Snowdonia National Park
Snowdonia National Park is a breathtaking destination for anyone who desires a flavour of the rugged and wild Welsh countryside. Enjoy our selection of 10 of the best walks in Snowdonia National Park and you will take away memories that will be hard to surpass
A Selection of the Best Snowdonia Walks
Introduction To Snowdonia National Park
One of the things we at Roaming Spices find most inspiring about living in the UK is discovering just how diverse and varied our local landscape is. There is so much on offer here, and in only a short journey you can go from snow-capped peaks to rolling dales, babbling brooks to ancient woodlands. Our National Parks offer hikers some of the best examples of all of these, and today we’re taking a look at one in particular: Snowdonia.
Set in the Northern heartland of the Welsh countryside, Snowdonia National Park is a breathtaking destination for anyone with a love of the rugged British wild country – and unsurprisingly, with its iconic titular mountain and a total of 2,130 square kilometres to explore, there are countless hiking routes just waiting to be discovered. Today we’re taking a look at 10 of the best walks in Snowdonia National Park.
Snowdonia is the destination of choice for many people who visit Wales – while the quaint clichés offered by cultural standpoints such as Gavin and Stacey are amusingly accurate, the real heart of Wales lies in its rugged untouched countryside.
With the Valleys to the south and Snowdonia to the north, Wales is a playground for hikers (we should know, it’s where we live!), and Snowdonia National Park is home to some of the very best routes not only in Wales but in the whole of the UK.
We’d be remiss to introduce Snowdonia National Park without first paying heed to Mount Snowdon itself; it’s the highest mountain in England and Wales, towering at an impressive 1,085 metres. It’s little surprise that this is a ‘bucket list’ item for many British hikers, and the view from the summit is indisputably one of the most stunning to be found anywhere in the UK.
The Park itself is the third-largest in the UK, after the Cairngorms and the Lake District, and boasts nearly 1,500 miles of public footpaths – to any seasoned hiker, that’s just the tip of the iceberg too.
It’s worth noting that due to its geography and topography, Snowdownia can get fairly wet – one of the arete’s in the region, Crib Goch, receives an average rainfall of 4,473mm per year, making it one of the wettest places in all of the UK… what can we say, this is a list of the best walks in Snowdonia National Park, not the driest – better pack a raincoat before setting off!
Snowdonia National Park – A Potted History
Like all of the UK’s National Parks, Snowdonia hides a wealth of social, cultural and environmental history, and taking a bit of time to appreciate the origins of this incredible landscape can enrich a visit immensely. Before we get onto discussing the best walks in Snowdonia National Park, we’ll quickly take a look at some of the best of its history!
If we turn the clock back 500 million years (to a time when, ironically, there were no clocks…), Snowdonia was even wetter than it is now. About as wet as is technically possible, in fact, because it was entirely underwater.
That includes Snowdon itself, and fragments of seashells and other ancient oceanic fauna and flora have been found at the summit to prove it! Additionally, some of Snowdon’s most iconic features were produced by volcanic rocks, and many of the valleys surrounding it were carved out by glaciers.
While the geological history of the region is fascinating in its own right, some of the less scientific aspects of its story are just as enthralling. In English, Snowdonia’s name translates to ‘Great Tomb’ and ‘Cairn of the Giant’, which offer a taste of the mythological elements of the park’s history – many of which are tied to the legend of King Arthur, and specifically the story of him killing a giant.
When it comes to the more ‘objective’ side of Snowdonia’s history, the National Park was designated in 1951, following the 1949 National Park and Access to the Countryside Act. Shortly thereafter, it was decided that Snowdonia would also be designated as a Nature Reserve, with its Warden Service being established in the early 1960s.
The park has something to offer any and all history buffs, regardless of their areas of interest. Ancient Roman ruins, Iron Age remains and even UNESCO World Heritage protected castles from the Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods dot the landscape.
Combined with the more modern agricultural history of Snowdonia, and the park offers a window into Welsh history, and Britain’s past; a tapestry of what came before us, ready to be explored in the present.
The Best Walks In Snowdonia National Park
While Snowdonia’s history is fascinating, it’s only a starting point for a truly great visit. On to the main event, then, and our selection of the best walks in Snowdonia National Park.
We should couch this list with a quick acknowledgement that this list isn’t exhaustive; there are countless routes to be explored in the Park, and this selection should be seen as something of a ‘greatest hits collection’ to get you started.
With that said, we’ve been as diligent as we can in our selection of routes here. We’ve included a mix of those we’ve explored firsthand and those that are widely regarded by the hiking community as some of the very finest to explore in the region.
