Find yourself in North Wales looking for a mountain to climb. Do you want expansive views of Snowdonia National Park but without the crowds of Snowdon itself? Well, then the 872-metre Moel Siabod is your answer.
Somewhat of a lonely mountain, Moel Siabod is last in the Moelwynion Range and one of the finest viewpoints there is for admiring the Snowdonia Horseshoe. From the summit, you can see 13 of the 14 tallest points in Wales without even turning your head.
The hike up and down offers glass-still lakes and old quarry ruins, plus a good old-fashioned rocky scramble to the peak. It has a bit of everything and chances are you will have it all to yourself.
There are a few Moel Siabod routes, such as the so-called “direct route” or “tourist path” starting near Plas Brenin and the Joe Brown shop in the centre of Capel Curig. That sees you ascend from the gentle northeast direction and will have you up and back in under 4 hours.
But who wants direct and gentle when you have a free day and glorious Welsh countryside to explore? We wanted the longer, more adventurous route, so we opted for one called the Moel Siabod Circular and we did it in a nice clockwise fashion and I recommend you do the same.
It will take along the south face of the mountain, through the cwm (Welsh for valley), where Llyn-y-Foel Lake lies. Before a relatively steep scramble just past the Daear Ddu Ridge to the summit. The descent will take you on an extended scramble down over the northeastern ridgeback.
Braver souls can tackle the Daear Ddu Ridge straight on. But it’s for experienced hikers. We followed the route as Alltrails showed us and the final section was still a fair scramble.
Car is your easiest option and the walk we did starts at the Bryn Glo car park in Pont Cyfyng, which my friends, is free! Booyah!
Coming by public transport is also an option, a quick search tells me the S1, T10 buses will drop you off at Cobden`s Hotel which is just a few hundred metres from the trailhead at Cyfyng Falls.
A sturdy pair of hiking shoes is a must. This is not a hill to faff about on in flip-flops or flimsy footwear. There is a bog to navigate and scrambling to be done. So lace up folks.
Apart from that bring the usual, warm clothes, a light coat, sun cream and more water than you think. If you have hiking sticks then bring them along, they will come in useful.
If you’ve read my Snowdon Pyg Track post you would know I blathered on at length about the necessity to prebook the Pen Y Pass car park. Well guess what, we were supposed to be climbing Snowdon again today by the Miners Track but I forgot to pre-book the car park. Doh!
Well, that’s not strictly true. I tried to book last night but it turns out the car park is full for the next five days straight! From Thursday through Monday. Jeez, alright popular hill!
Now we could’ve easily caught the bus up to Pen Y Pass or even parked at the bottom of the hill and walked the extra 20 minutes (saving ourselves 20 squids in the process). What’re twenty extra minutes in a six-hour walk? But no, we pivoted. We pivoted hard.
Instead of Snowdon, we decided to tackle another of Snowdonia National Park’s big beasts, the mighty and poetically named Moel Siabod. Which translates to “Shapely Hill” or “Bald Hill”, depending on who you ask. I prefer shapely. Just like my head.
The drive to the foot of Moel Siabod was a roller coaster of emotions. If you’ve read the PYG track article you’ll know Sara (my girlfriend and hiking partner) had broken one of her Mum’s treasured walking sticks.
One of the sticks that had survived hiking the Great Wall of China with her Mum but hadn’t survived 5 minutes in Sara’s company.
Well (shock, horror) now Sara had 2 broken hiking sticks!
As I drove the twisty lanes, Sara frantically twisted the sticks this way and that, breaking them apart and putting them back together again over and over in increasing displays of hopelessness. Randomly after about 15 mins of the drive, something clicked and the stick was fixed!
Wait what?! If one could be fixed, perhaps they both could be. Sara picked up the second and was twisting and twisting until that too clicked and the second stick was fixed.
Risen from the dead! Huzzah. This was a good omen for the day’s hike ahead. Now the day was full of promise.
After the disappointment of not being about to bag a spot in Snowdon’s Pen Y Pass car park, we were delighted to find Moel Siabod had the large, free and almost empty Bryn Glo car park waiting for us.
Now it didn’t have a visitor’s centre, a warden’s hut, free wifi or any of those fancy pants Snowdon amenities but it did have parking spaces. But don’t despair if you arrive hungry. There are a bunch of nice spots to grab food just up the A5 between Pont-Cyfyng and Capel Curig.
We did just this after our hike and went to Moel Siabod cafe and had a mighty all-day breakfast which I highly recommend. I took an incredibly sexy influencer snap of the food for you but I’ll save it until the end of the article so keep reading and don’t disappear to find some bacon.
Sara and her sticks, both risen from the dead. Praise the lord!
Out of the car park, we followed the main road for a few moments through Pont Cyfyng until turning left over a bridge with the truly beautiful Afon Llugwy river running under it. From here you can watch the water cascade over the Cyfyng Falls. Yep, this was going to be a good day.
