The Snowdon Horseshoe is considered one of the most challenging mountain routes in all of the UK.
The hike combines several classic routes around Mount Snowdon in Snowdonia National Park, Wales, so you get to experience everything in one go on this exhilarating route.
It involves four challenging scrambles and four peaks – Y Lliwedd, Snowdon, Garnedd Ugain and Crib Goch. It’s especially if you’re a hill walker and not used to scrambles.
The route is called The Snowdon Horseshoe because of the horseshoe-shaped ring of ridges and peaks around Mount Snowdon mentioned above.
The dramatic ridge scrambles are SO worth it. The Snowdon Horseshoe is considered one of the best walks in Snowdonia.
If you want to learn more about the fascinating route, don’t go anywhere, I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know for this amazing walk:
Walking/ Hiking The Snowdon Horseshoe
Table of Contents
- Trailhead: Pen-Y-Pass
- Parking: Pen-Y-Pass
- Trail Length: 7 miles (11.2 km)
- Time: 5-8 hours for the complete circuit
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Elevation Gain: 1,010 m (3,313.6 ft)
- Trail Type: Loop
In Snowdonia, there are many fantastic mountain walks, but nothing quite compares to the epic and intense nature of The Snowdon Horseshoe.
With every step you take, the intensity of the hike increases as you scramble the breathtaking Crib Goch Path. Craggy peaks surround you. Below, you’ll see Llyn Llydaw (the resting place of Excalibur, King Arthur’s trusty sword) on one side and sheer drops on the other.
Only the bravest hikers take on the Crib Goch Route with its notorious knife-edge ridge before tackling the tallest mountain in Wales, Mount Snowdon, one of the peaks in the Three Peaks Challenge. But if you’re up for a challenge, it’s an enjoyable route and will be a mountain day that you’ll never forget.
The Snowdon Horseshoe can be broken down into four sections:
I’ve hiked in the UK for 20 years, have experience in teaching outdoor education and have walked and hiked the Snowdon Horseshoe, so you’re in good hands. I’ll share the highlights point out tricky or technical sections of the route and suggest alternative easier paths where available. Let’s get started!
1) Walk From Pen-Y-Pass To Crib Goch
The start of The Snowdon Horseshoe is the Pen-Y-Pass car park, which fills up quickly, so try and get there early.
You’ll take the PYG Track towards the knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch, which fills your mind with the thoughts of having to scramble the ridge as you approach.
Scrambling the Crib Goch Ridge can either feel very exhilarating or daunting; there’s no in-between.
Although the Crib Goch Route is only rated a Grade 1 scramble, it’s up there as one of the most dangerous routes in the UK.
If you’re a novice hiker, you shouldn’t attempt this section of the Horseshoe; it’s not for the faint-hearted.
You follow the PYG trail for around 450 meters before you fork right at the stile marked Crib Goch.
From there, it’s easy to follow, which snakes up the east side of Crib Goch with a gradual incline on a scree path.
Eventually, you’ll start scrambling, which will feel daunting at first. The terrain is rough, steep, and terrifying, but it gets easier once you get past the initial mind barrier. Your thoughts matter.
Once you’ve completed the first scramble of the hike, you’ll be face-to-face with the notorious knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch. And it’s here where being an experienced hiker comes into play.
You need a head for heights. If you tend to suffer from vertigo or have a fear of heights, this isn’t the hike for you. If you need an escape route, you’ll have to turn back. But know this is the trickiest part of the trail.
From here, it’s about slowly and carefully making your way across the ridge line.
If you’re nervous, use three points of contact at all times (hands & feet). Don’t worry; you’re likely to see many hikers doing the same as they cross the rocky ridge… I know I did the first time.
The final obstacle of Crib Goch is the scariest. You’ll eventually meet the three famous pinnacles that involve climbing while scooting around a near-vertical drop.
But don’t worry, if you haven’t got the nerve for this section, you can avoid it by going around the other way.
Once you’ve made it down the final pinnacle, on the descent path, you’ll have some flat ground on Bwlch Coch. This is a great place to catch your breath after a stressful first leg.
2) Walk From Garnedd Ugain & Crib y Ddysgl To Snowdon
Next on your list of mountain peaks are Garnedd Ugain & Crib y Ddysgl. It’s a great section that provides beautiful views of Snowdon and the challenging ridge you just conquered on Crib Goch.
Scrambling to the summit of Garnedd Ugain via Crib y Ddysgl is pretty straightforward, and you shouldn’t have any problems if you pick the right line.
Once you are at the summit marker, take another quick break, enjoy the stunning scenery, and prepare a snack before starting your next section.
You’re now on the direct route to Mount Snowdon’s summit, where you’ll be using the very busy Llanberis Path. Don’t be surprised if you’re joined by hundreds of hikers on this easy stage of the hike.
You’ll have just over a ½ mile of hiking left before you summit Snowdon’s rocky peak, where you can check out the cafe for a spot of lunch.
3) Walk From Mount Snowdon To Y Lliwedd
Once you’ve finished at the cafe, head south to join the Watkin and Rhyd Ddu routes. After about 200-300 meters of hiking, you’ll see the signposts of Watkin Path. This is the ascent route where you can start your scramble to the summit of Y Lliwedd.
You’ll have a choice of routes, but if you’re looking for the best, stick to the edge, where you’ll be treated to amazing views and breathtaking exposure. The highest point of Lliwedd is known as the West Peak and stands at 898 meters.
4) Walk From Y Lliwedd To Pen-Y-Pass
From Y Lliwedd, you’ll scramble across the top of the ridge and over Lliwedd Back. You’ll notice a rocky path that descends steeply down the mountainside to Llyn Llydaw.
You’ll then cross a small bridge that joins you to the Miner’s Track for the final part of your journey, which takes you back to Pen-Y-Pass.
Before you leave, don’t forget to take a look behind you so you can see the Horseshoe and its dramatic ridges in all their glory. You’ve done it!
Frequently Asked Questions About Hiking the Snowdown Horseshoe
Where To Stay If You’re Hiking The Snowdon Horseshoe?
If you’re planning on taking on the Snowdon Horseshoe early in the morning, you’ll probably have to stay overnight. The best place you can stay is the YHA Snowdon Pen-Y-Pass because it’s right on the doorstep.
When Is The Best Time Of Year To Hike The Snowdon Horseshoe?
The best time of year to go is during the summer months. You’ll have better visibility and less chance of rain. The route can get pretty slippery when it’s raining, so check the weather forecast before you start hiking.
You don’t want to get caught on one of the challenging ridges in rain. If it’s raining, then choose another hike in Snowdonia.
How Many Peaks Are In The Snowdon Horseshoe?
The Snowdon Horseshoe takes you over four of the most famous peaks in Snowdonia and combines four different scrambles. And this is why it’s considered one of the best hikes in the UK.
Final Thoughts & Takeaways
The Snowdon Horseshoe is one of my favorite hikes in Snowdonia, and hopefully, it will bring you as much joy as it did me.
As a final word of warning, this hike isn’t for novice hikers unless you’re going with mountain guides.
You need a good head for heights and the confidence to navigate the rocky terrain with exposure.
And don’t be afraid to turn back if the weather turns bad; it’s not the place to get stuck.
You’ll also need to have excellent navigation skills to find places to cut off the track if and when required