The Watkin Path (Llwybr Watkin) is one of the longest and more challenging routes to the summit, by virtue of the fact that it starts so low down, at just 60m above sea level. The total ascent is 1,025m (3,330 ft).
The Watkin Path is named after Sir Edward Watkin, a Liberal Member of Parliament who purchased a large part of this side of the mountain in 1889, and formalised a previously poor path into a good track, particularly beyond the quarry.
The path starts by Pont Bethania in the Nantgwynant valley on the south side of Snowdon, and is one of the quieter paths once the waterfalls are passed. Starting so low, it offers a greater variety of natural scenery than the other paths, initially presenting woods, waterfalls and pasture before leading to the open mountain. From about half way it gets steeper, and culminates in a steep rocky and scree section.
Distance: 4¼ miles (7 km) to the summit one way
8½ miles (14 km) there and back, if returning by the same route
Time: Allow between 2½ and 4 hours each way, depending on your level of fitness.
Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2023
- Pont Bethania car park, Nant Gwynant, off the A498
- Grid Reference: SH 627 507 (O.S. map Outdoor Leisure OL17)
- Post Code: LL55 4NR
- What 3 words: midwinter.voices.coder
- Location of start on Google maps
Parking for the Watkin Path
There is a Pay & Display car park over the road from the start of the path (card payments only). £6 a day.
If the car park is full (including the parking on the toilets side of the car park road itself), there is usually space for cars on the adjacent verges (but please park legally and considerately, and don’t park where there are cones).
Note that on warm, sunny days the car park attracts people just going as far as the waterfalls.
Note – If you are going up overnight, and 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.
- There are toilets at the car park.
- Caffi Gwynant is a few yards from the bottom of the path.
- The bottom of the path is served by Sherpa bus service S4.
- The Google Trekker (like StreetView) will provide you with a ‘virtual’ walk up the mountain on this path.
- When you are actually on the mountain, the Snowdon Walks App will show a map of the path, with your exact position on it. It doesn’t require a signal, and it also provides information about places and features you pass on the path.
From the car park, cross the bridge and road, and head up the stone steps opposite, marked ‘Llwybr Watkin Path’.
For the first ½ mile the path passes through the woods – an unusual start to Snowdon. Once in the open countryside, Cwm Llan stretches out in front of you.
The path goes in a large loop, but notice the old steep inclines which the path cuts through. This brought slate down from Hafod y Llan slate quarry, which we’ll pass later.
After going through a metal mountain gate, you’ll see the scenic waterfalls down on your right. The succession of falls and pools, which cover a ¼-mile stretch, are very popular in the summer, being just a mile from the road.
The lower end of the waterfalls and pools
At the top of the falls are the old ruins of a copper mine crushing mill. Ignore the narrow path coming down on the left, and keep straight ahead on the obvious main path. Soon you will pass the ruin of an old house; this used to be the quarry manager’s house.
After another 300 yards, on the left you will see the Gladstone Rock with a large slate plaque on it. Here Prime Minister William Gladstone gave a speech and formally opened the path in 1892. The pointed peak over to your left is Yr Aran.
In another ⅓ mile the path passes through the edge of the Hafod y Llan slate quarry, passing close to the former barracks. From here the path climbs steeply, marking the half-way point to the summit.
The path skirts steeply round the edge of Cwm Tregalan, up to Bwlch Ciliau on the skyline. To the right are the twin peaks of Y Lliwedd.
The path between Bwlch Ciliau and Bwlch y Saethau, then the final ascent
Once on the ridge, where the path is much more level, there are views to your right (north) over towards Crib Goch, and to your left (south and west) to the coast. It’s worth veering a little off the path along this ridge section to appreciate the views over Llyn Llydaw, where you’ll see the Pyg Track and the Miners’ Track.
At Bwlch y Saethau (‘Pass of the Arrows’ – where King Arthur was allegedly mortally wounded) you’re little more than ½ hour from the summit.
Bwlch y Saethau, where the steep final ascent starts
From here the path ascends steeply for 15 minutes up an unstable, loose section where care is needed, before reaching the steps. (It’s not advised that you do this section with young children.) Keep generally to the left up this loose section or you may miss the steps. (This whole section is slowly being improved by the laying of steps, but only the top third has so far been completed.)
Follow the new steps upwards for less than 10 minutes, and once at the top of the ridge, the path joins the Rhyd Ddu Path, coming in from the left. (Make a mental note of the small standing stone here if you are coming back this way.)
The view west from the standing stone where the Watkin Path joins the Rhyd Ddu Path
From here, head right, up the hill, and in about 300 yards the rocky path reaches the summit.
The summit approach
On returning from the summit, remember to come down the steps past the main entrance to Hafod Eryri, and continue on from there, down the rocky section (which is the top of the Rhyd Ddu Path). After a total of about 300 yards from the summit you will see the finger stone pointing left, indicating the way back down the Watkin Path.
Do not try and descend directly from the summit itself to the path below; apart from being very dangerous and an accident blackspot, it is easy to dislodge stones and rocks which can roll down onto unseen walkers on the proper path below.
Distances up the path
Base map © S.N.P.A.
Combining with other paths
The Watkin Path is not easily combined with the other main paths, though this can be done by using the Sherpa bus service. However, an increasingly popular combination is to return from the summit via the South Ridge, which will bring you back to the bottom of the Watkin Path.
See the page on combining and mixing paths on Snowdon for more.
Advice from the National Trust
The Watkin Path runs through a National Nature Reserve, mostly owned by the National Trust, who have offered the following advice: