LOCATION OF MOUNT SNOWDON
Mount Snowdon is located in the National Park of Snowdonia on in North Wales.
BRIEF HISTORY OF MOUNT SNOWDON
In Welsh, Snowdon’s name is Yr Wyddfa, which means tomb or monument. In 1682 a survey estimated that the summit of Snowdon was at 1130 meters, while recent surveys give the exact height at 1085 meters. There aren’t records of who the first person to ascend Mt. Snowdon, but hikers began flocking to the mountain in 1781 when Thomas Pennant published ‘Tours’ and included the summit as a main attraction. Today (as of 2017) there are over 400,000 walkers and hikers annually.
BEST HIKING ROUTE FOR FAMILIES
There are eight established routes to the summit of Mount Snowdon, but the best one for families is the Miners’ Track (Welsh: Llwybr y Mwynwyr). This track was built to carry copper from the Britannia Copper Works near Llyn Glaslyn to Pen y Pass, where it was then transported to Caernarfon. While mining ended in 1916, you can still spot remains of the work along the path today!
MINERS’ TRACK DETAILS
Distance: 13 km (8 miles) there & back
Total Climb (elevation change): 723 m (2372 ft)
Grade: Mountain Walk
Begin/Finish: Pen y Pass car park
Parking: Pay & Display car park at Pen Y Pass. During busy times, the car park can be totally filled and you may need to find parking down the road. There is a Sherpa bus back up to Pen y Pass.
Sherpa Bus Stop: Pen y Pass car park
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CLIMB SNOWDON MINERS TRACK?
6-8 hours (plus any time at top). It is very important to start your hike before noon so that you can take a leisurely hike with rest breaks and still make it back to the base during daylight.
HIKING WITH CHILDREN ON MINERS’ TRACK – SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS
While the round-trip mileage on Miners’ Track is 8 miles, when you factor in hiking around the summit (there are trails to different view points), the trek can easily become a 10 mile, 8-10 hour hike. For this reason, you must know definitively the hiking abilities of your children. Children who haven’t had experience on multi-hour, strenuous hikes will have trouble. However, if your family is fit, has hiking experience, and enjoys a good physical challenge – this is an awesome hike. When our family took Miners’ Track, our children were ages 5, 7, and 9 and we only had trouble in a few sections when the fog had rolled in and rocks were slick.
BEST TIME OF YEAR TO HIKE MINERS’ TRACK
When hiking with children, the best time to ascend Mount Snowdon is late spring to early summer as they are likely to be the driest of times.
MOUNT SNOWDON HIKING GEAR
Even during the “warm” summer months, weather on Mount Snowdon can vary dramatically literally from second to second (personal experience!) Your hike may include any or all of the following: hot sun, drizzle, fog, sleet, snow, rain, strong winds, or hail. Sometimes several of these elements at once!
You must ensure that all hikers in your group are properly geared for any weather eventuality. Dress in layers as you will find that one moment you are sweating from heat, and the next minute your hands are numb from freezing wind.
This is our list of MUST-HAVES in addition to your standard hiking gear.
– Sturdy hiking shoes/boots – the rocks on the trails get very slick when wet. Twisted ankles are a real possibility.
– Rain Jacket – this is a long, uphill hike with no man-made or natural shelters along the route. Sudden rain is common as well as just constant drizzle. You need to be prepared for either.
– Gloves/Hats – the temperature at the bottom of the mountain is significantly warmer than the summit.
DESCRIPTION OF MINERS’ TRACK
The Miners’ Track is the second longest track up the mountain (Llanberis Track is longer). It starts off with a gentle, well-defined path which winds into the beautiful landscapes of Snowdonia. As long as the weather is good, you will see breathtaking vistas of mountain lakes, valleys, and sometime even sheep grazing nearby!
Approximately 2 kms into the hike you’ll cross a causeway before hiking past the ruins of the Britannia Copper Mine crushing mill. Soon after begins the steep climb up to Llyn Glaslyn lake.
This point of the hike marks the change in difficulty. The path becomes less-defined and sometimes almost impossible to follow if there is fog. There is a vast amount of scree – or loose stones – which must be traversed on with care. Finally, in wet conditions, the path can be slick, and many parts will need to be ascended using both hands and feet for stability
OTHER IMPORTANT DETAILS
Parking: At the base of the Mount Snowdon trails is the Pen y Pass car park. Its a pay-and-display system and as of 2019 the cost is £10 per day. The ticket machines accept both cash and credit cards.
