Welsh Three Peaks Challenge - Snowdon, Cadair Idris and Pen y Fan
Glaslyn, Snowdon24 hours, three peaks and one foot in front of the other.
Our compact and accessible country means you can have the adventure of a lifetime, scaling three different mountains and taking in the length of the nation, via a Welsh road trip you’ll never forget - all between breakfast and bedtime (if you’re quick).
The Welsh Three Peaks Challenge is typically made up of three of the highest and most iconic mountains in Wales. Snowdon, Wales’ tallest peak and the highest point in Britain outside the Scottish highlands; Cadair Idris, a spectacular peak at the southerly edge of Snowdonia National Park and Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales.
And what’s best is that all this is achievable for most people with a reasonable level of fitness; although planning and preparation are vital. Most people take on the challenge through an organised group and many Welsh charities run their own three peaks fundraising challenges, which generally include guides and transport. If you are taking on the challenge as an individual group, it’s usually recommended to have at least one designated driver who isn’t taking part in the walking challenge and can take extra rest breaks. It’s also advised to have a few hill-based practise walks before setting off on the challenge, as well as some general fitness training. The Snowdonia and Brecon Beacons National Park websites have their own safety sections which all include essential tips on equipment, clothing fitness and timings for the specific mountain areas. Adventure Smart Wales also has plenty of advice on how to ‘make a good day better’, and we recommend you read it before planning your day out.
Your reward? Some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world and an unrivalled day of discovery, adventure and achievement. In general, most groups complete the route from north to south but it’s not compulsory and can be done in reverse (reach your starting point the day before). May-October is the best time to take on the challenge, but remember, the weather on the mountains can change quickly and vary drastically, whatever the season.
Either way, you’ll be using the Cambrian Way to travel around 135 miles, a complete north-south road route along the mountainous spine of Wales, taking in dizzyingly beautiful vistas, market towns, forests, lakes and reservoirs; as well as the old slate and coal mining heartlands.
The Challenge: North to South
Use our accommodation search page to find a place to stay near Snowdonia National Park. YHA Pen y Pas Youth Hostel has been a popular choice for adventurous climbers since the Victorian era; or try the Royal Victoria Hotel for some traditional luxury opposite the Llanberis path. Whatever you choose, say ‘nos da’ (goodnight) as early as possible, ready for a dawn start to your Welsh mountain adventure. You could even stock up on delicious Welsh produce and snacks for the journey between mountains at Iechyd Da, an independent, family-run delicatessen in the picturesque village of Betws-y-Coed the day before.
View from the summit, SnowdonHeight: 1,085 metres
Walk time: approx. 4-5 hours
Instagram moment: Sunrise as you set off, and the 360-degree views of the ridges and lakes of Snowdonia National Park stretch out in every direction. If it’s clear at the top, you can see all the way to Ireland.
Recommended start time: 6am
Route: Ascent via the PYG track, descent via the Llanberis path.
Drive from Snowdon to Cadair Idris: approx. 1 hour and a half
Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris, SnowdoniaHeight: 893 m
Walk time: approx. 5 hours
Instagram moment: Llyn Cau, a huge, dramatic glacial lake in the crater of Cadair Idris, set beneath 400m high mountain walls.
Recommended Route: Minffordd Path
Drive from Cadair Idris to Pen Y Fan: Approx: 2 hours 20 minutes.
Pen Y Fan:
Pen y Fan in the snow, Brecon BeaconsHeight: 886m
Walk time: 2.5 hours approx
Instagram moment: A team photo at the top with the Pen y Fan National Trust sign – you did it!
Route: Start at the Storey Arms outdoor centre.
And to celebrate? Try the Three Horseshoes near Brecon, an award-winning village pub and restaurant known locally as the Groesffordd where you can get the hearty Welsh meal and cold drinks you truly deserve.