Ogwen Valley, or Dyffryn Ogwen in Welsh, is the real jewel in the crown of Snowdonia National Park, a huge glacial valley bowl with mountain lakes, waterfalls and boulder fields. Snowdon itself may well be the most visited, but everyone who knows, knows…
The valley’s creation dates to the Ordovician geological period, roughly 450 million years ago. Two land masses collided to produce the mountains and following the retreat of the last ice age around 12,000 years ago the weathering and erosion left the landscape we see today. The last of the ice retreated east down the Nant Ffrancon valley, carving out the Cwm Idwal bowl on it’s way.
Today we’re among many people who love the Ogwen Valley for hiking, scrambling, climbing and running. There’s so many paths and trail routes available it’s impossible to get bored here, with the weather alone providing unique experiences on every visit. For those who want a gentle wander but still get some mountain vibes, Llyn Idwal is a reasonably accessible walk from the Ogwen Visitor Centre. The valley provides far tougher challenges for others who wish to seek them out.
Top 10 Ogwen Valley Trail Routes
Increasing in difficulty from 1 to 10, here’s our top ten trail routes for walking, scrambling and running in the Ogwen Valley. The Llyn Idwal walk at 1 is a comfortable walk for most abilities, with 2, 3 & 4 being reasonably accessible. Route 5 onwards suits more experienced mountain people.
Distance 2.8 miles
Time 1 hour 30 mins (walking) 30 mins (running)
Total Ascent 1,166ft
Views Ogwen Valley, the Glyderau, the Carneddau, Llyn Idwal.
The most simple walk to enjoy in Ogwen Valley, our Llyn Idwal Loop is a gentle wander around a landscaped bowl dating back to glacial erosion. The views are great, Llyn Idwal is one of the most beautiful natural lakes in the area and the whole loop comes in under 3 miles. It’s a fantastic walk to do with loved ones who aren’t interested in climbing mountains, with the option to cut it even shorter to miss out the Devils Kitchen waterfall and boulders at the south tip.
1. From the Ogwen Valley visitor centre a clear path leads up some man made steps and towards the mountains. Within a minute there is a great viewing spot of a big waterfall from the first footbridge, with Y Garn mountain in the background. The well maintained path wanders gently upwards to Llyn Idwal.
2. The first view of the lake itself is stunning, with the lower slopes of Y Garn, Glyder Fawr and Y Gribin circling Llyn Idwal and on still days the reflections can be incredible from here. We like to take the left hand side of the lake on a clear path.
3. At the south tip of the lake there is a choice between turning right for a shorter loop or ascending a few feet to scramble some boulders and discover the Devil’s Kitchen waterfall. The latter path drops down and eventually meets the previous right turn along the west side of the lake.
4. At the north tip of the lake there is a stile over a wire fence clearly visible a few yards across the grass, this route down drops into a magical gorge in the rocks that serves as the perfect finish to this beautiful Snowdonia trail route.
Distance 3 miles
Time 1 hour 30 mins (walking) 30 mins (running)
Total Ascent 383ft
Views Ogwen Valley, the Glyderau, the Carneddau, Llyn Ogwen.
A comfortable 3 mile loop of Llyn Ogwen lake in Snowdonia National Park, this has the least ascent of all the trail routes on our website at just 383ft, although the Pen Yr Ole Wen side of the lake has some boulders and boggy sections to cross. Like our Llyn Idwal Loop, this trail is great for family members and friends who aren’t necessarily big walkers but like to get a real experience of the Welsh mountains.
1. We like to start this route about halfway along the lake, where it’s possible to see pretty much the entire walk in all but absolutely dire weather. Heading towards Tryfan along the road, there’s a left hand turn over a bridge, passing a house and following the track up to a stile.
2. Shortly after the stile the path bears to the left and down to a picturesque footbridge over the stream. From here there’s a path to follow that snakes alongside the waters edge, crossing the odd boggy/wet section and a number of small boulder fields until it reaches the A5 road.
3. Before hopping over the A5 stile and heading back, we always head down to the left of the stile to check out the historic Roman bridge that still stands, preserved underneath the new main road with some staggeringly beautiful waterfalls. After this little treat it’s a simple case of hopping the stile and following the road to the left back to the car park.
The most comfortable way to summit Tryfan, from the Ogwen Valley Cafe and visitor centre. This walk takes in beautiful waterfalls, a breathtaking mountain lake and a challenging scramble to reach the Adam & Eve stones at the top. The option for descending via Heather Terrace is included in this trail route.
