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How to Visit Janet’s Foss Waterfall in a Magical Fairy Woodland (2024)!

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One of the most beautiful waterfalls you can visit in the Yorkshire Dales National Park is Janet’s Foss Waterfall. 

It can be found within a magical woodland that is meant to be inhabited by fairies and woodland sprites.  

You can access Janet’s Foss on a short ‘out-and-back’ hike from Malham Village. Or, you can extend your hike to the likes of Gordale Scar and Malham Cove. 

It’s a very popular rest spot with hikers in Malhamdale and it’s also a busy wild swimming spot on warmer days. 

Whichever way you decide to visit this pretty cascade you will be utterly enchanted and you won’t want to leave. 

Here is the easiest way to visit Janet’s Foss Waterfall in the Yorkshire Dales. 

Janet's Foss Waterfall

What is Janet’s Foss Waterfall?

Janet’s Foss is a small but magical waterfall that lies in an enchanted woodland near Malham Village.

Foss is a Nordic word for waterfall and it is named after Janet who is the Queen of the Fairies here.

Years ago, many farmers used the pool beneath the cascade for sheep dipping and this was a festival that used to draw in the local residents.

It’s 6 metres high and the water from Gordale Beck cascades over a limestone surface into a turquoise pool below. 

This limestone has many tufa deposits which can be found on the rocks behind the waterfall.

It’s a very popular beauty and swimming spot in the Yorkshire Dales and many people visit here on their way to Gordale Scar or Malham Cove. 

Janet's Foss Waterfall

What’s the story behind Janet’s Foss? 

According to a local legend, this woodland is home to all manner of fairies, elves, pixies, and sprites that live in the trees and dance under the moonlight.

Janet, or Jennet, is the Queen of the Fairies and she is meant to live in a cave behind the waterfall! 

The waterfall cascades over a limestone tufa and you can just about see an opening which is meant to be her humble abode. 

This is a very popular legend in Malham that all the locals are familiar with but there isn’t much else to it other than that!  

Janet's Foss Fairy Woodland

However, you cannot deny that the woodland does feel very magical with the cascading waterfall, babbling stream, mossy trees, and emerald foliage. It looks like something straight out of a fairytale. 

You could easily be lured into a Fae Trap here and, I’m not going to lie, I’d go willingly into the Faerie Realm.

No bargain required, I’d volunteer as tribute. Just gimme that faerie wine and let’s dance in the Fairy Ring until we pass out. 

Queen Janet of the Fairy Cave

Mystery of the Green Mist Wraith

Although it’s nice to believe this forest is enchanted with magical fairies and sprites, others have seen something a lot more sinister in this water. 

After all, the Brothers Grimm fairytales were never meant to have happily ever afters. They were indeed very dark and grim stories intended to teach the reader a lesson. 

There are local reports of a wraith that haunts this area and appears over the waterfall as a green mist and then transforms into a spectre of a lady.  

According to another local legend, the wraith feeds off the energy of the living and drains the soul of whoever comes in contact with it! 

So, if you start to see any sort of moving mist on the water here make sure to run away as fast as you can. 

Janet's Foss Waterfall walk

How to visit Janet’s Foss

If you wanted to visit Janet’s Foss Waterfall then you only need to head to Malham village in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. 

You can access Janet’s Foss fairy woodland and cascade on a scenic and short trail from the Malham visitor centre car park. 

  • Driving to Malham – If you’re driving, this is around a 90-minute drive from York, Leeds, and Manchester or an hour from Bradford. I would personally recommend driving carefully on Malham Road as it’s extremely narrow and winding with passing places.

The Malham Cove visitor centre parking postcode is BD23 4DA. Click here for a Google Pin.

Janet's Foss Waterfall

Malham Village parking 

There is car parking available at Malham Cove visitor centre where you can park your car for the Janet’s Foss walk. 

Malham parking prices are £3.50 for up to two hours or £5.50 for the day.

If you’re staying in the Yorkshire Dales for a couple of days, it may be worth picking up one of their parking passes. 

You can get a 7-day parking pass for £17.50 that is valid in any of the Yorkshire Dales National Park car parks. 

Alternatively, you can park up on the side of the road just outside of the visitor centre and pay £2 for the day in the donation pot.

Malham Visitor Centre Yorkshire Dales
Malham visitor centre

How long is Janet’s Foss Walk?

The Janet’s Foss walk is around 2.7 miles long on an ‘out-and-back’ trail from Malham Village.

From the Malham Visitor Centre car park, it will take you around 30 minutes or so to reach the woodland. 

