The walk starts from the edge of Loch Linnhe in Fort William, a sea loch that opens out onto the Atlantic Ocean. It follows the line of the Caledonian Canal for most of the way. This canal opens out into Loch Lochy, at Gairlochy, north-east of Fort William. Once past Loch Lochy, you will pass through Laggan, before arriving to Loch Oich. You will pass Loch Oich, and continue to follow the path of the canal to Fort Augustus, which lies at the southwestern end of Loch Ness.
The route follows the northern shore of Loch Ness to Invermoriston, and onwards to Drumnadrochit. The way leaves the shores of Loch Ness and heads west, shortly after Drumnadrochit, and takes a moor and farmland route before crossing the Caledonian Canal and the River Ness as the walk enters the city of Inverness. From here, both the canal and the river have no more than two miles left to run before they enter the sea at the Moray Firth.
Much of the route follows forest tracks and roads as well as the well-maintained and mostly level towpaths of the Caledonian Canal. The new higher route options (from Fort Augustus to Invermoriston, and Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit) offer a more challenging walking experience with more climbs and slightly more rugged terrain. The high level moorland around Blackfold between Drumnadrochit and Inverness can be exposed to the elements.
Aggregate ascent over the whole route is approximately 1,800m (5,900 ft) for the lower route options and 2,600m (8,500 ft) for the higher route options. There are only a few sustained or steep climbs or descents, mainly at the start of the hikes from Fort Augustus and Invermoriston and between Drumnadrochit and Inverness. The highest point on the Way is 422m above sea level, on the slopes of Creag Dhearg, which is just above Alltsigh.