1. From the Ogwen Visitor Centre we take the well marked path towards Tryfan, stopping at the popular waterfall viewpoint with Y Garn mountain in the background. Shortly after this, as the path bears to the right we take the stepping stones on the left, continuing towards Tryfan.
2. The path climbs on mainly man made steps alongside another stunning waterfall to the lake Llyn Bochlwyd. We love having a coffee break here. The path continues upwards to the left hand side of Llyn Bochlwyd.
3. On reaching Bwlch Tryfan, there’s a dry stone wall that links Bristly Ridge and Tryfan. We follow a short section of the wall to the left and then begin summiting Tryfan over the boulders. The final plateau before the summit has some breathtaking drops and views.
4. On this trail route we start to descend from where we came, retracing steps down the boulders until reaching level ground. Hopping over the stile and descending a short steep path we take the Heather Terrace path on the left. This cuts down across the east face of the mountain, curling around the bottom of the North Face and rejoining the road by Llyn Ogwen. A short walk roadside brings us back to the visitor centre.
This is a lesser walked valley option for summiting Tryfan, most taking the Llyn Bochclwyd route. Walking up Cwm Tryfan valley is lovely, in short a boulder field with streams and beautiful natural flora everywhere. The mid afternoon light on the mountain summit can be spectacular on the right day from the bottom of Bristly Ridge.
1. Parking alongside Llyn Ogwen, this trail route starts by skirting around the North Face of Tryfan, heading for the popular climbing location Tryfan Fach.
2. The path continues straight up Cwm Tryfan valley, essentially a big boulder field with streams and lots of heather. It’s a lovely wander and a gentler way to ascend than other routes up Tryfan.
3. On reaching Bwlch Tryfan, there’s a dry stone wall that links Bristly Ridge and Tryfan. We follow a short section of the wall to the right and then begin scrambling over the boulders to the top. The final plateau before the summit has incredible drops and views.
Distance 4.6 miles
Time 2.5 hours (walking) 1 hour (running)
Total Ascent 2,368ft
Summits Y Garn (946m)
Views Llyn Ogwen, Llyn Idwal, Pen Yr Ole Wen, Glyder Fawr, Y Gribin, Y Garn, Elidir Fawr, Snowdon (from Y Garn summit).
This scenic trail route wanders past Llyn Ogwen, ascends the infamous Devils Kitchen stairs and reachest its highest point at the summit of Y Garn mountain. Y Garn is a fabulous mountain for it’s 360 degree views, but the normal north east path is a drag to go up, so we usually head this way around as Devils Kitchen is much more fun and picturesque. The loop takes in four lakes, Llyn Ogwen, Llyn Idwal, Llyn y Cwn & Llyn Clyd.
1. Parking near Llyn Ogwen and the visitor centre, this route wanders up to Llyn Idwal, taking in the beautiful west side of the lake. The ascent begins at Idwal Slabs, a huge open faced stretch of rock at the south tip of Llyn Idwal.
2. The path crosses under Idwal Slabs and weaves up through the boulders to the Afon Llyn Cwm waterfall. Up to the left of the waterfall is the familiar stile and dry stone wall – a great place for the view in good weather and a welcome shelter for a breather in challenging conditions.
3. Just as the trail flattens out, the beautiful little lake Llyn y Cwn comes into view, we skirt around the right hand side of the water and pick up the path towards the summit of Y Garn. This is a straightforward hill walk to the top.
4. Continuing north from the summit down the Cwm Clyd valley bowl, there’s a path that drops off the edge to the right and then follows the ridgeline all the way down. The trail becomes man made stone steps before evening out at Llyn Idwal, a few minutes from the end back at Llyn Ogwen.
Distance 4 miles
Time 1 hour (running – ignore the OS Maps link’s advised 35 mins, the ascent is tougher than that…)
Total Ascent 2,615ft
Summits Pen Yr Ole Wen (978m)
Views Ogwen Valley, Tryfan, the Glyderau, the Carneddau, Snowdon Horseshoe, Llyn Boclwyd, Llyn Idwal, Llyn Ogwen, Cwm Lloer
1. Parking to the Tryfan end of the Ogwen valley gives a nice comfy flat warm up for the legs around Llyn Ogwen, before heading over the stile by the old Roman bridge. There’s multiple choices of path going up, but we tend to keep the drop on our left, which gives great views, a few short scrambling sections, lots of big fun boulders and a couple of scree lines. We find keeping the drop to the left means we can safely navigate this route in any weather conditions.
