Snowdon for beginners – what makes each path special?

lakes of snowdon

Discovering Snowdon’s Natural Wonders

Snowdon, located in Snowdonia National Park, is a treasure trove of natural beauty and history being the highest mountain in Wales and England, offering breathtaking views and a range of climbing experiences. Whether you’re a seasoned mountaineer or a novice adventurer, Snowdon promises an unforgettable journey.

The mountain is primarily composed of volcanic rock that formed around 450 million years ago. Near the summit, you’ll find a rare band of limestone containing fossilised sea creatures, a remnant of ancient geological upheavals. This fascinating blend of geological features was shaped further by ice ages, carving out Snowdon’s distinctive peaks, valleys, and lakes.

Snowdon is a stunning example of a pyramidal peak, surrounded by glacial formations known as cwms (corrie or cirques). You’ll also see ribbon lakes like Llyn Peris and Padarn in Llanberis, U-shaped valleys such as Nant Francon in Ogwen, and knife-edge ridges like Crib Goch. Each of these features makes Snowdonia a captivating place for nature enthusiasts.

A Journey Through History and Legend

Snowdonia’s rugged terrain has preserved its cultural heritage for centuries. Legends abound, such as the tale of Rhita Gawr, a giant defeated by King Arthur. Snowdon is also home to Britain’s first designated footpath, which opened the area to nature lovers and adventurers alike. This landscape has inspired poets, painters, and writers for generations.

When to Climb Snowdon

Choosing the right time to climb Snowdon can significantly affect your experience:

Winter (November to April): Snow and ice cover the trails, making the climb challenging and requiring proper equipment and experience.

Summer (May to October): The weather is more reliable, but trails are busier. May, June, and September are ideal months, offering cooler temperatures, stunning scenery, and fewer crowds.

Peak Season (July and August): Warm but often wetter conditions attract the most visitors. Even during this busy time, quieter routes can still provide a peaceful climb.

Main Footpaths to Snowdon’s Summit

Snowdon has several main footpaths, each offering a unique experience and varying degrees of difficulty. Here’s a family-friendly overview of some popular routes:

Llanberis Path

The Llanberis Path is the most popular and considered the easiest route up Snowdon, making it suitable for families and beginners. It offers a gradual climb with the opportunity to rest at the Halfway House café. However, it can be busy during peak season and potentially dangerous in winter due to snow and ice.

  • Distance: 7.25 km (4.5 miles) one-way
  • Elevation Gain: 975 meters
  • Start Point: Llanberis

Special Features:

  • Easiest Gradient: Gentle slopes make it the least steep path.
  • Halfway House Café: A place to rest and refresh midway.
  • Railway Sightings: Parallels the Snowdon Mountain Railway, adding visual interest.

Why Choose It?

  • Ideal for beginners and families due to its manageable gradient and well-maintained trail.
  • Great for those who prefer a more relaxed and less strenuous ascent.

Pyg and Miners’ Tracks

These two tracks can be combined for a more adventurous circular walk. The Pyg Track is more challenging, with some technical sections, while the Miners’ Track starts easier but becomes steeper near the summit. Both offer stunning views and a sense of achievement.

  • Pyg Track Distance: 5.5 km (3.5 miles) to the summit
  • Miners’ Track Distance: 6.5 km (4 miles) to the summit
  • Elevation Gain: 723 meters
  • Start Point: Pen y Pass car park

Pyg Track

Special Features:

  • Scenic Views: Offers dramatic views of Snowdon and the surrounding peaks.
  • Shorter Distance: One of the shortest routes to the summit.

Why Choose It?

  • Popular for its stunning scenery and relatively short distance.
  • Suitable for hikers with some experience, looking for a balance between challenge and beauty.

Miners’ Track

Special Features:

  • Historical Path: Starts as a gentle walk along old miners’ paths.
  • Diverse Terrain: Begins with a steady incline and becomes steeper with more rugged terrain.

Why Choose It?:

  • Great for those interested in Snowdon’s mining history and those who enjoy a mix of easy and challenging sections.
  • Ideal for families and beginners for the first part, but the latter sections require more effort.