After the bridge, there is a smooth sealed minor road with quite a gradient to it. This hike isn’t hanging around. None of that easing you into nonsense. It’s straight into the calve burn zone.
It was just after 8 am so this steep start was just what we needed to wake us up.
We were hitting the trail early today to avoid the heat. Our Snowdon Pyg Track hike two days previous had almost cremated us and the weather forecast was predicting another scorching 26/27℃ day, so we were taking no chances.
We were laden with 3 litres of water each and dipped ourselves in at least a litre of sun cream.
3 litres of water might sound like a lot to lug up a mountain but we drank almost all of it. And it’s always better to over-prepare than be caught short. I didn’t want another dry mouth disaster like on the third day of my Sandstone Trail hike.
The view back down toward the car park. Pretty pretty eh?
After just a short distance the road turns into a footpath and before you know it you’re in full-blown mountain territory. After the relative hustle and bustle of Snowdon, we both noted how quiet it was here.
As we walked all we could hear was the gentle sound of sniffling from my drippy hayfever nose.
Oh, and the buzzing of flies. For whatever reason there were a bunch of horseflies around here. Fortunately, they seem to be attracted to Sara’s skin. Maybe because she smells better than me. Or maybe my hairy leg and arm armour dissuaded them.
Anyway, I was happy Sara was here to draw their biting jaws away from the important person, me.
About a mile into the hike, as you come up toward the foot of Moel Siabod you’ll want to veer left to follow the Alltrails route. We accidentally went right as if to do the route anti-clockwise but turned back when we realised.
Heading straight up the ridgeback here would have been the shortest route but not the one that allowed us to enjoy all the things Moel Siabod offers.
As we headed left we soon came to the large Rhos lake, in fact, a flooded slate quarry. It looked very inviting for a bit of wild swimming. Maybe another day when we don’t have a mountain to conquer.
The path continues and about half a mile after the first lake, around an hour into the climb, it was time for a sandwich & crisp combo stop.
Fortunately up ahead were the ruins of what looked like a collection of Shepherd’s huts, but which I later found were of course part of the old Foel slate quarry here.
The fact they were made out of slate and there was slate everywhere should’ve been a bit of a giveaway.
It’s a barren spot, and apparently, it wasn’t the most successful quarry of all time. This quarry nerd site goes deep into why and also explains the super steep road we walked up earlier.
We had fun exploring the ruins a little and found one with a dramatic if precarious stone roof, and a fabulous view back down to Rhos Lake.
Look at the pic, I think you will agree this is the mother of all snack spots.
Now, that’s what I call a sandwich cave.
Pow! I know. Good isn’t it?
We hung out here for a while congratulating ourselves on the find and nibbling on our snack supplies. And then of course celebrated the only way anyone should.
With a world-famous mini-world picture.
From here, fueled by NikNak energy we pressed on and immediately saw another mirror still flooded slate quarry lake.
Yep, that water is gonna be cold!
After the smaller lake, we continued toward Llyn-y-Foel, the much larger lake at the foot of the final ascent.
As we got closer to Llyn-y-Foel the hike got boggier and boggier. Initially, it was ok as the weather had been so warm recently there were dryish islands between the quagmire. But I’ve read reviews from hikers climbing Moel Siabod who have struggled with the bog here.
We were feeling quite fortunate until Sara angered the mud by jabbing her stick into it too ferociously. The mud took offence and sucked the rubber end clean off the stick with a comical slurping noise.
She then spent five minutes jabbing around in the mud trying to find it again but no luck.
Giving up, she decided to launch herself between two of the little dry islands. It was a truly beautiful leap, she looked so majestic as she floated through the air. But, alas, once again luck wasn’t with her today. She missed her target and landed with a squelch in one of the boggiest bits of the entire bog.
After that we both burst out laughing – and with Sara now caked in mud and with one stick now noticeably shorter than the other – we continued on our way.
A quick glimpse at the Alltrails route informed me we didn’t have to go this way at all, if we had taken a route slightly further from the lake’s edge we would’ve been fine. Sorry, Sara!
The stick gobbler lake is called Llyn-y-Foel. Which translates unimaginatively as “lake of the mountain”. Well, that’s about as boring as can be. This is Wales, the land of myth and legend there must be another more fun name. Oh, there is you say?!
Why of course there is. Pwll Llygad yr Ych. Say that three times fast. Which translates as Pool of the Ox’s Eye. A much cooler name.
So-called due to the legend of the dreadful Afanc. Don’t know the legend of Afanc? Well please give me a moment to Mikesplain it to you (Hi! My name’s Mike if you didn’t know).
The Afanc is kind of like Wales’ version of Nessie. If Nessie was a bad-tempered chap who caused floods when annoyed. The Afanc was captured by ticked-off farmers using none other than a pretty maiden as bait. Trussed up, the beast was dragged across Snowdonia by two mighty oxen.
One oxen was straining so hard while pulling the Afranc that his eyeball popped clean out of his head and the tears the ox shed formed the lake here at the foot of Moel Siabod.
