Snowdonia National Park - Our Ultimate Hiking and Travel Guide
Set in North Wales, Snowdonia National Park is home to some of the most stunning, rugged scenery in the United Kingdom. Boasting the highest peak in Wales, Mount Snowdon at 1,085m and the famous knife’s edge ridge, Crib Goch, the park is awash with challenging hikes and beautifully rewarding views. What makes Snowdonia an incredible destination is the variety of activities available. For every challenging hike, there are plenty of options much more suitable for beginners/intermediate levels that still pack in some truly awe-inspiring scenery. Snowdonia is also home to some incredible rock climbing, and upon driving through the towns and villages dotted around the National Park, it’s hard to miss the hardy mountaineering community. Sir Edmund Hilary even famously trained on the slopes of Snowdon for his first summit of Mt Everest in 1953. From kayaking to taking in the picturesque towns in the area, you will never be short of finding an experiences that feel exhilarating and rejuvenating.
English (widely) and Welsh
From outside of the United Kingdom, Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham airports are all within easy driving distance of Snowdonia National Park if you’re hiring a car. Whilst hiring a car or driving to the park can give you a good amount of flexibility for your stay in Snowdonia, it is possible to travel by train from these airports to Betws-y-Coed, one of the central villages in the National Park. It is also possible to travel by train from any major UK city and connect up to Betws-y-Coed. The Snowdon Sherpa provides a great bus network connecting together some of the most popular trailheads of Mt Snowdon to various busy villages in the park. There are also many taxi companies in the area that run services to and from the trails. It’s advisable to book a return journey though, as mobile phone reception in most areas is poor.
WHERE TO STAY:
There are a wide variety of options in the area from boutique guest houses to wild camping. Generally, most hotels are located in the main villages of the area, whilst you’ll find quieter escapes in cottages and houses nestled in the surrounding hills. As a rule, we have found a good trick is to stay slighter outside of the National Park as this seems to cut the price of accommodation significantly. We’ve found either booking through the hotel direct, booking.com or Airbnb are the easiest ways. You’ll find youth hostels and bunkhouses dotted around, some even sitting at the foot of some of the most famous hikes of the park. If camping is more your thing, there are some great sites in the area, and there is even the opportunity to wild camp, if you spend some time planning this in advance. We would recommend that if you do plan to wild camp whilst experiencing the National Park that all National Parks in the United Kingdom are privately owned and require permission of the land owner in advance, there is quite a lot of information available about this online. Whichever option you decide upon, please be advised that places do seem to fill up fast in peak hiking season.
Some of our favourite options include:
Prices range from 15 GBP a night – 200 GBP a night
Rynys Farm Camp Site, near Betws-y-Coed
Prince Llewelyn Hotel, Beddgelert
The Eagles Bunkhouse, Penmachno
Glan Aber Hotel, Betws-y-Coed
BEST TIME OF THE YEAR TO VISIT:
Snowdonia National Park is open year-round and is breath-taking at any time of year. If you’re new to hiking, we would recommend your first visit to be in the summer months between June – October. In the months between November and May, there can be (and is most years) snow and ice on the mountains and if you’re planning to hike, will need to have experience of hiking in winter conditions, being comfortable with snow and ice work in order to be responsible for your own safety.
Most accidents in these mountains are caused by inappropriate footwear, this is partly due to the rugged nature of the landscape and the sections of polished stone that are quite common in the area. We would always recommend good, well-worn in waterproof hiking boots at all times of year, even if its sunny and hot. Wales is well known for rain, and you’re likely to see a downpour on the mountains at least once whilst you’re there! Layering is key, and we would typically adjust our summer and winter clothes accordingly. Always emphasise waterproof layers and bring more mid layers than you might think. The thick, low laying rain cloud that is often found in the area can make for poor visibility in the mountains and even though the trails are well marked, it is advisable to bring a navigational devise with map loaded. There is no phone signal in the area, so we would recommend you download any offline maps before-hand. In winter, it is strongly advisable to carry crampons and an ice axe and know how to use them! Winter conditions, whilst beautiful can be treacherous if you do not have the right equipment.
OUR FAVOURITE TRAILS AND HIKES:
There are many guidebooks on hikes in the area, but a couple of our favourites include:
Mount Snowdon via Pyg Trail summit, Miners trail descent
Ascent: 700 meters
Time: 5-6 hours
Parking: LIMITED! £10 a day, £6 for 4 hours. Very early arrival advised.
This is our favourite hike to the summit of Mount Snowdon with incredible views over the rugged Pen-y-Pass. What we love about this hike is it has a great combination of being both slightly challenging in parts with truly rewarding scenery, with around 700m of ascent to get to the top of the mountain. On a clear day, once over the shoulder of the mountain, you’ll be able to take in some of the most beautiful lakes in the area whilst you make your final push up to the summit. This is a popular route up and down the mountain, and you’ll be able to find trail maps easily online. This route is understandably very popular and even in the worst weather you can be sure that you won’t be alone on the trail.
