WATKIN PATH SNOWDON: Complete guide + top tips for hikers!

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WATKIN PATH SNOWDON: Complete guide + top tips for hikers!

Snowdonia is one of Britain’s most breathtaking national parks. With its extensive network of hiking trails, tranquil lakes, craggy peaks and spectacular views, it’s a truly magical place! There are different routes for varying ability levels to the summit of Snowdon but the Watkin Path is considered to be the most challenging. Want to know what it’s really like? Here’s your complete guide to hiking the Watkin Path Snowdon! 😉


What is the Watkin path?

The Watkin Path is one of six trails you can take to the top of Snowdon. The others are: the Pyg Track, Miners Track, Llanberis Path, Rhyd-Ddu Path and the Snowdon Ranger Path.

The path starts from the Nant Gwynant Valley in Snowdonia National Park in North Wales near the village of Beddgelert, which is located in the southern part of Snowdonia.

All the trails are suited for different fitness levels but the Watkin Path, although beautiful is the most arduous to the summit!

Mel wearing a white t-shirt and black leggings hiking up the Watkin Path in Snowdon

Why is it called the Watkin path?

The Watkin Path is named after Sir Edward Watkin, a prominent Victorian railway entrepreneur and politician.

Sir Edward Watkin was a key figure in the development of railways in the UK during the 19th century. He had a vision of creating a rail network that would connect London to various destinations, including North Wales.

In pursuit of this vision, Sir Edward Watkin played a significant role in the construction of the Festiniog Railway and the Welsh Highland Railway, both of which are narrow-gauge railways in North Wales.

He also envisioned a grand project known as the “Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway,” which aimed to connect Manchester and London with a railway that would pass through the scenic Snowdonia region of North Wales.

As part of this railway development, Sir Edward Watkin sponsored the construction of the Watkin Path in the late 19th century. The path served as an access route for visitors and tourists to reach Snowdon’s summit and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

The path was built to facilitate tourism and encourage people to visit the region and ultimately benefiting his railway ventures!

Today, the Watkin Path remains a popular hiking route to the summit of Snowdon, and its name continues to pay tribute to Sir Edward Watkin’s contributions to the development of railways and tourism in North Wales during the Victorian era.

View of the Watkin Path Waterfall flowing down the mountain surrounded by jagged rocks and trees on both sides

Why choose to hike the Watkin Path?

There are two main reasons why you should choose to hike the Watkin Path to the summit. The first being you’re a seasoned hiker looking for a challenge (especially if you have climbed Snowdon via other paths before) OR you want to check out the beautiful Watkin Path waterfalls on the way up!

I chose to hike the Watkin Path to the summit for both these reasons! But mainly because at the time I was due to go hike Snowdon, there was a heatwave here in the UK and I wanted to try wild swimming for the first time in the Watkin Waterfall!

You can hike up to the waterfall and go swimming though without having to do the rest of the trail if that’s your main draw to this route.

But if you simply want to reach the summit of Snowdon, there are far easier routes to take than the Watkin Path.

Mel taking a selfie swimming in the Watkin Path Waterfall pool wearing a red bikini

Do I need a guide to hike the watkin Path?

You don’t need a guide to hike the Watkin Path. But if you’re not a confident or experienced hiker, I wouldn’t recommend climbing to the summit via this route.

The trail is very steep throughout and the final ascent will require you to scramble over loose rocks for around an hour before you reach the top.

If you’d still like to give the Watkin Path a go but would prefer the added safety of going with a guide, there are a few local firms that offer a guided group hike such as Large Outdoors and Active Cymru.

Mel smiling and leaning against the monument marking the summit of Snowdon
At the summit stone!

How do I get to the Watkin Path?

If you live within a couple of hours of Snowdonia National Park and have a car, I would recommend driving up and down in a day (that’s if you don’t want to make a weekend out of the trip).

If you live more than a couple of hours’ drive away, I would advise staying somewhere local the night before. It just means you don’t have to get up too early or worry about traffic or potential blockers on the morning of your visit.

If you don’t have a car, you’ll definitely need to stay the night before. Even commuting from nearby Bangor where the nearest train station is, takes around an hour on the bus to reach nearby Llanberis.

When I visited Snowdon to hike the Watkin Path I stayed in Llanberis and got a taxi to the start of the trail which cost £30. We then descended via the Llanberis Path and walked the five minutes back to the hotel.

I shared the taxi with friends so it made more sense to pay for a taxi as when split between us it was only £10 each.

