Walking, Hiking & Trail Running

5 Alternative Summits To Snowdon

Dodge the crowds and enjoy a different side of Snowdonia with our guide to some of North Wales’ lesser-visited but equally spectacular peaks  

At 1,085m (3,560ft), Snowdon – or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh – is the highest mountain in Wales, and the highest point in the UK and Ireland outside of the Scottish Highlands. So, it is no surprise that thousands of people flock to the peak every year. In fact, with its summit café and a mountain railway that will take you all the way to the top, it’s probably not a huge surprise to learn that visitors frequently queue for half an hour or more just to grab that obligatory summit selfie.

“Don’t get us wrong, Snowdon is a majestic mountain … but only on the rarest of occasions will you have the summit to yourself”

Don’t get us wrong, Snowdon is a majestic mountain, and with plenty of routes to choose from it is possible to find a quieter way up, but only on the rarest of occasions will you have the summit to yourself. Which is why we’d suggest something altogether different. With so many incredible peaks in the Snowdonia National Park, there is really no need to simply follow the hordes up Snowdon. So, here are some of our favourite alternative summits to tackle next time you visit North Wales, which not only promise similarly panoramic views, but also offer a far quieter and more tranquil day in the mountains.

Photo: Jordan Tiernan

1) Cnicht

Height: 689 m
Mountain range: Moelwynion Range
English translation: Knight

Often dubbed the ‘Welsh Matterhorn’ due to its distinctive shape when viewed from the Croesor valley, this pint-sized peak makes for a great adventure, where the rewards far outweigh the efforts required. Standing at 689 metres or 2,260 feet, the climb up Cnicht can easily be completed in a couple of hours. The summit offers incredible views in all directions but the vista is particularly spectacular looking southwest to Porthmadog, as the Afon Glaslyn winds its way out to sea and Tremadog Bay sparkles in the distance.

The most popular route up is from the tiny hamlet of Croesor. From the car park head uphill past the old school and church. Head through a kissing gate and climb up through some woodland before turning right through a gate at a sign for Cnicht. There’s a clear path that takes you towards the foot of the mountain. Where the path forks, head slightly right and climb up to cross a stile and ascend to the summit ridgeline.

Hiking up Rhinog Fawr. Photo: Jamie Barne
Pictured: Rhinog Fawr sitting behind Rhinog Fach. Photo: Will Renwick

2) Rhinog Fawr

Height: 720 m
Mountain range: Rhinogydd Range
English translation: Knight

The Rhinogydd is almost always a welcome refuge for those who prefer to wander the hills and mountains in splendid isolation. It’s rare to meet another soul in this area, the most wild and untamed section of the Snowdonia National Park, a landscape of bare crags and heather-clad slopes. The stiff pull up to the summit of Rhinog Fawr, as well as the knee-jarring descent down the other side if you want to turn it into a circular walk, ensures this is one for experienced hillwalkers only. But if you’re up to the challenge, this is a mega mountain day with great views and the chance to bag the trig pillar that is perched atop the 720-metre (2,362ft) summit.

From the basic campsite and car park at Cwm Bychan, follow the sign for the Roman Steps.  The path climbs through pasture and woodland. Go left at a path junction to follow a stream uphill. Here you join the Roman Steps, an ancient packhorse route that used to link Harlech and Chester. The steps make the ascent to Bwlch Tyddiad pretty easy compared to most of the terrain found in the Rhinogydd. Look out for a path on the right just as you’ve dropped slightly downhill and take this to climb up to Llyn Du. Follow the lake round to the left and head up the northwest flank, following a faint path. From the trig point at the summit, you can either retrace your steps, or head down to Gloyw Llyn to complete a circular route.

Photo: Will Renwick

3) Yr Aran

Height: 747 m
Mountain range: Snowdon Range
English translation: The Peak

Yr Aran is one of Snowdon’s much quieter and less-visited neighbours. The mountain stands at the head of Cwm Llan, and reaches some 747 metres (2,451ft) in height. It offers up amazing views of Y Lliwedd and Yr Wyddfa’s South Ridge but feels far from the madding crowds that throng the summit of Snowdon itself. Looking west the view is equally spectacular, with panoramas of Beddgelert Forest and the snaking Nantlle Ridge behind, as craggy Moel Hebog rises to the south west.

Yr Aran can either be climbed from Nantgwynant via the Watkin Path or Rhyd Ddu. From the car park at Rhyd Ddu, cross the Welsh Highland Railway and take the Rhyd Ddu path. Ignore a gate marked for Snowdon and continue along the path heading for Bwlch Cwm Llan. On reaching the bwlch, follow the drystone wall heading off right, virtually all the way up to the summit.

Photo: Jordan Tiernan

4) Moel Siabod

Height: 872 m
Mountain range: Moelwynion Range
English translation: Shapely Hill

If it is great views that you’re after, then Moel Siabod invariably delivers. This relatively isolated pyramidic peak is easy to spot from miles around. The name, rather aptly, is usually translated as ‘shapely hill’, an accurate moniker when you take a moment to admire its stately form from a distance. Although only 872m high, it offers up some of the finest views in the whole of Snowdonia. In fact, on a clear day you can spot 13 of the 14 highest (3,000ft+) peaks in the park, making it arguably the most impressive viewpoint in Eryri bar none.

There are a few different ways to climb Moel Siabod. If you fancy an easy scramble then the Daear Ddu ridge makes for a fun day out. If you’re looking for an option that doesn’t require you to get hands on rock, then head up from Capel Curig, following the track from the car park initially away from Moel Siabod, before turning left onto a bridleway which brings you out at the road. Turn right onto the road and look out for the footpath right. Wind your way through the forest before reaching open hillside and follow the clear path upwards. On a clear day the summit is easy to spot.

Photo: iStock

5) Pen Yr Ole Wen

Height: 978 m
Mountain range: Carneddau Range
English translation: Head of the White Slope

Pen Yr Ole Wen is the southernmost peak in the Carneddau range, towering high above Llyn Ogwen. The sprawling Carneddau tend to be much quieter than its neighbouring range, the Glyderau, which makes them perfect for enjoying a bit of mountain solitude. Pen Yr Ole Wen can be climbed as part of a longer route, heading along the broad ridge to bag the peaks of Carnedd Dafydd and Carnedd Llewellyn, but it can also be enjoyed all on its own if you are short on time. Climb this pyramidal peak on a clear day and you are guaranteed  spectacular views out over Llyn Ogwen, mighty Tryfan and Cwm Idwal, which is flanked by the rising peaks of the Glyderau.

For the masochists out there, the most direct path to the summit is a brutal pull straight up out of Ogwen, climbing 675 meters in approximately 1.5km. The path is very eroded in places and there isn’t always a clear route, so give this one a miss unless you’re an experienced hillwalker who likes a challenge. A gentler route starts from Tal-y-Llyn Ogwen, following the Afon Lloer stream before reaching Ffynnon Lloer. Follow a path off to the left up the ridge which will lead you to the summit, marked with a cairn.


For more from our Wales Issue 

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