Sunrise at the summit
Being at the summit of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) to catch the sunrise is becoming increasingly popular, but brings with it additional considerations, namely having to walk up in the dark.
In the summer, the sunrise is extremely early, and some people choose to walk up late the previous night, biding their time at the summit until the dawn.
At other times of year, it is more common to walk up very early that morning, before the sunrise.
It is, of course, necessary to find the time of sunrise and this is available on the Met. Office forecast for Snowdon summit. Another useful website with sunrise and sunset times for Snowdon is the Sun-Up website.
You must then allow sufficient time to reach the summit for that time (if the summit is your target). Our pages on the different main paths give an indication of one-way times.
Walking up Snowdon in the dark clearly has inherent dangers, and this is not recommended for first-time visitors to Snowdon, unless you are with others who know the paths well. The Llanberis Path is the safest for night walking.
If you are able to, time your walk for when the moon is fairly full. There is a full moon every 29½ days, so roughly once a month. If you then have a fairly cloudless sky, the moonlight will be of tremendous advantage to you. (You can check the times of full moons in 2023 on this website.)
In addition to what you would normally take, it is imperative that you carry a good torch and spare batteries (a head torch is a good option), together with warm clothing – nights can be very cold on Snowdon.
Note – It’s important to point out that you will need clear skies or high cloud to see a decent sunrise. If the summit is in cloud (as it frequently is), then there will be no sunrise to see – the sky will just slowly get lighter, and you’ll probably be disappointed. (See the section on cloud cover and cloud-base.) Whilst some months of the year tend to bring better weather, it’s just not possible to pick on a date weeks in advance and be sure that there’ll be a sunrise worth seeing. However, you can usually get a reliable idea of conditions a few days in advance on the Met. Office forecast for Snowdon summit.
By the way, if you’re walking up to catch the dawn, and there’s a possibility that you won’t make it to the summit in time, then the paths on the east side of the mountain are best (the Pyg Track or Miners’ Track) as the sun will be rising on that side, so even if you don’t make the summit, you’ll still catch it from where you are. For the same reason it’s best not to take either of the paths on the west side of the mountain (the Rhyd Ddu Path or Snowdon Ranger Path) as the sunrise will be blocked by the mountain if you don’t make it close to the summit in time. On the Llanberis Path you won’t see the view to the east until you are half a mile from the summit.
Sunrise from Crib Goch (© Nigel Varndell)
A note on parking if you are going up overnight:
All the National Park Authority car parks at the foot of the main paths are open 24/7, so you need have no worries about being locked out. In a National Park car park which charges by the day, if you arrive after 6:30pm, you should pay for a ticket when you arrive, and this will cover you until 8:30am the following morning. However, if you arrive before 6pm, you will need to pay for two tickets (for both days) and display them both in your vehicle.
If you are parking at Pen y Pass during the season, the above will not apply as it is pre-booking, whereby you can choose a period (minimum 8 hours) to start and finish at whatever time you wish.
Viewing a sunset over Caernarfon Bay in the west can also be impressive, but means that you then have to make the journey down in the increasing dark, which has the same inherent dangers as sunrise visits.
The same ruling about overnight parking applies to sunset visits.
Sunset from the summit. (© Urshy Purshy)