Snowdon summit walks from Llanberis – without relying on the Llanberis Path

If you’re based in Llanberis and thinking of walking up England and Wales’s highest mountain, you could be forgiven for thinking your only option is the Llanberis Path. But there are three route variations you can take from the village when tackling Snowdon, with all three taking you into quiet country.

Ready for a little adventure?

Snowdon Summit via Llechog Ridge

Instead of following the Llanberis Path, keep left and instead follow the broad, grass-and-rock ridge of Llechog as far as Clogwyn Station, where the Llanberis Path and the Snowdon Mountain Railway bunch together on a narrow spine of rock.

Take the forestry track opposite Royal Victoria Hotel rather than the village street as your starting point. Follow it to the café at Pen y Ceunant. You then need to follow the Llanberis Path as far as the gate. Beyond the gate, the path takes a near-90 degree turn to the right. You keep left, and find your own way onto Llechog!

Head for the grassy plateau of Derlwyn or stay below it, keeping the railway to your right. There is a fence line you can follow with a faint path alongside it. Ascend towards the summit of Llechog and enjoy the views down into the Pass of Llanberis. After rejoining the path at Clogwyn and going under the railway on the Llanberis Path, veer left again shortly after up a steep grassy slope that brings you to the summit of Garnedd Ugain. Here you’ll join the fearless bunch that have tackled Crib Goch. If Snowdon summit is likely to be busy, Garnedd Ugain makes a great alternative stop for a picnic.

To return, retrace your steps, take the Llanberis Path, or even take the train.

GPS users can grab the GPX track data for this walk here.

Snowdon Summit via Moel Eilio

Unlike the Llechog ridge walk which pretty much runs parallel to the Llanberis Path, this walk via Moel Eilio and the Ranger Path effectively adds a second mountain to your walk up Snowdon. Make sure you allow plenty of time for this big circular walk and have enough energy to tackle the second half of the Ranger Path having already ascended 726m-high Moel Eilio. There is, however, an escape path back to Llanberis before you reach the Ranger Path, so you can cut your walk short if needs be.

Take the village road opposite Royal Victoria Hotel following walkers’ signs for the Llanberis Path, but halfway along this road turn right and go under the Snowdon Mountain Railway viaduct. Here, take the track on the left marked “Waterfalls”. Ignore the oath on the left – unless you want to visit the falls – and follow the lane. It’s steep to start but levels out as you cross fields and arrive at the good track where you turn right and follow this to another track, when you keep straight on.

Follow the track to the quarry at Bwlch-y-groes and at the gate take the path left up the long, wide northern ridge of Moel Eilio. This climb takes about an hour or so.

After resting in the huge rock shelter, head towards the fence you crossed and follow it down to a stile over a stone wall. Keep to the highest part of the ridge as the path is fairly indistinct here. The final minor summit on the ridge is Foel Goch – you can go over it, or skirt its southern side to reach Bwlch Maesgwm.

You can take the left path here and head back down to Llanberis – but you’d be missing out on Snowdon itself! Instead, descend towards the Ranger Path (very obvious) and now follow the zig-zags up and towards the Llanberis Path, which you join after crossing (with care!) the railway by a marker stone. Walk to the summit, or if you’ve had enough for the day, return down the Llanberis Path or even the Llechog ridge as described above.

GPS users can download the GPX data here.

Snowdon Summit via Moel Cynghorion

In this article we describe a circular walk taking in Moel Eilio and Moel Cynghorion, which is a great option if the cloud is down on Snowdon summit or you fancy a much quieter walk. Alternatively, the route described here misses out Moel Eilio, taking the path into Bwlch Maesgwm instead.

From the centre of Llanberis village, leave the main street via Fford Capel, keep left by the chapel and follow the lane past the youth hostel. Keep going as far as Brithdir and then onto the maintained path up into Maesgwm, between the peaks of Foel Goch on your right and your next destination – Moel Cynghorion -to your left.

At the Bwlch, turn left by a wall and walk steeply up to Cynghorion’s 674m summit. Descend southeast off the summit to Bwlch Cwm Brwynog where you will find two stiles in the fence. Take the right hand style and drop down the grassy slope to pick up the Ranger Path below the zig-zags. Now take this easy-to-follow path – a tough climb, mind! – to the summit of Snowdon.

The detailed description here adds a further variation to this walk, following the base of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu cliffs around the lake and up to join the Llanberis Path at Clogwyn station, before returning via the Ranger Path.

How to enjoy a car-free break to North Wales

You can leave Manchester or Liverpool and be checking-in to the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis within three hours. From Euston in London, you can be gazing up in awe at Snowdon within four hours. These times are by taking a train to Bangor and then a taxi to Llanberis – no car! No motorway! No traffic jams!

With Snowdonia, Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula making up a relatively compact area, and Llanberis at its heart, it’s easy to leave the car at home and enjoy a fabulous break at our hotel. And by not driving, you can look through the window and fully appreciate our stunning scenery.

This article provides a brief summary of the options you have if you choose to leave your car at home.