There are even a couple of routes on this list that have been nationally voted as some of the top walks in the whole of the UK in recent polls, which is no mean feat considering just how many routes there are across the whole of Great Britain!
With all of this in mind, we’ve compiled a diverse range of walks for those with all ranges of abilities, experience, and availability to enjoy. Some routes are brief diversions to be enjoyed as part of a short trip, and others are more challenging hikes best suited as a notch in the belt of those who relish a challenge.
Covid19 Hikers’ Tips
It feels a bit like the current Covid19 situation changes every week, and it’s difficult to say with any certainty where we’ll be by the time many of us are able to get out on the trail in the way we’d like to. But regardless, we have to work under the assumption that social distancing and other safety guidelines will be in place for some time, and with this in mind, we’d recommend that you:
- Maintain social distancing (2 metres)
Even though hiking is an outdoor activity, it’s important to keep to social distancing guidelines – remain 2 metres apart from any other hikers you may encounter. This is particularly relevant for some of the hikes we’re looking at that include sections when you’ll be walking through villages and hamlets.
- Wait until it’s clear to walk through narrow areas of limited access
As you’re hiking, you may come across some slightly narrow areas, such as bridges or steeper paths. If this is the case and there are several people waiting to cross the area, it’s a good idea to wait until it’s completely clear before moving on, to avoid coming into unnecessarily close contact with one another.
- Look out for any new signage
Some routes and trails may feature new signage which has been installed to provide up-to-date Covid guidance. Pay attention to these, and be mindful to follow any applicable guidance they may offer.
- Carry hand sanitiser and regularly sanitise hands
Bring a fresh bottle of hand sanitiser with you on any walks – if your hike takes you through any gates, or over any stiles etc, make sure to sanitise your hands both before and after touching anything and try to avoid touching your face during your hike if you can!
Let’s Get Started with Our Selection of Some of the Best Walks in Snowdonia National Park…
1. Snowdon (via Pyg Track and Llanberis Path)
It only feels right to kick things off with what is arguably the highlight of the whole of the park. No list of the best walks in Snowdonia National Park would be even close to complete without covering off at least one of the multiple routes up Mount Snowdon itself, and for this list, we’re reflecting on our own journey up the iconic mountain.
Snowdon truly is a must-see for anyone visiting the park, and it’s little surprise that in 2017, the view from the summit was voted as the very best in all of Britain.
Walk distance: Approx 20km
Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
Time: 5 – 7 hours
Starting Grid reference: SH 647555
Parking: Pen-y-pass car park
While there are a number of ways to ascend the summit, with varying degrees of difficulty and length, we opted for taking the PYG Track up, and the popular Llanberis Path for our descent.
This was recommended to us by the owner of the hotel where we stayed, and while the Llanberis path is a great option, and is undoubtedly the most popular choice for most visitors, the PYG track offers even better views and a better overall experience – although it’s a little more challenging.
We opted to take this advice but agreed we’d take the Llanberis path for the descent. It’s worth adding that there is also a mountain railway, so if you just want the experience of the summit and a shorter hike, you can halve your hiking time easily with the purchase of a train ticket!
It goes without saying that the view from the summit, on a clear day, is a memory that will stay with us – and most other visitors – forever. We were lucky enough to visit on a clear day, and if the skies aren’t cloudy you can see as far as Ireland and the Lake District from the peak. Certainly one for the scrapbook.
2. Cadair Idris via the Minffordd Path
Onto something a little more challenging, but equally as rewarding as tackling the behemoth that is Snowdon. If you’re keen for a physically demanding hike, with the reward of outstanding views all the way to the Welsh coastline (and of many of the other peaks in Snowdonia), then the hike to Cadair Idris via the Minffordd Path is, without doubt, one of the best walks in Snowdonia National Park.
Walk distance: 10km
Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
Time: 5 – 6 hours
Starting Grid reference: SH732115
Parking: Dôl Idris car park – postcode to follow: LL36 9AJ
Didem and I visited Cadair Idris in 2018 (which feels like a lifetime ago given the current global situation!), as a surprise trip for my birthday. It was a stunning trip, and one we can wholeheartedly recommend – while it’s not the easiest of routes if you’re in decent shape and have a bit of experience hiking slightly more demanding paths, this is definitely a must-see.
Cadair Idris itself is a mountain set in the southern part of the National Park, and the route via the Minffordd Path starts at its own designated car park. While this track is challenging, featuring a large number of ascensions (and long stretches of steep steps), it’s pleasantly easy to follow.
