Secret Mountains Series. A guide to the lesser known peaks of North Wales.Published on 15 Feb 2021 by Gwion Llwyd
There are plenty of places to explore in Snowdonia beyond the mighty colossus that is Snowdon. But how well do you know the lesser known peaks of North Wales?
When you think of walking in Wales, it’s almost certainly Eryri, or Snowdonia, that first springs to mind.
And with good reason too. Our beautiful national park – and at 823 square miles it’s the largest in Wales – is perfect walking terrain, with soaring mountains, great lakes and dense forests.
But it probably won’t have escaped you that A LOT of people want to conquer Snowdon when they visit North Wales. In peak season the main paths up can become rather crowded.
The good news is, there are dozens of alternative peaks to enjoy, within their own wonderfully distinct ranges. Here are some of our favourites.
What is it that draws you to a day of walking in the hills? If it’s the appeal of getting away from it all, keep on reading.
The Rhinogydd is a chain of low mountains which stands at the south western edge of Snowdonia. One of the most rugged upland landscapes in Britain, it is a beautiful, tranquil place. The word ‘rhinog’ translates as ‘threshold’, but this is no man-made passing place. The hills are notoriously quiet and uncrossed by any road. Most of the vegetation management is done by sheep and a population of wild goats.
Moel Ysgyfarnogod is the most northerly of the Rhinogydd mountains. Translated into English, the name means bare hill of the hares. It is remote, heathery, grassy terrain, cut by streams and lakes. You can see why the hares might like it, and we certainly do too. Try the 10km circular walk up Moel Ysgyfarnogod from the village of Eisingrug.
Check out our favourite cottages near the Rhinogydd.
Bounded by Deganwy and Conwy in the north, the Conwy valley to the east, and the Ogwen valley to the west and south, the Carneddau are a wide expanse of mountain and moorland to the north of the Snowdonia National Park. Home to some of the biggest mountains in Wales, the highest summit, Carnedd Llywelyn, stands at 1064m – just 21m lower than Snowdon.
Expect grassy whaleback humps rather than the rugged peaks of the Snowdon massif, with some beautiful lakes and forests to explore – Llyn Crafnant is one of our favourites. Look out for the Carneddau’s resident population of wild ponies.
The spectacularly dramatic Glyderau mountains (also known as The Glyders) stretch from the village of Mynydd Llandegai near Bethesda (home of Zip World Velocity) south east to Capel Curig.
Boasting five of Wales’ fifteen summits over 3000 feet, these are rugged, rocky, mountains and home some of the best scrambling and climbing in the UK. The Glyderau is where you’ll find Tryfan (917m), a hands-on granite giant and one of the finest mountains in Wales. You can find out more about Tryfan – including how you can win the freedom of the mountain – over on our secret mountains blog.
The Moelwynion – also known as the Moelwyns – sit in the centre of Snowdonia, extending from just north east of Porthmadog to Moel Siabod near Capel Curig. These craggy summits are characterised by their boggy bottoms, moist hollows and disused slate quarries. They also offer some of the best mountain views in Wales, with superb vistas north to the Snowdon horseshoe.
Perhaps the most picturesque peak of the Moelwynion is the summit of Cnicht. It should be pretty obvious why it is known as “The Welsh Matterhorn”. Read more about Cnicht on our secret mountains blog.
If you prefer to admire your mountains rather than scale them, try the lovely circular walk around the Tanygrisiau Reservoir in the Vale of Ffestiniog, which has wonderful views of these mountains.
Check out our favourite cottages near the Moelwynion.
Back to Snowdon
Still can’t resist the lure of climbing Wales’s highest summit? If you do decide to visit Snowdon, the best time of year to walk is spring or autumn. You can plan ahead by downloading the Snowdon Walks app, which covers the six main routes up, with detailed maps and a live progress tracker.
All the usual safety advice applies: never go into the mountains without the right gear. Our bare minimum recommendations would be waterproofs, spare layers, food, water, gloves, hat / sun hat (and sun cream if you are climbing in summer), map, compass, mobile phone and whistle. Make sure you check the weather before you depart, and if possible, tell someone at home which route you intend to take and what time you expect to finish. You should always thoroughly research your route so that you have the best possible idea of what to expect.