Preparing to Trek Dartmoor Tips

Making the Trek to Dartmoor


Hound Tor silhouetted under a cloudy sky.


            When you go to Dartmoor, you’ll immediately notice there’s a drastic difference between it and let’s say London, Bristol or Plymouth: it’s not urban. That’s an understatement. It’s wild moorland and it does not overcome the limitations of bad weather, accessibility or poor dress. If you come unprepared (if you can even get there), you will get some nasty consequences. So you might want to do your research and prepare accordingly before travelling. We would like to provide with some helpful tips and sources to help you make your way to Dartmoor safely, based on our experience in the moors and some of the planning misadventures we faced:

                FIRST AND FOREMOST: PLAN YOUR HIKE PROPERLY. It can be very dangerous to attempt a hike in Dartmoor without proper planning of your route. No one should venture into Dartmoor without a map—it is a very vast area, and it would be very easy to get lost. Furthermore, only experienced hikers should take on Dartmoor alone. It is always best to plan a hike with a group, since that way there will be more sources of help in case of an emergency. Always let someone know where you are or where you will be going AT ALL TIMES. We especially recommend that you take a map with you when you go to Dartmoor, and that you plan the route you wish to take before arrival (we will discuss other suggestions on what to bring later in this article).

            NEXT, CHECK THE FORECAST. My research partner Jan and I had to postpone our trip because if we had gone out on a Saturday as we had intended we would not have gotten beautiful shots of the rocks and ponies, but rather obstructed views of horizontal rain and anxieties over hazardous roads. Fortunately, we went on Sunday and the weather while a bit windy was decent for the first half of the day. Since Dartmoor is a lot\of walking and hiking, you want to be extra careful the weather is safe and decent on the day of your visit.

 It can also be very dangerous to go up to Dartmoor on bad weather, since there could very well be flood and current warnings near the river, or the winds might be so strong they could very well blow you off the tops of hills. The Sunday my partner and I ventured into Dartmoor, she almost got blown off the top of a rock formation because of the wind strength. Here are various links to several forecast websites we recommend you to check prior to scheduling a trip to Dartmoor:;ct=8374~Dartmoor

                In addition, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, CHECK THE DARTMOOR NATIONAL PARK WEBSITE FOR MILITARY SCHEDULING. The northernmost half of Dartmoor is often used by the military for live-firing practice exercises, so going for a visit during those exercise days could actually cost you your life if you’re not careful. The National Park’s official website actually keeps a good record for the military scheduling though, and we definitely recommend you check the website thoroughly during your planning and even before getting on your mode of transportation—it’s really important to do so, since it can save your life. Here’s the link to the park website:

            ALSO, FIGURE OUT A MODE OF TRANSPORTATION. I had the unfortunate situation of not being able to go one day because none of the ATMs worked near where I was and I didn’t have cash or change to pay for the busfare. Dartmoor is a big landscape so you need to know where you’re being dropped off and where you’re being picked up if you’re going to use a bus. We recommend you find a private way of traveling, like carpooling with friends: however, if you don’t have a private form of transportation you have to make sure you plan your public transportation properly.

            Check the bus schedule and make sure you have a good ride both there and back. Often it is much harder to find where to get a bus back than it is to get one there. Make sure you get there on time because buses stop running at a certain time. If you take a car, Dartmoor will be more accessible to you and you’ll be able to get around at your own pace much more. Trains do go there, but they are limited both in times and locations. We've included a link below to a good website that shows both bus and train schedules to Dartmoor, and should also help with the planning or your trip—we recommend you check them out:

            Finally, remember to DRESS AND PACK ACCORDINGLY. The Moorland is unpredictable and part of nature so you probably shouldn’t come dressed for an evening out. Wear waterproof hiking shoes because the hills are steeps and there can be lots of mud. Last time my leather shoes got soaked in the mud and it was not a pretty sight. Also bring a raincoat with a hood because if it’s a windy day your umbrella will be inside out in a second.

Here’s a list of things to wear or take with you that my partner and I recommend you take prior to making a trek to Dartmoor:

  1. Water-proof coat, in case of bad or rainy weather. Make sure it includes a hood to protect your head, since umbrellas brake easily under the winds.

  2. If your water-proof coat doesn’t have a hood, make sure to buy a weather-proof hat instead. Also, make sure it has a cord or something that will secure it to your head so it doesn’t get blown away.

  3. Jeans is your best option for clothes in Dartmoor, since even though it takes longer to dry off, it should protect you from the dirt, mud, and possible grass and bugs you’ll have to trek through when hiking.

  4. As I said earlier, make sure you wear water-proof hiking boots. The terrain in Dartmoor can be very tough to navigate otherwise, and if you’re preparing for a long and challenging walk, it’s the most comfortable bet to make sure your shoes don’t break or are ruined by mud or rocks.

  5. Thermals, or heat-retaining underclothes, are a bit of a must in Dartmoor. It can get very cold up on the moorlands, and the wind-chill adds to that dramatically because of how strong the breeze can get. The best way to prepare against the cold and the rain is to layer-up properly before travel.

  6. A map is incredibly necessary, both prior to your trip and during. You want to make sure you plan out the route you’re going to take, as it is easy to get lost and incredibly dangerous to wander around Dartmoor for too long. Make sure you know where you’re going at all times by checking your map occasionally on your hike (if you have it, you might also want to bring a compass with you). We recommend you even mark out your route on the map beforehand with marker or pen, to make sure you avoid any hazardous areas.

  7. Don’t forget to take your cell phone with you either. Since Dartmoor is a very rural region, it might be difficult to get a signal from the top of a hill easily. Even so, you want to make sure you communicate with friends or family when you go to Dartmoor, in case of an emergency when you’re hiking (and indeed, you do get a signal even if it’s not the best). Make sure your phone is always topped up and ready to use.

  8. Last but not least, I’d like to recommend you take a bottle of water and a snack for long visits to Dartmoor. Like with any hiking trip, it’s easy to get a little tired and want to rest and get your energy back up, and the best way of doing that is to make sure you keep hydrated, at the very least. There ARE a couple of towns and villages, depending on the area of Dartmoor you plan to visit, but they can be very far off to get to and it might take a while to reach them while on a hike.  Some fruit, a granola bar, or even some crackers make for some quick energy while hiking as well.


Clothes and materials you will need for hiking on Dartmoor which can be found on the list above.

It’s also a great idea to bring a guidebook, a camera and some binoculars with you to enrich your experience—you never know when you’ll find a place or a sight of interest in your travels. It may take a bit more preparation and flexibility than visiting other sights in Devon, but a visit to Dartmoor is worthwhile and enjoyable if you approach it properly.

Written By: Grayson Ponti & Janice Rivera-Pagan