Top tip: I wouldn’t recommend getting a bus from Llanberis to the start of the Watkin Path as you’ll need to take two buses and it takes so long! I’d just budget for the cost of the taxi and split it.

Start of the Watkin Path with the stone sign next to stone steps leading to the path covered with lots of trees in the background

How long does the Watkin path take to hike?

The Watkin Path will take you roughly between three and a half to four hours. But this depends on how many breaks you take and your pacing.

When I hiked the Watkin Path it took me three and a half hours to get to the summit with a series of five minute breaks along the way. I was hiking with two very fast hiking friends though so I was trying to keep up with them!

But if you’re going at a slower pace and taking a few more breaks or stopping for lunch, it will take you a little longer. But it’s a much better approach. You want to enjoy the experience and take everything in!

It’s a lot quicker to hike down the mountain than it is to climb it (as you’d expect!). But I’d factor in two and a half to three hours for the hike down.

Mining ruins along the Watkin Path from the early 19th century

How do I navigate the Watkin path?

Unless you’re planning on climbing in the dark to see the sunrise from the summit (not recommended on your first hike of Snowdon without a guide!), you won’t need anything to help you navigate the trail.

The Watkin Path starts in the Nant Gwynant Valley and as you can see from the AllTrails map below, it’s a pretty straightforward path to follow.

Although the Watkin Path is less popular due to its difficulty you’ll always be amongst other hikers so you’re very unlikely to lose the path.

Around 500,000 people reach the top of Snowdon each year so in the warmer months there will be plenty of other climbers in front of you leading the way too!

If you feel more comfortable though, I would recommend downloading the map from the AllTrails app so you can navigate the route offline.

All Trails map of the Watkins Path up to the summit

When is the best time to hike the Watkin path?

I would recommend getting to the start of the trail as early as reasonably possible. I arrived the morning of my first climb at 8am and the car park was already full!

But it’s not just practical reasons as to why you should start your hike early. Your energy levels are higher in the morning and it won’t be getting dark by the time you descend.

Staying over the night before in Llanberis is also a great option if you want to get an early start. There’s also lots of fun things to do, including an ancient castle, watersports and a slate museum.

Combined with climbing Snowdon, it makes for a lovely weekend break!

Final ascent to the summit of Snowdon on the Watkin Path with the green peak of the summit in the background

When is the best time of year to hike the Watkin path?

April to October are considered the best months to climb Snowdon. However, as with most climbing (especially if this is your first time to Snowdon), I would recommend climbing it during the summer months.

It may be busier but the days are longer, the weather conditions are better and it’s just more enjoyable.

I once climbed Snowdon in late September to watch the sunrise and the weather was already starting to turn.

We never made it to the top because the rocks at the final ascent were too slippery from the ice and the wind was too volatile to even stand up straight on top of the summit.

So the lesson is, don’t risk the disappointment of not being able to summit at the last stretch and just plan your climb during the summer.

Especially if you plan to hike to the summit via the much more challenging Watkin Path!

Mel smilig sat on the edge of a grassy ledge wearing a white t-shirt and green backpack just off the Watkin Path with the view of the Pyg Track on the other side of Snowdon with green peaks and a big blue lake in the background

How far up on the Watkin Path is the waterfall?

The Gladstone Rock Waterfall is only 1 km from the start of the Watkin Path.

It’s one of the early highlights of the trail, providing a scenic and refreshing start to your hike.

I reached it at a leisurely pace in around 30 minutes.

Top tip: You won’t need hiking boots if you’re just hiking as far as the waterfall. However, I would recommend wearing a pair if you plan on going any further. There’s a full ‘Watkin Path kit list’ at the end of this post with things you’ll need to wear and pack if you plan to hike to the summit from the Watkins Path Waterfall.

Watkin Path Waterfall surrounded by green shrubs and falling in a shallow greenish pool

How hard is the Watkins path?

I won’t sugar-coat it, the Watkin Path is definitely the most difficult ‘classic’ route up Snowdon! I complained A LOT once we got past the halfway point! 😂

The Watkin Path is eight miles long with an ascent of 3,330 feet and is classified as a hard and strenuous route.

I must say as a seasoned hiker, this was probably the most difficult hike I’ve ever done!

It is however a beautiful route and very different from the other routes up to the summit which is why I enjoyed it!

The Watkin Path takes you from Nant Gwynant Valley which is one of the most scenic in Wales up through a range of terrain and points of interest on the way to the summit.

You start the trail walking through some lovely woodlands before reaching the absolutely stunning Watkin Path Waterfall, which cascades all the way down the mountain, along the trail.

