The tallest mountain in southern Snodonia, the mountain is a distinct feature in the area and a gorgeous hike. There are several ways to walk Cadair Idris including several loop trails and out and back walking trails. The summit of this hike stands out above the nearby hills and offer incredible views of the surrounding countryside.
We hiked Cadair Idris on 10 day England and Wales itinerary in late August with our 3 kids ages 8, 11 and 11. They all enjoyed the hike and since we had all day, we were able to take our time and enjoy the scenery. Below you can find information about how to walk Cadair Idris and lot of photos of our walk. We had beautiful views for the lower part of the hike, but the summit was cloudy so we don’t have great photos of the lake.
If you are looking for a guide to the area, check out our post on staying in the fun town of Dolgellau.
Note: you may also see this hike called the Cader Idris walk.
Quick Look at How to Walk Cadair Idris Hiking Trail
Out and Back via the Pony Trail Distance: 5.7 miles Elevation gain: 2,200 feet Difficulty: Challenging Loop Trail Cadair Idris, Craig Lwyd and Tal-y-Llyn Distance: 7.2 miles Elevation Gain: 3,200 feet Difficulty: Challenging Cadair Idris via Minfford Path Distance: 5.9 miles Elevation Gain: 2,900 ft Difficult: Challenging
There are several Cadair Idris routes. Since we were hiking with kids we did the easiest Cadair Idris hike up the Pony Trail. You can also hike this as several different loops. The easiest part of the Pony Trail is that it is only 2,200 feet of elevation, but it also doesn’t go directly by the water.
Hiking up the Pony Path, Cadair Idris starts off along the road and then follows the trail as it it turns to the left and begins to ascend slowly at first. The trail for the first section is easy and then begins to get steeper as it makes it’s way up the slope. This is the steepest section of the trail and you should plan to give yourself extra time on this section.
At the top of the steep section, turn left onto the Cambrian Way. This trail follows the ridge right to the summit of Cadair Idris-Penygadair. The final section has some steep and scrambly sections with some drop offs to one side. On the day we hiked, the mountain top was very windy and this part was slippery and a bit challenging. Use caution on this trail and check the Snowdonia National Park website for information on visiting, parking and conditions.
After summiting, turn around and return the way you came.
Map of Cadair Idris
Below is a hiking map of the Cadair Idris Pony Path. We found the entire path well marked and there are some basic facilities at the start of the walk. You can see more in the next section about how to find the start of the hike and where to park.
Background of Cadair Idris
The name Cadair Idris means Chair of Idris, and legend has it that the mountain was named after the giant Idris. The most famous legend on the mountain is that if you spend the night on the side of the mountain you will end up as a poet of a mad person.
While there are options for camping low down, it’s not recommended to spend the night on the mountain as there is often dangerous weather and steep cliffs.
Cadair Idris is also known to be the hunting grounds of the lords of the underworld and the lake at the base, Llyn Cau is the prison of the Water Dragon imprisoned here by King Arthur. The history and legend around the mountain adds a fun element to this hike.
Things to Know about Hiking Cadair Idris
Where is Cadair Idris?
Cadair Idris is located in southern Snowdonia in Wales and most of the trails start in Minffordd. The closest good sized town is Dolgellau and this is where we stayed during our visit. This is a great town to base your adventures in Snowdonia and you can find more hiking trails and biking opportunities.
Some people choose to hike Cadair Idris directly from Barmouth, although this is a much longer hike.
Getting to Cadair Idris Parking Lot
To get to the Cadair Idris Parking lot by car, enter one of these lots in your map app: Dôl Idris (Minffordd), Llanfihangel y Pennant or Tŷ Nan. For parking information, check out the Snowdonia National Park car parks page. There are basic bathroom facilities in the parking lot. These lots often fill up as this is a very popular hike on the weekends and holidays. If you are hiking during a busy time, try to get to the parking lot early in the day to get a parking spot.
There is limited public transportation to get to the trailhead. The T2 Trawscymru service stops at Minffordd and Dolgellau.
How Long Does it Take to Hike up Cadair Idris?
The Cadair Idris Pony Path is the shortest and easiest way up to the summit. The entire hike took us about 3.5 hours, but you could hike it more quickly without kids and if you take less breaks.
What are the Option for Cadair Idris camping?
There are a number of nearby camping option near Cadair Idris and it is possible to wild camp. The campground Cwmrhwyddfor is right at the base of the hike or check out the Doleinion campsite.
When is the Best Time of Year to Hike Cadair Idris?
Cadair Idris can be hiked all year long but it’s important to know that the weather here can be unpredictable. Even when we did the Cadair Idris walk in late August the temperatures were cold and windy. During the winter, the mountain often has icy conditions and cold temperatures. There are no facilities on the mountain, so be prepared for everything and carry plenty of food and water.
Can children climb Cadair Idris?
Cadair Idris is a popular hiking route and older kids will love exploring this mountain. We saw several other kids hiking although not all the younger kids made it up to the summit. There are several steep sections on the trail and some steep and dangerous cliff areas. This was a great challenge for our 8 year old who is an experienced hiker. My kids also loved the lure of the mountain and after hiking mostly in wooded New England loved the wide open views.
If you are climbing Cadair Idris with kids use extra caution and be prepared for changing weather.
Are Dogs Allowed on Cadair Idris
Dogs are allowed but since there are sheep they should be well behaved and kept under control. Always clean up after your dog.
Details of the Cadair Idris Hike
We did the walk up Cadair Idris in late August with 3 kids and it was one of the highlights of our trip trip around England and Wales. We got an early start as we heard the parking lot fills up but we had no problem getting a spot. We were hiking mid-week so this is likely not the case on the weekend.
The first part of the trail is gentle and relatively easy as it passes through pastureland. After about 1/2 mile the trail begins to ascend steeply. This was the steepest part of the entire hike but was enjoyable since our legs were fresh and with every step, the views opened up. There are also sheep across the pasture which make it even more interesting.
After the steep section, the trail ends where it meets up with the Cambrian Way. Turn left and continue on the ridge up towards the summit. This is a very pretty part of the hike as you get views out both directions. The path here is easy walking and stairs in many places. There are several steep drop offs on both sides to be careful of. The final push to the summit is steep with a few spots to use extra care. The rocks were quite slippery when we hiked Cadair Idris and the wind felt almost like it would blow us off the mountain.
The descent back down from the summit was challenging for the first 1/4 mile and then leveled off. Our 8 year old fell on one of the rocks near the summit and scraped her leg. A good pair of hiking poles would have been a nice addition to our gear for this hike. She had no problem hiking out, but keep in mind that the rocks are slick.
We only saw several people on out entire hike, and several of these people were doing an overnight and others were just hiking the lower section for some views. There are so many trails that converge here that there is truly something for everyone.
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