Known as Pen Y Gadair, the summit of Cadair Idris truly is a wonder to behold. With breath-taking views of the Welsh landscape and coastline stretching as far as the eye can see, the “Head of the Chair” is a stellar point to finish a climb, but the best way to tackle it is up to you.
With four main routes to the summit, Pen Y Gadair can be reached with varying degrees of steepness and difficulty. From novice hikers to avid climbers, the mountain offers some of the most diverse climbing in Wales tailored to meet our visitors climbing experience level. With some amazing views and sights, Pen Y Gadair is one of the most picturesque summits in all of Snowdonia National Park.
The most direct route to the summit is Foxes Path. Starting around two miles west of Dolgellau from the southern shore of Llyn Gwernan, Foxes Path is only a 2.5 mile journey but may be the most difficult route to reach the peak. Featuring a heavily eroded scree slope, the route involves a 1000ft climb that is perfect challenge for experienced climbers but is too difficult and dangerous for less experienced and confident climbers.
Slightly westward of Foxes Path’s starting point is Ty-Nant, the beginning of Pony Path. Formerly used by traders transporting their goods with ponies, the path is considered to be the least arduous route to reach the summit. Measuring just over 3 miles each way, the route takes around 5 to 6 hours to scale and return to the start. The path is well sign-posted with spectacular views of Snowdonia National Park along the way.
Similar in length to that of Pony Path, Minfordd Path is just shy of 3 miles to the summit. Starting just beyond the car park to the Ty Te Cadair Tea Rooms and Cadair Idris Visitors Centre, the route is considered to be the shortest safe path to the summit. Half way on this route, visitors will visit Llyn Cae, the mountains’ beautiful glacial lake. On average, Mindfordd Path takes around 5 to 6 hours to scale and return, however, be aware that this route features a great ascent, which can prove to be very challenging for less experienced walkers.
Despite being deemed as the easiest footpath to reach Pen Y Gadair, Llanfihangel y Pennant Path is the longest route to reach the summit. Stretching 5 miles each way, we’d recommend having at least 7 hours to complete this beautiful path. Starting in the hamlet of Llanfihangel y Pennant, the route starts gently before becoming a long ascent leading to a steep final climb to the summit. Although longer than the other routes, Llanfihangel y Pennant Path features stunning views of Castell y Bere and the Mawddach Estuary.
Close to the summit cairn you’ll find a shelter, which is maintained by the Snowdonia National Park and a great place to rest before making your descent. For those new to hiking in Wales, we’d recommend wearing comfortable yet rigged footwear, and to prepare for wet weather unless the forecasts are extremely confident of a dry day. These routes can take longer based on experience, so remember to pack food and drink to keep your energy levels up. On your descent make sure you take the same path to the bottom, otherwise you may end up miles away from your starting point.
There are also a few less popular walks up Cadair Idris:
- Craig Cwm Amarch from Llanfihangell y Pennant
- Pony Path from Llanfihangell y Pennant – A Long, meandering walk that’s described as part of a walk from Machynlleth to Barmouth.
- Mynydd Moel from Minffordd – Described in descent, but a viable ascent as well.
- Cadair Idris from Dolgellau – Via Gau Graig, along the entire mountain.