Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, with a summit of 3559ft/1085m. It is the 2nd highest mountain in the ‘Three Peaks Challenge‘, a popular hiking challenge where participants have to climb the highest mountains in Scotland (Ben Nevis), Wales (Snowdon) and England (Scafell Pike). Usually the aim of the challenge is to climb all 3 in 24 hours but some people choose to stretch it out to 3 days, climbing one a day. Now I’m no mountain climber, I didn’t even walk UP Snowdon, only down, and it took me a couple of days to recover, so kudos to the hikers that do all 3 in a short amount of time!
The Easiest Route Up Snowdon
Walking The ‘Tourist’ Route – The Llanberis Path
🗺Distance: 9 miles return (4.5 miles one way)
🕚Duration: 6 hours return (3hrs one way)
The Llanberis Path is said to be the easiest route up Snowdon and is considered the tourist path up to the summit. There are 6 Snowdon walking routes altogether and ironically the Llanberis Path is the longest out of the 6.
This particular Snowdon hike is 9 miles long (there and back) and takes on average 6 hours to complete. Although if you aren’t what I like to call a ‘mountain goat’, it is possible to only go one way, making the walk 4.5 miles.
BUT it does take a little planning. You’ll need to take the Snowdon Railway UP and then walk back down. The trains that run up the mountain are quite small and tickets do sell out in advance in busy times.
The weather on mountains can change so quickly so ideally you’d want to make any form of ascent or decent on an ‘OK’ day. Having to book a ticket in advance means putting your trust that the British weather forecast is going to be half right for once!
It is possible to book a single train ticket up Snowdon, but then if the weather is bad, you may have no choice but to walk down. We booked a return for a little extra so we had the flexibility to change our mind at the last minute if we decided the weather was too bad to walk back down via the Llanberis Path.
If you take the train to the top, you only have 30 minutes on the summit before you have to get back on to come down. There’s a cafe, toilets and a small shop at the top and the summit is a short walk away from the station.
Trains can’t be booked DOWN. If you decide to walk up, the only way of getting on the train is if people like us give up their return seat or if it’s a day when the trains aren’t running at full capacity and they have space. But this can’t be guaranteed. They also say if you MISS the return departure, you may not even be able to get back down on a train yourself!
Typically the Snowdon summit on the day we visited, was completely covered in cloud. There are some rocky steps up to the summit marker and even on a cloudy weekday in early June, there was a queue up the steps to the summit. As it was cloudy there could have been a huge drop either side for all I could tell, so maybe the cloud was a good thing!
Even though it was cloudy and we were well and truly in the clouds, the visibility was never ‘bad’ as such, you could always see a little way in front and as soon as we started our descent, we dropped below the clouds and it was perfectly ‘clear’.
So anyway! Onto the Llanberis Path!
My experience is based on my one way hike DOWN the Llanberis Path which is a good option if you’d like to experience half of the walk without having to commit to the whole 9 miles.
From the Snowdon Summit, the Llanberis Path isn’t marked clearly straight away. The easiest way to find it, is to follow the path that runs parallel to the train line. The route never really strays far from the tracks the whole way back to Llanberis village.
Now, mountain climbing isn’t something to be taken lightly. My mum and dad had walked up AND down Snowdon in their early 20s, in just shorts and t-shirts and no water (hey, that was the 80s for you!). So doing it 30 years later we didn’t think it’d be that bad. Either they never realised just how fit they were back then (and were actually mountain goats) or the path had deteriorated since, making it harder.
There were some sections that surprised me at just how steep they were and it was very much like walking down rubble. On the other hand we saw people RUNNING up and down this route (crazies), out for a leisurely stroll with their dogs, but then there were others where we seriously questioned if they were in a state to make it to the summit, let alone walk all the way down again!
I almost felt like it was my job to offer the people ascending the final stretch a bit of encouragement, like cheering on runners in a marathon! It brought a smile to their face anyway.
You’ll come to a marker where the path spilts into 3. The lower route follows the Snowdon Ranger Path, the higher path leads to a smaller peak and the ‘middle’ route is the Llanberis Path.
Because I’m weird, my favourite part of the Llanberis Path, is near the top when it feels like it’s on the edge of a ridge with steep drops either side. This area is considered an accident black spot in snowy and icy conditions, but on a good day it offers some cool mountain views.
The Llanberis Path has a halfway house that, you guessed it, is half way down (or up, depending on what direction you are walking in)! When it’s open, they sell hot and cold drinks, sweets and chocolate, cakes, snack food, things like sausage rolls and a couple of supplies. I was surprised by how much stuff they had in stock. There were no toilets available during my visit though, so unless you go at the top or bottom, you’ll have to hold on (or wild pee, if that’s your thing).
Near the end, my calf muscles and ankles were on fire, purely because of the odd position that walking down hill over rocks puts them in. I didn’t get any blisters though, which was good, but then it was only a 4.5 mile walk and I tend walk 5.5 miles every day. Compared to some sections near the top, the route does ‘flatten’ out for the majority of the hike down.
When you reach the end of the mountain path, you’ll go through a couple of gates and past some route markers. The path then joins up with a road leading back into Llanberis village which is RIDICULOUSLY steep (but then it is tarmac and not loose rocks, so it’s a little easier!). There was a taxi sitting at the top of this road section but if you’ve just conquered a mountain would you really jump in a taxi for the last stretch!?
How Long To Climb Snowdon?
Most places say it takes around 6 hours to climb Snowdon (there and back). It took us 3 hours just to walk down, but then we did stop a few times for photos etc and we weren’t exactly rushing…well my sister decided to sprint off and she got down in 2 hours 20.
I’d imagine it’s slower going up, so as ‘non mountain climbers’, I’d say you may need a little longer than 6 hours, especially if you wanted a rest at the summit.
Parking for the Llanberis Path
🗺Llanberis Car Park: Victoria Terrace, Llanberis, Caernarfon LL55 4TT
There are a couple of car parks in Llanberis, a smaller one that’s closer to the start/finish point of the path and a second larger one which is round the corner, opposite the Llanberis mountain railway station.
The car parks are pay and display. If I remember rightly, you get the first 30 minutes for free and then you pay for additional hours. If you end up taking longer than expected, you can pay for more hours before you leave. The machines require a car number plate but I’m not sure how they keep track!
Tips for walking up Snowdon
I’d recommend wearing layers that you can take off. At the top of the mountain I had a t-shirt, 2 hoodies, a rain coat, zip off trousers, leggings and gloves. By the time I was at the bottom, I was was down to shorts and t-shirt.
Rhyd Ddu Path
Snowdon Ranger Path