In the event that the car park is full or you are looking for an additional challenge, there is a free car park 1.5 miles down the road. The most gallant of your group could drop off the hiking party at Pen y Pass while they run the car down to the other lot.
Avoiding Crowds: The summer months are already the most popular for tourists hiking Mount Snowdon. By any means possible you should avoid planning your hike on a Bank Holiday — these days have the trails so crowded you’ll be jostling each other just to get to the top (see our family hike post) Weekends are more busy than weekdays, naturally.
Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre: When you finally reach the top of Mount Snowdon you can check out Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre. On clear days the views can stretch as far as Ireland! The building was built in 2009 to withstand the mountain weather conditions while special care was to design the architecture to blend into the mountain landscape.
The Summit Cafe: When the Summit Trains are running, the cafe is open and they serve a selection of hot and cold drinks as well as a varies Welsh delicious snacks.
Summit Souvenir Shop & Post Box: You can purchase Mount Snowdon gifts, clothing, and souvenirs as well as postcards which can then be mailed from the post box atop the mountain.
SNOWDON MOUNTAIN RAILWAY
If the round-trip hike up Mount Snowdon is starting to sound a little out-of-reach, you have the option of taking the Snowdon Mountain railway.
Weather permitting, the trains run from mid March to end of October to the summit of Mount Snowdon. First train departure is 9 am and continue until late afternoon. In the early season (March-April), the train runs to Clogwyn Station which is about 3/4 up the mountain.
Its advisable to purchase tickets a day in advance as queues for tickets can be long, and there is no guarantee you’ll get seats on a busy day. Book online or call +44 (0)1286 870 223 between 1-4 pm daily. Please note that a £3.5 admin charge per booking (not per ticket) is charged for advance bookings.
Tickets are expensive – and you can only purchase round trip or single way UP only.
As of March 2019, ticket prices for round-trip tickets for adults are £30 and one-way are £23.
Single-way tickets DOWN the mountain cannot be pre-booked and are only available on a standby first come, first serve basis from the destination station (the summit).
TRAVEL BLOG – FAMILY OF FIVE HIKE MOUNT SNOWDON
Back in 2005 as newlyweds, Chad and I had done an England trip that included hiking up Mount Snowdon in Wales. Even before kids, we had thought that this would be a really awesome hiking trip to take someday with our future kids. Fast-forward 11 years and here we were – three kids and ready to hike to the 3560’ top!
We drove the 4 hours to get to our little hotel in Llanberis – which is the cutest town ever. The first day we just walked around and enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately we accidently timed our trip for a weekend with a bank holiday – which meant that nearly everyone in England had traveled over to Mt Snowdon just like us. Every restaurant was packed and hoards of tourists were milling around.
The weather started off really nice for the hike. The first 1/3 of the hike was on a beautiful path that wove between huge green hills and overlooked valleys and lakes. The trail was barely sloped and the kids jogged ahead of us pointing out sheep and other interesting views.
A few kilometers into the hike the path started getting a bit steeper and big, flat stones were used to pave the path. It was more uneven, and we found that Shannon, our 5 year old, needed a hand to hold for balance while walking.
The weather was sunny and warm, but every so often there would be a gust of icy wind. It was strange! When the path turned toward the summit of Mount Snowdon, we saw that it was totally concealed by cloud.
The weather at the summit worried us a bit, it looked difficult and wet, but we pressed on. We tried to keep the pace up in order to allow ourselves enough time to ascend and descend during daylight. Shannon had the little 5-year-old legs and we found it easier if someone held her hand to help her navigate the loose stones as well as just keep up. Jack (9) and Kara (7) did fine without any help. They had sturdy Merrill hiking shoes on which really helped with the uneven path and later when things were slick.
We knew the hike was a long hike (longer than we’d ever done before) and we didn’t want to turn into some sort of ‘forced march’. So we took mini-rests whenever the kids requested it. This was actually really wonderful because it allowed us all time to just soak in the incredible beauty of the surrounding landscape. The views were majestic. The colors were so vivid – the green hills, next to pale blue lakes, next to soaring rocky mountains.
