Looking for a slightly more challenging and less touristy route up to the top of Snowdon? Well, I’ve got just the route for you, the Rhyd Ddu Path.
It has a fraction of the foot traffic of popular routes like PYG, Miners and Llanberis. Although it’s not for the fainthearted, there is an exposed ridge walk to contend with that could get sketchy should bad weather roll in.
Spoiler alert: With its striking mountain scenery and steep drops Rhyd Ddu is my favourite of the six main trails to Snowdon’s Summit.
The Llwybr Rhyd Ddu route starts just outside the small village of Rhyd Ddu to the west of the Snowdonia Massif. The first mile is gentle enough but then it gets going as you hit the rocky Llechog ridge and start to climb properly.
Llechog will take you up to the main event, the Bwlch Main, which translates very appropriately as “narrow pass” which it very much is. Then you’re there, standing on the top of Yr Wyddfa batting the seagulls away from your precious Nik Naks.
You can find the route here on AllTrails.
Boring answer but a car is the most convenient. Although that said, the Sherpa’r Wyddfa bus service is a great option too. It has buses that pick up and drop off hikers at each of the six main routes to the Snowdon Summit.
Using the Sherpa’r also frees you up to go up one route and down another.
The path starts at the Maes Parcio Rhyd Ddu which charges £3 for 4 hrs (or £6 for a day). You can pay with your contactless card.
No booking a week in advance is necessary like the Pen Y Pass car park. No booking at all is necessary. Rhyd Ddu is not one of the main “superhighways” up the hill like PYG and Miners.
The car facility here has toilets, in a real building no less. Not just portaloos like the Snowdon Ranger trailhead. So you can still do your business in windy weather without fear of being blown over.
That said, the bogs here are not of the same standard as those at the Pen Y Pass. But you pay £20 to park there so you’d expect gold-plated loo brushes and a shoulder massage while you relieve yourself of unnecessary climbing weight pre-hike.
Another day, another path up Snowdon. This is my third ascent in a little over a week. And I’ve got two more to do before this week’s out.
In the last 7 days, I’ve been up the PYG track and the Snowdon Ranger Path to the top of Snowdon, with a detour to the top of Moel Siabod thrown in for good luck.
Yesterday we’d taken it easy with a Sunday jaunt to one of Snowdonia National Park’s most majestic waterfalls, the mighty Aber Falls. But today I was back for another punishing leg day on Rhyd Ddu.
Sidenote – See all my write-ups of the main Snowdon routes.
Why all this frantic hiking? Well, we’re on a hiking holiday for one. And, secondly, my girlfriend Sara and I are in training for the infamous 24-hour Three Peaks challenge in two weeks. And like Everest conqueror Edmund Hillary, we are using Snowdon to get our legs and lungs ready.
My first two hikes up Snowdon last week I’d done with Sara, Alas she had to do a bit of work today – somebody has to earn some money to pay for all the Nik Naks I eat on these hikes – so I was hitting the slopes of Snowdon on my tod.
While I much prefer hiking with a companion – muddy fields of Sandstone trail are less muddy and steep slopes are somehow less steep when you are chatting away discussing the mysteries of the universe with someone you know – I do also enjoy a good solo hike.
There’s nothing like mountain air to clear your head. Plus, now I was on my own I intended to test myself a little and push my hairy legs a little bit more than I can do when I’m with Sara.
Not that Sara’s not in peak condition, just the opposite. It’s just her little lady legs are quite a bit shorter than my oversized tree trunks.
The bonny banks of Llyn y Gadair.
I pulled into the mostly empty car park around 8:30 am just as a couple of other cars were arriving. It was instantly clear that this is a much less popular hike than the bustling PYG Track and Miners Track.
It was another in a long line of beautiful blue sky days in Snowdonia. I was sun creamed up, I had 4 litres of water and enough Nik Naks to feed a small army. I was ready to crush my way up the mountain.
I crossed the railway track which apparently isn’t the Snowdon Mountain Railway Line that can take you up to the top of Snowdon but part of the Ffestiniog Welsh Highland Railway that chugs tourists into Rhyd Ddu station and around Snowdonia on olden-style steam trains.
Who knew?! Not me. Not until now. It looks like a great day out.
And then the hike began. The initial climb from the car park felt similar to that on the Ranger’s Path, steep for a while and then getting more gentle. Within a few minutes, I was looking down at the lovely lake of Llyn y Gadair.
The path at this point is wide and gravelly. It weaves up and around the environment cutting a path through giant boulders.
The first mile or so of the hike used to be used by workers from the Cwm Llan Slate Quarry.
