Beginners Guide to Walking up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)

Beginners guide to walking up snowdon

Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) is the highest mountain in Wales and one of the trio scaled by participants of the Three Peaks Challenge. Snowdon is a hiker’s dream, surrounded by stunning craggy peaks and breath-taking scenery, there are a few trail options for those who need to take it easy and others that are up for more of an adventure. Here’s our beginners guide to walking up Snowdon.

No matter which walk you choose, always remember that you’re heading into the wild and it’s best to be prepared. Always keep to the planned route, wear comfortable supportive footwear, and don’t forget to take essential equipment, and plenty of food and drink. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast too.

What are the best Snowdon walks?

Whether you’re taking to the mountain on your own or heading up with one of the mountain guides, you’re sure to have a memorable experience on Snowdon.

There are six main recommended paths up the mountain which will give you varying views – you’ll see rolling hills, watery lakes and jagged rocks.

Snowdon Ranger Path

Summit of Snowdon

The oldest is the Snowdon Ranger – relatively easy apart from a steep section of scree that requires a bit of scrambling. This path begins near Llyn Cwellyn and was originally used to guide Victorian tourists to the top. It’s 8 miles there and back and will take you around 6 hours to complete.

(8 miles/13km – start Llyn Cwellyn car park)

The Watkin Path

Watkins Path

The longest, and one suited to experienced walkers is Watkin, named after railway owner Sir Edward Watkin. Although it starts slow and steady, there are steep slopes to tackle higher up. You’ll make your way past Gladstone Rock, where the Prime Minister William Gladstone officially opened the pass and addressed a crowd of over 2,000 people. You can see some of the old copper mine workings along the way.The path is 8 miles in total and can take 6 hours to walk.

(8 miles/13km – start Pont Bethania car park)

The Llanberis Path

Walking to Snowdon Summit

The Llanberis Path is one of the most popular Snowdon walks and ideal ‘first time’ path. Although it is the longest route it offers a gradual climb up to the summit.

The Llanberis Path is the only one that follows the railway to the top, and during the summer months you are sure to see a carriage or two along the tracks.

(9 miles/14.5 km – there are several car parks in the village of LLanberis)

The Miners’ Track

The Miners’ Track is a hard / strenuous walk that starts from Pen y Pass car park. It starts off gradually along the shores of Llyn Teyrn, Llydaw and Llyn Glaslyn before becoming a steep climb pretty much all the way to the top. The last half of the route is a challenging that requires navigating loose rock and scree.

The Miners’ Track was originally built to service the Britannia Copper Mine, and you can see remains of the mine along the route.

As you reach the top if you look left of the summit, you will see Bwlch y Saethau (Pass of the Arrows). Legend has it that this is where King Arthur was struck by an arrow in battle. He was then carried to the shore of Llyn Llydaw, where a boat with three maidens took him away through the mist to Afallon (Avalon).

(8 miles/13 km – starts from the Pen y Pass Car Park or use the park and ride service from Nant Peris.)

The PYG Track

On the Pyg Track near Glaslyn

The PYG Track is one of the shortest routes to the top of Snowdown and also starts from Pen y Pass. It’s a steep start but the views are worth it.

You start at Pen y Pass, and then the Pyg Track winds its way up to Bwlch y Moch, where you catch a glimpse of Llyn Llydaw and the iconic causeway.

It joins the Miners’ Track towards the Llanberis Path before the final ascent to the summit. The Pyg is a popular circular route is to go up one way and come down the other.

It is not clear why the path is called the Pyg Track, but there are plenty of suggestions. One suggestions is that it is named after the pass it leads through Bwlch y Moch (Pig’s Pass) or that it is derived from the fact that miners used to carry ‘pyg’ (or black tar) to the copper mines on Snowdon.

(7 miles/11 km – starts from the Pen y Pass Car Park or use the park and ride service from Nant Peris.)

The Rhyd Ddu Path

The Rhyd Ddu Path is one of two routes that ascends to the summit of Snowdown via the western slopes. It’s one of the quieter routes, but you’ll need a head for heights and sure feet as you’ll be following a narrow ridge near the top.

