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Walking to the top of Snowdon: Llanberis Path and Snowdon Ranger Path

There are six main walking routes up Snowdon. This post describes the two easiest paths, namely the Snowdon Ranger Path and the Llanberis Path.Walking times are estimated by many authors to be about 6 hours, but if you are less experienced at hill walking, I recommend assuming that a full day will be needed.

The Sherpa bus network covers the starting points for these and the other paths as well as other sites of interest in the northern part of Snowdonia. If you use this bus, you can go up by one path and come down by another. If you plan to come into the region by car, it is much better to park at your intended finish point and catch the bus to your starting point. This lets you avoid the risk of missing the last bus.

If you want to read some of the stories and legends associated with Mount Snowdon, there is another post on this here.

If you have little or no experience in walking mountain paths, please read some tips on how to stay safe in the mountains.

 Snowdon Ranger Path

View of Mynydd Mawr from an ascent of Snowdon via the Snowdon Ranger path. By Donald Macauley from Carshalton, Surrey, UK (Mynydd MawrUploaded by Amada44) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

View of Mynydd Mawr from an ascent of Snowdon via the Snowdon Ranger path.
By Donald Macauley from Carshalton, Surrey, UK (Mynydd MawrUploaded by Amada44) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This path is sometimes described as being more demanding than Llanberis Path. I disagree. In fact, I even managed it once just two days after injuring my knee on Cadair Idris (yes, we are sometimes foolish in our youth!). The distance is 4 miles in each direction. The western flank of Snowdon is very exposed to the wind, so be prepared for a bit of buffeting.

The path starts at the Youth Hostel on the A4085 between Beddgelert and Caernarfon. This used to be an inn, which was opened by the original “Snowdon Ranger”, John Morton, who was one of the first Snowdon guides. The route was used as a sledge path by miners working in the copper mines on Snowdon and is the first route to have been used for reaching the summit.After an initial section following a railway track and farm track, you reach a farmhouse (Llwyn Onn) with old waterwheel.

Here the path branches off to the right. Shortly after it starts to zigzag steeply uphill, with wonderful views below.  The path gradually becomes steeper and rockier as it climbs to a point around and above the Clogwyn Du’r Arddu cliff.There are more loose stones underfoot, so extra care is needed.

The route now levels out and crosses a very windy plateau. Although you get a welcome break from climbing uphill, this section can be dispiriting, especially in poorer weather. It is extremely important to keep to the path as otherwise you could easily get lost, especially in misty conditions.

Finally, the path then starts to climb again, but on firmer ground once more. It reaches a standing stone where it crosses the Snowdon railway. This is a very useful landmark for finding your way down again. Keeping straight on, you’ll soon reach another monolith where Snowdon Ranger joins up with the Llanberis Path. The path veers round to the right and you will see a larger standing stone. At this point, the path joins up with the Miners’ Track and the PYG Track. You are now about 15 minutes walk away from the summit.

Fewer people tend to climb Snowdon from the western side, so you may have stretches of the path to yourself. On the other hand, this route is a popular challenge for cycling down Snowdon on mountain bikes. The video shows such a bicycling descent along Snowdon Ranger. It will give you an idea of the path, as well as what you might encounter while walking it.

Llanberis Path

In a truly epic journey in 1845, George Borrow and his daughter traveled in a pony carriage from Bangor to Caernarfon, walked from Caernarfon to Llanberis, climbed to the summit of Snowdon by this path and retraced their journey back to Bangor in just one day.

The Llanberis Path is generally considered to be the easiest of all. As is such, it probably attracts the largest number of walkers and can feel crowded at peak times. However, it also covers the longest distance (5 miles in each direction). I think it is the most boring route! It was made for tourists riding up to the summit on ponies and mules before the railway was built.

Photograph taken sometime between 1890 and 1900, showing the last mile of the Llanberis path to the summit. By Snapshots Of The Past (Railway the last mile Snowdon Wales) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photograph taken sometime between 1890 and 1900, showing the last mile of the Llanberis path to the summit.
By Snapshots Of The Past (Railway the last mile Snowdon Wales) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Llanberis Path starts above the station for the Snowdon Railway in Llanberis and more or less follows the railway track up the mountain, although it does separate from it for part of the way. Although this path is generally easier and less steep than the others, the terrain does become rough and rocky once the path leaves the metaled track. Proper footwear is essential.

 

Starting across from the Royal Victoria Hotel, go along Victoria Terrace to the end. Go through a gate with cattle grid and follow the road up to the 18th century cottage of Pen y Ceunant Isaf. Inside is a highly recommended cafe, with cozy open fire, excellent tea, coffee and food. It is not always possible to get in due to its popularity.

The road then goes through a farm, after which you will pick up a well-signposted path to the left. The path climbs up, above Hebron Station down on the right. You will continue climbing parallel with the railway, until you cross it by going under a bridge.

Just before the halfway point, a huge rock stands out from the other boulders in the valley below the huge cliff of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu (the greatest challenge for rock climbers in Wales). The rock is called Maen Du’r Arddu (Black Stone of the Arddu) and is one of the largest isolated boulders in Snowdonia. It is said that a person who spends the night below the rock will wake in the morning either mad or transformed into a poet, which echoes the saying about staying the night on top of Cadair Idris.

Refreshments are available at Halfway House (1700 ft) during the peak summer season. After this point, the path becomes much steeper, with loose rocks. In wet weather it can become extremely slippery. Go left when the path forks, and pass under a second railway bridge.

After a steep climb, you will reach two standing stones at a short distance from each other, which mark where Llanberis Path joins up with Snowdon Ranger Path and with Miners’ Track and PYG Track. From there it is only another 15 or so minutes to the top.

This detailed video gives a good impression of the terrain you will encounter:

Ordnance Survey Explorer Map of Snowdon

The Explorer maps are the most suitable for walkers, particularly in wild terrain. They are the most detailed maps available from the UK Ordnance Survey and have full details of footpaths, trails and bridle paths as well as landscape features. The scale is 1:25,000, which means that 2.5 inches on the map is equivalent to 1 mile of terrain (or 1 cm = 250 m).

I recommend  the “Active” version because this is produced from toughened, weatherproof paper. You can get the OS Explorer Active map covering Mount Snowdon from
The Book Depository (with free delivery worldwide)
Amazon US
or Amazon UK