Out of the three hikes climbing Yr Wyddfa I’ve done up to the summit so far, I think I enjoyed the beginning of this one the best. I loved the rocky terrain and how the path weaved and I wasn’t sure what I was going to find around the next corner.
This route was once known as the Beddgelert Path and was used as the first official ascent of Snowdon way back in 1639. So it has some heritage to it.
There it is there, that big tall thing in the background.
And then I came to this rock signpost for the Rhyd Ddu path and looming imposingly in the background was my destination, the Roof of Wales.
Hey there Snowdon, get ready, I’ll be standing on your head soon.
Time to rock out.
After the gate, the gravel path turned into your more traditional rocky path. I had great fun leaping from one to the next.
I was making good time and my heart was starting to pound but I continued to push on. It felt so good to be moving in the morning air with the sun shining down. What a day!
I believe around this point I’d passed 3 groups, which corresponded to the three cars in the car park. Not that it’s a race.
Then came the steep bits.
A fluffy land cloud with a real cloud behind it.
After a steep half mile or so I reached the Llechog Ridge. Instead of the views down to the three lakes in Cwm Clogwyn a few hundred metres below I had expected, I got an awesome cloud dancing performance instead.
To the right, I had blue skies and sun shining down on the lowlands but then in the cwm to the left below was cloud everywhere. Unfortunately, I couldn’t capture the true magic of the scene with my camera.
But hey, that’s why we do these things in real life, isn’t it? So we can experience ephemeral moments of wonder that AI will never be able to replicate.
Nice photo of a pile of rocks for you here. You’re welcome!
Once again my photography lets me down, but that’s the cloud down to the left wafting out of Cwm Clogwyn. It looks a bit like a volcano here doesn’t it?!
It looked so cool in fact that I had to take one of my world-famous mini-world shots.
You can’t see the cloud phenomenon here, but hey, it still looks cool!
I continued up and looking back the way I came back down the Llechog Ridge the views were massive. Here you can see Snowdonia laid out below to the west and the cloud stuck in the cwm to the east.
For those of you not down with Welsh mountain lingo. A cwm is the Welsh version of a corrie, which itself is the English version of a cirque in French.
Whatever the name, geographically it’s the deep bowl-shaped area you find on a lot of mountains. They were formed by glacial activity back in the day.
It’s usually the cliffy bit below you as you hike on the ridgeline of mountains, the bit you are worried you will fall into and hit every rock on the way down Homer Simpson style.
And today it was filled with clouds.
Snowdon looking very dramatic today.
Just as I began a real steep zig-zag section before reaching the top of Clawwd Coch, I got swallowed by the clouds and the temperature took a perceptible drop.
Nothing to worry about but it was a little unnerving. I was about to hit the Bwlch Main ridge and the one thing I didn’t want there was bad weather. Eek!
Ah Snowdon, apparently you can see Ireland from here on a good day!
Not that I could see it thanks to the clouds but there is another route up Snowdon that joins the trail from the south ridge here at the top of Cawwd Coch,
It ascends the ridge from Allt Maenderyn (which translates as south ridge) and then follows the same route as the Rhyd Ddu Path to the peak.
I mention it as it forms part of the Cambrian Way, a 298-mile route from Cardiff to Conwy that takes in pretty much every mountain in Wales. And I mention that just in case you are looking for hikes to add to your bucket list.
It takes about 3 weeks to complete. If you want more info check out the official website. But be warned it is a seriously old-school site that may trigger immediate headaches and eye bleeding.
Anyway, back to the trail. It’s time for the main event.
Talk about gorillas in the mist eh!?
After the steep section to Cawwd Coch, your legs and lungs get a little bit of respite as you step out onto the Bwlch Main ridgeline.
Bwlch Main connects Clawdd Coch and Yr Wyddfa. It’s a lot of fun and it definitely gives you “I’m on an adventure” vibes that I hadn’t had on the other routes.
There are serious drops on both sides. The type of drop where you’d be falling for long enough to make a few goodbye calls.
But don’t worry it’s not too narrow, you’ll be fine. Today even with considerable clouds rolling in I felt completely safe. And to be honest I’m a blundering oaf who trips over every cat, no matter how fat.
If however a sudden storm had hit or even high winds as they did on my Llanberis Path hike to the peak just a few days after this, then it would’ve been a very different story. I would’ve felt very exposed.
I can see why the Snowdonia National Park Authority guys recommend only the most experienced walkers attempt it in the winter conditions. I would be going nowhere near these exposed sections on a sketchy weather day.