Little hikers (and big ones too!) need lots of fun snacks for hikes. Chad and I both carried plenty of fuel for the family as we hiked. Beef jerky, granola bars, oranges, and chocolate bars, and plenty of water. Each kid carried their own water in a little water-sling (although half way through the youngest claimed she was unable to carry her water).
At the halfway point of the hike up Mount Snowdon the trail changed from ‘easy’ to ‘challenging’. The grade steepened significantly and in many sections there wasn’t a defined path – you could choose the way that worked best for you to get up a section. There was scree — loose stone — throughout and you really needed to watch your step. Chad and I made sure that an adult was right behind our youngest to prevent her falling backwards on accident. The two older kids were scrambling up the path like mountain goats.
Then the weather changed. One moment we were shedding our clothing layers as we worked up a sweat — the next minute it was icy cold and we were digging through the packs for gloves and hats. Mist rolled in and coated the mountain with a thin layer of moisture making the rocks on the path even more slick and treacherous. We all slipped at least once while climbing and we learned quickly to stay off the grass as that was the most slippery of all.
It was tough going, but our oldest kids were having an absolute blast. Chad and I were preoccupied with ensuring the 5-year old didn’t fall off the mountain so we had to allow Jack and Kara to lead the hike. They’d work together to decide the easiest path up and shout down to us “Mom! Go this way! The rocks aren’t loose!”
For the first half of the hike we hardly saw any other hikers, but when we reached the harder part of the hike it was a traffic jam! Hoards of tourists had come to ‘hike’ Mount Snowdon but not everyone had taken the hike seriously. We saw entire groups of tourists trying to hike up the slick area of the mountain wearing t-shirts, shorts, and in one instance — a lady in FLIP-FLOPS! I mean, what in the heck?? There were SO many people climbing – and in the steeper areas, where there was only one route up a section of mountain, you could only go as fast as the person in front of you. Unbelievably, our kids were NOT the slowing factor. And to underscore how dangerous the mountain can be — accidents do happen. We witnessed a Coast Guard Helicopter rescue. We did not ever find out what happened, but a hiker needed to be extracted off the mountain.
When we finally reached the summit there were even MORE people. It was so crowded. The Snowdon Railway was also bringing tourists to the top – though unfortunately for them, the clouds made it nearly impossible to see any views. We went inside the cafe and it was so crowded you could barely move. It was ridiculous. The ladies bathroom had a line so long I couldn’t find the end. We found a corner where made a little spot for ourselves and Chad went to get us some hot drinks. He came 20 minutes later with hot chocolates and a beer. Chad is a self-described ‘sucker for marketing’ and he couldn’t resist trying the Snowdon Craft Lager. Verdict: Good Beer.
After we walked around the summit a bit (you couldn’t see anything) we realized we need to get back down the mountain before the weather got worse at the base. We also didn’t want to be in a people-jam trying to navigate down the slick paths – that would be a recipe for disaster.
Getting down the steep area of the mountain was tougher than the climb up! The mist from the fog had made things slippery and its just harder to climb down than up. I saw several hikers who had fallen and gotten dirty, but luckily didn’t see anyone get hurt. We made it down the difficult portion and then it was home free. The weather was changing, but we weren’t in any danger of getting stuck on the mountain or not finishing before nightfall.
On the last 2 km or so, Jack and Chad decided to move out faster so they could go get the car from the car park and bring it up to Penn y Pass to meet me and the girls. Kara and Shannon were just in a groove — walking along together chatting away. I just walked behind them not wanting to interrupt their little girl conversation. It was getting darker, but we still had enough daylight that we didn’t need to rush.
I snapped this last photo from our hike right at the end while we waited for Chad and Jack to pick us up in the car. These are the faces of two little girls – ages 5 & 7 – who have just completed a 8 miles up and back from the summit of Mount Snowdon. You can see the inner pride and confidence that comes from conquering a physical challenge like that.
By the time we were all in the car and headed back to town, we’d logged in 8 miles (Chad 10, and Jack 9 because they had to get the car). We were exhausted and starving so we drove straight to a restaurant and ordered food. Already the littlest one was starting to show signs of fatigue…
Waiting for dinner…the over-tired smile from Kara, Shannon who can’t even be bothered to look at the camera, and Jack who is holding up best of all, but still tired.
We headed back to the room and hit the sack — I think Shannon was asleep before her head hit the pillow! It was an amazing and fun day of hiking!
And – here is a video Jack put together from our hike.