I would recommend leaving around 1-2 hours for this waterfall walk. Even longer if you wanted to go for a swim and add on a visit to Gordale Scar nearby. 

There is also an ice cream van just outside of the woodland area and the chance to hike up to Malham Cove afterward or Malham Tarn. 

You could easily spend an entire day in this area of the Yorkshire Dales as it’s absolutely stunning. So, plan lots of time. 

Gordale Scar walk

Janet’s Foss waterfall walk directions

It’s very easy to find Janet’s Foss from Malham Village on a direct path. It starts off as gravel and then becomes flagstone steps. 

I’ll provide some basic directions for you below so you know what to expect. 

Note: I would highly recommend that you use the toilet facilities in the car park before you set out on your walk as there are no toilets in Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar, or Malham Cove.

1. From the Malham Centre Visitor Car Park cross the road and follow the sign

Exit the Malham Centre Visitor Car Park and head in the direction of Malham Village. 

Eventually, you will see a sign pointing towards Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss so cross the road and follow the sign

Gordale Scar Janet's Foss Sign in Malham
Follow this sign pointing towards Janet’s Foss
Old Clapper Bridge Malham
Cross this Old Clapper Bridge

2. Cross the old bridge and follow the gravel path around 

You’ll cross an old clapper bridge that spans the river. Again, follow the sign and turn right.

This gravel path will loop around and will start leading you toward Gordale Scar. 

You’ll pass through many fields, cross through kissing gates and see lots of cows here! 

Gordale Scar Walk
Follow the pathways all the way along until you reach a sign for Janet’s Foss

3. Walk beside the river and follow the flagstone steps

Eventually, the walk will lead you beside Gordale Beck River and it starts to become very scenic. 

Keep following the flagstone steps until you see the entry gate and National Trust sign for Janet’s Foss. 

Gordale Scar Walk Witcher Filming Location 7
Janet's Foss sign

4. You’ll eventually enter Janet’s Foss woodland

Pass through the gate and you’ll eventually enter the fairy forest which is where Janet, the Queen of the Fairies lives. 

Legends say that fairies and sprites dance here in the moonlight and you can feel an air of mystery about this forest.

There are lots of gnarled trees that grow here and branches with moss and lichens that sway over the river. It definitely feels magical! 

Janet's Foss Fairy Woods
Janet's Foss Woodland fairies

5. Follow the path to Janet’s Foss Waterfall 

Keep following the well-marked trail in the woodland until you reach the waterfall. This is when the pathways start to get uneven. 

It can get very muddy in the forest and there are lots of tree roots, sharp rocks, and muddy inclines so be careful as you go.

Janet's Foss Waterfall

Keep walking up the steps until you reach Janet’s Foss waterfall! There are lots of places to sit around here and enjoy the views of the water crashing in the pool below. 

Or, if you are feeling brave you could go for a swim in the clear water pool and explore the many of the magical caves around the falls. 

Lots of people stop here for a picnic on a longer hike or dip their feet into the water on a warm day. 

Janet's Foss Waterfall

Janet’s Foss opening times and prices 

Janet’s Foss woodland and waterfall is open 24 hours a day to enjoy and I would recommend visiting the waterfall early morning for a more peaceful visit. It can get very busy during the day.

You could also visit in the late afternoon/evening for fewer crowds but I wouldn’t recommend visiting at night time as there is no artificial lighting in this area at all.

Janet’s Foss waterfall is also completely FREE to visit, you just need to pay for parking in the Malham village car park. 

Janet's Foss Yorkshire Dales

Can you swim in Janet’s Foss waterfall? 

Yes, Janet’s Foss is a very popular and safe wild swimming spot and you will find people bathing in the shallow pool beneath the waterfall all year.

In summer, it stays light until the late evening. So, even at 9 pm, there will be people bathing in the pool.

Even if it’s cold, in the dead of winter, you’ll often find people swimming in their wetsuits and bobble hats. 

So, make sure to come prepared with your bathing suit if you fancy taking a dip.

Janet's Foss

Is Janet’s Foss accessible?

No. Absolutely not. The National Trust labels the access here as ‘challenging’. You will struggle to bring a pram or wheelchair here.

Also, this waterfall is not suitable if you have any health conditions that make walking on uneven surfaces/inclines a challenge for you.

It’s a 2.7-mile walk and there are flagstone steps through the fields. It’s especially inaccessible when you reach the waterfall area in the woodland. 

The ground is muddy, steep, uneven with unexpected inclines and sharp rocks that get slippery when wet.