Watkin Path

Watkin Path offers a journey through diverse landscapes, starting with lush woodlands and picturesque waterfalls, transitioning to rugged mountain terrain. This path provides a blend of historical significance and natural beauty. Although it features a gentle start, the final section is challenging with steep, loose terrain, demanding careful navigation. It’s an excellent choice for hikers seeking stunning scenery, a quieter trail, and a touch of historical interest.

  • Distance: Approximately 5 miles (8 kilometers)
  • Elevation Gain: Around 3,330 feet (1,015 meters)
  • Starting Point: Near Nant Gwynant

Special features:

  • Diverse Landscapes: From lush woodlands and waterfalls to rugged mountain terrain.
  • Waterfalls and Pools: Beautiful spots early in the hike for rest and refreshment.

Why choose it?

  • Scenic Beauty: Offers some of the most stunning and varied scenery on Snowdon.
  • Less Crowded: Provides a more peaceful hiking experience compared to other routes.

Snowdon Ranger Path

The Snowdon Ranger Path is quieter and less crowded, ideal for those seeking a more solitary experience. It’s relatively straightforward but has steeper sections as it approaches the summit.

  • Distance: 6.5 km (4 miles) to the summit
  • Elevation Gain: 936 meters
  • Start Point: Llyn Cwellyn car park

Special Features:

  • Quiet and Less Busy: Offers a more peaceful climb away from the crowds.
  • Historic Route: One of the oldest paths used historically by guides and tourists.

Why Choose It?

  • Suitable for hikers seeking solitude and a quieter ascent.
  • Appeals to those interested in historical routes and scenic lake views.

Rhyd Ddu Path & South Ridge

Both the Rhyd Ddu Path and South Ridge offer unique and rewarding experiences for those climbing Snowdon. The Rhyd Ddu Path is celebrated for its peacefulness, scenic views, and historical significance, while the South Ridge is favored for its adventurous terrain and panoramic vistas. These routes provide hikers with an opportunity to explore Snowdon from a different perspective, making their ascent more personal and memorable.

Rhyd Ddu Path

  • Distance: 13.5 km round trip
  • Elevation Gain: 895 meters
  • Starting Point: Rhyd Ddu Car Park

Special Features:

  • Quieter Path: Less crowded, offering tranquility.
  • Scenic Western Views: Beautiful vistas of Snowdon’s western flanks.

Why Choose It?

  • Ideal for those looking for a peaceful hike with stunning western views.
  • Suitable for more experienced hikers due to its exposed sections.

South Ridge

  • Distance: Varies depending on the exact route and if combined with other paths
  • Elevation Gain: Similar to Rhyd Ddu Path
  • Starting Point: Typically accessed from the Rhyd Ddu Car Park or by joining from other paths

Special Features:

  • Adventurous Route: Offers a rugged, less-traveled path with some scrambling.
  • Panoramic Views: Provides sweeping views of Snowdonia from a unique angle.

Why Choose It?

  • Appeals to adventurous hikers seeking a more challenging and less trodden path.
  • Great for those wanting to combine routes for a circular hike with Rhyd Ddu.

Crib Goch (Bonus route for experienced hikers)

Crib Goch is not for the faint-hearted, but for those up to the challenge, it offers an unforgettable hiking and scrambling experience with some of the most spectacular views in Snowdonia.

  • Distance: Approximately 7.6 miles (12.2 km) round trip.
  • Elevation Gain: About 3,031 feet (924 meters).
  • Start Location: Pen y Pass car park.

Special Features:

  • The defining feature of Crib Goch is its narrow, knife-edge ridge. This section requires scrambling and a good head for heights, making it one of the most thrilling and challenging routes to the summit of Snowdon.
  • Offers some of the most breathtaking and panoramic views in Snowdonia, including views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. The exposure and dramatic drops make the scenery even more impressive.

Why choose Crib Goch?

  • This route is suitable only for very experienced hikers who have good scrambling skills, a head for heights, and are comfortable with exposure. It’s not recommended for those with little hiking experience or a fear of heights.
  • The route provides some of the best views in Snowdonia. The combination of the thrill of scrambling and the stunning vistas makes it a memorable experience.

