Kirk Fell stands at an elevation 802 m (2,631 ft) with a prominence of 181 m (594 ft). It is listed as a Marilyn (the thirteenth highest in Lake District), a Wainwright, a Hewitt and a Nuttall. Its parent peak is Great Gable and it lies within the Western Fells, between Great Gable and Pillar on the long circuit of fells that surrounds the valley of Ennerdale. To the south lies Wasdale; and Kirk Fell takes its name from the church that stands at its base in Wasdale Head.
The fell has two distinct summits. The southern top is the higher of the two, the lower one standing to the north (787 m / 2,582 ft). They are separated by a hollow containing two small tarns, named as Kirkfell Tarn on the map.
The view of Pillar and Green Gable from the summit dominates the landscape somewhat, giving impressive views of their crags and screes. There is an excellent view down Wasdale and when visibility is good, Fairfield, Blencathra and Helvellyn can all be seen in the distance. On very clear days, it is even possible to see Snowdonia and the Isle of Man.
Kirk Fell is often climbed as part of the Mosedale Horseshoe, also taking in Yewbarrow, Red Pike, Scoat Fell and Pillar. It is also common to climb this peak in conjunction with Great Gable. A direct ascent up Kirk fell is usually carried out via Black Sail Pass or Beck Head, which lie either side of the mountain.
The direct ascent from the church at Wasdale Head involves a fairly steep climb with the final third being especially arduous, on loose scree – even Wainwright reported this was a tough climb, completing most of it on his hands and knees.