Mount Snowdon's Miners' Track - What You Need to Know
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales (2,372ft) and one of the three highest peaks in the United Kingdom, along with Scafell Pike in the England and Ben Nevis in Scotland. The Miners' Track was originally used to transport copper, but the mines closed in 1916 and the path has since been used by hikers as a way to reach the summit of Snowdon. It's considered one of the easier routes to ascend the mountain and is 8 miles in distance, there and back. Having said that, it still involves some scrambling towards the top and can be treacherous in bad weather.
Chris and I hiked the Miners' Track in Spring 2017 and made it to the top without any issues, but when I attempted this path with family as a young adolescent, the wind was so high that hikers were advised not to go more than halfway up the mountain, so we had to turn back. I remember nearly being blown off the path and then descending for hours in the pouring rain. It was a traumatic experience for my adolescent self, but then again everything felt traumatic at that age.
HOW POPULAR IS THE MINERS' TRACK?
The Miners' Track is possibly the most popular route to summit Snowdon. Sunny days are the most popular time to hike and during Summer holidays it can be very busy. The Spring Bank Holidays can also bring crowds. If you want to go at a quieter time so you're not squeezing past people and queuing for a photo on the summit, it may be wise to plan your trip mid-week before the school's break up for the year (this is usually mid-July). Colder months may also be a good option for avoiding crowds, but storms and icy conditions can be dangerous on the mountains and only experienced mountaineers should attempt to summit Snowdon in Winter.
WHAT'S THE TERRAIN LIKE?
The terrain starts as a fairly flat path which winds round some lakes, but gets rockier as the path gradually climbs the mountain. As the track starts to ascend more rapidly, these rocks get bigger and there's a steep section which requires some scrambling. Queues can form on this part as it's difficult to pass each other safely. We noticed some very young children hiking with their parents and they were able to manage most of the path, but required a lift here and there up the steep scrambling section. If there has been a lot of rain, which is common for North Wales, the path can be very slippery, so extra caution is required.
DO I NEED ANY SPECIAL EQUIPMENT?
It's highly advisable that you always pack a waterproof and warm fleece when hiking in Wales, as the weather can change with very little warning, especially in the mountains. On a clear day, hiking the Miners' Track doesn't require a map or compass as it's easy to navigate, but if visibility is poor, a map and compass, or GPS would be a good idea. I'd also recommend wearing decent hiking shoes to make sure you have good grip in slippery conditions. People need to be rescued every year from Snowdon because they haven't been prepared, so check the weather beforehand and pack for all eventualities. It's better to be safe than sorry!
WHAT IF I'VE NEVER HIKED UP A MOUNTAIN BEFORE?
You don't need to be particularly experienced in order to hike the Miners' Track, but if you have absolutely no mountaineering experience, then it would be advisable to hike during Spring or Summer so there are more people around and the weather is less likely to be an issue. More people means easier navigation; you can follow people the whole way up so you don't accidentally come off path. You'll need to remember which trail to take back down once you're ready to descend because some of the other tracks are much more challenging and not recommended for newbies. A reasonable level of fitness is required to make it to the top because it takes around 3 hours each way and once the path gets steeper, there aren't many places to stop and let people pass if you need a lot of breaks; especially in peak season.
WHEN'S THE BEST TIME TO HIKE?
North Wales is the wettest place in the United Kingdom, so a good view from the top is never guaranteed. Summer months have the lowest rainful so have a higher chance of clear visibility from the top, but they're also the busiest months. As I said before, mid-week outside of school holidays is much quieter, so would be the best time to go if you want to avoid large crowds. If you have more mountaineering experience and are well-prepared for the weather and terrain, then the colder months may be a good option. We hiked the Miners' Track on a Sunday in March 2017. The weather was beautiful with clear blue skies, but it was cold on the top of the mountain and we were glad to have brought our insulated layers. I'd also recommend starting your hike early in the day and aiming to descend before lunchtime as the afternoons are much busier.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW?
There's a car park at the bottom of the Miners' Track, at Pen-y-Pass. There is also a bus stop there for the Sherpa bus, but these only seem to come once an hour so check the times before you head off. We just missed the bus on our way down and ended up sat in the cafe for an hour, which was a bit annoying. The cafe in the car park wasn't great and didn't have much choice, so take food with you. Once you leave the car park there are no toilet facilities and nowhere to hide if you are caught short, so make sure you use the toilet before you start hiking. You don't want an embarrassing situation on the trail!
Snowdon is a really beautiful mountain with pretty epic views over the valley, and the Miners' Track offers a lot of vistas and photo-opportunities. Have fun, enjoy it and let us know how you got on in the comments below!