Snowdonia has a rich history, from slate mining to religion and sheep farming in between.
You can explore the history of in the region through a unique perspective, on the 10 walks we highlight here.
The National Park is home to all of the highest mountains in Wales.
It is a victim of its own success in parts. To get to the summit point of Mount Snowdon, you will generally have to join a queue of people who have taken the train up!
Equally there are places less travelled and where you can enjoy the meditative silent trudge of just you and the hill.
As with any mountain range, these mountains can be dangerous at times. You should be well-equipped even on a sunny day for things to change quickly.
Always have a flask of hot drink with you, some waterproofs and warm clothing for your stops. High calorie snacks are important too, as is a decent supply of water – and of course a decent set of boots to protect your ankles from stumbles.
So equipped, get ready for the top 10 long (and medium) distance walks across this varied and beautiful landscape.
We rank the walks in order of distance but this in itself is no guide as to how easy the walk is – the Snowdonia Challenge is the hardest of all, even at just over half the distance of the Snowdonia Way.
So let’s get our boots on and explore this fine and ancient landscape!
For this first section we will look at five multi-day routes that should challenge you to your limits.
You will appreciate the scale and beauty of the landscape as you explore it in depth.
Two of the walks need wilderness camping gear while the other three you can plan ahead by booking B&Bs.
Even while B&B hopping, it will pay off to have the kit in case you need to make an unplanned stop due to the weather – keep it in mind the Mountain Gods can spot the unprepared and aren’t always forgiving to those they show disfavour to!
The Snowdonia Way
Starting in Wales’s old capital of Machynlleth, you wander through the lowlands at first and then head up through the mountains to the northern coast of Wales.
Every day on the walk you have the choice of climbing the mountains on the way.
As such the low route is 97 miles and the high route adds another 25 miles to the overall distance and a couple of thousand metres of ascent.
Don’t immediately think that the shorter route is for wimps!
There are very hard going sections and steep climbs even if you were to ignore the summits.
The low route has stunning views without having to add hours of grunting to the top of a mountain as you wind your way through valleys and along forest tracks.
It is for you to choose the summits on the walk – you may as well do the odd couple since you’re there – but as with every multi-day journey, plans could change thanks to the weather or your legs just having a bad day!
From the history of the last true Prince of Wales’ capital to the slate mining and religious artefacts along the way, you will always have something to consider as you wander this long distance route through one of the most stunning areas Wales has to offer.
Snowdonia Slate Trail
Prior to our lands being appreciated for their natural beauty, much of it has been worked through the ages.
Where in South Wales, much of the resources such as coal and iron ore were found beneath the soil (and the unwanted substrate dumped on the surface) here in North Wales the money maker was the very rock that made the mountains – slate.
Slate from Snowdonia was highly prized around the world and millions of tonnes of it was mined and exported, both around the UK and to other countries.
The destruction of the mountainsides for its substrate explains much of what you will see around the national park – this and sheep farming is why many mountains are bare and barren.
You will walk from slate mining village to slate mining village as you enjoy this tour, and get time to explore various aspects such as the narrow gauge railway at Llanberis Lake Railway and the one up Snowdon.
This is a tour rather than a trek – the fit person could do two legs in a day on some days without horrendous climbs – but where you stop you are encouraged to absorb the world you visit.
There will be crowds at times but you will also find hidden jewels in the countryside as you go including slate mining villages still in slumber since the industry ceased long ago.
The Long Distance Walking Association suggests you do this walk in 24 hours but you need to be at quite a level of fitness to do that and possibly the sort who has no fear of death from climbing and descending in pitch darkness with no sleep since the day before.
We instead recommend you take wilderness camping gear and budget 2-3 days for the route.
Even so one experienced mountaineer described parts of this slower paced route as “tearing the last ounce of reserve out of your thighs, and leave you weeping for the lung capacity you squandered in your youth”!
You need to be an experienced mountaineer for this as there are sections where you will need some skill and experience, not to mention a head for heights!
On Day One from Llanberis to Cnicht you get Snowdon out of the way.
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales but it is also one of the most accessible.
With its cafe, as the second summit of the day you will be able to enjoy a drink that you haven’t carried in your backpack but on nicer days the crowds are a thing to be endured.
As you progress along the walk you will often just have the mountains to yourself.
The climbing and descents are brutal at times and you will feel your legs screaming with lactic acid but with the views and solitude there are few better places to be than taking on this route!
The Welsh 3000’s
This is another route where you need skills in scrambling, navigation and wilderness camping to manage it – another tough one in short.
The scrambles of Crib Goch, Tryfan and Pen yr Ole Wen are listed as ‘Grade 1’, meaning you need to know what you are doing before you head out, and can handle some of the toughest terrain there is on offer here.
There are long climbs on the route – this is no ridgeway ramble – and you will find your legs bitching and moaning at times as a result.
For all that you will be rewarded with some of the best views of Snowdonia in one hit – this makes this walk worth your while.
You will ascend Snowdon as part of the walk – it does cover all high peaks – but as part of a two day journey over the highest peaks that might even be a welcome respite!
The last section of the walk is a nice warm-down, as you descend from the mountains to the coast.
