9 Hills, Hampstead Heath (7.2 miles)


Route in figures

Route Summary

Distance 7.2
Traffic-Free 10/10
Hills 9/10

Large scale map

Route details

A note about navigation

A fast and scenic route round Hampstead Heath aiming to cover most of the bigger inclines, almost all on good paths.

This route was conceived as a midweek training session for marathon runners and was designed specifically to:

  • maximise the amount of gradient
  • include mainly good straight paths where higher speed is possible
  • avoid repetition
  • cover a varied and scenic environment

You could just run round but it’s more fun to work the hills (up and down), although in a group those at the front will have to pause to let the others catch up.

Together with the standard out and back route from the Seymour Centre the total distance covers approx. 14 miles – if this seems long (taking into account that the 9 Hills part is quite hard) then it is easy to shorten the route. For example:

  • don’t do hill #3 round the viaduct
  • head home before hill #6
  • start with hill #6


“Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2006)”

[[:scrollbox_begin]] 9 Hills route map [[:scrollbox_end]]

Start and finish

You can start at Parliament Hill track, where there are showers and lockers. It is open from 7.30am until dusk.

Alternatively, if you are a member of the Serpentine Running Club you can use the shower and changing facilities at the Seymour Leisure Centre and follow route 21 to/from Hampstead Heath.

Map of Hampstead Track

“Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2003)”

Route Details

Follow the route red-purple-green-yellow on the map.

Mile Directions
If starting from the Seymour Centre, follow route 21 to Hampstead Heath crossing the railway over the footbridge near the running track. (The route starts at Hampstead Heath).
0 Hill #1: from the athletics track head across the grass up the side of Parliament Hill, there is a dirt path, and a tarmac path halfway up. Cross over the tarmac path and continue all the way to the top over the steps.
0.2 Continue in the same direction and cut across the grass path heading north-west-ish, turn right onto the paved path and continue downhill.
0.5 At the bottom, where about four paths converge between two of the ponds, take the north-most one heading west (Hill #2).
0.7 At the top continue on the same path.
0.9 Take a left corner and running past the sports ground on your left downhill along a wide avenue of trees.
1.0 Hill #3: after a short while there is a sharp right, doubling back about 45° into a small dirt track. This can be quite difficult to spot: on the right there is an old wooden picket fence just after the turn. Follow this and you come to a large pond with the rather pretty viaduct on the opposite side. Take the left hand path.
1.1 About halfway up the hill turn right into another small dirt path through the trees. This brings you to just above the viaduct – go left and then right onto a small dirt path which turns into a wide path. Follow this till you reach the tree.
1.3 Take the first right downhill towards the south
1.5 At the next junction turn right into the avenue of trees.
1.7 Hill #4 starts at the bottom of the dip. At the end of the avenue of trees turn right up a steep path.
1.9 Continue along this path after it levels off, past the Vale of Health pond on the left and the caravan site along to Hill #5, which is quite steep, and leads to a grassy clearing.
2.2 This is part of the ‘classic’ 4 mile outer loop: head for the far corner on the right, down the steep hill (the path turns left), up the other side of the dip, and continue in the same direction for a short while.
2.4 Take the left fork which curves back and head through the iron gate. Follow this path into another (large) clearing keeping straight and then to the left past the cottages and lawn to Kenwood House. Close the gate behind you.
2.8 You are in a car park: cross to the other side, cross the driveway and then into a twisty dirt path, follow this and be careful of exposed tree roots. Cross two small roads (watch out for traffic), go through the iron gate and turn left along by the wooden fence, arriving at the small pagoda at the top of a hill.
3.2 Head down the dirt path on the left of the pagoda, through the dip (small footbridge and trees) keep to the right and come out by the ponds.
3.6 Turn left and go through the steel gate south along Millfields Lane, past the womens’ pond, turn right just before the WC and water fountain. This is the best place to cut the run short if that’s what you want, the next 3 hills are quite long.
3.8 Hill #6: continue west and up the hill, there is a false summit and then the path gets steeper just before the top.
4.2 At the next crossroads turn right and head for the tree, turn right and head downhill, eventually going straight across another crossroads onto a tarmac path and reaching Millfields Lane.
4.9 Hill #7: cross Millfields Lane and turn left up the dirt path, all the way back to the pagoda.
5.1 At the top turn sharp left onto a tarmac path.
5.3 Follow the path, turning left (instead of through the gate into Kenwood House grounds). Eventually this takes you back to Millfields Lane and the bottom of hill #7.
5.6 Hill #8: turn right (heading west) and up the hill all the way to the tree. There is a false summit and this is a long hill but the gradient allows a good pace.
6.0 At the tree turn left (heading south) and keep straight on the same path till you get in sight of Parliament Hill.
6.5 Take the left fork to the top of Parliament Hill (Hill #9)
6.6 Parliament Hill. You can go straight home from here, but maybe it’s handy to run down to the water fountain & WC’s (that’s on your left facing the nice view).
6.9 Turn right at the water fountain back towards the athletics track.
7.2 Finish by the athletics track.

A Note about Navigation

This route may seem a bit intricate in places but not so hard to remember if we use some landmarks and split it into sections. Hampstead Heath is only one mile across, at the north is Kenwood House and at the south is Parliament Hill and then the athletics track. There is a series of ponds along the east side and a couple more near the south west. In the middle, near the south west corner of Kenwood House grounds (these are fenced off) is a large tree surrounded by a skirt of branches and this is the meeting point of six paths:

  • South goes direct towards Parliament Hill, and then the next right takes you to the avenue of trees with the sports ground on your left.
  • West leads to the viaduct
  • North-west takes you towards Sandy Heath
  • North is the short route to Kenwood House
  • North then right through a gate heads into some twisty dark paths
  • East is towards the ponds

The 9 Hills route begins with Parliament Hill, crosses over to the East Ponds, loops round by the tree, then covers the ‘classic’ outer circle route to Kenwood House and then downhill to the East Ponds again. After this there two loops to the tree and back and one to Kenwood House and back. Finally it heads home via Parliament Hill.

Malcolm Hinsley