The Best Killarney National Park Hikes: An Adventurer’s Perspective

Introduction To The Best Killarney National Park Hikes

10 Best Killarney National Park Hikes
A young man takes a photograph at Ladies View, Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland

Nestled in the heart of County Kerry, Killarney National Park is an emblem of Ireland’s natural beauty and rich history. The park and the McGillycuddy Reeks continue to be a magnet for those who thirst for adventure, Offering a mix of scenic landscapes, majestic mountains, tranquil lakes, and dense woodlands.

Majestic hiking trails in Killarney National Park lead outdoor enthusiasts through sites steeped in ancient legends and historical prominence. And for those considering diving into its depths, we’ve got you covered in this ultimate list of the best hiking trails in Killarney.

Top 10 Best Hikes in Killarney National Park

Trail NameDifficultyDistanceDurationStarting PointMajor Attractions
Owengarriff to Torc MountainHard9.7 km4-5 hrsTorc Waterfall car parkMountain views, waterfalls, lakes, and valleys
Muckross Lake Loop WalkEasy10.5 km3-4 hrsMuckross HouseMuckross House, Muckross Abbey, Dinis Cottage, Torc Waterfall
Torc Waterfall LoopModerate7.4 km2-3 hrsTorc WaterfallTorc Waterfall, mountain views, Lough Leane
O Donohues Library – Ross IslandEasy6.5 km2-3 hrsRoss CastleRoss Castle, Library Point, Copper Mines
Old Kenmare RoadModerate16.1 km4-5 hrsMuckross HouseLough Leane, Torc Mountain, Kenmare Town
Knockreer Circular WalkEasy4.5 km1-2 hrsKillarney HouseKillarney House, Knockreer House, Lough Leane
Ross Island Mining TrailEasy4.5 km1-2 hrsRoss CastleRoss Castle, Copper Mines, Ross Island
The Old Kenmare Road: Torc to IncheensModerate11.3 km3-4 hrsTorc WaterfallTorc Waterfall, Lough Leane, Kenmare Town
The Mass Path from Galway’s Bridge to the MassModerate8.5 km2-3 hrsGalway’s BridgeMountain views, lakes, and valleys
The Meeting of the Waters and Old Weir BridgeEasy4.5 km1-2 hrsKillarney HouseThe Meeting of the Waters, Old Weir Bridge, Lough Leane
  1. Owengarriff to Torc Mountain
    The Owengarriff to Torc Mountain hike is challenging and takes you through some of the park’s most beautiful scenery. The trail begins at the Torc Waterfall car park and takes you through the Owengarriff Valley before reaching the summit of Torc Mountain.
    The trail offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including waterfalls, lakes, and valleys. The trail is approximately 12.3 km long and takes around 4-5 hours to complete.
  2. Muckross Lake Loop Walk
    The Muckross Lake Loop Walk is an easy hike that takes you through some of the park’s most beautiful scenery. The trail begins at the car park at Muckross House and takes you past Muckross Abbey and Dinis Cottage before reaching Torc Waterfall.
    The trail follows a loop around Muckross Lake before returning to the car park. The trail is approximately 10.5 km long and takes around 3-4 hours to complete.
  3. Torc Waterfall Loop
    The Torc Waterfall Loop is a moderate hike that takes you through some of the park’s most beautiful scenery. The trail begins at the Torc Waterfall car park and takes you past Torc Waterfall, mountain views, and Lough Leane.
    The trail is approximately 7.4 km long and takes around 2-3 hours to complete.
  4. Library Point – Ross Island
    The Library Point – Ross Island hike easily takes you through the park’s historic copper mines. The trail begins at the Ross Castle car park and takes you past Ross Castle, Library Point, and the copper mines.
    The trail is approximately 6.5 km long and takes around 2-3 hours to complete.
  5. Old Kenmare Road
    The Old Kenmare Road hike is a moderate hike that takes you through some of the park’s most beautiful scenery. The trail begins at the Muckross House car park and takes you past Lough Leane, Torc Mountain, and Kenmare Town.
    The trail is approximately 16.1 km long and takes around 4-5 hours to complete.
  6. Knockreer Circular Walk
    The Knockreer Circular Walk is an easy hike that takes you through the beautiful gardens and woodlands of Killarney National Park.
    The trail begins at the Killarney House car park and takes you past Killarney House, Knockreer House, and Lough Leane. The trail is approximately 4.5 km long and takes around 1-2 hours to complete.
  7. Ross Island Mining Trail
    The Ross Island Mining Trail is an easy hike that takes you through the park’s historic copper mines. The trail begins at the Ross Castle car park and takes you past Ross Castle, Copper Mines, and Ross Island. The trail is approximately 4.5 km long and takes around 1-2 hours to complete.
  8. The Old Kenmare Road
     Torc to Incheens: The Old Kenmare Road: Torc to Incheens hike is a moderate hike that takes you through some of the park’s most beautiful scenery. The trail begins at the Torc Waterfall car park and takes you past Torc Waterfall, Lough Leane, to Lord Brandon’s Cottage.
    The trail is approximately 11.3 km long and takes around 3-4 hours to complete.
  9. The Mass Path from Galway’s Bridge to the Mass
    The Mass Path from Galway’s Bridge to the Mass hike is a moderate hike that takes you through some of the park’s most beautiful scenery.
    The trail begins at the Galway’s Bridge car park and takes you past mountain views, lakes, and valleys. The trail is approximately 8.5 km long and takes around 2-3 hours to complete.
  10. The Meeting of the Waters and Old Weir Bridge
    The Meeting of the Waters and Old Weir Bridge hike is an easy hike that takes you past some of the park’s most beautiful scenery.
    The trail begins at the Killarney House car park and takes you past The Meeting of the Waters, Old Weir Bridge, and Lough Leane. The trail is approximately 4.5 km long and takes around 1-2 hours to complete.

