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Walk up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) via the Watkin Path – Llwybr Watkin

By Dave Roberts   

Published – September 3, 2011

  5/5 (1)

Walk up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) via the Watkin Path – Llwybr Watkin

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 Gwynant can be found nearby and there are toilets at the car park

Public Transport:

Sherpa Buses are less frequent, but can be used from Caernarfon, Beddgelert, Portmadog, Llanberis and Betws-y-coed with planning.

See our page on Walking up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) using Public Transport

Traveline for UK Public Transport


Parking usually plentiful this side of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) , £6 a day, £3 for 4 hours – Card only.

See our Yr Wyddfa Snowdon Parking 2023 page for full information


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 Walk up Yr Wyddfa / Snowdon Safely Navigation and the Gear and Equipment you’ll need.

Check the Weather before setting out.

We reccommend  Met Office Snowdonia and MWIS and live conditions on Adventure Smart – live conditions

Snowdon Guidebooks:

Recommended Snowdon Maps

Walk up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) via the Watkin Path – Llwybr Watkin Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download file for GPS

Walk up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) via the Watkin Path – Llwybr Watkin

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.

Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) via the Watkin Path 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 Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) via the Watkin Path – Llwybr Watkin”

  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.

  3. The Watkin path is great but in bad weather, it is very dangerous. There is a point where the easy and designated route involves walking across and down the mountain for a little way. This is counterintuitive, you imagine that you need to keep going up! In bad weather, the correct path is completely invisible and the ‘natural’ route seems to be upwards. Unfortunately, if you don’t take the path down; if you continue to climb upwards, you will end up on the ridge of Crib Goch, this is no joke and incredibly dangerous for the inexperienced.

    1. I’t sounds like you were on the pyg mate, not the Watkins…isn’t the Watkins on the total other side of Snowdon?!

  4. Been up Snowden many times but never on the Watkins path until last weekend. What a lovely walk! Views excellent. There was snow on the top for the last say 150m and it was windy and the scree was as described but is very manageable if you take your time, tending left away from summit and being careful to chose a sensible route. The standing stone on the final summit ridge is very visible (if clear) from well before the steep final part of the path and is a good point to aim for when starting on the steep final part.
    Coming down after turning left at that high standing sign stone is initially steep and a little blank until the rocks start and if its snowed good boots, confidence and maybe a pole is sensible.
    If it was all in cloud I could imagine losing the safe route up the scree very easily and the decent without the obvious lower path to aim for could easily become riskier than necessary if you lose the route.
    Fantastic route though. Very pretty.

  5. Excellent site. It helped me planning for my recent first trip to the top – up Rhyd Ddu, back down Snowdon Ranger/Clogwyn Gwin. I’m keen to try out some of the other routes and gather that some work is being done to improve the Watkin path on the scree slope – or maybe divert the path? If so, do you know when that work will be complete?

  6. Thanks for the site, very useful indeed. We walked up Rhyd Du and down Watkin. The scree at the top of Watkin was tough but as long as you take your time you should be ok. There are great views to the left of the path if you leave the path. However, after the turn to the right, we found the walk down and uninspiring and a bit of a slog. This changes for the last few hundred yards where the path meets the stream ( great to cool hot feet in the cold water), with pretty wooded areas and fields. The main disappointment was no Sherpa bus to take us back to Rhyd Du. We were at the bus stop by five and met up with another couple who had done the same as us. The last bus was before 5pm. Fortunately we managed to hitch a lift member of the Wirral walking group (thanks again!). You need to be reasonably fit to get to the top, but the Rhydd Du walk is well worth it, even the scary bit with the drops along the ridge!

  7. I realise that most of the posts here are 5 years old but we read them before going up the Watkin path and thought I’d give a slightly different view on the route.

    The route isn’t quite as bad as many make out. I would recommend a clear day so you can see where the path goes at the top. There was a heavy snow cover the day we went up which actually made route finding easier (footprints) although it made parts of the path very slippy. Don’t be put off though as it is manageable and there were a lot of othere walkers who went up that day including kids. The trick is not going to far up to the right and to take your time. You meet lots of friendly walkers on the way up so listen to their advice whether they have made it to the summit and which way.to go.

