Facebook pixel tracking icon
Climb Snowdon logo

The Snowdon Horseshoe – A Complete Guide

Climb Snowdon - The Snowdon Horseshoe - A Complete Guide

When we talk to new walkers interested in climbing Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) for the first time, we usually recommend they take one of the “easier” routes, like the Llanberis Path. When they inevitably come back for more, they might progress to the Miners, Pyg or Snowdon Ranger paths.

But for experienced mountaineers and hikers who have worked their way up through Yr Wyddfa’s other routes, the mountain’s crowning glory, its pièce de résistance, is the Snowdon Horseshoe.

It is arguably one of the finest walking routes in the UK and involves some of the most spectacular vistas, trails and ridgelines you will ever have the pleasure of traversing.

But it is also a challenge. Twelve kilometres long, with around 830 metres or 2720 feet of ascent and a grade one scramble thrown in for good measure, the route demands respect.

In this in-depth guide, we discuss the route in general, advise on necessary preparations and break the walk down into key sections, so you better understand the task ahead.

What is the Snowdon Horseshoe?

The Snowdon Horseshoe is a 12 km circular walking route that traditionally starts and ends at Pen-Y-Pass car park. It sees participants hike the legendary Crib Goch ridgeline and scale the summits of Garnedd Ugain, Yr Wyddfa and Y Lliwedd as you traverse some of the most challenging terrain in Eryri (Snowdonia) and experience the breathtaking landscapes roll out beneath you.

What should you expect from the experience?

The Snowdon Horseshoe is often considered the toughest of all the Yr Wyddfa routes. It is a well-earned and accurate reputation, so you must be ready for the challenge.

The scramble up Crib Goch is perhaps the most precarious and testing part of the route, as it involves traversing a jagged, knife-edge ridge with vertical drops on either side. It is not unusual for people to get stuck while scrambling Crib Goch, resulting in an unnecessary and expensive mountain rescue callout.

Consequently, anyone attempting the Snowdon Horseshoe should be an experienced hiker with plenty of mountain hours on the clock, a good head for heights and the necessary technical skills and equipment.

Crib Goch is not the only challenging section, either. The entire route is tough and requires a good level of fitness and experience to complete. It is not something to undertake lightly.

Preparing for the Snowdon Horseshoe

The best way to ensure you have the most enjoyable experience possible is to prepare well. That means making sure you are in great shape, understanding the risks, equipping yourself well and knowing exactly what the challenge involves.

Fitness and experience

Before embarking on the Snowdon Horseshoe, you must ensure your fitness level approximately matches the stress you will put your body under. Benchmarking is the only way of knowing whether you are at the right level. That means hiking other challenging routes and seeing how it goes and how you feel.

You can also talk to Yr Wyddfa experts, like the Climb Snowdon team, about how you should physically prepare and whether there are any courses or events you can join to help you prepare.

Mountain experience is just as important as fitness. It does not matter how strong a walker you are if you have trouble with the terrain or struggle with heights. Fortunately, you can acquire mountain experience relatively quickly and easily by spending more time in that environment. Mountain Skills Courses can also be extremely useful.

Weather check

You should always check the weather forecast before any adventure into the mountains. The Snowdon Horseshoe is no exception. We recommend using the Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) or the Met Office specialist forecast.

Be prepared for changing weather conditions. Pack waterproofs if there is even the slightest chance of rain. And always make sure you have a warm layer, just in case.

The mountains can be dangerous in poor weather, so plan your hike for a day with clear skies and a low probability of rain. Avoid the Snowdon Horseshoe when there is the possibility of storms or high winds.

Equipment and kit list

As with all challenging hikes, the equipment you pack will depend on your experience level and the type of activity. For instance, trail runners are sure to pack much lighter than those tackling the Horseshoe for the first time.

However, for most people, the core kit list will include:

  • Sturdy boots
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Extra layers
  • Map and compass
  • First aid kit
  • Headlamp
  • Food
  • Water
  • Mobile phone for emergencies

For more guidance on equipment, check out our full kit checklist. We’ve also written a blog on Environmentally-Friendly Hiking Kit, featuring some of our favourite quality outdoor brands who are sourcing and producing clothing in a sustainable way.

Time and travel planning

When you climb Yr Wyddfa has a considerable impact on the type of experience you can expect. Choose a weekend in the height of summer, and you may have to fight your way through the crowds on Yr Wyddfa’s busy summit. Opt for a mid-winter climb, and you will likely need specialist equipment and expertise to make it around the route.

We recommend attempting the Snowdon Horseshoe route during one of the shoulder seasons (Spring or Autumn) and avoiding weekends if possible. We know this is not always an option and it is not the end of the world if you have to go on a Saturday or Sunday. Just be aware that it may be a little busier.

In terms of transport to and from the route, parking is available at Pen-Y-Pass. However, you need to book in advance, as it does fill up quickly during peak periods. There is also pay-and-display parking a short walk away at the Pen Y Gwryd Hotel and in the villages of Llanberis and Nant Peris. The Snowdon Sherpa bus service is the best way to get from the villages to the trailhead.

If travelling to Eryri from elsewhere in the UK, consider car sharing to minimise traffic and emissions. Even better, take a look at public transport. You can use the Cambrian and Conwy Valley train lines to access the National Park and relatively regular bus services run throughout the area in peak months, too.

