The Rhyd Ddu Path descent

One day I will enjoy a view from Snowdon but until then at least the journey there and back again is always beautiful!

With every visit and season the rugged wild Welsh landscape is ever-changing and welcomes you with breath-taking views.  

On this occasion we visited as a group of friends and camped in the conveniently placed National Trust campsite, Hafod y Llan, the night before and set off for Snowdon’s summit from the campsite which links you directly with the Watkin Path. Basic but all the more beautiful for it, the campsite has camp fires, flush toilets and hot showers – what more do you need.

National Trust campsite, Hafod y Llan

The Route

Near Beddgelert, Gwynedd, Wales

Route map on HiiKER

This beautiful but tough 8.3-mile route takes in the summit of Snowdon via the Watkin Path and then descends via the Rhyd Ddu Path.

The ascent

Starting close to sea level, the Watkin Path gives you a run for your money when it comes to ascent, giving you more of a climb than any of the other direct routes, but every step is worth it for the views from every point, not to mention that it isn’t the most popular route so during the busy summer months you still have some space to breathe and can feel somewhat wild.

Sticking mostly to stone pathway and steps, the route takes in picturesque waterfalls and blue pools, the perfect place to cool off on a hot day, and there are plenty of opportunities for a snack and a view.

Despite it being a popular and well-known summit, with plenty of hikers, runners and ramblers coming and going year-round, Snowdon presents very real dangers that should never be underestimated. Whilst we ascended the last section, an area of pathless scree that requires a cautious scramble and care not to loosen too much rock for the hikers below, we watched as a teenager attempted to ‘run’ down this scree slope, slipping and tripping as he did and rolling (luckily) into a boulder which stopped him in his path. I dread to think where he would have ended up should he have continued down the steep mountainside. A lesson for all of us to slow down and take in the view a little more.

A friend who isn’t so good with heights struggled up this scree section, understandably it is considered the steepest of all ascents and when it is busy, as it is during summer it can become a little distracting thinking about your steps and those others approaching behind you, but slow and steady won the race and we all made it to the view-less windy summit with beaming smiles across our faces – as I said, a view from the summit isn’t everything!

Summit of Snowdon

The descent

The route down though, this made it for me. The stunning descent via the Rhyd Ddu Path seemed to be all ours with just the mountains stretching out before us. Considered Snowdon’s quietest route, it was proving to be true. The sky cleared, the sun appeared and we found our rhythm, enjoying a long slow descent.  

The start of the descent takes in very narrow sections of the ridgeline and are not for the faint-hearted, especially during windy conditions, so we went carefully and took every opportunity to stop and enjoy the view.

Next up, some steeper rocky sections to negotiate before the trail eases and offers a gradual decline along an old track, but as with the journey up, it is an exposed trail and sun protection as well as extra layers should be carried just in case the weather turns.

The Terrain

The trail is mostly stone steps and pathway, but the last section to the summit is scree so requires a scramble with some steeper rocky sections on the descent.   

The Watkin Path to Snowdon Summit

Things to know before you go

  • It’s an arduous but scenic hike with lots of steps, recommended for those with a reasonable level of fitness. It is also mostly exposed so be prepared with gear for all weathers, as mountainous regions have changeable conditions, even in the summer. I remember it was a constant on and off with the light layers, but essential the higher we climbed.
Tom enjoying the steps up Watkin Path
  • Accommodation can be found in nearby Beddgelert or there is the basic National Trust campsite, Hafod y Llan. Family-friendly, facilities include a small car park, hot showers, toilets and camp fires.
  • Parking – The Watkin Path starts at the Nant Gwynant car park, where there is also a cafe and toilet. Find information about other Snowdonia paths and the car parks here.
  • Be prepared and take plenty of food and water – I always want to be equipped for all eventualities and running out of fuel is a disaster in my book.
  • Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be kept on a lead.

Thank you to our friend Gareth for the photos, mine seem to have disappeared!