5 Steps Before You Set Out On The Hikes Around Killarney

  1. Gear Up: Your footwear can make or break your hiking experience. Invest in sturdy hiking boots that offer both comfort and support.
  2. Layer Up: Killarney’s weather can be quite unpredictable. Familiarize yourself with the art of layering for hiking to tackle any weather condition that comes your way.
  3. Stay Nourished: Pack good water and some of the best hiking snacks to keep your energy levels high.
  4. Navigate Right: Killarney National Park is expansive. Consider getting a trail map or using a GPS-enabled device. You might find our guide on the Wicklow Way trail map useful for general navigation tips.
  5. Safety First: Inform someone about your hiking plans and estimated return time. Also, familiarize yourself with the Irish hiking weather to avoid unexpected surprises.

Muckross House & Muckross Abbey

Situated on the small Muckross Peninsula, between the lakes of Muckross Lake and Lough Leane, Muckross House is a Victorian mansion located about 6 kilometres away from the town of Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland. It was constructed from 1839 to 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert and was designed by the renowned architect William Burns in the Neo-Tudor architectural style, featuring distinct stepped gables and chimney pots.

In 1861, Queen Victoria was a guest at the house, which also played a significant role as part of the initial national park in the Irish Republic, now known as Killarney National Park. In 1932, William Bowers Bourn and Arthur Rose Vincent gave it to the Irish nation, making it the first National Park in the Irish Free State. 

As for Muckross House, visitors must pay an admission fee, including a guided tour lasting approximately 45 minutes to an hour. In contrast, Muckross Abbey can be explored without any cost as there is no entrance fee.

Muckross Abbey, Killarney, Looped walk

Muckross Abbey, situated in Killarney National Park near Muckross House, is a dilapidated Franciscan friary that was established by Donal McCarthy Mor in 1448. This friary was the final resting place for prominent members of the McCarthy Mór clan, including Donal McCarthy Mór and his spouse. However, in 1592, the government suppressed the friary, leading to its gradual decay.

Gap of Dunloe

The Gap of Dunloe, situated in County Kerry, Ireland, is a narrow pass that lies between the MacGillycuddy Reeks mountain range in the western part and the Purple Mountain Group range in the eastern part. It forms a part of the famous tourist route called the Ring of Kerry in County Kerry.

