At 3560 feet or 1085 metres Yr Wyddfa – better known as Snowdon – is the highest mountain in Wales and one of the most popular hikes in Snowdonia. Many people simply take the mountain railway to the summit and some of those walk down but the hike to the summit is definitely more rewarding than the use of steam power! I have listed a choice of the best walking routes here.
The path from Llanberis is the easiest, there being a wide track all the way and no overly steep or rough ground. The way is long though – 5 miles each way – and will always be busy in holiday periods. This route roughly follows the railway track up the western side of the mountain and you will encounter a large number of people walking down who have caught the train to the summit. You would be justified in a certain amount of smugness as you pass them! Good luck to them though – the train is a great ride.
If you drive along the A 4086 towards Betws y Coed, you will go through the spectacular Pass of Llanberis up to Pen y Pass at 1170 feet. This is the nearest point of access from the road to the summit and several routes leave from here. There is a charge for parking and there’s often no room at busy times. The bus which circles the mountain in summer – check local tourist information for times – stops here and will save the frustration of not being able to park as well as allow you to admire the views on the way up.
From Pen y Pass the other 2 popular routes begin. The Pyg Track leaves in roughly a westerly direction from the car park and the Miners Track through the gate at the southern side. These tracks meet up about half way to the summit so it’s only their early stages that differ. The Pyg Track is the most direct path to Snowdon and much rougher, gaining height all the way, while the Miners Track is a wide track which meanders past the mountain lake Llyn Llydaw, which is itself hidden from Pen y Pass. I have pushed a child’s buggy along the Miners Track as far as Llyn Llydaw so if you want easy access to spectacular views of Snowdon’s rugged east face then this is a rewarding but easy walk. Beyond the lake though, it steepens to the mountain tarn of Glaslyn before climbing very rough slopes to rejoin the Pyg Track. The upper sections of both routes climb a series of stone steps to a col between snowdon and Crib y Ddysgl before joining the route from Llanberis up to the summit on the left.
I’ll mention the Crib Goch route here as well. It branches off the Pyg Track near where it crosses a small ridge above Pen y Pass. The route ascends the steep slopes of Crib Goch – the prominent pointed peak directly above Pen y Pass – before crossing a narrow and exposed arete followed by steep scrambles up over Crib y Ddysgl to join the previous routes. This route is only for experienced walkers who have a head for heights! Either way it can be dangerous in strong winds or icy conditions.
Now we’ll head to the south side of the mountain and 3 much quieter routes; From Bethania just south of Llyn Gwynant on the A498 the Watkin Path climbs past waterfalls into Cwm Llan before making a steep and winding ascent of Snowdon. The path is steep in its upper reaches but is without undue difficulty.
On past Beddgelert on the A4085 and the Rhyd Ddu Path leads from an idyllic valley up through some wild looking country before ascending the ridge called Bwlch Main to the summit. If you follow the crest there’s slight exposure here but it’s nothing like Crib Goch and you can keep to the path just below it. The other route from this side is the Snowdon Ranger Path which leaves from just behind the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel just down the valley from Rhyd Ddu. This is again a quiet way to climb Snowdon, leading through open country before ascending a broad ridge to the summit. My own favorite is to go up the Rhyd Ddu path and down the Snowdon Ranger. That way you will avoid the crowds almost all the way and see some of the best scenery in Wales.