kids at all times.
Eventually, the trail meets the river and you are treated to a series of cascading waterfalls. The hike is very scenic at this stage as it continues to follow along the river, providing new waterfalls at every turn. There are several spots where kids can stop and throw rocks into the water, while you try to get a good waterfall picture. There are a lot of midges in this area as well, so make sure everyone is well protected.
When we got about 80% up the valley, we started to get a little concerned about the trip back to the car. It took quite a while to get to this point, with a lot of scrambling up-and-over rocks, which were still wet from the morning rain.
It’s very much against our nature not to finish a hike, but it was hard work getting the kids this far and we figured the scenery wouldn’t change much over the last 0.3 miles / 500m. Plus, to be honest, the midges were getting on our nerves, so we made the hard choice to forgo the last 20% of the valley ascent and started to head back down.
As it turns out, the hike back down was easier and faster than we had thought. As we crossed back over the river towards the carpark, we started to feel regretful for not finishing the hike, but then the skies parted and the sun came out.
We’d barely seen the sun in our first two weeks in Scotland, so we were very excited for it to come out at that precise moment, where we could see the Three Sisters in all their glory. It was a beautiful sight.
Lost Valley Glencoe Hike Stats
Distance: The total distance we hiked was 2.8 miles / 4.5km. We figure that we skipped the last 0.3 miles / 0.5 km, so had we done the full distance it would have been closer to 3.4 miles / 5.5km.
Elevation Gain: This hike is mostly uphill and we gained approximately 605 feet / 185m of total elevation gain. There are some sections of this hike which are reasonably steep, or require scrambling up rocks, but anyone in reasonable shape ought to be able to do it.
Difficulty: We’d rate the Lost Valley hike as ‘moderate’. This hike can be challenging at spots, but it’s pretty short. Our 3 & 6 year old kids were able to climb the whole way up themselves, except for the spots where we had to help them because their legs were too short.
We carried our 3-year old down some of the more difficult areas for safety purposes. There were several other families with small kids on the trail this day and they were all doing it under their own power.
Duration: This hike took us 2 hours and 40 minutes to complete, which is slower than our typical pace. This is due to the more challenging stages of the hike which required some creative scrambling up the trail with the kids.
Lost Valley Location
How to Get to the Lost Valley Hike: The Lost Valley parking lot is an extremely busy viewpoint parking lot along the Glencoe highway. Loads of tour buses stop here, so no matter where you park, there is a risk you may get blocked in (we almost were).
The Lost Valley Hike Highlights
- The Three Sisters are a beautiful set of three side-by-side peaks in the Glencoe Valley. The Lost Valley walk allows you to get up close to them and appreciate their magnificence. The Lost Valley hike is one of the few moderate walks in Glencoe as most of the others are to the summits of the peaks.
- The area where the trail meets the Alt Coire Gabhail river is especially beautiful. The cascading waterfalls flowing through this incredibly lush valley is an amazing sight and is such a treat.
- Wildflowers are everywhere, including some very showy purple fox gloves.
- Being so close to water, there are a lot of birds and the sound of birdsong is ever-present on the hike.
Hiking Lost Valley with Kids
- There are no bathrooms in the parking lot. There are places you can hide along the trail, but it can get pretty busy, so finding privacy may be a challenge.
- There are no water stations either, so be sure to fill your hydration packs before leaving home.
- The trail surface on this hike varies quite a bit, but it’s mostly over gravel with rocks sticking out, or over large rocks which have steps cut into them. We wouldn’t recommend normal shoes for this hike; hiking shoes or boots are a must.
- As always, be prepared for all kinds of weather in Scotland. We did this hike on a partly cloudy day and were continually taking off and putting on layers. Be prepared for anything; wear clothing in layers, bring lots of water, sunscreen, rain gear, and something to repel the midges.
- Dogs are allowed on the Lost Valley Hike. I’d only recommend bringing your dog if it’s a medium-to-large athletic dog. Smaller dogs may struggle with this one.
- Our kids love climbing rocks, so they loved this hike.
- Most kids will probably love the huge black slugs that live in the valley along this trail.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
There are a few spots along the river which would make a nice place to stop for lunch, but the midges may ruin the picnic. If the midges are out, have a quick snack in the valley by the river and save the full lunch for the Three Sisters viewpoint by the carpark.
- There are a few spots along the river valley where the trail drops off very sharply. It’s high enough that a fall would be fatal. The path is wide enough to walk comfortably but keep an iron grip on your little ones just in case.
- There is a section at the beginning of the valley ascent where you need to hold onto a rope as you walk up a steep set of rocks. Most kids should be able to scramble up this, but it’s pretty high, so again, keep close. It’s more difficult on the way down.
What to Bring
Read more on how to spend a few days in Fort William with kids.