Walking up Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain

The Miner's Track alongside Llyn Teyrn looking towards the summit.

The Miner's Track, Snowdon
There’s something wild about the Snowdonia landscape, with soaring, sharp and magnificent peaks rising up high above the deep valleys. Picturesque and slate scarred villages scatter the region, and are excellent bases for exploring or just relaxing and enjoying the views. It is an ancient land of contrasts and breathtaking beauty. 

Then there’s Snowdon – Yr Wyddfa. Wales’ highest mountain dominates the skyline of North West Wales. Perhaps something is calling you to conquer this 1,085 metre (3,560 feet) peak. Maybe it’s on your bucket list, or you’re doing it for charity. Or you just fancy seeing the views from the top.

Whatever your reasons, you’ll need to be prepared. Unless you’re taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the top, whichever route you decide on is a challenging 6-8 hour hike, with little shelter from the elements. Adventure Smart Wales has plenty of advice on how to ‘make a good day better’, and we recommend you read it before planning your days out.

Getting to Snowdon

Pen Y Pass car park from the PYG Track, Snowdon.

Pen Y Pass car park from the PYG Track, Snowdon
The main car parks at Pen y Pass and Nant Peris fill up rapidly in the main season, so plan to get there by at least 7am. The car parks for the Watkin and Rhyd Ddu paths may be quieter, and Llanberis (the village at the foot of the mountain) usually has plenty of parking. The Snowdon Sherpa bus links the various starting points and is a useful way to get around from Llanberis. 

If you don't fancy driving, you can catch a train to Bangor or stations along the North Wales coast railway then onwards by bus or taxi. Traveline Cymru is a useful journey planner for public transport in the region.

Be prepared

Miner's and PYG tracks by Glaslyn looking towards Snowdon's summit.

Glaslyn, Snowdon
Mountains are fickle things. What starts off as a sunny day at the bottom can rapidly turn into ice-cold winds, heavy rain and thick mist halfway up. There is usually a chilly breeze at the summit – welcome on a hot day, but not quite as pleasant in the rain. Be prepared for drastic changes in the weather and make sure you check the forecast before you go via the Met Office Snowdon Summit forecast

Plan your route carefully and let people know where you are going, and what time you expect to be back. Check the opening times for Hafod Eryri, the café at the top, before you leave. The café is only open when the railway is running, and it also has the only toilet on Snowdon, so make sure you ‘go’ at one of the car park loos before you start your walk. Hafod Eryri sells plenty of drinks, cakes and pasties but it does get busy at peak times. You can’t fill your water bottle at the top, though, as the tap water isn’t safe to drink, so make sure you take plenty of water with you for the whole walk, or buy some more at the café. 

There’s a full list of recommended kit on the Snowdonia National Park website, however here’s our hiking basics list to get you started.

Sensible clothing: 
Ankle supporting walking boots, not trainers and definitely no flip flops. Comfy walking socks. Look after your feet, they’ll be working hard!
Walking trousers. Zip offs are good in the summer, and in colder months go for insulated ones
Go for layers - moisture wicking t-shirt, long sleeved top and a fleece. Base layers in the colder months are ideal
Waterproofs, even on a sunny day. You never know
Hat and sunglasses for sunny days, warm hat, gloves and a scarf / chute in colder months
Spare socks and a clean t-shirt. You’ll get sweaty!

Equipment:
Rucksack
First aid kit, including an insulated foil blanket and any medication you might need
Whistle
Charged torch
Map and compass, plus details of which route you plan to take
Charged phone – although be warned there isn’t much signal until you get to the top
Food – high energy snacks plus lunch
Plenty to drink

Things to see

Woman taking a photo of Llyn Llydaw from above.

Snowdon photo stop - Llyn Llydaw from above
Some might say it’s not about the arrival; it’s about the journey to get there. We might beg to differ on the ‘arrival’ part. On a clear day the views from the top of Snowdon are breath-taking. But the journey is pretty epic too. As you climb higher, the views across the valleys and lakes unfold. There are plenty of opportunities for an Instagram worthy ‘photo stop’ to catch your breath, so don’t forget your camera!

The scars of Snowdon’s industrial past sprinkle the mountainside, as copper was once mined here, and you can see the remains of the crushing mill and barracks along the Miner’s’ Path. 

Colourful alpine flowers flourish on the mountainside, and the rare Snowdon Lily (Lloydia serotina) flowers in May, mainly in inaccessible crevices. Sheep, goats, cattle and birds of prey live on the mountain. The Snowdonia National Park website has more detailed information on the local flora and fauna.

The Routes

View from the summit of Snowdon.

View from the summit, Snowdon
There are six recommended paths. They are all classed as ‘hard, strenuous walks’ and you should allow at least 6 - 8 hours to get there and back.

The Llanberis Path (9 miles/14.5 km) is a popular ‘first time’ path. It’s the longest route but provides a gradual climb up to the summit. 

The Miners’ Track (8 miles/13 km)starts from Pen y Pass car park. It starts off gradually until you get to Llyn Llydaw. Then it’s a steep climb pretty much all the way to the top. 

The Pyg Track (7 miles/11 km) also starts from Pen y Pass. It’s a steep start but the views are worth it. It joins the Miners’ Track before the final ascent to the summit. A popular circular route is to go up one and come down the other.

The Rhyd Ddu Path (8.5 miles/12km) starts at Rhyd Ddu car park. 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.

The Watkin Path (8 miles/13km) takes you from Nant Gwynant to the summit. Starting from Pont Bethania car park, you can see some of the old copper mine workings along the way.

From Llyn Cwellyn car park, the Snowdon Ranger Path (8 miles/13km) winds up the side of Snowdon, giving you views of the many lakes in the area. 

Final advice

Glaslyn from above.
Glaslyn from the PYG Track, Snowdon
Please respect the mountain and keep to the paths for your safety, and also to protect the ecological balance. Follow the Countryside Code

Well-behaved dogs are welcome, and make sure you take your litter home with you or use the bins at the top; Snowdon is the jewel in Wales’ crown, and we want to keep it that way!

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