    The views from the path are worth it and it certainly is the most scenic route I have taken up Snowdon.

  8. I climbed the Watkin Path last week. Weather was not too bad at the beginning but then ascended into the clouds and got windy near start of steep scree section. Was quite scarey, there basically is no visible path. Passed by 2 couples up there who did not want to carry on and turned back. We carried on and got to the summit. We headed back down the Watkin Path but got lost a number of times, we couldn’t make it through the steep scree section back lower to the easier part, maps and compasses etc were useless at this point when you can only see a few metres ahead of you and inevitably walk into inappropriate positions on the mountain face (reapeatedly in our case) and have to backtrack with big drops all around. After messing about trying to get down for about 45 minutes we then decided we would have to try to get back to the summit, at this point not even sure if we could do that. I was very relieved to pass through a sort of S shaped bended section near the end of the scree that I had been though at least twice already, then I knew we could get back to the top. Could have easily turned out very bad if weather got worse or we got stuck until dark! At one point I lost my footing on both legs and was literally hanging on to the peak of a rock with my arms until I could get a foothold again… not good! We passed about 6 to 8 groups of people lower down on the Watkin Path that day, plus the 2 couples who turned back near the top, we didn’t see anyone else get to the top that day on the Watkin Path apart from another small group who had got lost on the way up and climbed even higher up to the right on the ridge somehow but did make it to the top! (Not without a few tears).

    Once we reached the summit (for the second time that day), the train station had closed and there didn’t seem to be anyone around, this was quite worring as we hadn’t planned any other routes down! Eventually we did see another couple who advised us to walk down the Llanberis path which we did with a heightened sense of relief for every metre we descended.

    Moral of the story, the Watkin Path is not easy! On a clear day it might have been another story but I would imagine even with being able to see and plan the route better it would still be difficult. I’ve heard of people taking kids up there, you must be mad seriously! I was very happy I did it though, don’t mean to scare people off this route, just be careful and try to get it on a clear day.

  9. I can still remember climbing to the summit of Snowdon by this route in 1951. I was 16 and doing my usual two-week Youth Hostel tour on my bike. I had seen the path on a map in a hostel and decided to do it as I would be passing that way going from Capel Cerig to (I think) Harlech. Anyway, I dumped my bike over a stone wall in the trees near the end of the road and set off with no map, no compass, no food, just my cycling cape in case it rained. It was a very enjoyable walk until near the top where the path disappeared and I found myself slipping and sliding on scary, steep, loose, slatey slopes. Cycling shoes were not the best footwear. I was glad, eventually, to find some vertical slatey rock to cling to and haul myself up onto more level terrain. The cafe at the train station was not particularly inviting – cold, bare stone and by my standards very expensive. At least I had a better idea of what faced me on the descent and I picked a somewhat less hazardous route. It had been a good day. The next day was good too- swimming in the sea from a sandy beach near Harlech accompanied by a couple of lovely young lady hostellers also on a cycling holiday. Oh to be young again!

  10. I climbed the watkin route just yesterday. I have to say i’ve never seen a more beautiful place in britain, but then it gets past the mines. Do not underestimate, dont approach with careless haste and try to stick to any path for as long as possible. We done this in galeforce winds(Nearly blew me off the side, down a ridge), IN a heavy rain cloud. This, obviously, made it a stupid risk, the climb up the rocks soon became like climbing a waterfall. If you are thinking about this route, plan with the weather in mind. Even in nice weather, i wouldn’t recommend for inexperienced, unprepared, or non-confident people.

  11. I walked the Watkin path this week, visibility from the ridge was very poor and the path wasn’t visible on the ground. The rain has made numerous false trails. I got to the top by walking/climbing a compass bearing. A scary experience with a thousand foot drop to my right. Don’t believe the guide books, this path is dangerous in anything less than perfect weather!

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