Author – Kerry Maskell from YouTube channel – Drunk On Wanderlust
The Snowdonia Way – I had never heard of it before until one of my YouTube subscribers suggested it. I was looking for a challenge and this sounded perfect! I was after a beautiful, long distance hiking trail, one that I could wild camp the whole way, and this trail seemed to fit the bill.
The original Snowdonia Way is a low level route, with a secondary option to take the Mountain Route, which is far more challenging with a much greater total elevation – however it offers more dramatic scenery and picturesque views.
The Mountain Route is 120 miles in length with a total elevation of 33075 ft, which travels the entire length of the Snowdonia National Park, taking in some of the most famous mountains – including Mount Snowdon itself.
I decided to hike the entire Mountain Route option, which ended up being one of the biggest yet most challenging adventures of my life!
The Hiiker app breaks down the trail into stages over 9 days, however because I started the trail late in the afternoon of my first day, and wanted to wild camp as much as possible on the summits of mountains, we didn’t stick exactly to these stages. It ended up taking me 12 days to complete.
We arrived at Machynlleth station late afternoon and immediately it started chucking it down with rain! This however didn’t dampen our spirits as we were really excited. We only planned to walk 7 and a half miles that day as we intended on wild camping at the summit of Tarrenhendre, which was 634m and just over half way through Stage 1. Compared to the rest of the trail, this was a very gentle start although it didn’t feel like it at the time – we were already shattered as we were out of practise! We had a few comedy moments on the way up but the scenery was beautiful and we had a fantastic first night of wild camping on the summit.
We woke up to a lovely surprise – the rain had stopped! Everything looked so much prettier in the sunshine. We had 4 miles to go that morning to complete Stage 1 and reach the town of Abergynolwyn. Top tip for this route – waterproof boots, trousers and gaiters! When we reached the town, there were no shops open anywhere to restock on supplies, so also bear this in mind. It was time to start Stage 2, which was a long section at 14 miles in length. Again we were going to break it down as we planned to wild camp 893m up at the summit of Cadair Idris.
We found a few nice spots for Charlotte to wild swim heading towards the mountain. We took the pony path up to the summit and there were plenty of places to fill up your water bottles. One thing we noticed was how much we were relying on the GPS map as this trail is not sign posted, and a lot of sections don’t even have paths to follow! This being said, we were also very aware of how stunning this trail was even compared to more famous routes we’d done recently such as the Great Glen way or the Cumbria Way. We set up camp just before reaching the summit on a lovely flat bit of ground and took in the views. Both myself and Charlotte realised we’d underestimated this trail – we were absolutely shattered, but still loving every minute!
We awoke to a very misty morning, but as we made our way across the summits of this mountain range into the town of Dolgellau the clouds parted and we soon were in shorts and vest tops enjoying the sunshine. This section was incredible, with fantastic views and heaps of wildlife! I really recommend you watch the videos for a more detailed look of the trail! There were plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants in the town, so after stuffing our faces we made a start on Stage 3.
This was the most beautiful section of the trail so far – heading up towards Y Garn. The views out to sea were superb. So far the trail had been pretty isolated, which we loved! I’m assuming it’s not as well known as some of the more famous routes. We had a great wild camp, 629m up right next to the trig point at the summit of Y Garn, where we witnessed the most glorious sunset.
Making our way down Y Garn was an adventure in itself! There was no clear path, so we spent hours sliding down on our bums, falling into holes due to uneven ground, and even a spot of bouldering. It was pure comedy but it did set us back quite a few hours so allow yourself extra time for any episodes like this! Luckily we saw the funny side and once down, the rest of the walk into town was pretty straightforward. We reached Trawsfynydd and stocked up on supplies before starting Stage 4, however it was now quite late in the day. We crossed over the footbridge leading out of town across a large lake which was beautiful although we did have to cross a field of scary cows to get there! Originally, we had hoped to wild camp on the summit of Moel Ysgyfarnogod, however we were rapidly losing daylight so found a spot behind an old ruined building at the foot of the mountain range instead.
We spent the early morning trudging through marshy bog before a steep scramble up the mountain, we noticed we had now joined The Cambrian Way. Once we were up we passed some picturesque lakes on the mountain tops which were perfect to have a quick dip and cool off from the summer heat. This section was truly glorious, the trail literally got better with each day. By the time we reached the town of Penhrin, we were starving so stopped off and had a lovely meal in a restaurant there. Once again we were slightly behind on time so only managed a couple of miles of Stage 5 before the sunset, and pitched up by some woodland for a good night’s sleep.