The route will take you through some stunning ancient Celtic Woodlands, and during the ascent, you’ll even pass some beautiful cascading waterfalls.
After emerging from the woodlands for the final mountain ascent the path becomes notably more rugged, but you’ll be treated to sights including Llyn Cau – a glacial lake formed in the bowl of a prehistoric valley, and the view from the summit itself, which is really something to behold.
The last section of the ascent to the peak is particularly treacherous though, with no real clear path to the top of Cair Idris – so be very careful!
3. Tryfan and the Glyders Walk
Now to another walk in the northern region of the National Park, using the OS Explorer OL17 map again. This one is also fairly challenging and will take the better part of a day to experience – clocking in at around 6-7 hours.
The time investment is worth it though, as this Tryfan and the Glyders route is not only one of the best walks in Snowdonia National Park, it’s in fact regarded by many as the finest mountain route. Probably worth the trip, then.
Walk distance: 9.22 km
Time: 6 – 7 hours
Starting Grid reference: SK150757
Parking: Parking on both sides of the road at National Trust – Glyderau, Betws-y-Coed LL24 0EU
This route is a true ‘tour’ of Snowdonia’s northern peaks, crossing the three summits of Tryfan, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr in a walk that is part hike, part scramble.
We’re not exaggerating here, this is a real physical challenge, and isn’t really suited to those without a lot of experience.
This makes it a real achievement, however, and if you’re not quite confident enough to tackle this path yet, it’s a great one to add to the list for future hikes.
Considering Snowdonia’s climate and susceptibility to rainfall, it’s important to bear in mind that this is an exposed route – it’s not a great one to tackle in the middle of winter, or during a Welsh deluge, so consider planning around the upcoming weather. If you do get a chance to set out in the right conditions though, this is a real treat.
The walk doesn’t actually kick off with much walking though – commencing at the Ogwen Valley, the route starts with a Grade 1 scramble, well-known for being particularly tricky to pick out climbing paths.
After this difficult but exciting ascent, there are a number of sharp descents and climbs, and whatever route you take you’ll be using your hands at several points. Despite the level of difficulty and skill required, this walk was voted Britain’s sixth-best walk in an ITV poll in 2017.
4.Beddgelert and Aberglaslyn Walk
Onto a walk with the most incredibly Welsh name – the Beddgelert and Aberglaslyn route featured here is one for those who love a bit of mythology. This route kicks off in the charming village of Beddgelert and will take visitors to some evocative ‘fantasy’ settings, invoking a sense of dragons, wizards, and the realms of kings…
Walk distance: 7.7km
Time: 2 – 2.5 hours
Starting Grid reference: SH 590 481
Parking: Beddgelert, Caernarfon – LL55 4Y
Fortunately, this route doesn’t demand the same level of physical exertion as the last couple of walks on this list – you won’t need to get onto all fours and scramble your way up a sheer cliff face!
Instead, you’ll pass a number of fascinating cultural landmarks, not least ‘Gelert’s Grave’, which is just south of the village, and is said to be the final resting place of Gelert, the faithful hound of medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great, who killed the dog by accident, mistakenly believing it had killed his son (we’re not crying, it’s just allergies!)
You’ll also explore the spectacular Pass of Aberglaslyn, and make your way through the narrow gorge with the Afon Glaslyn river raging alongside you.
The old copper mines of Sygun and Cwm Bychan are the coda to a lovely, mercifully short walk, which is a true delight – particularly in the height of summer when the sun beams down onto the babbling brooks that run alongside the route.
5. Aber Falls Walk
There are a huge number of waterfalls dotted around Snowdonia; the rolling peaks and mountains ensure that wherever water flows, it will inevitably cascade at some point – and this route takes you to one of the loveliest of all these locations:
Aber Falls. It’s a short walk, taking just a couple of hours and clocking in at under 6 kilometres, but it’s packed with some of the best woodland walking to be found in the northern part of Snowdonia.
Walk distance: 5.7km
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Time: 2 hours – 2.5 hours
Starting Grid reference: SH 662 719
Parking: Park in the village of Bont Newydd, and then head to the local kissing gate into Coedydd Aber Nature Reserve.
This route is a charming stroll, and will take you through Coedydd Aber Nature Reserve – which plays host to some really lovely oak, birch and hazel woodlands – and while it does have some slightly steep sections, overall this one isn’t too challenging, and even those hiking with kids shouldn’t have too much of a problem tackling it.