The brave half-blind ox carried on and the Afanc was dumped into the Llyn Ffynnon Las, close to the summit of Snowdon, a lake with such steep sides the Afanc couldn’t clamber out. And that’s where he remains till this day.
I’ll be sure to look out for him when we head up to Snowdon again at the end of the week.
If you wanna read about the Afanc in more detail check out this fun page.
This photo doesn’t do it justice. Welcome to the scramble zone.
Saying goodbye to the lake and the Stick Gobbler Bog things start to get really interesting as the hike turns into a proper good old-fashioned scramble. The Alltrails route takes you just the far side of the Daear Ddu ridge scramble.
But if you are capable, feel free to take the Daear Ddu Ridge head-on. Just be careful of those drops to your right.
We followed the Alltrails route and it was plenty steep for us.
It’s steep but great fun. Watch your step if you’re one of the flimsy ankle or wispy knee brigade.
But in no short time, we were at the top. And in no short time, we left.
We would’ve loved to hang around and soak in the views, nib on some Kit Kats and you know bask in the glory of climbing a mountain but we couldn’t. Why? Cos the top of Moel Siabod was covered in one massive swarm of flies.
As we started to walk toward the trig point we noticed one or two flies buzzing around us and then by the time we reached it we were full-blown attacked. It was chaos. I just about managed to grab this wonky pic to prove we made it before I had to run for cover.
What was that all about?! If you know, let me know in the comments below. There’s probably some Welsh legend about the Flies of Siabod.
Worst summit photo of all time. Sorry. Blame the flies.
Now if you do make it to the summit on a less fly-infested day then I’m told it’s stunning up there. The views across the Snowdon Massif are astonishing.
Apparently on a clear day, like the one we had, you can see 13 of the 14 highest peaks in Wales without turning your head. All in one unbroken eyeful.
That would’ve been nice. All we had was eyes full of flies. It was like a horror film.
I don’t want this to put you off. In all the things I’ve read about Moel Siabod, I’ve never heard anyone else mention the flies so I’m presuming it’s just a one-off biblical plague that will likely have gone by the time you get up there.
Not the peak, but pretty peaky.
After a few minutes of frantic running from the horror film Plague of Flies, we came to a rest a few hundred metres from the summit and got our snack on.
The nice thing about climbing Moel Siabod clockwise is that the descent is a long drawn-out scramble down over the craggy ridge. For the next 45 minutes, we lept from rock to rock like excitable school kids.
Below you, the entire way are stunning views of Llyn-y-Foel and the Stick Gobbler Bog.
The view from the ridge to Llyn-y-Foel and the Stick Gobbler Bog.
By this point, we’d drunk most of our 6 litres of water so were considerably lighter. Plus we’d peaked and survived a vicious fly attack so spirits were high.
As fun, as the scramble up from Llyn-y-Foel to the summit had been, this section was easily our favourite.
Even without the rubber bit on her stick – so cruelly gobbled by the bog – Sara was still able to glide majestically over the rocks.
Go easy on the final descent, there is much slip potential here.
Once we were done with skipping over the rocks along the ridge we were almost done with our Moel Siabod adventure. There was just one last very steep descent left that took us back to the split in the track at the foot of the climb.
Now friends, go easy on this last descent. If like us you’re a bit giddy after the last mile and a half of fun scrambling along the ridgeline you might be tempted to descend too quickly. Don’t. Reign it in. The rocks are much craggier and slippy here.
Take it steady. Nobody wants to survive a brutal fly ambush only to turn over an ankle on a boring slippy pebble.
My “Quick take a pic of me in front of Moel Siabod which I just hiked like a legend” face.
After the steep descent, you will be back in the leisurely stroll zone. Things will level out and you will rejoin the path we’d left a few hours before to complete the circle and make our way back down to the road.
At the very bottom of the hike just by the pretty stone bridge over the river Afon Llugwy, which we’d crossed 5 hrs before, a plane flew directly above our heads and did a barrel roll.
No kidding. A fighter jet buzzed past and did a spin as if Maverick himself was congratulating us on our hike success. If that’s not the best end to a hike I don’t know what is!
Oh, actually I do, a fry-up from the Moel Siabod cafe less than a mile up the road.
The meal of champions I’m sure you’ll agree.
Apart from the flies, we loved our Moel Siabod adventure. After the busy slopes of Mt Snowdon a couple of days before it was lovely having an entire hill to ourselves again.
The terrain is varied, and little treats like the ruined quarry and the lakes add a bit of spice. Not that you should need it, the scramble sections are truly glorious.
I’m delighted that the Pen Y Pass car park was full because Moel Siabod turned out to be a brilliant last-minute substitution. Thank Snowdonia National Park, you’ve done it again!
Until next time hiker heroes – which, spoiler alert, will be Snowdon’s Ranger Track – be good to each other, be good to yourself and always watch out for angry Afancs and even angrier packs of mountain flies!
Catch you on the flip side!
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
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