Family Walks in Snowdonia: Climbing Snowdon with Children

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We’ve climbed Snowdon many times – with children at all different ages from baby to teenager. And we’ve met many other families happily and safely climbing Snowdon with their kids too, so it’s definitely achievable and something we’ve always enjoyed. But if you’re planning on climbing Snowdon with children there are a few things to be aware of to make the day go well and safely…

Questions answered in this post…

  • Is climbing Snowdon with children safe?
  • What’s the best path up Snowdon for children?

Our favourite and most-successful day climbing Snowdon with children was up the Rhyd Ddu path and coming back down the Ranger Path. We’ve also climbed the Llanberis path successfully with the children too.

The Rhyd Ddu path starts at the Rhyd Ddu train station car park, where there’s plenty of car parking space.

A gate leads you across the railway track and off up a wide gravel path – a relatively easy introduction to the day’s walking through some of Wales’s most beautiful mountain countryside, with your destination of Snowdon’s summit clearly visible in the distance above you (as long as the weather is clear of course!)

A nice flat, easy start to the walk from Ryhd Ddu – but don’t let this fool you – it doesn’t stay this way for long!

Staying safe with children on Snowdon

Before we go on, if you’re climbing Snowdon with children (indeed even if not with children) there are some important things to bear in mind and be prepared for…

Firstly this isn’t just a normal family walk in the country or up a local hill. Snowdon is a serious mountain and genuinely dangerous. Whenever we’re here the sound and sight of the mountain rescue helicopter is common and people regularly die on Snowdon. You have to treat it with respect and approach the day prepared and with a clear understanding of the dangers of the mountain.

Yes, we love climbing it and have always enjoyed taking the children up Snowdon but are always well aware we’re taking a risk and are always conscious of the dangers.

Climbing Snowdon is an amazing experience but we’d never recommend taking small children up here in anything other than good weather conditions

Each time we’ve been up Snowdon we’ve been horrified by the sight of people wandering up there in trainers or, unbelievably, flip-flops, cardigans and carrying little more than a handbag.

Whether you’re taking children up Snowdon with you or not, taking and wearing the right equipment and clothing is essential if you’re not going to end up either on the list of those who’ve died on Snowdon or facing the humiliation of being winched in to a helicopter with a broken leg in your flip-flops!

This was a hot, dry and clear day but we still had to pack layers and wet weather gear for all six of us in our backpacks

Be sure you’ve all got proper walking boots, you won’t believe what a huge difference proper, ankle-supporting, big-gripping walking boots will have when the terrain gets tough (which it does) especially on the way back down.

Even if the weather’s good, bear in mind it can change dramatically- and very quickly – when you get higher up.

Even as experienced mountain walkers, we were shocked one time by the speed with which the weather changed on us, with wind and rain descending from nowhere to the point where we genuinely feared being blown off the mountain. We made a rapid retreat that day!

Obviously if you’re going up Snowdon with your children, you’ve got an extra degree of responsibility and awareness of all this. Promise yourself before you set out that if conditions suddenly turn dangerous that you’ll be prepared to abandon the climb and head back down without being swayed by the disappointment of having to give up.

We took all four of our children on our day up the Rhyd Ddu path – Emma being the youngest at age two, Luke aged six – and Alicia and Ryan being 10 and 12.

The weather was (unusually for Snowdonia) beautiful on this day and we wouldn’t recommend climbing Snowdon with children (particularly very young ones like ours) on anything other than a clear, dry summer day. For one thing the views from the top are all that more rewarding when it’s clear – and of course the treacherous conditions on a bad weather day are no good for having children with you.

We’ve got a brilliant carrier for Emma (from Vaude¬†from the Little Adventure Shop), which has suited her right from being a tiny baby up to the age of two to three. She’s strapped safely and tightly in it and it’s well padded in all the right places for comfort – and has a detachable rainproof cover that means she can be completely enclosed in the dry and warm.

She’s old enough now to be in and out of it, enjoying walking and running up the easier bits of the track (and giving Dad a much-needed rest!) and getting back in when the going gets tougher or she just gets fed up of walking.

We’d set out at about 9am and, after a relatively leisurely start after a few hours the terrain of the Rhyd Ddu path begins to steepen and the walk gets tougher.

Beyond the half-way point the Rhyd Ddu path starts to get seriously steep and hard work!

We stopped for lunch on a grassy slope looking back down to the valley from which we’d climbed below before ploughing on, keen to reach the top while the weather remained good.

Beyond the half-way point the Ryhd Ddu path starts to get really steep. With all our gear packed in to heavy rucksacks and a fast-growing two-year-old in a back carrier, it starts to get pretty tough work.

The cheerful nature and enthusiasm of the older children began to fade and more and more encouragement (by way of bribery involving ice creams from Beddgelert’s famous ice cream shop) was needed to keep them all moving.

Some of Snowdon’s paths are just plain unsuitable for children due to treacherous terrain. For example the Watkins Path, which is relatively leisurely and picturesque most of the way, turns in to an almost vertical scramble up loose scree near the top, which you really wouldn’t want to drag a two and six-year old up!

The Ranger Path and the Llanberis Path are two of the best for children – albeit with steep slopes but no overly-dangerous ridges or terrifying vertical climbs.

Rhyd Ddu is slightly borderline for particularly young children. As you approach the summit there’s a really narrow ridge with huge drops either side which made us pretty nervous.

Near the top the Rhyd Ddu path turns in to a narrow ridge with huge drops either side. Borderline as to whether it’s safe for children!

We carried on anyway because the weather was so good, taking extra care on this section but, even so, we have to admit our hearts were in our mouths on a few occasions looking down the steep drops either side of the path.

We decided that coming back down the Rhyd Ddu path and negotiating the high ridge line again might be a risk too far, so once we’d reached the summit, we opted to head back down the far safer Ranger Path instead.

Views from the top of Snowdon on a clear day are always worth the effort in getting up here

The summit of Snowdon is truly spectacular on a clear day with views that are unrivalled anywhere else in the country. We enjoyed a much-needed rest, took loads of photos, refuelled on snacks and drinks and looked around the new visitor centre and cafe that’s at the summit.

Don’t be fooled in to thinking that, once you’re at the top, the hard work is done! We often find the walk back down again is, if anything, harder than the walk up, particularly with heavy bags and child carriers on your back. This is the bit that really turns your legs to jelly and rubs your feet. Having to negotiate the downward journey in anything less than sturdy walking boots seems unthinkable!

We knew the Ranger Path would be an easier and safer descent for the children than going back down Rhyd Ddu but of course our car was parked in the car park at the foot of Rhyd Ddu.

This wasn’t a major problem as the Ranger Path ends within a short walking distance of the Rhyd Ddu car park. So once we arrived back at the bottom – some eight hours after setting out that morning – Bev and the children hung around relaxing in the sun with their shoes off while Andy walked the 15-minutes or so along the road back to get the car.

There’s no doubt that taking children up Snowdon can be risky and needs careful planning, thought, good weather and the right clothing and equipment.

If you’re doing so, we strongly recommend taking either the Ranger Path, Llanberis Path or – for the slightly more adventurous – Rhyd Ddu.

The older the children get, the less enthusiastic (to put it mildly!) they get about doing eight-hour hikes up mountains, but we like to see it as character building and, even if they might complain, they’re always pleased with themselves at the end – albeit if it is after payment of their bribes at the Beddgelert ice cream shop!

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