On a clear day the view from Pen y Gadair, the summit of Cadair Idris is breathtakingly beautiful with the landscape and coast stretching before you like a map. However, it is sometimes wreathed in cloud and walkers should be sure to pack warm clothes for the top which can be many degrees colder than the start of your walk. Close to the summit cairn is a shelter which is maintained by the Snowdonia National Park Warden Service,
There are four main routes to the top with varying steepness and difficulty and whichever you choose, be prepared for wet weather unless you are really sure of a dry forecast, make sure you are wearing comfortable, rugged footwear and don’t forget to pack some food and drink. Extra care must be taken when looking for the way back down. If you take the wrong path, you could end up on the other side of the ridge, many miles from your starting point.
Starting about two miles west of Dolgellau from the southern shore of Llyn Gwernan, this is the most direct route up the mountain at just 2.5 miles, but involves climbing 1000ft up a very badly eroded scree slope, which can be dangerous and challenging, and is best avoided unless you are a very experienced and confident climber.
The start of the Pony Path is a little further westward along the road from Foxes Path, at Ty-Nant. Used in the past by traders with ponies, this is considered the least arduous way up the mountain. It’ll take 5 – 6 hours up and down, being a little over 3 miles to the summit on a well-marked fairly straightforward path with stunningly lovely views.
At less than 3 miles each way, this path also will take around 5 – 6 hours. It starts at a car park just as you turn onto the B4405 from the A487 and after walking through some ancient woodland you pass Ty Te Cadair Tea Room and the Cadair Idris Visitor Centre, before heading up the many steps which begin the uphill climb. Although it is considered the shortest safe path, it also involves the greatest ascent and is quite hard-going for less experienced walkers. A natural stop off point is the gorgeous glacial lake, Llyn Cae which is about half way. Here you can pause to appreciate the glorious view, have a bite to eat and contemplate the walk up to the summit, Pen y Gadair. Or you may decide the lake is far enough, and head back down the mountain in time to catch Ty Te Cadair Tea Room, a welcome stop before or after a walk.
Llanfihangel y Pennant Path
This is the easiest of the footpaths up Cadair Idris, but it is a long trek of 5 miles each way needing at least 7 hours to complete. It starts at the hamlet of Llanfihangel y Pennant. Follow the brown signs for Castell-y-Bere from the centre of Abergynolwyn, off the B4405. Pass the parking for Castell-y-Bere on your left and continue along the minor road until you reach the small hamlet of Llanfihangel y Pennant, where you’ll find a car park on your right opposite a church. The path begins gently, then becomes a long continuous ascent leading to a steep final climb. You’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of Castell y Bere and the Mawddach Estuary.