Walk up Snowdon via the Watkin Path

By Dave Roberts   

on January 3, 2021   5/5 (1)

Walk up Snowdon via the Watkin Path

Further Details

Route Summary:

Popular and scenic route up Snowdon that ends with a steep tricky section.

Start and Finish: Nant Gwynant to Snowdon Summit

Distance: 6.46 km

Ascent: 1000 m

Time: 3.5 Hours

Timings are approximate and depend on the individual. Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

Before You Walk up Snowdon, ask yourselfAre you equipped? Do you know what you’re doing? Are the conditions safe? If you answer no to any of these, stay safe, don’t go! Check the weather forecast and make sure you know about walking up Snowdon in the Snow. If you lack experience – hire a Snowdon Mountain Guide.


Cafe and WC

Public Transport:

Sherpa Buses few and far between.

Traveline for UK Public Transport


Scree at top is an accident blackspot

Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Keeping Safe on the Wales Coast Path,  Navigation and the Gear and Equipment you’ll need.

Snowdon Guidebooks:

Recommended Snowdon Maps

Walk up Snowdon via the Watkin Path Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download file for GPS

Walk up Snowdon via the Watkin Path

The Watkin Path originally opened in 1892 as a donkey track and was never truly finished. Of all the official ascents, The Watkin Path starts nearest to sea level and so has more ascent than any other direct route up Snowdon. Whilst the Llanberis Path starts off only 50m higher and involves a little more distance. Swings and roundabouts really.

The Watkin Path is definitely the most scenic of all the routes up, starting off through some ancient woodland before passing a spectacular waterfall and ultimately ascending to Bwlch Ciliau and Yr Wyddfa. A pleasure to walk for most of it’s distance, the final eroded scree chute up to the summit rather detracts from the Watkin Path’s overall appeal. However, no other path can boast a Prime Minister, commandos and a Carry on Film among it’s myriad claims to fame.

Route Description

You’ll not fail to notice the many waterfalls of the river, which had today merged into one mighty torrent due to a very wet November that was continuing into December, so to speak. Despite the rain, the path is good, with no boggy sections; but plenty of water flowing along it. When you reach the falls there’s a gate in the path that some may recognise as a scene from Carry on up the Khyber.

Walk up Snowdon via the Watkin PathThe Watkin Path starts at the road junction in Nant Gwynant. There is a café literally a hundred metres towards Beddgelert, but today they were closed for a private function – some comfort for a cold, thirsty and wet walker. The track can be followed, but the new path is to the left and through the forest. This is not on the OS map, but Harveys have got it right. It is a pleasant start to the walk, but you are soon on the rocky man made path climbing up into Cwm Llan.

The Watkin Path remains steady as it ascends to the old quarries, built to accommodate horse drawn carriages apparently by Sir Edward Watkin who built the path, for tourists. There is plenty to see in the Cwm, including the old ruins of Plas Cwm Llan just above the major waterfalls. There are bullet holes on the side of this building as it had a function for commandos during WW2.  You also walk past the Gladstone Rock to get here, which commemorates the opening of the path in 1892 by the 83 year old Liberal prime minister, William Gladstone.

Watkin Path up SnowdonFrom the mine, the Watkin Path snakes its way upwards. It is difficult to see where the path goes when you look up the slope, but the path is always very easy to follow and should pose no problems. You get to look down into the upper reaches of Cwm Llan and Cwm Tregalan and across to the South Ridge and Bwlch Main. You arrive at Bwlch Ciliau below Y Lliwedd quicker than you’d imagine. Probably as there is still a good 300m yet to climb and that it is the hardest section. If you’re lucky, you’ll now have views stretching across Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw towards Crib Goch, and of course Yr Wyddfa almost overhead.

Now the next section has little to endear me to. Initially you are on a pleasantly narrow path above Cwm Llan, but soon this is to be replaced by an indistinct path up a sheer scree slope. It is an exceptionally loose route, and may well be one to be avoided if you are not confident of your skills, or it is very poor weather. Today was the turn of very poor weather, and this made the scree wet and prone to slippage. Even large rocks were moving and there was scarcely any place to feel secure.

Watkin Path up Snowdon

It is difficult to explain where the track goes, and the map is next to useless. It’s where reading the ground ahead comes into its own. The best advice you can get on here is not to go far to the right towards the summit, and keep to the left, as the path joins the South Ridge somewhat off to the south east of the top. You also need to be prepared to stop and think where you go next.  It is a blackspot for accidents, with one person having died here in 2006 and a few injured, so don’t underestimate it.

Walk up Snowdon via the Watkin Path

The final scree path is very steep, but takes you to a large flat area where you can rest upon solid ground again, and is marked by a large upright stone. Once any Elvis-legs are gone, it is but a mere pull up towards Hafod Eryri, along the steps and to the summit.

Now visit the summit.



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Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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22 thoughts on “Walk up Snowdon via the Watkin Path”

  1. Did this route yesterday for the first time. Fantastic scenic route for the first section all the time looking up and seeing the low cloud and mist. Conditions got pretty bad as I reached the scree slope, visibility really poor with the rain now coming down. This section of the track is difficult to follow is what were very wet slippy conditions. After consulting my OS map several times I eventually found a route up although it did get a bit lairy at times to the point where I very nearly turned back. With a little determination I made it to the top of the track and up to the summit. I descended via the pyg track and then tracking back cross country back to the car. All in all a good day even if it was tough at times looking forward to doing this route again in better weather next time.

  2. 15 August 2018
    Walked up Watkin yesterday with 10 year old daughter. Lovely warm day down in the valley but by the time we reached the big cairn just before the final climb visibility was less than 25m. Met several groups who had given up tryin to get to the top. The guide book we had said keep to the left so we did and it really wasn’t that bad. After about 20 minutes we ran into two workers who were laying a lovely wide stone path. Plain sailing after that. Summit was grim, half hour queue to get a cup of tea. Walked down via Allt Maenderyn, then back to the Watkin beside the weir, most of it with next to no visibility so can’t comment on the views! Never actually saw Snowdon itself. Whole trip took nearly 10 hours, maybe 8 of walking. Worth it but could not imagine doing it in bad weather. Great day out and a refreshing dip in the weir capped it off.

    1. It is a wonderful walk – it’s just that final section of scree that can be annoying and an unexpected problem for many, especially if you veer off the path. But that’s only in the sort term, as there’s going to be a lovely footpath all the way up once they finish building it! They’ve already got the waymarker Snowdon Stone in place.

      1. No idea – we’ve contacted the National Park to find out what the timetable for all the current work is and we’ll be reporting on the homepage as soon as we know.

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