After passing through the ancient woodlands, which are truly special (particularly if you’re a fan of the whole ‘Tolkein’ aesthetic), you’ll catch some glimpses of Aber Falls before reaching them properly – and when you do, you’ll likely need to catch your breath – not just due to the climb, but the fact that these waterfalls are really something to behold. Towering at 120 feet high, Aber Falls are one for the scrapbook.
The waterfalls are most impressive after heavy winter rain, and while you might not want to head out on the route in a downpour, if you visit the day after some heavy rainfall the falls will be a roaring cacophony, illustrative of the true power of nature.
The river boasts one of the steepest gradients from source to sea in England and Wales, and this is most noticeable with a trip to the falls on a blustery day.
6. Mawddach Trail
Time for a bit of a change of pace – particularly considering many choose to tackle the Mawddach Trail on bike, rather than by foot. The route is really lovely, regardless of how you approach it, and winds for nearly 15 km in total.
The trail follows an old railway track and can be joined in a number of places – for the purposes of this article, we’ll be looking at kicking things off in the village of Barmouth.
Walk distance: 15km
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Time: 3 – 5 hours
Starting Grid reference: SH617155
Parking: Trail can be joined in many places, but an easy start is in the village of Barmouth.
Barmouth itself is worth a visit in its own right, as a true Welsh ‘seaside town’ – it has a beautiful old church, a lovely sandy beach, and arguably the best fish and chips shop in the UK (terms and conditions apply). For those who enjoy hiking, though, it also plays host to one of the best cycle/walking routes in the country – the Mawddach Trail.
This old railroad runs parallel to the river itself, and while the trail itself is neatly maintained tarmac in many sections (making this a great route for children, as well as cyclists), the surrounding flora is rugged and wild – making this a fantastic way to enjoy some of the best countryside this part of Snowdonia has to offer.
There are some lovely pubs along the trail, and thankfully there are easy options to complete the route in both a full circular path or to turn back, meaning this is perfect for everything from a whole afternoon’s hiking, to a quick ‘pub lunch n back’ stroll.
7. Llyn Ogwen Walk
The Llyn Ogwen walk is a lovely ‘snapshot’ of some of the breathtaking terrain that the northern sector of the park has to offer, but thankfully it isn’t as challenging as some of the other hikes we’ve listed in the area! There is a little bit of scrambling involved at the start of the trail, but it’s easy, and a fun one that hikers of a variety of ability levels will be able to manage.
Walk distance: 5km
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Time: 1 – 2 hours
Starting Grid reference: SH 6599 6045
Parking: Ogwen Cottage ranger base car park – LL57 3LZ.
While the Tryfan route listed earlier is undoubtedly a fantastic experience, it also isn’t easy – but fortunately, it isn’t the only route that takes in this section of the Glyderau group of peaks.
While the Llyn Ogwen walk won’t take you to the summits of these mountains, you’ll still get to enjoy all of their majesty as they tower above during this comparatively straightforward, blissfully brief hike.
While there is some sloping involved and a section of climbing and scrambling, this is all pretty manageable. Ogwen Cottage itself is an outdoor pursuits centre, owned by the National Trust (who purchased the building in 2014, for nearly half a million pounds).
It’s a great base from which to enjoy this great route, and while it’ll only take the confident hiker an hour or two to complete at most, it offers lovely views of the surrounding mountains, and some charming farm-track walking – making it one of the best walks in Snowdonia National Park.
8. Moel Siabod Walk
A slightly longer, more indulgent route, the Moel Siabod walk kicks off just down from the Bryn Glo B&B – a perfect spot for a cup of tea before embarking or returning from the hike. This mountain route offers some brilliant views across Snowdonia, and while the climb to the summit is moderately challenging, it’s a great thrill with a phenomenal payoff.
Walk distance: 11km
Time: 3 – 4 hours
Starting Grid reference: SH736570
Parking: Head for the Bryn Glo B&B, LL24 0DT. Parking for the route is in a layby a few hundred metres down the road.
Pronounced ‘moyl shab-od’, the mountain at the heart of this route sadly doesn’t make it onto many lists of north Wales’ prettiest peaks. But it does hide one of the best secrets, which those who discount it would be surprised to discover.
While Moel Siabod itself is dwarfed and outranked by the mountains surrounding it, a climb to its summit offers perhaps the best view of Mount Snowdon you’ll find anywhere in Wales.