Distance: 6 Kms each way
Ascent: 1000 metres
Time: 3.5 Hours
As this trail ultimately bags Mt Snowdon as its objective, you’d be right to wonder why bother taking in this hike and the previous, but the beauty of this hike is that it feels like a completely different mountain. Starting at a much lower elevation in forested land, approaching from the other side of the mountain range from the Pyg trail and with a few challenging sections along the way, you’ll be treated to a rewarding day in the mountains. It is advisable to make sure you have a map with you as there are some sections – especially the scree section close to the summit - that can be confusing in foggy conditions (indeed many hikers will only venture as far as the scree before turning back – this is still a fine hike in its own right). You’ll find information on maps for this trail and parking online. Whilst still a popular route, in our experience, this trail gets much less footfall then the Pyg and Miners, and at times you may well find yourself alone on the mountain. The trail is also steeped in History: A memorial commemorates the opening of the trail by Prime Minister William Gladstone in 1892. Ruined building riddled by heavy machine gun fire are a clue to the commando squads that trained there during WW2.
Distance: 5 Kms
Ascent: 760 metres
Time: 3.5 hours
Public Transport: Sherpa Buses from Llanberis and Betws y Coed
Parking: LIMITED! £10 a day, £6 for 4 hours. Very early arrival advised.
This is an exposed knifes edge ridge, it is advised to have a head for heights, connecting you to the summit of Mount Snowdon.
Aberglaslyn Llyn Dinas and Cwm Bychan hike
Distance: 9.1km (at least! There are several variants on this trail and the hike can be made longer if wanted)
Time: 4-5 hours
Ascent: Unknown, but feels moderate to challenging
Parking: It is possible to park in Beddgelert village centre for a fee
One of our favourites starting from Beddgelert is to follow the Glaslyn river west, past the Sygun Copper mine museum to the lake Llyn Dinas. As you reach the lake, a path turns to the south climbing steeply up to Grib Ddu. The path crosses a plateau, before descending past disused slate mines and a wooded section back to the Glaslyn river. One can then follow the river – now raging in white water splendour - north through the spectacular Aberglaslyn gorge back to Beddgelert. The paths for this route are well marked and can easily be found on OS maps.
Hikes in the Ogwen Valley
Running roughly parallel to the Pen-y-Pass that flanks Mount Snowden - offers a wide range of hiking opportunities. Here is where you will find a trailhead for the ascent of Tryfan (917m), perhaps the most famous peak in the region after Snowden. A favourite of ours is far less strenuous and may be undertaken on days when summit attempts would be out of the question: Starting from the car park at Idwal Cottage, a well kept trail leads up to Llyn Idwal. Depending on the weather, you can simply make a circuit of the lake, which is spectacularly surrounded by peaks on three sides. For those wanting more, there are opportunities at various points to take trails off from the main route, climbing into the surrounding peaks. As with most walking in Snowdonia, the trails are fairly well marked and a map should not be necessary unless you intend to take a detour into the peaks. The circuit of the lake in this hike is well suited to less experienced hikers or those with children, and apart from a moderate climb on the walk in from the car park, is fairly flat. None the less, it still presents exceptional scenery (even in bad weather) and we’d recommend it to anyone visiting the area.
OUR TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHY IN SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK
Some of our favourite images are from Snowdonia, and whilst there are abundant photography opportunities everywhere, here are two of our favourite spots.
There are incredible views on the Pyg track on the Pen-y-pas side where sweeping mountains meet the valley creating beautiful shapes and you can see down to Llanberis and further. This spot looks great at all times of day, but particularly towards sunset, where you’ll be greeted with deep hues of red if you’re lucky enough as the sun sets over the mountains. Even if you’ve already completed the Pyg track, its worth heading a little way up the trail towards sunset to see the best view from a more elevated position. If you plan on staying until the end of the sunset, we would recommend that you bring a headlamp with you, as it gets dark very quickly due to the lack of light pollution in the area.
The Ogwen Valley is another favourite of ours, and the circular hike taking in the lower loop around the lake first can be jaw dropping when there has been a fresh dusting of snow. Early to mid-afternoon is best for this, and if visiting in the winter months, the valley can become very shady, very early due to the setting sun behind the mountains casting a shadow (which also drops temperatures considerably too).
WHERE TO EAT:
Average meal cost: Between £5 - £25 per person
There are some great places to eat in Snowdonia. Some of our favourites, all of which cater to Vegans, Vegetarians and all other dietary requirements include:
Conwy Falls Café, Betws-y-Coed
Hangin’ Pizzeria, Betws-y-Coed
Pete’s Eats, Llanberis (very popular with climbers!)
Prince Llewelyn Hotel, Beddgelert (great Sunday roasts)
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO IN THE AREA?
Zip World Snowdonia
With three locations in the area, you can experience the fastest zip line in the world as you soar over Penrhyn Quarry, traverse your way through underground slate mines or swing through the forest on an 80ft high giant swing.
Large woodland park with an extensive network of mountain biking trails catering for all levels of experience. The trails are rated using the same colour coding as Alpine hikes and ski routes, and there are black trails for the most experienced riders. Mountain bike hire and showers are available on site.
White Water Rafting
Set in the stunning hills, you can experience thrilling white water activities throughout the year.
Author: This Expansive Adventure
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