Gap of Dunloe Co Social Media edited
Gap of Dunloe, Probably The Best Killarney National Park Hike

The Gap of Dunloe is renowned for its astonishing natural beauty resulting from the glacial movement. It provides awe-inspiring views of the nearby mountains and valleys. Exploring this area by driving through the pass is possible.

However, doing so early in the morning is advisable to avoid crowds. Another option for visitors is to take a leisurely pony and trap ride from Kate Kearney’s cottage, also known as a jaunting car, to appreciate the picturesque landscapes fully.

The Gap of Dunloe has a rich history and is surrounded by ancient ruins and historical sites. The name “Dunloe” is believed to be derived from the Irish term “Dún Lóich,” meaning fort or stronghold of Lóich. The area has been an important landmark in every tour of Killarney since the 1860s when Queen Victoria visited.

The Gap of Dunloe became part of the first national park in the Irish Republic, now Killarney National Park, and is one of Kerry’s most popular tourist destinations because of its scenery.

Torc Waterfall

Torc Waterfall is a popular tourist destination located in Killarney National Park, County Kerry, Ireland. The waterfall is easily accessible, and visitors can park their cars at the nearby car park and take a short 200-meter walk to the waterfall.

Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park, Ireland
Troc Waterfall, Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry

The waterfall is 20 meters high and 110 meters long, formed by the Owengarriff River as it drains from the Devil’s Punchbowl corrie lake at Mangerton Mountain. Visitors can climb to the top of the waterfall by way of a stone path of about a hundred steps, which takes around 30 minutes to complete.

Ross Castle

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The Best Killarney National Park Hikes: An Adventurer's Perspective 8

Ross Castle is a 15th-century tower house and keep located on the edge of Lough Leane. It is the ancestral home of the Chiefs of the Clan O’Donoghue and later associated with the Brownes of Killarney. 

The castle was built in the late 15th century by the local ruling clan, the O’Donoghues Mór (Ross), though ownership changed hands during the Second Desmond Rebellion of the 1580s to the MacCarthy Mór. The Office of Public Works operates the castle and is open to the public seasonally with guided tours.

Meeting of the Waters

Located in the heart of Killarney National Park, the Meeting of the Waters is a picturesque spot where three lakes – Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake – converge. This stunning natural attraction is surrounded by lush greenery and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

Visitors can explore the area by taking a boat tour or renting a kayak to appreciate its beauty up close fully. The Meeting of the Waters is not only a visual delight but also holds historical significance, having been a favourite subject for artists and poets throughout the years. It is truly a must-see destination for nature lovers and art enthusiasts alike.

Bridge at Meeting of the Waters, Killarney National Park, Ireland
Meeting of the Waters, Killarney National Park, Ireland

Tips for an Unforgettable Walk Around Killarney National Park

  1. Start Early: The beauty of Killarney is best enjoyed in the early hours. Not only will you beat the crowd, but you’ll also capture the serene atmosphere of the park.
  2. Respect the Environment: Remember, Killarney is a national treasure. Always practice leave-no-trace principles. And if you spot the native red deer, remember to admire it from a distance.
  3. Stay Updated: The weather in Killarney can be unpredictable. Always check the Irish hiking weather updates before heading out.
  4. Extend Your Trip: Killarney offers more than just hiking. Explore boat tours, horse riding, and traditional Irish music sessions in local pubs. Also, consider venturing beyond the park. Our Donegal hiking experience or the Wild Atlantic Way road trip are great additions to your Irish adventure.
Hiking in Killarney National Park, Ireland
The Best Killarney National Park Hikes: An Adventurer's Perspective 9

Wrapping Up: Killarney – An Adventurer’s Paradise

From verdant landscapes and shimmering lakes to historical edifices and challenging terrains, Killarney National Park Hikes in 2023 continue to enchant adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Whether you’re taking a peaceful stroll around Ross Island or conquering the summit of Torc Mountain, the magic of Killarney is palpable at every turn.

Looking for more hiking inspirations in Ireland? Dive into our detailed guide on our Self-Guided Walking Holidays, where Ireland’s gems are prominently featured.

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