The waterfall will take you between 20 and 30 minutes to get to from the start of the trail.

From the waterfall you’ll hike up along a steep trail taking you past some cool old copper mine workings and the ruins of Plas Cwn Llan, a 19th century house which was once used for target practise during the second world world.

You’ll also pass Gladstone Rock which commemorates the opening of the Watkin Path in 1982.

This is when things start to get more difficult as the trail becomes steeper as you make your way to the final ascent along the mountain side.

You will however have the advantage of a quiet path as this route isn’t as popular as the more forgiving routes up Snowdon!

You will also have an easy-to-follow rough stone path up until the final ascent with some rocky patches to make your way through.

Then you reach the final ascent!

View looking down from the final ascent, a rocky patch of path that hikers are scrambling over with the Snowdonia green peaks in the background

What is the hardest part of the Watkin Path?

The final ascent to Snowdon’s summit via the Watkin Path is a killer!!

It’s well over an hour of scrambling along the mountainside using both hands gripping rocks to keep your balance and pull yourself up the trail.

In order to hike the Watkin Path you must have some previous hiking experience and good fitness.

You won’t need any special climbing gear such as ropes and crampons but you will need a decent pair of hiking boots at the very least!

More on the kit list next!

Mel looking really tired but smiling near the top of the Watkin Path final ascent with lots of scrambling rocks along the path and the green peaks of Snowdon in the background and the winding path down the mountain
Look at those knackered eyes!

Is the Watkin Path suitable for kids?

I don’t recommend the Watkin Path for kids. It’s a tough hike with a very steep incline and a bit too dangerous with all the loose rocks during the final ascent.

If you want to take older children (10 to 12 years old and above – depending on their hiking experience) to the summit of Snowdon I would go via the Llanberis route which is a much easier path.

Mel wearing a white t-shirt, black leggings and a green backpack stood at the top of the Llanberis Path with the path winding in the background down the mountainside with lovely green peaks in the background

Is the Watkin Path suitable for dogs?

I don’t recommend the Watkin Path for dogs. I watched several dogs climbing exhausted trying to keep up with their families and one even cut their foot on the rocks on the final ascent which was horrible to see.

Leave the pups at home for this one or take them on an easier route such as the Llanberis Path or Pyg/ Miners Track.

I have two very energetic cockapoos who love to go hiking and I wouldn’t have taken them with me.

Distant view of the Watkin Path Waterfall from near the start of the trail flowing down the mountain with heavy mist and peaks in the background with green foliage all around

What do I need to pack to hike the Watkins path?

As I’ve mentioned a few times in this blog post (LOL), the Watkin Path is the most difficult route to the summit of Snowdon so you’ll need to make sure you take enough food, water and spare/ additional clothes for every weather inevitability.

I recommend packing the following when taking the Watkin Path during the summer months.


  1. Hiking boots
  2. Hiking socks (these will protect your feet from friction and decrease your chances of getting blisters. As well as keep your feet dry and cool with more breathable and comfortable material)
  3. Lightweight, waterproof jacket
  4. Waterproof hiking backpack
  5. Water-resistant sports leggings and waterproof over trousers (this is my personal preference as I just like having the movement and breathability that sports leggings provide with the insurance of having waterproof over-trousers to put over the top if the weather turns or I start to get cold)
  6. Nylon/ polyester t-shirt (avoid cotton as it absorbs moisture so it’ll trap against your skin, making you feel damp and hot as you sweat. This can also cause rubbing which gets super uncomfortable the longer you hike)
  7. Mid-layer fleece jacket (or jumper) (just in case it gets chilly – especially when you’re descending and starting to cool down)
  8. Baseball cap and bobble hat
  9. First aid pouch and Compeed blister plasters
  10. Mini portable charger
  11. Suncream sachets (to avoid the bulk of full bottles)
  12. High-carb packed lunch and protein bar snacks (Graze and Deliciously Ella are my faves!)
  13. At least two litres of water (depending on how hot it is on the day)
  14. Spare cash

Non-essential (but recommended!) CLIMBING SNOWDON SHOPPING LIST:

  1. Hiking poles (great for taking the strain off your knees and helping you keep your footing over rougher patches)
  2. Basic climbing gloves with grip (“handy” during the scrambling portions of the trail to help pull yourself over sharp rocks)
  3. Refillable water bottle (these sports bottles are lightweight, leak-proof and BPA-free, which are perfect for hiking! I also use one at home to make sure I’m drinking enough water throughout the day. The bottles have handy time markings on them to show you how much water you should be drinking by which time. Alternatively, I would recommend a hydration bladder which are also great for hiking. They’re BPA-free, leak-proof and compact with an on/ off valve that makes drinking on the go really easy. You can fill up at the top of the waterfall part way through the trail)

If you’re driving straight home after your hike, I’d also recommend packing a spare change of clothes in your car. It’s not essential but will make you feel more comfortable on the way home.

