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Rhyd Ddu Path - Snowdon | Advice from a mountain guide

The Rhyd Ddu Path has spectacular views especially on the thrilling ridgeline leading to the summit. It is also on the quiet, western side of the mountain, making it one of the best routes up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).


The Rhyd Ddu Path route

At a glance

Distance: 7.3 miles (11.8km)

Ascent: 890 metres

Average Time: 6h 42m

Difficulty: Slightly Challenging (5th 'easiest' footpath up Snowdon)

Start Location: Rhyd Ddu Car Park, SH571 527

Parking: Rhyd Ddu Car Park, SH571 527, postcode LL54 6TN

Maps: OS OL17 Explorer Map 1:25K; OS 115 Landranger Map 1:50K; Harvey Superwalker XT25 Map 1:25,000; Harvey XT40 1:40K

Difficulty to navigate: Difficult (footpath disappears for large sections)


Gradient, steepness, distance and height of Snowdon's Rhyd Ddu Path

Footpath Summary

The route is on the quiet western side of the mountain and includes varied and at times rugged terrain.


This gives the footpath a remote feel which is rare on Snowdon. Add to the mixture striking mountain scenery, a couple of ridges and the result is an enjoyable & thrilling route.


The lower section is along an obvious and well engineered gravel path at a gentle angle. The middle section is across rugged mountain terrain which can be boggy at times. The upper section is along the exhilarating South Ridge which has magnificent views.


Two hikers on the Rhyd Ddu Path

How hard is the Rhyd Ddu Path?

The most difficult sections of the footpath cross rocky ground which is 'very' steep at times.

In addition, the upper section crosses a ridge over Bwlch Main which requires a good head for heights.


These factors make the Rhyd Ddu Path one of the more difficult walking routes up Snowdon.


Easier routes include the Llanberis Path, Ranger Path and PYG & Miners Track. The Watkin Path and The South Ridge are only main routes up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) that are harder.


The South Ridge: the most difficult and dangerous section of the Rhyd Ddu Path

Is the Rhyd Ddu Path dangerous?

The main hazards specific to this route are getting lost, lower leg (or other) injuries caused by slips, trips and falls on the loose and uneven rocks. The most hazardous section is the ridge near the summit which can be very dangerous especially in adverse conditions.


The upper section of the route along the South Ridge, which is sometimes called 'the walkers Crib Goch', is a narrow footpath with steep drops on both sides. A fall here could be fatal. This is best avoided in high winds or when there is snow or ice on the ground (unless you have winter mountaineering gear such as ice axes and crampons).


Take a look at our article on the Dangers of climbing Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) to learn more including the accident blackspots and number of Mountain Rescue incidents.


An awareness of the dangers, good map reading skills, favourable conditions and appropriate equipment makes the Rhyd Ddu path a reasonably safe prospect.



How long is the Rhyd Ddu Path?

The Rhyd Ddu Path is 7.3 miles (11.8km) up and down making it one of the shortest routes up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). The climb from car park to summit is 890m. On average, it takes 6 hours 42 minutes from start to finish


Spectacular views of lakes and mountains from Rhyd Ddu Path

Why choose the Rhyd Ddu Path?

The Rhyd Ddu Path is perfect for those who want...

  • A thrilling route

  • Excellent views

  • A remote mountain feel

  • Solitude (or as close as you can get to it on Snowdon)


The Rhyd Ddu Path has spectacular vistas from start to finish especially of the Nantlle Ridge and Moel Hebog. The views of Snowdon summit are awe inspiring and the South Ridge gets the pulse racing.


It is as exciting as hiking gets with some of the best views in Snowdonia.


Quietest route up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)

In terms of visitor numbers the Rhyd Ddu Path is the least touristy route up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).


In 2021 (the last year of reliable figures) less than 17,000 people used the Rhyd Ddu Path to climb Snowdon. This is in contrast to over quarter of a million people who used the Llanberis Path in the same year.


map of Rhyd Ddu Path, Snowdon

Detailed Route Description

Rhyd Ddu has a large pay and display car park (which accepts cards) at the Rhyd Ddu station.


