Starting from the picturesque shores of Llyn Cwellyn, The Snowdon Ranger is one of the six classic routes hikers use to climb Snowdon.
It takes you on a relatively leisurely near 9-mile out and back to the summit of Snowdon. Well, as leisurely as any hike to the top of the tallest mountain in England and Wales can be.
It’s a nice alternative to the so-called “superhighways” up the UK’s most popular mountain. It’s much quieter than some of the other Snowdon routes I’ve completed.
The scenery is pleasant rather than stunning but what you miss in drama on the way up you will be in better shape to enjoy at the peak.
Hikers have been walking the Ranger Route to climb Snowdon since the early 19th Century, it’s a well-trodden path so route finding shouldn’t be a problem. Although just to be safe follow the AllTrails route here.
Just point yourself in the direction of the tallest mountain and walk. For a lot of the hike, you can see the path you’ll be taking laid out ahead of you.
Easy, the hike starts at the pay-and-display car park over the road from the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel, on the merry banks of Llyn Cwellyn. At the time of writing it cost £6 for 8 hours and no pre-booking was necessary.
Be sensible and follow the general UK mountain hiking packing rules. Prepare to both get rained on and get sunburned. So that’s sunscreen and waterproof gear.
Hiking shoes are a must, no flip-flop fails, please. After that, it’s just a matter of loading up with enough snacks and enough water to last 4-5 hours.
There’s the Snowdon Mountain Railway visitor’s centre at the peak, the Hafod Eryri, also billed as the “highest re-fuelling station in England and Wales. But it’s been closed since 2019 and is only scheduled to be open again from the end of June 2023.
Today is our second time climbing to the Snowdon Summit in less than a week. Wait. What. Why?
Well, a) cos it’s awesome. And b) cos we’re in training for the Three Peaks in a few weeks so we’ve based ourselves in Snowdonia National Park to get our legs and lungs ready for the challenge.
A few days ago we clambered up the popular Pyg Track and loved it. Although I have to admit it was a little more challenging than we’d imagined. Today the destination is the same but we are taking on the much less popular Snowdon Ranger Path.
The Ranger route is 2 km longer than the PYG Track but with a much more gentle ascent. Meaning despite hiking further there’s potential we can make it up and down quicker. That’s the theory, let’s find out!
Getting a parking spot at the Pen Y Pass parking area for the PYG and Miners Tracks is like finding hen’s teeth in your bowl of unicorn tears. At the time of writing the next available spot is 4 entire days away. And it’s not even the holidays yet.
Not so for the Snowdon Ranger car park. No booking is necessary. Have a look at the arty pic below. It’s a beautiful sunny day but the car park is not even ¼ full.
Pretty right. If I was a car, I think I’d enjoy sitting here for a few hours until my owners return.
I think it would be fair to assume if you arrive here and the Ranger car park is busy then the peak is going to be absolutely bananas.
I think we paid £6 for 8 hrs parking. Not bad. Much cheaper than Pen Y Pass but then you don’t get the fancy Ranger’s hut, cafe or free wifi like you do there. There are portaloo toilets though if you need to take care of business. So yay for that!
That’s not a camel’s back, that’s Sara’s back.
Due to how hot it had been over the past week, Sara (my girlfriend and hiking partner) had invested in a Camelbak in one of the hiking shops near our digs.
A Camelbak for those not down with mountain lingo, is one of those nifty hiking packs with a built-in water reservoir. Theoretically very useful.
I had been planning to sing its praises and hopefully blag some swag from Camelbak but…well, the stupid thing went and leaked straight away didn’t it?! So we’ll be taking it back to the shop when we get back to sea level.
The Snowdon Ranger was a little-seen Welsh remake of the American TV classic The Lone Ranger, only instead of fighting outlaws our brave hero rounded up lost hikers and punished litter droppers.
That’s of course not true. The Snowdon Ranger was the name given to the mountain guides who worked here through the 19th and early 20th Centuries.
As mountaineering got more popular, visiting Victorian hikers needed knowledgeable local guides to help them conquer Snowdon and the role of the Snowdon Ranger was established to meet this demand.
A fella named John Morton supposedly coined the name, and he was the chap who opened up the Snowdon Ranger Inn. Which subsequently became the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel, in whose parking facility Sara’s Mini currently waits.
