Are you looking for a hike in the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park that is easy to get to, has stunning views and isn’t too busy? Ben Vane might just be the peak for you! This hiking guide for Ben Vane includes a detailed trail description, travel information and anything else you need to know before hitting the trail.
The Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park is full of beautiful places to visit. Thousands of people visit the park every week and visitor numbers have only risen with the easing of lockdown restrictions in Scotland.
But the way it is with beauty spots, the increased footfall can cause a lot of issues – from path erosion to dangerous parking. Not to mention that more people means less serenity – and isn’t that why we head out into nature?
The well-known paths in the National Park, leading up popular mountains like the Cobbler, Ben Lomond or Ben A’an, are seemingly always busy and parking spots are hard to come by. So, where can you go to get away from it all?
Enter Ben Vane.
This feisty little Munro in the northwest of Loch Lomond is a great option for people looking to travel to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park via public transport. It’s easily accessible from Glasgow and it’s up there with the big ones when it comes to the hiking experience.
Read on for a detailed hiking guide to help you plan a fun day out on a quieter trail in the Park. This post contains:
- a detailed description of the hiking route,
- what expect on the trail,
- what first-time Munro baggers should consider,
- how to get there on public transport,
- a suggested packing list for your day hike,
and a few other ideas for off-beat walks in the National Park.
Ben Vane Hike FAQ
Where is this hike?
Ben Vane is a peak in the Arrochar Alps mountain range. It towers high above the western shore of Loch Lomond, although at 3,002 ft (915m) it only just makes Munro status.
The nearest landmark on the A82 is Inveruglas and Sloy Power Station.
You might also like: 40 Things to do in the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park
How long is the hike up Ben Vane?
The hike up Ben Vane from the National Park visitor centre is approximately 11 km (6.75 miles) long and requires 930 m of ascent. On average, it takes 4.5 to 6.5 hours, there and back.
It took me 6 hours on my own – 3.5 hours up, 2.5 hours back down. It did stop a lot for photos and videos though, and there were several hikers who overtook me on the way up.
Is the path marked?
There are a couple of signposts leading the way at the start of the hike, but there are no waymarkers higher up. That said, the path is clear to see and easy to follow.
Is this trail suitable for beginners?
Yes and no – it depends on your confidence and the weather. Since the path is straightforward to follow, Ben Vane doesn’t require any advanced navigation or pathfinding skills. Any hiker who is reasonably fit should be able to reach the summit on a fine day.
That said, the trail up Ben Vane is relentlessly steep with very few breaks and several false summits. Close to the top, the mountain is very rocky. There are a few short scrambling sections. Nothing too difficult, but if you are not comfortable with short scrambles, you should probably save Ben Vane for another day.
On the other hand, if you are looking to get scrambling practice to boost your confidence, this would make for a great hike!
If the weather is bad and the rock wet and slippy, you may want to turn around and save it for another day. I know several people who have had to abort their attempt to climb Ben Vane in adverse conditions. But that’s the same for all Munros – better safe than sorry!
You might also like: 13 Great Munros for Beginners
Getting to Ben Vane
One of my favourite things about Ben Vane is that it’s super easy to get to on public transport – there aren’t many Munros that are this easily accessible by bus.
From Glasgow, take the bus to Inveruglas – the stop is called Sloy Power Station (Citylink service 914, 915 or 916). There is a convenient bus in the morning and several services in the evening (up until about 8 pm during summer).
I took the 8.30 am bus from Buchanan Bus Station and arrived at Inveruglas just before 10 am. At Inveruglas Visitor Centre there is a car park, a cafe and free public toilets which are open 24/7.
For my return journey, I booked the 4.54 pm bus back to Glasgow which gave me enough time to get a refreshment from the cafe and enjoy the views from the An Ceann Mòr viewing platform.
You might also like: How to plan a trip to the Loch Lomond National Park
Trail description: Hiking Ben Vane
From Inveruglas towards Loch Sloy
The trail begins at the Inveruglas Visitor Centre and leads south along the A82. There is a wooden signpost pointing to “Loch Sloy and the Hills” across the road from the Visitor Centre. There is a footpath on the far side of the road, so you are well away from fast-going traffic on the busy road.
Immediately after leaving the car park walk past the hydroelectrical Sloy Power Station. You can see the piped running down the flank of Ben Vorlich behind it. The trail continues along the road for about half a mile before a small side road veers off to the right and upwards.
Follow the tarmac road for another 1.5 miles. At the moment, there are works going on along the small road, but there isn’t a whole lot of works traffic and I found all construction workers to be very considerate.
Eventually, you reach a junction close to the Loch Sloy dam. A waymarker points towards Arrochar – follow its direction onto a stonier track. Soon after, there is an obvious footpath on the right side of the track. This is the path up Ben Vane.
The Long Way Up
The footpath climbs up and up. At first, it is made up of stone steps, but gradually, it becomes more uneven. Every now and then, the path evens out, making for a welcome break from the relentless ascent. Look back regularly to enjoy views of the glen you just came up and back towards Loch Lomond.
As you climb higher more views are revealed. First the dam at the end of Loch Sloy, then the loch itself. Behind Loch Lomond, Loch Arklet and Loch Katrine come into view. And if you’re lucky, the pointy peak of Ben Lomond.