The route starts by crossing the Welsh Highland Railway and continues up the gravel path keeping right at the fork to pass the farm and quarry. You will go through a series of gates at a gentle gradient.


After around 30 mins keep an eye out for the crossroads with a standing stone signpost. This is where the Rhyd-Ddu Path leaves the gravel path giving more of a mountain feel as you hop over stepping stones as the path crosses marshy and boggy terrain.


The path increases in steepness and becomes rougher underfoot eventually reaching the ruins of an old stone hut.


After the stone hut the path steepens again. Some people choose to use their hands for this section which eventually eases in gradient. The path continues into a boulder field which continues for some time. There are large sections where the 'path' disappears until it reaches the Llechog Ridge.


Llechog Ridge
Llechog Ridge, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)

The ridge is spectacular with magnificent views of Snowdon's South Ridge and summit on a clear day. With the summit and ridge on your left continue uphill over open and rocky ground. Go through another gate in the stone wall and walk up the zigzags. This is one of the steeper and more difficult sections.


At the top of the zigzags the terrain starts to level out. Here the path narrows with a big drop on your left as you start to access the upper section of the South Ridge.


Continue carefully along the ridge as it crosses the Bwlch Main. Soon you will be with spectacular views (hopefully) and exhilarating drops on both sides.


After around 300m the ridge widens progressively until you reach another standing stone marking where the Watkin Path comes up from the right.


There is just one more climb up loose and rocky terrain until the Snowdon Mountain Railway train station and summit come into view.


The descent is down the same way paying particular attention to keep right at the end of the Bwlch Main ridge.


Views of Snowdon summit from Rhyd Ddu Path

Scale Snowdon with the experts.

Join a guided walk up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) or consider using our Private Guiding service for the flexibility of choosing your own route, group size and date.



FAQ's

Rhyd Ddu circular routes

It is possible to combine the Rhyd Ddu path with the South Ridge to make a fantastic (possibly the best) circular route on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).


You can walk up and down either route with an ascent of the South Ridge being the slightly easier variation. The Bwlch Cwm Llan slate quarry and the ridgeline are the highlights.


The routes split/ join at the standing stone (SH58 52) and Bwlch Cwm Llan slate quarry (SH 60 52).


It is also possible to combine the Rhyd Ddu Path with the Ranger Path which is best done using the infrequent (on this side of the mountain) Snowdon Sherpa bus. The two paths can be linked by foot but it is a lot of additional distance for very little reward.


One of the harder sections of the Rhyd Ddu path to follow

How easy is the Rhyd Ddu Path to follow?

Large sections of the Rhyd Ddu Path are difficult to navigate so good map and compass skills are essential even in good weather.


The footpath can be separated into three sections; lower, middle and upper.


The footpath from the car park on lower section is excellent and easy to follow.

There is a signpost signalling where the Rhyd Ddu Path leaves the easy lower section and begins the more difficult middle section. This section crosses steeper, more rugged and open mountain terrain. The footpath is frequently non-existent making compass bearings and other navigation tools essential to avoid getting lost.


The upper section accesses the South Ridge of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) as it crosses the Bwlch Main. This is easy to navigate but is not suitable for people with an acute fear of heights due to steep slopes on both sides.


The lower section of the Rhyd Ddu Path is easy

What is the history of the Rhyd Ddu Path?

The Rhyd Ddu Path was used for the first official ascent of Snowdon in 1639. This footpath was originally known as the 'Beddgelert path' and was one of the first tourist routes due to it's proximity to Caernarfon and it's inns as well as the quality of the road leading to Beddgelert.


About the author

Tom is a local Mountain Leader who lives in a small cottage in Eryri (Snowdonia) with his girlfriend and dog Freya. He has scaled Yr Wyddfa/ Snowdon hundreds of times.


Local mountain guide and his dog
Tom & Freya

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