Perfecting the route

Before we dive into the route in greater detail, it is worth noting that the best mountain experience is the one tailored to your needs, abilities and expectations. Though it is good to push yourself sometimes, attempting routes that are way out of your comfort zone is not likely to end well.

Though purists may argue that you haven’t completed the Snowdon Horseshoe unless you finish the traditional route, we don’t think you should worry about them too much. Adapt and change the route so it matches your ability level and guarantees an enjoyable day out. If that means cutting Crib Goch out, that is fine. It’s not going anywhere. You can always come back another time.

The traditional full route

The traditional Snowdon Horseshoe starts and finishes at the Pen-y-Pass car park and covers 12 km. It can be tackled in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. Though it is entirely up to you, first-time climbers may prefer to attempt the route in an anti-clockwise direction, as this means tackling Crib Goch first, when you are still fresh, strong and feeling good.

An alternative route

If you prefer a less challenging hike or wish to shorten the route, consider omitting Crib Goch and taking the PYG or Miner’s tracks to the Yr Wyddfa summit instead. These trails benefit from stunning views too. And they are much easier to climb than the somewhat tricky Crib Goch scramble.

Breaking down the traditional Snowdon Horseshoe

If you are walking the traditional Snowdon Horseshoe in an anti-clockwise direction, the route can be separated into the following key sections:

Start at Pen-y-Pass

Begin your walk at the Pen-y-Pass car park. The earlier, the better, as it can get busy during peak times. Start climbing on the PYG Track – it is well-signposted and easy to follow. After approximately 2.1 km, you will reach a junction at Bwlch y Moch. Turn right after the stone wall and follow a path that runs beside a metal fence up towards Crib Goch.

Crib Goch summit

The Crib Goch climb starts easily enough but gets challenging when you reach the “bad step.” Following the bad step, you need to pick your way up through the rocks. There is no easy path to follow, so plan ahead and use your initiative to avoid dead ends. Keep on going until you reach Crib Goch’s summit.

Crib Goch ridgeline

As well as fantastic views of Eryri, you should now be able to see the famous Crib Goch ridgeline. The ridgeline is technical, tricky and requires patience and a cool head. Pick your route carefully. Often, the left-hand side is less exposed and slightly easier to traverse. However, there are occasions when crossing to the right side of the ridgeline is the best option. Take your time and do whatever works for you. Watch out for other hikers coming in the other direction, too. At certain points, crossing paths is not easy at all.

Up to Garnedd Ugain

After the ridgeline, you will come across the Crib Goch pinnacles and then drop down towards Bwlch Coch. Following some easier hiking, you will hit the rocky crags that lead up to the Crib y Ddysgl ridge and onto the Garnedd Ugain summit.

Onto Yr Wyddfa

From Garnedd Ugain, you descend to Bwlch Glas, where you will find the Snowdon Railway train tracks. Follow the path next to the tracks up to the top of Yr Wyddfa and enjoy the views from the tallest mountain in Wales.

Towards Y Lliwedd

Join the Watkin Path and drop down to Bwlch y Saethau. Watch your footing here, as the loose surface can cause issues. Leave the Watkin Path as you approach the Y Lliwedd scramble. There are multiple ways up the scramble and the route is not immediately obvious, so don’t rush and always think ahead. Y Lliwedd consists of two peaks connected by a ridgeline. Cross both of them and begin descending towards Llyn Llydaw.

Final stretch

Once you reach the lake, turn right and join the Miner’s Track. You then have a 2.4 km walk back to the Pen-Y-Pass car park. Congratulations!

Final considerations

Hopefully, you have nearly all the information you need to enjoy a safe and sensible hike around the Snowdon Horseshoe. But before we wrap up this guide, we want to highlight a few additional considerations.


We recommend carrying a map and compass whenever you attempt the Snowdon Horseshoe. Not all sections of the route are marked as well as the more established paths and weather conditions may hamper visibility, meaning you are reliant on your navigation skills. If you have access to a GPS device (as well as a map and compass), even better. Finally, it may sound obvious, but make sure you can use your map and compass. They are useless without the relevant navigation skills.

Respect the environment

Eryri is a pretty special place. We would like to keep it that way. To do so, we encourage you to pack out everything you pack in (leave no trace principles) and be aware of your impact on the environment. Try to minimise damage to flora and fauna and help maintain footpaths by ascending and descending in a controlled manner. Respecting your surroundings also extends to the local built environment. So consider the local community and shop with local businesses wherever possible.

In case of emergencies

Finally, know what to do in case of an emergency. If you are in danger and require emergency assistance, dial 999 and ask for the police, who will then send your request to Mountain Rescue. Of course, it is always best to try and ensure you do not end up in this situation by planning, respecting mountain risks and knowing your limitations.

What next?

Walking the Snowdon Horseshoe is an exhilarating adventure that ranks amongst the best walking routes in the UK. Though it requires experience and expertise, the route includes unparalleled views of Eryri and exposure to some thrillingly challenging terrain.

If you are interested in taking on the Snowdon Horseshoe, want to learn more about RAW Adventures skills courses or need more information on our mountain challenges, get in touch with the Climb Snowdon team via our contact form.