It’s an interest consideration. Many who know New York will suggest you avoid climbing the Empire State Building and instead opt for ascending the Rockefeller Centre so you can get the best view of the Empire State itself, those who know this region of Wales will rarely dispute just how lovely the view of the region’s titular mountain is.
The hike to the top of Moel Siabod isn’t particularly taxing, but it’s worth noting that this peak stands almost completely alone in the surrounding landscape, making it an exposed summit – make sure you prepare adequately, and pack plenty of waterproof and other protective clothing.
And like any other hike you ever embark on, make sure to tell someone where you’re going, when, and what time you’ll expect to be back.
9. Swallow Falls Walk
This one is another short-but-sweet route, taking hikers along the Llugwy River to the Swallow Falls themselves, and also features the Ty Hyll Tearoom at the ‘Ugly House’ (which isn’t in fact ugly at all!), and makes this hike truly memorable.
Walk distance: 3.5km
Difficulty: Fairly easy
Time: 1-2 hours
Starting Grid reference: SH765583
Parking: LL24 0DR – Parking is available on the right-hand side just before the Tearoom near Ugly House.
While some of the walks on this route are a great way to tackle the outdoors, and prove your worth by going toe-to-toe with nature (we’re looking at you, Tryfan), it’s sometimes nice to include the kind of short, sightseeing stroll that your average tourist might be more inclined to enjoy. In any list of the best walks in Snowdonia, it seems only fitting to include a route like this Swallow Falls hike.
The waterfall itself is lovely, and there’s a delightful little seating area from where you can take a brief reprieve from the path to put your feet up and enjoy the sights and sounds of Swallow Falls. The highlight though is most certainly the tea room at Ugly House.
The house itself is so named due to the coarse, jagged stones used in its construction, and this tiny old cottage is in fact quite beautiful as a result. The tea room is also a true highlight, where walkers can enjoy some true Welsh traditional fare such as Bara Brith, also known as Speckled Bread.
10. Cnicht Walk
While Cnicht might not be held in the same regard as Tryfan, Glyder Fawr and Carnedd Gwenllian, it lies in quiet isolation and offers hikers a unique and memorable experience.
There are a number of routes up the mountain, all of which constitute some of the best walks in Snowdonia National Park, but the one we’ve chosen to focus on a circular route from Nantgwynant rather than the more popular direct ascents. It will take a little longer, but you’ll get more out of it as a result, and we’re confident you’ll remember it for years to come.
Walk distance: 10.5km
Difficulty: Fairly challenging
Time: 4-4.5 hours
Starting Grid reference: SH 627 507
Parking: Pont Bethania – postcode to head for is LL55 4NR
Cnicht’s name means ‘knight’ in Anglo Saxon, which was bestowed upon it not by the local people, but instead by medieval sailors who noticed its resemblance to a 14th-century bascinet helmet when viewed from the sea.
Cnicht’s unusual shape is, without doubt, one of its defining features, and it’s not known as the ‘Welsh Matterhorn’ for nothing.
This route starts off heading through sheep-grazed fields, heads over stepping-stones (adding a touch of prehistoric flair to the hike) and offering views behind of the iconic peaks including Snowdon.
You’ll pass ancient hut-dweller plateaus, and eventually come to the ascent of Cnicht itself. This mountain is intimidating to behold but once you’re on the climb it’s fairly consistent – albeit a physical challenge.
The views from the summit are truly incredible; Snowdon and the Glyderau to the north, Cwm Croesor and Moelwyn Mawr to the south. For anyone travelling to the region who fancies a challenge, Cnicht should certainly make an appearance on your to-visit list.
Best Walks in Snowdonia – Final Thoughts
It’s safe to say that Snowdonia is one of the most enticing National Parks in the UK for both keen and avid hikers and novice walkers alike. There’s enough here for everyone to enjoy, and even a short weekend trip can offer bountiful returns by way of unique and memorable hiking experiences.
As with any trip, preparation will be key – be sure to invest in all the necessary equipment you’ll need for mountain climbing, as while there are a few routes on the above list which cover mainly flat ground, the real magic of Snowdonia is found in its rolling peaks and towering summits.
Be sure to pay attention to which map you’ll need too, as the region is large enough to command three entirely individual OS Explorers. These can all be purchased in a set here.
Providing you’re well prepared, you’ll likely never forget your first trip to Snowdonia or any subsequent visits for that matter.
There’s enough here to keep every walker coming back for more again and again, and if there’s one thing any hiker in the UK should aim to include in their route resume, it’s climbing to the top of Snowdon, and taking in what is one of Britain’s most beautiful natural landscapes. We’ll see you on the trail!