Obviously, neither John Morton nor the role of Snowdon Ranger still exists. One due to the passage of time, the other thanks to the well-established trails up the hill and all the easily available information from well-researched and award-winning (one day) blogs like this one.
But their legacy lives on in the form of the Snowdon Ranger Path.
Well hello, Llyn Cwellyn, looking fabulous in the sunshine there aren’t you?
So enough preamble, let’s amble.
We made our way up from the car park. Straight away the path crosses the railway track the cheaters would be using to the peak, and immediately started to make a somewhat steep ascent into the hills.
The path zig-zags upward for a mile or so before flattening out, rewarding you with better and better views of the stunning shores of Llyn Cwellyn below.
After this first burst of energy, the path is much more gradual than the PYG track. Much easier on the knees and lungs, although that does mean it’s way less dramatic out of the gate. Not boring, just pleasant rather than jaw-dragging on the floor stunning.
There was something about the steady accent on the path with the mountain looming in the distance that I liked. It makes you feel incredibly insignificant when you can see the mountain in its entirety ahead of you. We were just two little dots in the landscape.
As we were coming up the path between Llyn Cwellyn & Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas we could get a sense of the magnitude of Snowdon, as we could see practically the whole path laid out in front of us.
It was around here, as we were contemplating our insignificance in the world that four mountain bikers came flying down the path and tried to remove us from it. They flew past us so quickly that neither of us will need to shave for a week.
It looked like unbelievable fun. And as a road cyclist myself I was jealous of their freedom.
However it could’ve easily been a different story, and we could’ve easily been a lot flatter/deader if we’d been on a bend or a narrower part of the trail without room to hop out of the way.
It got me thinking about the so-called “voluntary ban” on cyclists that’s supposed to be in place on Snowdon between May and September.
The “voluntary ban” (a term I love by the way), is an arrangement between the Snowdonia National Park Authority and various cycling groups. where cyclists have agreed not to hit the slopes between the hours of 10 am – 5 pm during the busy Summer season.
It makes a lot of sense, cyclists can get out and enjoy the slopes in the early morning and bright evenings and we hikers can breathe easy during the middle of the day. Either these four bicycling bandits hadn’t heard about the “voluntary ban” or were rebelling against the “man”.
What a beautiful sight. And the hills aren’t bad either, har har.
Once you’ve passed the peaceful water of Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas the climb starts to ramp up at a point called Bwlch cwm Brwynog. And you’re into climbing mode with the path zig-zagging its way up once more.
About halfway up these zig-zags, we decided to stop off and eat some of our quota of snacks for the day. Starting with the people’s favourite, spicy NikNaks of course. If there’s a better hiking snack I have yet to find it!
What a beautiful sight. And the hills aren’t bad either, har har.
After losing a fight with a particularly mean section of bog while climbing nearby Moel Siabod two days earlier. A battle in which the mud had claimed the rubber sucker from the end of one of her hiking sticks. Sara was back to being a 1 stick hiker again.
This was her third hike with sticks and so far she’s a big fan. And it turns out the one-stick system probably works better for her than the two, she reports that you get sufficient support but also have a hand free to do useful stuff like eat Nik Naks and slap away flies.
Maybe I should get myself some sticks.
Snowdon Yeti spotted on the Cloggy slopes.
While you are puffing away ascending the steepest part of the hike up and over the shoulder. It’s a rocky scree path that is generally easy enough to follow.
Don’t get too close to the edge as below you somewhere to the north side is the 300-metre drop of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu. Also known as Cloggy.
Not another beast of Welsh mythology like the Afanc, Cloggy is the affectionate name given to some of the best traditional climbing cliffs in all of the UK, widely regarded as “The shrine of British climbing”.
Clogwyn Du’r Arddu by the way translates as the “black cliff of the black height” which frankly I think is fantastic. A name that tells you everything you need to know… if you understand Welsh.
Also down in the cwm, there is the little lake of Llyn Du’r Arddu and the remains of the Clogwyn Coch Copper Mines.
Blue skies, craggy rocks, smiley girlfriend, happy life.
Keep puffing away until the path finally flattens at Bwlch Glas (Green Pass).
You may notice the path suddenly gets somewhat busy here, that’s because Bwlch Glas is kinda the meeting point for hikers as all the main paths converge here.
