Without doubt the most scenic and demanding route up to the summit. Cascading waterfalls and the south ridge provide for a day that has it all.
Walking up to the summit of Snowdon gives one a sense of achievement and that is why hundreds upon thousands of people visit Snowdon each year. The usual focus of most walker’s attention is either the route up from Llanberis or the Pyg path from the Pen y Pass car park and back down via Miners. Although these routes are perfectly acceptable, they can become somewhat crowded at times.
If you would like a totally different approach to climbing the summit of the Snowdon, then there is no better route than the Watkin Path. It is the most scenic route up to the summit but also one of the most demanding in parts. From beautiful forestry and eye capturing waterfalls to scrambles laced with amazing views, this really is a walker’s paradise.
The Watkin Path was famed for being the location setting of the 1968 film, Carry on Up the Khyber.
Starting from the car park off the A498 near Llyn Gwynant the start of the Watkin Path cannot be any easier to find. Just walk in a diagonal right across the road and the path is clearly marked. Walk up the steps and enter the forest and follow the path which will take you over wooden bridged waterfalls until you reach a metal gate. Starting the walk through what feels like an enchanted forest gives you an all new perspective and it feels rather bizarre that this route will eventually lead you to the summit of Wales highest mountain.
Once through the gate follow the path until it leads you out into more open land. You will now have a clearer view of the task at hand as you can see the summit of Snowdon in the distance. This is where you will get your first views of the cascading waterfalls of afon cwm llan, and i guess this is what makes this walk so different. I have visited this area before just for photography and there are not many places like it to be honest.
The path will eventually get more inclined until you are walking besides the waterfalls to your right. In summer i believe there are often people taking a dip in waterfall pools and who can blame them, they are crystal clear and totally inviting, Just not in October.
Once you pass the waterfalls you reach a bit of a plateau and the path splits left or straight ahead. We will be keeping to the path that is straight ahead and this part of the walk is level for the most part until you reach the Gladstone Rock. From Gladstone Rock keep heading straight on until you reach the disused tram line and old slate ruins. From this point the path starts to rise as you zigzag up the mountain to Bwlch Ciliau, and this is where the real graft starts.
The path seems never ending but if you stop for a breather and have a good look around, clear weather permitting you will have amazing views to the south and south west and a clear view of the coastline weather. Yr Aran is most prominent and as you look beyond you will get good views of Abersoch, Phwllheli and Criccieth.
Once you finally reach Bwlch Ciliau, you can take a little detour to your right and get impressive views across the Snowdon Horseshoe with Crib Goch and Moel Siabod being very prominent. Just be careful given the edge of Llewidd has a very sharp drop down to Llyn Llydaw.
Whilst taking in the views this would be a good refuelling point because the final ascent of Snowdon is demanding and in parts this can be a tricky scramble. In bad weather this path as seen fatalities due to slips on what can only be described as a loose shale. You are exposed at this point and to your left is a rather long fall so be very careful. This route is the steepest you will climb to the summit and although it was sunny the path was still loose and i had to have 3 points of contact in places.
Two thirds of the way up this part of the path, ground work has been started and steps have been laid down which made the last part more secure under foot. This will eventually lead you to where the Watkin meets Rhyd Ddu and the final ascent up the South ridge which feels much easier after the demands you have just completed. You will walk up behind the cafe and hit the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).
I have been up Snowdon many times but the day of this walk was possibly the best weather i have had and the views where something you very rarely get to see. I had an hot chocolate in the cafe as the summit was getting busy before starting my descent. On the way up i met a South African guy who now lives in the UK and i pointed out the viewing point he and many people miss so the hot chocolate was on him as a thank you. Not sure if you will read this blog but it was a pleasure to me you. This is the great thing about walking/hiking, you meet so many good people.
From the summit head back down behind the cafe and the south ridge until you come to the crossing of the Rhyd Ddu and Watkin. This time we will be heading down the Rhyd Ddu (Bwlch Main) which knife edges along Clogwyn Du. Although it was sunny on my visit it was very windy and walking along this part of the path can be hair raising in such conditions given the drops either side. With 931-meter drops either side if you don’t have a good head for heights like me it can become a like unnerving. As long as you are being respectful you should not have any concerns but always respect the mountain is my motto.
You will eventually come to where the path splits to the right down the Rhyd Ddu or straight ahead. Carry on straight ahead and if you look to your left you will be able to see the Watkin Path across the valley which you came up. We follow the edge of Clogwyn Du until we come to the meetings of two paths just above Bwlch Cwmllan Quarry. Head left and you should be able to work out where you are and where the path is leading too. It is leading to the top of the waterfalls which you passed on the way up. But first you have to navigate a descent through what looks like a slate dump and its can be unsteady under foot. This will lead you on to the plateau and eventually the disused tramway.
The walking is now very level and eventually the path leads you left and you are now at the top of the waterfalls. Follow the path back down through the forest or down the farmers lane which will lead you out to the main road and the car park will be right across from you.
The Watkin Path lives up to its reputation as being the most scenic and demanding route up to the summit of Snowdon, excluding the horseshoe which includes Crib Goch, and the best thing of all is that i saw no more than 20 people up or down excluding the summit. So, if you fancy a scenic demanding route up Snowdon that is sparsely populated, Watkin is for you.