This is probably the most popular pastime in the UK and it’s no different in Snowdonia. There is every kind of walking or hiking trail within Snowdonia National Park itself; whether it’s a nice easy riverside stroll or a strenuous hike and scramble up one of Snowdonia’s mountain summits. During the holiday season you’re unlikely to get the trails to yourself, but there’s a camaraderie shared amongst walkers in Snowdonia whether you’re red faced and out of breath on the ascent of a mountain or scrambling up a heart pumping rocky face to your next adrenaline high.
The most popular walks are probably those up to Snowdon’s summit. There are several routes: the Llanberis Path – the longest and easiest and the one the mountain railway follows; The Miners’ Track – the easiest of the three routes from Pen-y-Pass; the Pig or Pyg Track – a stony ascent from the western end of Pen-y-Pass car park; the Snowdon Ranger Path which visitors once tackled with the guidance of the Snowdon Ranger.
It is now less popular with people preferring the Llanberis Path or the shorter, steeper ones from Pen-y-Pass. Rhydd Ddu Track with two paths – one from Pitt’s Head Rock two and a half miles northwest of Beddgelert and the other from the National Park car park in Rhyd-Ddu; and finally the Watkin Path – the most spectacular southern route with the greatest height gain. Once you’re up the mountain there is, of course, also the famous ridge walk the Snowdon Horseshoe.
The Snowdon Horseshoe is the best ridge walk in Wales – one of the best Britain. It is also the most dramatic and potentially the most dangerous! It’s not for the faint-hearted as it’s a high level, rocky walk along two knife-edge artes to Bwlch Coch and Crib Goch. High winds and winter conditions make this a dangerous place at which times it should be avoided or only to be tackled by the most experienced and appropriately equipped. There are several routes up to the Snowdon Horseshoe so make sure you know you’re way before setting off.
One way is from Pen-y-Pass car park, up the Pig Track that climbs diagonally across the mountain to reach the pass at Bwlch Moch. There are two paths from this point the left being the easier of the two. Once the steep and exposed summit of Crib Goch is reached, you will find outstanding views into the Llanberis Pass, Cwm Glas and into the hollow the Horseshoe encloses – that is if you can stand the height and the vertical drops either side!
Ty Nant Path is the main footpath up Cadair Idris in the south of the National Park. Alternatively you can take the Minffordd Path which is shorter but involves the greatest ascent 2,850 feet (869 metres). The easiest is Llanfihangel Path but it is also the longest at 5 miles.
Family Leisure Walks
For fantastic views take the path up to Devil’s Kitchen at Cwm Idwal. If this steep, rocky path is too much you can take the leisure walk from the Ogwen Warden Centre car park near Bethesda, around the Llyn Idwal a glacial lake where it is said no bird will fly over since the Idwal son of Owain, Prince of Gwynedd, was pushed into the lake and drowned by the son of Nefydd Hardd to whom he’d entrusted his care. Nefydd was banished from the kingdom and the lake named after his son. When there’s a storm in the Cwm a wailing voice can apparently be heard.
More leisurely walks include the river walks at Dolgellau, The Torrent and Precipice Walk, several riverside walks around the Conwy Valley and Betws y Coed and Aber Falls in the north of the National Park. Make sure you know where you re going before setting off. A very good book with the best walks in Snowdonia is Richard Sale’s "Best Walks in Northern Wales".
Whatever walk you’re doing make sure you’ve got a map to find your way and orientate yourself if you get lost. Wear appropriate clothing and boots and make sure you take enough layers to cater for any weather – it might be nice and sunny at the bottom but once you’re scaling the heights of the mountains the weather is liable to be a lot cooler. The Met Office publish dedicated Mountain Area weather forecasts for Snowdonia. These are available online, via a 24 hour telephone line and most Visitor Centre pin up the day’s weather on their noticeboards.