For the first mile or so you climb gradually along the that served the Bwlch Cwm Llan slate quarry and then it quickly changes to a steep over rocky terrain to Llechog ridge. The path follows the ridge towards Bwlch Main before the final climb to the summit.

(8.5 miles/12k – starts at Rhyd Ddu car park)

Crib Goch

Cryb Goch

The most complicated trail that’s reserved for highly experienced mountaineers is Crib Goch. Crib Goch is a 500-metre knife-edge ridge with no escape route, so you are truly stepping into the wilderness with this one.

Even in ideal weather conditions, Crib Goch is a difficult undertaking. Crib Goch is a serious mountaineering undertaking in wet weather, wind, snow, mist or ice.

This climb starts off the same as other routes, PYG and Miners, it splits off to take the east ridge to the summit. The distance is only just under 5km, and it will take around 3.5 hours, but make no mistake, this one is only for those with a head for heights.

Planning your walk up Snowdon

Don’t forget to plan ahead. One of the best tools we have found is the Snowdon Walks app. It is a great app that covers the six main routes, providing maps and tracking your progress.

Walking in Snowdon for beginners

The Llanberis path is the most popular with Snowdon visitors as it is simple to follow and the easiest of all. Part of the draw is the Half Way House café along the way where you can stop to use the facilities, grab a drink and maybe a cake.

It has always been one for holidaymakers and in the past, tourists would have been taken up on the backs of donkeys and ponies. Today, the route can get busy in the summer, but don’t forget that this route is still a long way. As the gentlest option it is also the longest at 9 miles and can take around 7 hours to get to the summit and back.

Snowdon Mountain Railway

Snowdon Mountain Railway

The Snowdon Mountain Railway is a narrow-gauge rack and pinion mountain railway that takes visitors to the summit from Llanberis. For those that want a more sedate way to the top but still experience the stunning view, taking a ride on the mountain railway is a must.

Check the Snowdon Mountain Railway website for timetables and booking as times do vary throughout the year.

During the early season (1st April – 12th May) trains will run to Clogwyn which is ¾ up the mountain. Here there is an unsheltered viewing platform which offers spectacular views to the valleys below.

If weather permits the train runs to the summit from 13th May until the end of October.

Snowdon Railway

The journey time to Snowdon Summit is approximately 60 minutes and passengers have a 30-minute stop-over at Hafod Eryri, the UK’s highest visitor centre. The round trip to the Summit and back is approximately 2.5 hours in total, including the 30-minute stop-over.

If you are only going to Clogwyn, the travel time is approximately 45 minutes and passengers have a 30-minute stop-over at this unsheltered station to take in the views and fresh mountain air.

The round trip to Clogwyn and back is approximately 2 hours in total, including the 30-minute stop-over. Please be aware that there are no facilities at Clogwyn, or on-board the trains and only assistance animals are allowed on the trains.

Note – Snowdon can get very busy and railway tickets are generally sold as round trips – single tickets are only sold on a standby basis.

Walking with your dog up Snowdon

There are a few options when it comes to taking your four-legged friend along on your mountain excursion. The Llanberis path is the least arduous option as it is not too steep or punishing underfoot. Don’t forget for smaller dogs the paths are a long way, so be prepared to carry your pooch from time to time to give them a rest.

Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed in the café at the top so if it’s wet and windy be prepared to enjoy your picnic huddled against the building for shelter – or enjoy some hot food from the takeaway to get you ready for the descent.

Dogs are welcome up Snowdon, but it’s best to make sure you’re prepped and packed for them too. Don’t forget treats to keep energy up, water and poo bags as it’s so important to keep this beautiful area as pristine as possible.

Where will your Snowdon adventure begin?

Snowdon is a great day out from Oak View Lodge Park and drive time is around an hour and twenty minutes.

Don’t forget to always be prepared and if walking isn’t your thing, then no problem – you can always take in the scenery on a relaxing trip to the top on the Snowdon Mountain Railway.


Photo Credits – Flikr