The quietest of the six main routes to the summit, which offers views of striking mountain scenery, especially towards Moel Hebog and the hills of Nantlle to the south, the Rhyd Ddu Path takes in a gradually ascending path from the valley, onto a narrower ridgeline towards the summit.
- Distance: 8.5 miles / 13.5km
- Ascent: 895m
- Time: 6 hours
- Start Point: Rhyd Ddu car park
- Grid Ref: SH 571 526
- Ordnance Survey: OL17 / 114
- Harvey Maps: Snowdonia North
The easiest place to park is in the designated, large Snowdonia National Park car park in the village of Rhyd Ddu (a daily charge is payable). This will keep you off the busy road and causing traffic congestion.
Once parked up, with your back to the main road, walk left and pass the public toilets and continue to the far end of the car park. You’ll see a large gate to your right, which takes you over the railway – remember to shut the gates. You are now on the Rhyd Ddu path.
Follow the wide track ahead. From the station area, you’ll spy a fantastic view of these quieter slopes of Snowdon and, on a clear day, you’ll see the summit visitor centre and Snowdon Mountain Railway top station perched high on the summit ridgeline.
You’ll come to a fork in the track, keep right and around the vehicle barrier – this will keep you on the Rhyd Ddu path, instead of a private farm track to the left. Shortly, you will pass the remains of the Ffridd slate quarry which was working until the 1860s and you’ll have already passed the remains of the quarry’s power house tower on your left.
There’s always something interesting to note when walking through old Snowdonia quarrying and mining areas. The village of Rhyd Ddu (where this path begins) like many of the area’s other towns and villages, were built to house the miners and their families.
You’re still on your way to a major path junction at Pen ar Lôn, where the Rhyd Ddu path will head left, in a NW direction upwards towards the ridgeline on your left. There is a stone pillar here to confirm the direction.
You will find yourself on marshier terrain with a great many rushes – this area can be wet after a lot of rain! There are some good path sections to keep you off the worst of this though.
A stone wall is reached at approx 440m height and this is a great spot to make sure you turn around and survey the view behind you, of the mountains on the opposite side of the valley: Moel Hebog, Moel yr Ogof, Moel Lefn, Mynydd Drws y Coed and Y Garn.
Looking to the south east you’ll see the very shapely peak of Yr Aran, which was the site of an RAF helicopter crash in August 2016.
No-one was injured as all crew were able to escape the stricken aircraft as it made an emergency landing on the summit.
The wreckage was air-lifted off the mountain a week later and taken to nearby Caernarfon airport.
Now you’ve had a rest at this wall, there is some rougher and steeper terrain to ascend, and another wall to cross, but you are much nearer to the Llechog ridge now where the path will flatten out again... for a while!
Make the most of the flatter area reached, on Llechog ridge, at approx 750m height. If the weather is clear, this is a lovely ridge from which to survey Bwlch Main ridge (the continuation of your walk) and Snowdon summit’s itself. It’s a good idea to take another break here before a steep rise again towards Snowdon’s southern ridgeline, Bwlch Main.
You’ll pass through a gate in a stone wall and as you walk along the Llechog ridge you can see down to Cwm Clogwyn on your left, with its three tiny lakes – Llyn Glas (Blue Lake), Llyn Coch (Red Lake) and Llyn Nadroedd (Snakes’ Lake).
The side of Snowdon you’re now on is extremely open to the elements, especially in winter, so the rocky terrain has been shattered by ice, as water on the rocks, freezes and expands and then melts again – hence subjecting the rocks to a lot of ‘freeze/thaw’ action.
Because of the extreme environment and comparatively low temperatures, not much vegetation can survive here – and species which do survive here grow low and small: such as bilberry and parsley fern. In winter, this area can be covered in a smooth layer of snow, with steep slopes below you – not a place for a slip.
When there is snow and ice on the ground this final section, towards Bwlch Main, becomes a serious undertaking and should only be attempted by experienced walkers carrying the appropriate equipment. After ascending this steep section, you will see the South Ridge path join in from the right. This path has ascended from Bwlch Cwm Llan, via Allt Maenderyn.
This spot where the two paths meet marks the start of Bwlch Main, which means ‘narrow’ or ‘slim’ pass in Welsh. And it is a fairly narrow ridge, with steep slopes on both sides, but there is a good path all the way along it. The ridge is not as narrow or exposed as Crib Goch, for example, but you do still need to take a lot of care stepping over rocky steps and loose stones.
This is not a section to be completed in very windy or wet weather. You would either choose another route or turn back at this point... or not be on the mountain at all if it was that bad!
The southern tip of the ridgeline, where you meet it, is slightly wider than the middle, as our photos show. With clear weather, you’ll see tremendous views towards Y Lliwedd to your right, and the Watkin Path ascending from Cwm Tregalan below you.
On the other side of the ridge, you’ll be looking over Cwm Clogwyn and its three lakes. Ahead of you, is the continuation of the ridgeline and it starts to widen out again at approx 950m height. You’ll be on a distinct, rocky path and will shortly notice a large stone pillar marking where the Watkin Path also meets the ridge, on your right.
From here, the path continues to climb and it feels like the summit will never appear, but as you ascend through boulders and follow the rocky path, the windows of the summit building will suddenly appear... you are now at the summit of Snowdon!
On a clear day, there will be tremendous views to the south, towards Porthmadog, and the north west towards Caernarfon, the Irish Sea and Anglesey.
On a busy day, you can sometimes queue for a climb up the steep steps to the actual summit. It is a must, though, so make the opportunity to visit the very top of the highest mountain in Wales (and higher than any mountains in England, too!)
Make sure you have extra layers to put on in colder/windier/wetter weather and do take on board more food and water.
You are only halfway and you’ll need energy for the descent too! If you are making your way down exactly the same way, via the Rhyd Ddu path, then do remember to keep right when you reach the end of the narrow section of ridge, Bwlch Main.
Keeping right will take you back along the smooth ridgeline of Llechog, above Cwm Clogwyn, and through the stone walls and gates you came through on your ascent from Rhyd Ddu.