How to Hike the Snowdon Watkin Path
Hiking Trail Name: Snowdon Watkin Path
Distance: 8 miles (there and back)
Total Climb: 1,015m (3,330 ft)
Time: 5-6 hours
What is the Snowdon Watkin Path?
Aside from the Crib Goch scramble, the Snowdon Watkin Path is thought to be one of the most difficult ascents up the UK’s second-highest mountain. Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh) is the highest peak in Wales. It is situated in Snowdonia National Park in the northern corner of the country.
The Snowdon Watkin Path maximises scenery on a challenging and steep ascent up this popular hiking mountain. The final climb is the most precarious part of the trail due to a scree slope that must be scrambled over to reach the summit.
This route also offers the biggest vertical ascent out of any of the traditional hiking trails. The Snowdon Watkin Path is a historic trail and was the first designated footpath in Great Britain, created at the turn of the 20th-century. Invented by Sir Edward Watkin, the trail follows an old copper mining path before using natural features to access the peak.
How to reach the Watkin Path – Snowdon?
The Snowdon Watkin Path tackles the southern slopes of the mountain. The trail begins in the small hamlet of Plas Gwynant, a place just south of Llyn Gwynant along the A498 road. There is no access by train. The nearest transport hubs are Bangor, Caernarfon, and Porthmadog.
As with all the Snowdon trailheads, the area is accessible via the Sherpa Bus Service which runs a loop route around the Snowdon Massif, delivering hikers to their desired starting point.
There is a parking lot next to the trailhead beside the bridge that crosses over Nant Gwynant. Many hikers choose to drive to this location and park their car at the Pont Bethania car park before tackling the Snowdon Watkin Path. As usual in Snowdonia, the machines don’t accept cards and you must pay for your ticket with coins.
How to Navigate on the Snowdon Watkin Path?
The route begins from the car park and bus stop on the A498. Initially, the trail is a well-paved path that is easy underfoot. The trail heads up through the Hafod y Llan woodland and past a National Trust campsite. This is a particularly unique feature as Snowdonia has a distinct lack of woodland. Many trees have been cut down in the mountains to be used as timber.
You may see signs for the “Llwybr Watkin Path” as you pass through the woodland. You can keep following these markers as they are indicators for the same trail. After leaving the forest, the landscape opens into the sprawl of Cwm Llan – an old glacial-formed valley.
The path then continues past the rapids of the Afon Cwm Llan making for a very scenic introduction to the hike. Soon you will see Gladstone Rock, which commemorates the opening of this trail. From here, the trail steepens as you climb up the side of Snowdon.
The trail then joins Bwlch Ciliau where you will get commanding views down into Llyn Llydaw and over to the south-eastern trails that ascend Snowdon. On the final push, the route is at its steepest and loose rock covers the trail. The path then joins with Rhyd Ddu, heading north towards the summit.
The Watkin Path follows many waterfalls and river features. During heavy rain, these can become torrents. However, the path is mostly dry, and the trail never crosses through any bogs.
The hardest part of the trail is during the final section. The start of the hike is relatively smooth, and the challenges don’t start until later. It’s when the trail turns to scree and the exposure increases, that the difficulty of the trail truly becomes apparent.
Aside from the out-and-out scramble of Crib Goch, this is surely the toughest official trail up Snowdon due to this loose rock. In the boulder field, you will have to rely on a different set of skills from your average hiking ability. Those who wish to complete this trail should only do so if they’re confident traversing a scree slope.
Recommended Kit List
Good footwear is essential for the Snowdon Watkin Path. Nimble hiking shoes are a necessity to cross the boulder fields. In this case, a clunky hiking boot may not be your best option. The trail is mostly paved and on sturdy rock, so a grippy trail running shoe could serve you better.
This route is long and tiresome. You should carry a backpack that contains all the essentials for summiting this peak. Extra warm layers, a waterproof jacket, a medical kit, snacks, and plenty of water are all recommended. There are no water refill points along this trail but you can buy more water at the Summit Café.
Although it may be an added precaution, some hikers choose to wear a helmet during scrambles to prevent injuries from falling rocks. No technical climbing is required so ropes and a harness aren’t necessary, but any mountaineering knowledge is sure to be a bonus.
Food & Drink
Caffi Gwynant is a beloved café right beside the trailhead. Each morning, you’ll find the place filled with hikers stocking up on food and coffee before venturing out on the Snowdon Watkin Path. The café is known for excellent coffee and tasty, high-quality breakfast dishes. Some locals come here just for the café and skip the hike!
Other than this café, there are no shops in the area. Any trail snacks will have to be purchased in advance – this includes water. Bring enough fluids to last the duration of your hike or carry a water filter if you wish to drink from streams.
Snowdon Watkin Path Bonus Tips
Consider stretching before you summit the Snowdon Watkin Path. Warming up your muscles and ligaments is a good way to prevent injuries. The final few hundred metres of scrambling will require more athleticism and dynamic movement than your standard hike. As a result, it can help if you prepare for this by incorporating some additional stretches into your pre-hike rituals!