After five nights wild camping, I woke up feeling a bit drained and we were both suffering from blisters. Today was going to be quite a demanding day – 16 miles and 4156 ft of elevation! Stage 5 takes you around a gorgeous reservoir in the mountains where you then join up with the Snowdonia Slate Trail, and see some of the old slate buildings before tackling the highest summit of this stage at 689m – Cnicht. This was my personal favourite part of the entire route – a proper scramble across a narrow ridge – Charlotte’s anxiety was through the roof but the views were to die for! Speaking of dying, we had a scary experience when we took the wrong path down the mountain and almost dropped off a sheer edge – luckily we survived and could laugh about it afterwards! However, words of advice, keep your eye on the GPS map! We were a little shaken up by this experience and didn’t quite make it into Beddgelert, so camped in some woods just outside town.
How exciting, today we would be climbing Mount Snowdon! We hurried into town to restock. The route to town takes you alongside a beautiful river with some lovely waterfalls and Instagram-worthy spots. After leaving Beddgelert, you continue another few miles until you reach the start of the Watkin Path heading up Snowdon. You pass a fantastic river full of waterfalls and cascading pools at the start of the climb, however it is a popular route so is very busy. Luckily, at the top of the waterfall you leave the Watkin Path and follow a less popular route to summit. We decided to camp half way up by the reservoir and enjoyed a lovely wild camp on Mount Snowdon.
An early start to summit Snowdon was a wise idea! We avoided the crowds and had an epic morning appreciating the stunning views on the way to the top. Some parts were quite the scramble especially with a full 18kg pack! But we made it and managed to get a photo at the top before the hoards of hikers appeared. The route down was easier as the trail takes you down the Pyg track, but the scenery was very pretty. Unfortunately, disaster struck halfway down, I twisted my knee quite badly and hobbled down the last section to Pen-Y-Pass car park, completing the stage but unable to go on any further 😦
We had to abandon the trail for a few weeks to allow my knee to heal!! However after 7 nights wild camping, a bubble bath and night in my own bed softened the blow.
After a few weeks moping around at home I was ready to head back up to wales and complete the route. We arrived back at Pen-Y-Pass car park and made our way down The Valley. Charlotte had been unable to make this section so I had brought my friend Emma. Compared to the last few stages, it was less challenging but the views towards the summit of Moel Siabod were gorgeous! We witnessed a lovely sunset by the trig point and made our way down the other side as far as we could before losing daylight and settling down to wild camp a few miles short of Capel Curig.
We reached Capel Curig quite early and spent some time enjoying the beautiful lake. Emma had to head home as she had work, so I continued onto stage 8 alone but in high spirits. Now this section was awesome! Each peak in the mountain range was unique, some with huge boulders to scramble up and some with jagged sharp rock formations that made the landscape look other worldly. A herd of wild mountain goats with huge horns came to say hello as I took a lunch break. This stage was demanding to say the least, 4993ft of elevation, constantly either climbing or descending, but I have to admit, my favourite stage of the trail.
I pitched up my tent at the summit of Foel Goch 831m up and was treated to a glorious sunset.
Another amazing sunrise! The video footage I managed to get on this trail really was some of the most gorgeous I had ever taken. Coming down the mountain range into Bethesda took an eternity, there were some extremely steep sections, and after a few minor slips and falls, my knee had started to ache again. I had also ripped my trousers to shreds sliding down certain parts on my bum to save my knee! But I restocked and had a nice meal in town and started to feel far more positive. I did, however have to make a hard decision to miss out a section of the last stage as my knee injury was really hurting again and I honestly couldn’t face anymore steep descents for the day, I felt sad about this but had to be sensible and caught a train to the next town along and joined back up with the trail at an easier point. I encountered wild horses and wonderful views out to sea and set up camp on a cliff side a few miles outside of Conwy.
I had started to feel pretty ill in the night, and woke up sweating and shivering, thinking I had just caught a chill I pressed on into Conwy. What a wonderful end to the trail, the sight of Conwy castle towered in the distance as I limped towards the finish line. I had done it!!! Turns out, my chill had actually been the start of the dreaded Covid! so I spent the next week tucked up in bed recovering, but nothing could detract from the elation I felt for finishing the trail, what an epic adventure it had been.
Below you’ll find a day by day account of my experiences on the trail. I also have a full video of my adventure on my YouTube channel ‘Drunk on Wanderlust’
The Snowdonia Way Mountain Route Part 1
The Snowdonia Way Mountain Route Part 2
The Snowdonia Way Mountain Route Part 3