Janet's Foss Waterfall

These rocks are even slippy when they aren’t wet due to the smooth surfaces!

I saw many people online say that Janet’s Foss is accessible and that you could bring a pushchair/wheelchair here (?!).

This couldn’t be further from the truth and it is irresponsible to say that it is. Please proceed with caution on this walk for your safety and to avoid disappointment.

Janets Foss Waterfall
Oh yes, perfect conditions for a pram/wheelchair…*face-palm*

My top tips for visiting Janet’s Foss waterfall

  • Visit early or late – Janet’s Foss is a very busy hike and you should visit earlier or later for fewer crowds. There are campsites nearby and people use this as a swimming pool. 
  • Bring your swimmers – this is a wild swimming spot and people will be having a dip all year around. 
  • Take rubbish home with you – remember to leave no trace and take rubbish with you. 
  • Wear sensible shoes – the ground is uneven through the fairy forest and the stone walkway to the waterfall is very slippy even when the stones aren’t wet. 
Janet's Foss National Trust
  • Visit after a few days of rain – to see the cascade at its best make sure to visit after a few days of heavy rain. 
  • Come prepared for all weather – there could be rain, clouds, sun, or high winds. It’s Yorkshire so prepare for any type of weather. 
  • Toilets – none at all found here or on the route to the waterfall. So, use the toilets at the visitor centre before you set out. 
Janet's Foss Waterfall

Things to do around Janet’s Foss

After you have finished exploring Janet’s Foss waterfall there are plenty of things to do in this area of Malhamdale.

You can head on to Gordale Scar, Malham Cove, Malham Tarn, or head back to Malham Village.

Janet's Foss Waterfall walk

Visit Gordale Scar 

After you’ve explored Janet’s Foss you can add on a visit to Gordale Scar which is just a five-minute walk from the falls. 

Gordale Scar is a dramatic limestone ravine gorge that has another waterfall hidden away at the end! 

The limestone cliffs are over 330 feet high and, depending on rainfall, there are two heavy waterfalls that flow through the gorge and into the Gordale Beck River below.

After it leaves Gordale Scar, the Gordale Beck flows through Janet’s Foss and down to the River Aire beyond.

Today, it’s a very popular place to hike and go rock climbing. Many people use this waterfall to climb up to Malham Cove. It also featured in Netflix’s The Witcher series 2 as a filming location. 

Click here to read my detailed guide about visiting Gordale Scar 

Gordale Scar Yorkshire Dales
Gordale Scar
Gordale Scar waterfall

Hike up to Malham Cove 

After your visit, you can head towards Gordale Scar waterfall and you’ll see an access gate on Gordale Lane. 

This pathway up the hillside will lead you straight up to Malham Cove! It’s a unique limestone pavement placed high up on the clifftops and provides incredible views over Malhamdale and beyond.

It’s also a Harry Potter filming location that featured in the Deathly Hallows Part 1 when Golden Trio is looking for Horcruxes. 

Even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, It’s well worth visiting from this viewpoint as it’s what Malham is famous for.

From there, you can head over to Malham Tarn, another picturesque beauty spot in this area. 

Click here to read my complete Malham Cove Harry Potter guide 

Malham Cove Harry Potter Walk
Malham Cove

Janet’s Foss FAQs

Is Janet’s Foss an easy walk? If you’re doing the out-and-back route from Malham Village the walk is considered easy. There are flat pathways and then flagstone steps in the fields until you reach the fairy forest. But, then it gets quite uneven, with tree roots and sharp slippy rocks.

Is Janet’s Foss dog friendly? Yes, but keep dogs on a lead when walking through the fields due to wildlife.

How was Janet’s Foss formed? By Gordale Beck. The waterfall cascades over limestone into the pool below and it was formed over thousands of years.   

Janet's Foss Waterfall

Where to stay near Janet’s Foss?

There are many campgrounds around this area of Malhamdale and I saw lots of camper vans parked up at Gordale Scar. 

Gordale Scar Campsite has space for around 60 pitches and you’re located right in the gorge itself surrounded by its natural and rugged beauty.

When you camp here, you’re only a few minutes walk to Janet’s Foss waterfall and you can use it as a natural swimming pool!

Alternatively, you can stay in Malham Village. There are lots of places to stay like The Buck Inn which is in the centre of the village.

You could also pick a stay at the luxurious Beck Hall and the cosy coaching inn of the Lister Arms

Malham Cove Harry Potter walk directions
Malham Village

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Save Janet’s Foss Waterfall for later! 

How to Visit Janets Foss Waterfall fairy woodland