Hiking Snowdon is a definite must if you plan on spending any significant amount of time in northern Wales. Snowdon is Wales’ highest peak, reaching 1085 meters. The views are spectacular, and while there are a few different options in terms of trails to the top, if you’re looking for thrill and adventure, I beg you to consider the Crib Goch, otherwise described as a “knife-edged.” Sections of this trail are considered grade 1 scrambles and definitely not for the faint of heart or those with a debilitating fear of heights.
My husband and I completed this hike, along with 6 other friends, back in May 2019. And I’d also like to add that there were two babies on the way amongst us! I was 30 weeks pregnant and my friend was around 6 weeks. We decided it would be best to spend the night before in the area so that we could get an early start the morning of the hike and try and avoid afternoon/evening weather that was forecasted. In the end we still got some rain so definitely bring a warm layer and a raincoat. (ALWAYS bring a raincoat, because the mountains can be temperamental and unpredictable!)
There are a number of places to stay at Betws-y-Coed, as well as individual places to book on AirBnb or VRBO. There is also a train that can take you directly to the top of Mount Snowdon if you preferred to see the views without the walking near this location: https://snowdonrailway.co.uk
We found someone to rent us a few tents on Airbnb in the Nant Peris area, just 10 minutes from the trailhead. There are also other areas that you can bring your own tent.
We parked in the Pen-y-Pass Car park which is paid parking. This car park fills up fast so plan on arriving early! We happened to hike on a holiday so there were probably twice as many people but I would still plan on arriving no later than 9:30am if you want to find a parking spot.
- Distance: approximately 8 miles round trip
- Time: 4-6 hours
- Difficulty: challenging
- Time of year: May to September
- Elevation gain: 3,224 Feet
- Snowdon Elevation: 3,560 Feet
- Sturdy hiking shoes
- Day backpack
- First aid kit
- Jacket and other additional layers
- Rain jacket
When we set out, we had plans to hike the loop: Pyg Track, to Bwlch Coch via the Crib Goch, to Llanberis Path, to the Snowdon Summit, and continuing around by the Rhyd Ddu Path, to Watkin Path, passing by T Lliwedd and finally returning to the car park via the Miner’s track.
Due to some inclement weather we made it to the summit via the planned route but decided to return to the car park in a slightly more direct route: Llanberis Path, to Pyg Track, to the Miner’s Track (we stayed north of the lakes). This route ended up being close to 8 miles roundtrip.
What made this hike so incredible was the “Knife’s Edge” portion of the trail. The day we hiked, the summit was actually stuck in a cloud (so no view from the top) and due to the holiday (and I think a charity event), the trail was swarming with people but taking the trail less traveled (i.e. Bwlch Coch via the Crib Goch) made the hike completely worth it in the end. Instead of hiking with the masses we broke off early and hiked above them.
Fun Side Story: As we approached the fork in the trail, where the more strenuous trail splits from the easier trail, because I was leading our group and didn’t want to make a wrong turn, I asked some other fellow hikers on the trail that day if they knew if that particular split in the trail was the trail leading to the Crib Goch (“Knife Edge”), and they responded, as they were looking at me who was noticeably pregnant, “yeah, that’s the dangerous trail. You’re going to want to go this way,” pointing to the safer and more travelled trail. I smiled and said, just to confirm, “oh this is the more dangerous trail? Ok, thanks, that’s actually the trail we’re looking for!”
The trail got steeper and steeper as we neared the scrambling sections of the trail. There were points when we were literally on all hands and feet with our tails in the air, not really sure if we were even still on a marked “trail” but feeling like if we were climbing up then we at least couldn’t be far from it! In my opinion, those were the moments that made the experience all the more exhilarating! We felt like we were on top of the world as we ridge walked along the “knife-edge,” with 360 degree views of the beautiful Snowdonia National Park.
We continued along, taking our time. We were pretty much forced to continue on only as fast as the group ahead of us because the “trail” got so narrow, it made passing people very difficult. And as a word of caution, you definitely do want to take this trail slowly and cautionfully. This is not the type of trail you want to rush, both for safety’s sake as well as for the sake of taking in the beauty around you and making the most of the experience. I had packed some GORP (in its original state this is granola, oats, raisins, peanuts but I like to add m&m’s, craisins, peanut m&m’s, etc) for the group which we were thankful for as it provided us reason to take pit stops and take in the views as well as sustenance and energy.
Like I said earlier, as we neared the top we rejoined the masses and made it to the top which was suck in a cloud. We didn’t stay long and made the decision to take a more direct route back to the car park due to the unpredictable weather.
As we made our way from this point alongside the crowds we took in the continued views of the lake below, “Llynnau Mymbyr.”
When we finished we were all in the mood for some good old fashion carbs so we found ourselves a pizza place.
We ate a Hangin’ Pizzeria which had great service and great pizza! (We even had a gluten free person with us who found something yummy to eat and enjoyed eating there) It the weather’s nice, they have an outdoor patio seating area. This was nice for us because we were fresh off the trail if you know what I mean! 😉
As a final note, another reason why hiking Snowdon make it onto your bucket list is that, hiking Snowdon would get you one third of the way towards completing the UK’s Three Peaks Challenge. This challenge consists of hiking the three tallest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales respectively. Scotland claims the tallest of these peaks, Ben Nevis, Wales has Mount Snowdon and England’s tallest peak is Scafell Pike. There is typically an added challenge to complete these hikes all within a total hiking time of 24 hours.
Relevant Scripture Reading: “His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.” Psalm 97:4-6