Getting here without a car

The quickest and easiest way to get to Snowdonia is by train. Bangor is the best jumping-off point, though there’s a really scenic alternative you can take – more of which later.

From Manchester it takes about two and and a half hours. There are a couple of direct services to Bangor but most trips will involve a change at Chester. You follow the North Wales coast for long stretches, with great views of beaches and mountains along the way. The stretch from Colwyn Bay to Bangor is especially scenic, passing Conwy Castle and Snowdonia’s northern flanks.

From Liverpool you can catch regular Merseyrail services to Chester and change there. Total journey times will vary from two to three hours.

Services from Manchester are operated by Transport for Wales, with Merseyrail from Liverpool. In all cases you can optionally join the Virgin London-Holyhead service at Chester, which tends to skip a lot of stops and gets you into Bangor a little quicker.

Speaking of London, the quickest Virgin service from Euston takes just three hours and 15 minutes to get to Bangor. It stops at Milton Keynes and Crewe only before arriving at Chester, bringing North Wales within easy reach from these areas too.

National Express runs a direct coach (375) from the bus station at Liverpool One to Bangor, but there’s no direct equivalent from Manchester. Taking a coach from London’s Marble Arch involves only one change (Birmingham) but is a less attractive nine hours long!

From Bangor, a taxi will cost between £20 and £25 and take 20 minutes, or the number 85 or 86 bus will pick you up outside the railway station and 50 minutes later will drop you off within 100 yards of the Royal Victoria Hotel.

What about that scenic alternative we mentioned? You’ll need to give yourself plenty of time for this, but with some pretty special scenery on offer, you’ll want to make the journey part of your holiday anyway! Leave your train at Llandudno Junction and take the beautiful Conwy Valley line south to Betws-y-Coed (30 minutes). Here you can catch the Snowdon Sherpa Bus (S2) which takes you through Capel Curig, down windswept Dyffryn Mymbyr with its iconic views of the Snowdon Horseshoe, then up to Pen-y-Pass and through the boulder-strewn landscape of Llanberis Pass. The bus takes just 40 minutes and drops you about 100 yards from the hotel’s front door. Time it right and you could take a break at Betws-y-Coed, enjoy some lunch and a stroll over Pont-y-Pair bridge. What a way to start your break!

Exploring North West Wales without a car

Llanberis makes a great central base from which to explore northern Snowdonia, Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy day-trips to Conwy Castle and Llandudno, Pwllheli, Porthmadog and Beaumaris on Anglesey. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the village to find so many things to do.

If you want to explore further, you can. Buses 85 and 86 back to Bangor will give you access to Anglesey. Two services to look out for from Bangor are the number 42 bus which takes a circular route to Llangefni past some of the best beaches the island has to offer, Newborough/Llanddwyn and Aberffraw. At Newborough you will be faced with a good 30-minute walk to the beach, if you follow the forest road. But why do that when you can explore the forest instead? It’s a beautiful walk and should be part of your day out. Similarly, at Aberffraw you’ll have a 10 minute walk along the creek to the beach, or longer if you choose to wander the extensive sand dunes.

In the opposite direction, a bewildering array of bus numbers will bring you to Beaumaris in 40 minutes. Slightly further afield, the 62 bus follows the Anglesey coast as far as Cemaes, bringing its beach and harbour, the historic harbour at Amlwch, the pretty village of Moelfre and the sandy bay at Benllech within your reach.

Don’t forget you can hop on a train from Bangor to visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (literally the next stop after Bangor) or, a few stops further towards Holyhead, Rhosneigr and its beaches.

To explore the mountains, the Sherpa service we mentioned earlier is your best bet. The S2 gives you access to The Miners and Pyg tracks up Snowdon (as well as the Crib Goch ridge) from Pen-y-Pass. At Pen-y-Pass you can change to the S4 Sherpa which runs a service along Snowdon’s south-eastern side via Beddgelert. This service will bring you to Snowdon’s Watkin, Rhyd Ddu and Ranger Paths, and also opens up walks up Moel Hebog and onto the Nantlle Ridge. For the latter, you could enjoy the linear ridge walk from Rhyd Ddu and catch the 1N from Nantlle village back to Caernarfon.

If you want to head south and explore parts of the Llyn Peninsula, grab the 88 bus from Llanberis to Caernarfon. The number 12 is a good service to take to Pwllheli (45 minutes), and gives access to the Yr Eifl (Rival) mountains.

Meanwhile, from Caernarfon, the number 5 will take you in the opposite direction, via Bangor, to Conwy (1hr 15mins) and Llandudno (1hr 35mins), stopping at Aber (for falls, 45mins), Llanfairfechan (50mins) and Dwygyfylchi (1hr, near Penmaenmawr).

Don’t forget that you can also catch the Welsh Highland Railway from a new station near Caernarfon Castle for one of the most scenic narrow-gauge railway journeys in the UK.

With a little careful planning you can explore so much of North West Wales without a car. Make a note of Gwynedd Council’s bus timetables page as services change frequently. The Bus Times website is also a useful reference, as is this bus map for planning ahead.

Happy travels!

Image courtesy: © Copyright Stephen McKay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.