Where some walks require you to get wet in the sea to be ‘properly finished’, you may be forgiven for heading to a shoreline pub in Llanfairfechan to wet your lips instead…
Carneddau and the Glyders
A circular walk with a nice stroll along the northern edge of Wast Water at the end to cool those aching legs, this is a horseshoe walk with a pub at the beginning and end – what more could you want?!
The first two miles are fairly gentle before climbing around (but not summiting) Kirk Fell and on up (if you’re in the mood to test your legs, take an extension to the top).
Follow the circuit in an anticlockwise direction to the summit of Pillar Rock, a spire that has to be seen for yourself to appreciate its rugged beauty.
From there you climb and descend the similar height summit of Red Pike and then generally downhill view Yewbarrow to Wast Water.
One of the highest total ascents in this blog, and spending nine hours on the hill, you will enjoy the thirst after righteousness at the pub at the end of a challenging yet rewarding walk.
Snowdonia is vast at some levels but certainly isn’t the Karakoram Range in terms of overall area. The next five walks are shorter and can easily be cracked in a day.
Do be well equipped for eventualities though – there are fatalities in these mountains and many of those may have been presented by proper preparation.
As a final note, these walks can be intense with big ascents in short periods so though not multi-day monsters you will feel it at the end!
Moelwyn Bach, Moelwyn Mawr and Cnicht Circuit
The Cnicht is one of the more popular and accessible mountains in Snowdonia thanks to its reputation of being the ‘Welsh Matterhorn’, a pyramidal mountain from some angles.
Croesor is a village about three miles off the main road.
This adds to your sense of adventure having driven off the beaten track to even start the walk!
There are shorter routes to enjoy the Cnicht but this walk takes in the higher mountains of Moelwyn Mawr and Moelwyn Bach as you circuit the route.
Traditionally this walk is done out of Croesor to the Cnicht and then back via the other two mountains but there are route directions out there that take you the opposite way.
If you’re the sort to not climb mountains to meet new people on the way then the backwards route might allow you to hear different people having conversations, not just the same groups for the whole way.
Some of the climbs can be very wet with you effectively walking up streams.
That said this is a must-do classic of a walk in Snowdonia and if you don’t mind the odd interruption to your peace and quiet this could be well worth your while.
Moel Hebog Circuit from Beddgelert
One of Snowdonia’s classic circuits, though much of it is on the mountainside you will find yourself in forest for some of it – a different element to this national park that could add interest to your trip.
Before hitting the forest you will climb Moel Hebog, Moel yr Ogof and Moel Lefn and then the steep descent into the woodland below.
There is another tricky descent into Beddgelert as well – beware of this as you will be tired and descents can be at least as painful on the legs as ascents!
Beddgelert has pubs and cafes so you will have a choice of refreshments at the end of your walk, a nice thought to have as your legs complain during the final mile or so.
High Carneddau from Llyn Ogwen Circuit
Including the second highest mountain in Wales, Carnedd Llywelyn, this is a must-do walk for those looking for Snowdonia at its best.
You effectively circuit two lakes on an almost circular ridgeway, with the A5 road at the lowest point on the whole route.
There are some very tricky scrambles on the route and you need your wits and nerves about you as you ascend and descend them.
Good navigation skills are essential on this walk too, as there are featureless plateaus on the route and you will need your compass to guide you at times.
These elements would put the walk at the same level of difficulty in parts as the Snowdonia Challenge, though this time you won’t have 2-3 days’ of hiking gear on you!
For all that the walk is extremely rewarding for all the hard work you put into it – definitely worthy of a top five medium length walk in the national park!
Yr Elen North East Ridge Scramble
You need a bit of skill to do this walk and the reward is time away from the babbling crowd!
That said, parking can be difficult so perhaps prepare for the day by getting to the start early in the morning – watching the dawn as you climb a mountain is something to write home about.
Around halfway round with relatively gentle climbs up the valley you find yourself on a hard beast of a climb of 100 vertical metres and then, after summiting you’re in a gentle scramble with some steep descents to descend the route.
Yr Elen is the only summit of this walk and is often hurriedly ticked off as one of the 15 summits but this walk allows you to savour a part of Snowdonia national park that most people don’t.
Isn’t heading to ill-trodden paths part of the fun of trekking?!
For us to make the claim that in all of Wales’ mountains this is the best ridge walk in the country, we really are saying something!
That said, hundreds of people do this every day and that dampens the wonders of it somewhat – not all of us like crowds when we head into the mountains…
The upshot of it being so popular is that you will have to get to the car park as early in the morning as you can to even hope of a parking space.
Recognising this the local authorities have laid on a park & ride service – a service usually offered to get to a shopping centre not a mountain!
For much of the walk you will be treated to views of the mountain lake Lake Llydaw that you’ll tire of less than you will the babbling crowds also enjoying this walk.
Snowdon and its cafe is the reward for this walk – enjoy your food and join the queue to be photographed at the summit if that sort of thing floats your boat.
Some get around the crowds by doing this in winter but this is not for the inexperienced or under-prepared.
If you take the route on in winter have all the gear for mountain trekking and be prepared to camp out should weather conditions make returning to your car unwise.
So there we have it!
Snowdonia is nowhere near the size of the Scottish Highlands let alone the Alps or other mountainous areas.
On a human scale that however is a question of relativity.
These 10 long and medium distance walks will give you a fair flavour of the human, natural and geological histories of Snowdonia National Park.
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