Always have warm and weatherproof gear in your bag, no matter how sunshiny it may be down at the car.
The path forks, pick a lane, people.
At the end of the Blwch Ridge walk you’re practically at the summit. One last steep push for the last half mile and you’re there.
Maybe just 200 or 300 metres before the summit the Rhyd Ddu Path and the Watkin Path come together. This looks like a fun route that summits from the south, but alas one I won’t get to try this time.
Just as the two paths came together I fell into stride alongside a nice fella who came up that route. I didn’t ask his name so I’ll just call him Dr Watkins.
This was Dr Watkin’s 12th time up Snowdon. The last stretch to the peak is hella steep so it was nice to share the pain with someone. It was also timely to make a friend just before the peak as it meant I had someone on hand to take my victory photo at the trig point.
There I am now. Dweeping it up!
I have no idea why my eyes are so red! I’d pushed it quite hard to get to the top in a barn-busting time of 1 hr 39 mins. Which could explain it.
Or maybe I’d squeezed the latches on my backpack too hard in an effort to look cool. Yeah, probably the second one.
I do look cool though, don’t I?! Not at all like a hiking dweeb.
Note to self: get branded Hiker Hero cap made.
Ah Yr Wyddfa, come for the views, stay for the seagull attacks.
The visitor’s centre, the Hafod Eryri, has been shut since 2019 and had six more days until its grand reopening on June 24th. I’ve been here three times in the last week and the “closed” sign on the centre has been taunting me.
I want a victory ice cream, damn it!
Hopefully, I’ll get to visit it whilst I’m still in Snowdonia. That said, I’ve mixed feelings about their being a summit building at all. It kinda ruins the “I’ve conquered nature” vibe a little when there’s a gift shop and cafe.
At the very least I think if you’ve built a gift shop then you should at least have it open. Otherwise, it’s just an eyesore! Anywho, old man grumble over.
Not that anybody on the peak today was seeing much. Snowdonia National Park was below us somewhere but all we could see was the inside of a big cloud.
Scampi ‘n’ Lemon. Controversial choice I know but hey, give them a go.
I chilled out at the top for a bit, not enjoying the views as there was none thanks to the cloud. But just enjoying watching the hikers milling around looking pleased with themselves.
A week ago I’d never seen the top of Snowdon and now it is starting to feel like my second home. I’d even started getting nods of recognition from the seagulls. They were like “Alright Mike, back again! Got any Nik Naks mate?”
Wiping the scampi ‘n’ lemon crisp dust from my mouth I tightened my bag straps even more and set off on my descent. Back the way I came.
One of my favourite things in life is leaping from rocks and scrambling down mountains quickly and the Rhyd Ddu Path does not disappoint in this regard.
I find it’s a balancing act between getting down quickly without taking big risks. Nobody wants to have an accident and be stretchered off the hill. At least not until the train is running again in a few days.
The trail was by no means busy but I did pass a few people on the way down including one chap who was on his first-ever hike up Snowdon.
It was his 65th birthday today and he said he hadn’t planned to climb Snowdon. He was just on holiday in Snowdonia with his friends and yesterday he’d looked up and said: “Let’s climb that tomorrow!”.
As it was his birthday they couldn’t say no.
I loved this spontaneousness. Even at his slightly more advanced age, he was pushing himself outside his comfort zone. Inspirational stuff.
I would’ve loved to have hung out and chatted more with my new mountain friend but I was flying down.
Once I’d scrambled back down the rocky sections of the hike, I reached the gravel path. I had to slow it down as although the incline was less steep the footing was more precarious.
I was below the clouds again and the sun was blazing again. By the time I reached the still almost empty Rhyd Ddu car park, I had quite the sweat on.
I checked my Alltrails app, I was up and back in 2 hrs 58 mins. I liked the sub-3-hour part of the time.
I reckon if I really pushed it, cut out all the friend-making, and didn’t dilly-dally at the summit, I could’ve been up and down in under 2hr 30 mins. But I’d probably need a few more packs of Nik Naks for that.
So there we have it, even with the cloud obscuring the magnificent views for half the hike I have to say so far Rhyd Ddu Path takes the win for my fave route out of the three I’ve done to date.
It was way more adventurous and dramatic than the gentle Snowdon Ranger’s Path. And it was so much quieter than the PYG Track.
I’m going to do the Llanberis Path and Miners Track paths later this week, maybe even the Watkin Path if I can make time. But to be honest, I think they are going to have to be pretty exceptional to beat the Llwybr Rhyd Ddu to first place.
But I’ve an open mind. Bring them on!
Until then dear readers, keep building castles in the sky!
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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