Snowdon Mountain Railway

If hiking isn’t your preference, you can take the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Departing from Llanberis, this railway takes you either ¾ of the way up or all the way to the summit, depending on restrictions and weather conditions. For more information on the service, timetable, and ticket prices, you can visit their website. Note that you cannot purchase a one-way ticket down at the summit, so if you hike up, you’ll need to hike back down.

Essential Tips for an overall Safe Climb

  1. Check the Weather: Always check the weather forecast before your climb. Unpredictable weather can make the climb more difficult and dangerous.
  2. Plan Ahead: Know your route, estimated times for ascent and descent, and where to park. Inform someone of your plans and keep a charged mobile for 999 calls.
  3. Wear Appropriate Gear: Sturdy hiking boots, waterproof clothing, and layers are essential.
  4. Stay Hydrated and Energized: Carry plenty of water and high-energy snacks.
  5. Start Early: Gives you ample time to complete your climb and avoid crowds.
  6. Navigation Tools: Carry a map, compass, or GPS device, especially if taking less popular routes.
  7. Safety First: If conditions worsen or you’re not comfortable, don’t hesitate to turn back. The mountain will always be there for another day!

In Case of Emergency: If you become lost, stuck, or injured and need assistance, dial 999 and ask for the police. Once connected, request mountain rescue. You will be asked several questions, including your location (a grid reference is best, but a description will help too), what happened, who is injured, the names of you and the casualty, the weather conditions (e.g., are you in cloud, is it windy, is it cold?), and the number of people in your team. Be aware that a rescue can take at least an hour, so having basic first aid and navigation skills is crucial. 

Climbing Snowdon with Children

Climbing Snowdon with children is possible with the right preparation and route choice. The Llanberis Path is generally the best option for families due to its easier gradient and well-trodden path. However, it’s important to ensure your children are up for the challenge, as all routes up Snowdon are physically demanding.

  • Evaluate Readiness: Ensure your child is used to hill walking. Start with easier trails to build endurance.
  • Consider the Distance: The round trip covers 10 to 16 km. If your child hasn’t enjoyed walks of this length, Snowdon might be too ambitious.
  • Assess Physical Fitness: The paths are rough, and steps can be large obstacles for shorter legs. Be prepared for the physical demands.

Which Path to Choose?

Each route has its pros and cons:

  • Llanberis Path
    • Pros: Easiest gradient, halfway house café.
    • Cons: Longest route, busiest path, frequent train sightings may cause some disappointment.
  • Snowdon Ranger Path
    • Pros: Quieter, shorter, Welsh Highland Railway access.
    • Cons: Steep sections, can be tough.
  • Pyg Track
    • Pros: Shortest path, least ascent.
    • Cons: Difficult parking at Pen y Pass, some scrambling sections and steps.
  • Miners’ Track
    • Pros: Steady initial gradient, lots of interest.
    • Cons: Becomes trickier further up, shares the final section with the Pyg Track.

Conclusion

Climbing Snowdon is a rewarding adventure the whole family and furry friends can enjoy, offering breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment, its not just about reaching the summit; it’s about appreciating the journey. The diverse routes offer unique landscapes, from serene lakes to rugged ridges. With the right preparation and a suitable route, it’s an experience that families can enjoy together. So pack your gear, plan your route, and get ready to create unforgettable memories on one of the UK’s most iconic peaks. And don’t forget to book your stay with us for a cosy, comfortable base to return to after your climb!

Stay at Erw Glas Glamping and Camping

Erw Glas Glamping and Camping is a perfect place to stop when climbing Snowdon and exploring the National Park. With a variety of accommodation options to suit families and couples, including shepherd huts with hot tubs, luxury star-gazing glamping tents, or camping options, it’s only 30 minutes away from Snowdon but centrally located to the coast and mountains for an enjoyable holiday for all. It’s the ideal base for your adventure, providing comfort and relaxation after a day of exploration.

Embark on your Snowdon adventure with confidence and excitement. Happy climbing!

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