Across the glen, on the other side of Loch Sloy, you can see Ben Vorlich – another Munro for another day.
About halfway up there is a great photo opp on a rocky ledge. A great point for a short break.
Walkhighlands describes Ben Vane as “a wee terrier that refuses to acknowledge its lack of stature amongst its higher neighbours”. I found this to be a humorous image to visualise on the way up – it lightened my mood when I got to yet another false summit. But to be honest, I felt more like the wee terrier… too feisty to give up in the face of a steep ascent. Hanging in there.
The closer you get to the summit, the rockier the mountain becomes and there are a few short scrambling sections. On a dry day, these are not particularly challenging – but make for great practice for anyone who wants to get into it.
To the Summit
After at least 3 false summits, I finally made it to the top of Ben Vane. This was my 23rd Munro, but only my 2nd solo ascent. Luckily, there was another solo hiker at the peak with me, so I could get a great summit picture.
The summit is surprisingly spacious and very flat. There are two cairns and plenty of space to sit down for lunch and views.
To the south and west, you can see Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond. To the east lie the Arrochar Alps – Bein Narnain, the Cobbler (Ben Arthur) and Ben Ìme, the highest peak in the range.
I had my lunch right here at the summit, but if it’s windy, you may want to descend back down a little for a more sheltered spot.
Back down again…
After regaining my energy, I started making my way back down again. Walking downhill, the path felt even steeper at times. I was very happy I had my hiking poles to take the pressure off my knees and provide some extra stability.
I made great progress but enjoyed taking in the views every now and then.
The walk down the small road back to Inveruglas felt a bit like a slog – walking on tarmac is always a bit tough on your joints. But knowing that there is a cafe waiting at the other end is just the motivation you need.
Back at Inveruglas, pick up refreshments at The Den cafe and enjoy the panoramic views from An Ceann Mòr, a pyramid-shaped viewing platform made from timber. It’s a unique and unexpected treat at the end of an eventful day in the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park.
Suggested Day Hike Packing List
What to wear for this hike
What you wear on the hike up Ben Vane depends entirely on the weather. I did this hike on a hot summer’s day, in yoga shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt. But you should always carry additional layers as well as waterproofs with you.
The temperature at the summit can be significantly lower than down in the glen, especially if it’s windy or the clouds are closing in. Make sure you have warm clothes to put on as well as a hat and gloves.
Good hiking boots with ankle support are a must.
Food & drink
The Den cafe at Inveruglas Visitor Centre is open from Monday to Friday (10 am – 4 pm) and on weekends until 5 pm. That means you’re best to bring snacks and a lunch pack with you from home.
However, if the weather is nice and there are still hikers about, the cafe manager sometimes stays open a little longer – I got there after 4 pm on a Friday and was happy to find it still open. I treated myself to a cold drink and a delicious vegan brownie.
In terms of drinking water, bring what you need with you. There is easy access to a small stream at the bottom of Ben Vane – on the stony track, just before you reach the footpath up – but it’s safer to drink tap water.
What else to pack
Apart from waterproofs and plenty of food & drink for my hike, I brought the following things:
- Hiking poles: Like I said, Ben Vane is a steep hike. I used my hiking poles both on the way up and down to offer additional support and make life a little easier.
- A change of shoes: Bringing a pair of shoes to change into after a long hike is a luxury – especially if you’re travelling on public transport. But I’m so glad that I packed a pair of hiking sandals. They added minimal weight to my back pack, but offered maximum comfort when I returned to Inveruglas. My feet were so happy!
- Midge spray: I had heard that Ben Vane can have quite a lot of midges. I was lucky because it was a hot and breezy day – and midges like neither wind not intense sun. But better safe than sorry.
- USB cable: The Citylink buses I travelled on were both equipped with USB plugs at each seat, so I could charge my phone and not waste precious battery on the journey.
Other Off-beat Walks in the National Park
There are many other lesser-known walks in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park – it’s quite easy to stay away from the busy “honey pots”.
- Glen Loin Loop: An 11-mile low-lying circular route through the glens and corries of the Arrochar Alps. [Can be done on public transport.]
- Beinn Dubh: A wonderful hike from Luss village. Beinn Dubh offers stunning views of the Loch Lomond islands and the Glen Striddle horseshoe is a pleasant ridge walk with views of the Arrochar Alps. [Can be done on public transport.]
- An Caisteal and Beinn a’Chroin: A double Munro day with some fun scrambling sections and a stunning ridge walk. Read my hiking guide here.
- Glen Finglas: Glen Finglas can be accessed from Brig o’Turk or from Balquhidder. Do the whole linear walk (9 miles) if you have two cars (drop one at the other end) or walk halfway and return the same way
- Ben Bowie: A heathery wee hill near Helensburgh with views of Loch Lomond on one side and the Firth of Clyde on the other. [Can be done on public transport.]
- Ben Donich: A short hill walk up a rocky Corbett from the Rest and Be Thankful pass near Arrochar.
You might also like: My Favourite Hikes in Scotland
Hiking Ben Vane is a great way to enjoy a day in the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park without the crowds. While the car parks fill up in other locations, it is a hike you can easily do without a car.
Have I inspired you to try this hike yourself? Let me know in the comments!