Llanberis folk, Pyg and Miners Folk, and Snowdon Ranger Path folk all meet here. As do any brave souls who have come over the Crib Goch and Garnedd Ugainfor ridge. Or any whack jobs who’ve climbed up and over Cloggy.
Finally a bit of flat after Bwlch Glas.
Everyone comes together for the final 500 metres to the peaky peak. Apart from those who caught the Snowdon Mountain Railway Line to the top of course!
But, we don’t count them, do we? Boo to them!
Oh, hey marker stone, yes, I would love a nice copa about now!
What a difference a day makes. Today was Friday, the last time we had been standing here at Snowdon Summit was just four days previously on Monday. Both were sunny days. But the difference between the start of the week and the start of the weekend was huge.
On Monday we’d been able to saunter up to the trig point and take our sweet time over our victory selfie. Today the queue was crazy. So we just looked on from afar.
I can only begin to imagine how hectic the Snowdon Summit is on a weekend in the Summer Holidays, especially when the Snowdon Mountain Railway Line is up and running again at the end of June.
The atmosphere is fun though, it’s not like queuing for a Greggs in the rain before work, up here every one is buzzing on their post-hike highs and it’s full of festival spirit.
That said, if you’re looking for a mountain in Snowdonia National Park that you don’t have to do any queuing on, then I’d recommend Moel Siabod or Glyder Fawr. They both require a bit more scrambling so you gotta enjoy that kinda thing, but you’ll likely have the mountain all to yourself.
Peak rush hour.
For reference, take a look at the photo below from Monday. Me and a solitary seagull in the background eyeing up my NikNaks.
The peak four days earlier. And no, I haven’t photoshopped everyone out.
We found a quiet rock away from the crowds to sit down and gobble our sandwiches. But it seemed that it wasn’t just extra tourists on the peak today, there was also a new gang of seagulls who had also been absent on Monday.
On our last visit, there had been one sad lonely seagull. We’d kinda felt sorry for it, sat on a rock like Billy No Mates. Not today. Today reinforcements had arrived, they’d formed a gang and they were looking for trouble.
Sitting away from the crowds meant we were like one of those wildebeest separated from the herds. The seagulls sensed this and started advancing toward our sandwiches in ever-decreasing circles. It was less than relaxing.
So when we saw a few clouds forming overhead we leapt up, neither of us wanted it to rain on our parade. So with Sara’s hiking stick, we beat a hole in the advancing seagull vanguard and got the hell out of dodge.
One of the many good things about Snowdon is the variety of routes. Just because you came up one route doesn’t mean you can’t go down another.
That said, as we were in training for the Three Peaks we opted to go back the way we came.
We had to scout out the Ranger Track’s suitability for a speedy descent. And let me tell you, folks, it is a contender. We flew down the scree of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu and skipped through the lowlands and back to the car at the Snowdon Ranger YH.
As I mentioned earlier, this route is a full 2 km longer than the PYG track but because the descent is much more gradual, you can go a lot quicker.
Including our various snack and photo stops and a bit of dilly-dallying at the peak, we were back at the car just under 4.5 hours after we’d left it. Which was a darn sight quicker than our PYG track attempt which came in around 5 hours.
I’m presuming we didn’t get that much fitter within the week, and the weather conditions were similar. So I’m assuming it was the route.
The Snowdon Ranger’s path doesn’t get as much love as some of the other routes and I can see why. It’s by no means as dramatic or scenic as the PYG or Miners trails that climb past the lakes of Llyn Llydaw and Glaslyn from the west.
However, what it lacks in drama it makes up for in ease. If you want to get to the Roof of Wales but also want to give your poor knees some TLC, but don’t want to cheat and use the railway line, then this is a great option.
General internet chatter seems to agree with me that Ranger Path is a happy medium between the slog of the Llanberis Path, and the more climby paths such as Pyg and Miners.
I’ve yet to climb the Llanberis path but when I do I’ll report back if general internet chatter turns out to be crowd-sourced wisdom. But until then, I’ll keep the Ranger Path as my go-to relaxed option.
Well, there you have it friends, my second time to the top of Snowdon in a week. Oh, and if you think I’m finished there you’d be wrong. I’ll be seeing those Snowdon seagulls three more times before the end of next week.
Until then my dears, keep an eye on your chips and keep an eye on each other.
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.
This reflects the Hike Hero difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.