If you’re an outdoor nut, North Wales has got it all. Miles of coastline with surfing opportunities that you can enjoy in the in-season. In the off-season, there’s even Adventure Parc Snowdonia, the world’s first commercial artificial surfing lake, where you can hone your skills year-round on machine-made perfect breaks.
The coastline also boasts the opportunity of an 870-mile epic hike, the Wales Coast Path. The first path around an entire country’s coast on earth.
Move further inland, though, and you’ve got proper driving roads, the kind that finds themselves on Top Gear. Follow these roads into the Snowdonia National Park, where you’ll find a lifetime’s worth of outdoor pursuits.
There are hundreds of climbing problems, bouldering spots, hidden open water swimming locations, downhill mountain biking trails, and mountains galore. In fact, all of Wales’ 15 peaks above 3000ft are located in the park.
Put simply, Snowdonia is the mountain connoisseurs’ national park of choice when visiting Wales. I have been lucky to have lived here most of my life and have spent a long time in the park. Please read below for a short summary of some of my favorite spiky hills.
This behemoth may be part of the Moelwynion range, but it proudly sits alone at 872 meters. If you take the route up from the nearby town of Capel Curig, the mountain looms over you for a long portion of the hike as you approach its base.
It’s a really epic hike. During the ascent, the views change very often as the path meanders its way up the mountain. A lake lies still in the remnants of an old quarry with old slate-built buildings that still stand. Later, you’ll see a small lonely island in the middle of a lake in the middle of marshland. The final ascent gets really craggy and will let you know what current fitness level you are at.
This is still my favorite mountain, and if you set your alarm early enough, you can easily get the whole ascent and summit all to yourself. There’s something special about already having conquered a mountain, looking down at the world before you’ve even had breakfast.
This one is not for the fainthearted. The route up begins in the beautiful Ogwen Valley (the starting point for endless adventure), where the day’s first challenge is finding a parking spot. As with any adventure in Snowdonia, the earlier, the better.
Almost as soon as this walk begins, you will be assaulted by unrelenting steepness. The paths soon subside for craggy rock formations, and the mountain becomes an unavoidable scramble to the top. Depending on your route of choice, you can opt for Grade 1, 2, or 3 scrambles.
Tryfan is famous among mountain nuts for two prominent geological features. Firstly, on the ascent, there’s the Cannon Stone, a photo opportunity that would be hard not to take. Be warned, though, it is a very exposed section of rock.
Higher up on the mountain’s summit at 918 meters is the famous Siôn a Siân as it is known to locals, more commonly known as Adam and Eve. These two monoliths are 3 meters high and are spaced 1.2 meters apart
It’s a rite of passage to make the jump between the two rocks. Don’t let bravado and peer pressure get the best of you, though. If the conditions don’t allow for it, exposure on one side will mean a failed attempt will result in serious injuries or worse. Thousands have attempted this tempting jump as the rock is very polished on its footholds.
Another beauty in the Moelwynion range, Cnicht, is affectionately known as the “Matterhorn of Wales” even though it is 3,789 meters shorter than its Swiss-Italian cousin. Sitting at a proud 689m, you can ascend this one in no time if you have a good level of fitness.
This peak will give you a real taste of rural Wales. First, you must drive through single-lane roads so narrow they would give an American car body dysmorphia. Then you’ll arrive at Croesor, a village so small that it doesn’t even have a pub, but it does have a church.
The walk itself will quickly take you to views with no roads in sight, and on a still day, you can bathe in the complete peace the isolation gives you.
This knife-edged arête is a popular incident location for the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team. There are occasional fatal falls, and people every year become “cragfast,” where hiker’s latent fear of heights is brought to light thanks to extreme amounts of exposure.
If this is the kind of information that just makes you want to do it more, though, it’s an amazing experience. I did it first this year and was very lucky to get a completely clear day. The sketchy section doesn’t last for too long, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to the summit of Snowdon.
Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa is the highest summit in Wales and England (1085m) and is the most walked mountain in Britain. Believe it or not, there is even a train that takes you all the way from local Llanberis to the summit or backs down again if your nerves are shot after your Crib Goch traverse.
A Lifetime’s Worth Of Adventure
These are just a handful of mountains you can take on here in Snowdonia. As staycations are becoming more popular in the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic, the park is getting busier all the time. I hope this list can give some fresh ideas to hikers who have never been to Wales or those looking for a little inspiration.
If you really want to push yourself, you could try to take on the Welsh 3000s. This challenge starts from the summit of Snowdon (the walk up it doesn’t even count) and ends at the summit of Foel-fras. Or you can do it the other way around if you so desire. Either way, you’ll have to bag 15 mountains that are all over 3000ft in under 24 hours.
I might even try it myself…