Especially if you’ve been caught out in a rain storm or are super sweaty and don’t want to sit in dirty clothes on the way back. Just keep a separate bag in your car with spare clothes and snacks and it’ll save you carrying it.

Mel stood by the Watkin Path Waterfall with her arms up wearing hiking clothes and green boots with her arms outstretched

What food do I need to prepare to hike the Watkin Path?

I recommend preparing a carb-rich lunch and lots of snacks to keep your energy levels up. Start with a slow-energy release breakfast like porridge with oat milk, banana and some nut butter for protein. 

For lunch, pack high-carb meals such as pasta, sandwiches, fruit and some energy bars. My favourite vegan protein bars are by Graze and Deliciously Ella but any are fine!

Mel sat on a pile of rocks eating crisps before the final ascent of Snowdon with backpacks at her feet

What is the descent like?

I usually recommend if you climb up Snowdon using one path, that you descend via a different path just to give you another perspective on the mountain. It’s also more fun this way!

If you’ve hiked up via the Watkin Path, which is the most challenging route, I would recommend taking the easiest one down – the Llanberis Path.

It’s not as scenic on the way down as the Pyg Track but you’ll be rewarded with lovely views of Llanberis Village, Llanberis Lake and the distant peaks.

If you still want to descend via the Watkin Path, I recommend just taking your time. You’re going to have to be careful not to lose you footing on loose rocks on the very steep decline.

Bear in mind how steep and arduous it was on the way up!

Once you get past the initial part of the decent you should be fine. You’ll also have waterfalls to look forward to at the end to take a dip in too!

View of the Llanberis Path on the way back from the summit with a group of hikers in front and mountains in the background

Where can I stay near the Watkin Path?

Most of the places you can stay that are closest to the start of the Watkin Path are holiday rental apartments that require you to stay for a longer length of time.

As you’re likely only looking to stay for a night or two in order to visit the Watkins Path Waterfall I recommend the following:

  • Red Dragon Holidays – based in the Nantgwynant Valley at the base of Snowdon, Red Dragon Holidays offers different types of accommodation from traditional Stone Cottages to Camping Pods. They’re also the closest to the start of the Watkin Path at only 300 metres.
  • Royal Victoria Hotel – based in Llanberis, opposite the train station to the summit of Snowdon. This lovely classic Victorian hotel is one of the best yet affordable places to stay in Llanberis. It offers spacious and comfortable rooms with ensuites and free breakfast. It was from here I took a 15 minute taxi to the start of the Watkin Path. I particularly loved having a drink in their beautiful garden overlooking the mountains!
  • Dol Perris – based in the centre of Llanberis, this guesthouse has a mountain view from every window! It’s also only 15 minutes drive from the start of the Watkin Path.
  • YHA Snowdon Pen-y-Pass – based at the foot of Snowdon, this hostel is the perfect base for climbing holidays, walking trips and outdoor adventures. Offering private rooms with ensuites as well as shared rooms with bunks. The hostel faces Snowdon’s Pyg Track in Pen-y-Pass and is only 15 minutes drive from the start of the Watkin Path.

Top tip: I recommend booking your accommodation as far in advance as you can as hotels and hostels book up so quickly during the height of the hiking season. Some popular options are booked up even months ahead of time.

Mel wearing a white t-shirt, black leggings and pink sunglasses turning around smiling at the top of the Watkin Path with the path winding down the mountain in the background with peaks and lakes

Final thoughts

One of my top tips for climbing Snowdon no matter what route you take is to make sure you have fun! 

Yes, it’s challenging, yes, it’s tiring…yes you may think you can’t do it at several points during the climb.

But embrace all those highs and lows because it’s all about the journey (don’t vom it’s true!). And there is no greater feeling than sitting your knackered bum on the edge of that peak and enjoying that breathtaking view.  

It’s an unforgettable experience!

Mel taking a selfie wearing a white t-shirt, green backpack and pink sunglasses with the green peaks and blue lakes of Snowdonia National Park in the background from the summit


Have you hiked the Watkin Path Snowdon before? What’s your favourite route? 😄

Quick FYI guys – this ‘Watkin Path Snowdon’ post contains affiliate links to products and hotels. I will receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

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