2. More facts: the actual summit of Pen Yr Ole Wen is shit, just a crappy pile of stones in the middle of a football pitch sized flat area. Just off the summit is a tiny stone circle, that gives lovely views on clear days but is also a great shelter from the elements for a quick coffee break in tougher conditions. Wandering northwards brings incredible views down to the tiny lake Lloer, hidden in the cwm.
3. The descent down the east side is incredible fun. From the summit we keep the drop to lake Lloer on our left and follow the clear trail that snakes down quickly. The top section is wide open and a dream to stride out, enjoy the view and fill the lungs. Halfway down onwards becomes a mixture of boulders, short drops and more technical trail, all equally good fun. Once we meet the stream from Lloer it’s time to turn right down the valley.
4. On reaching the stile and stone wall overlooking Llyn Ogwen there’s a choice between heading off trail across the Pen Yr Ole Wen side of Llyn Ogwen or the faster path down to the main road. The link for the OS Map includes the latter.
Distance 3.8 miles
Time 2.5 hours (walking) 1hr 20 mins (running)
Total Ascent 2,479ft
Summits Bristly Ridge, Glydwer Fach, Castell Y Gwynt, Y Gribin.
Views The Ogwen Valley.
1. Best place to park to get to Bristly Ridge as quickly as possible is the public car park about halfway down Llyn Ogwen, the one with the stone walls either side of the entrance. From there we head straight up in the general direction of Llyn Boclwyd. We stick to the main path past the left hand side of the lake and follow it up to the Bwlch Tryfan wall and stile.
2. After following the Bwlch Tryfan wall up to roughly it’s endpoint, we usually bear right slightly and then simply pick a route up at random. There’s so many gulleys, cracks and huge boulders that the fun is endless. There’s some big drops and the exposure is significant at various points up the ridge. The only disappointing thing is when we top out too quickly and the fun is over!
3. From the top of Bristly Ridge we rejoin the main path over Glyder Fach, passing the popular cantilever stone, and Castell Y Gwynt. Bearing to the right leads us up to Y Gribin’s stone circle for a quick rest.
4. We love Y Gribin, so many huge boulders to leap between and the view laid out in front, with Pen Yr Ole Wen taking centre stage, is sublime in good weather. We like to keep to right hand side/highest points of the top section of the ridge, this gives us the most amount of scrambling and keeps the 180 degree view mostly uninterrupted. From the football pitch (big flat section) it becomes an easy trail to stride out on. With this being a quick loop, we usually head from Y Gribin to Llyn Boclwyd, following the stream with the waterfall on our right, crossing over just after the steepest section of steps. From there the trail leads straight back to the car park.
Distance 9.6 miles
Time 5 hours walking
Total Ascent 3,385ft
Summits Tryfan (917.5m)
Views Ogwen Valley, the Glyderau, the Carneddau, Llyn Boclwyd, Llyn Idwal, Llyn Ogwen, Ffynnon Lloer, Ffynnon Llugwy.
1. We park halfway along Llyn Ogwen to start this wander, allowing a short distance for the legs to warm up (and a loo stop at Ogwen Visitor Centre) before crossing the roman bridge stile and ascending Pen Yr Ole Wen. This steep path continues upwards in a fairly straight line, retaining valley views on both sides (with Tryfan to the right at all times).
2. The stone circle near Pen Yr Ole Wen summit is a good place for a coffee break, then it’s head around the Lloer valley bowl to Carnedd Dafydd, where there are multiple stone circles to pick a spot and enjoy the views.
3. Continuing along the ridge we eventually reach Carnedd Llewelyn, the highest point of the walk at 3,400ft and the second highest mountain in Wales. From Llewelyn we head east down the Bwlch Eryl Farchog ridge, bearing right down to Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir just before the path rises towards the summit of Pen Yr Helgi Du.
4. Corporation Road is a long straight tarmac downhill back to the main A5 road, where we cross over at the campsite and join the Eryri footpath all the way to the north face of Tryfan, and around to the find the car by Llyn Ogwen.
Full walk through video of the entire route
Distance 1.6 miles
Time 1 hour 30 minutes (walking) 50 mins to 1 hour (running)
Total Ascent 1,983ft
Summits Tryfan (917m)
Views Ogwen Valley, the Glyderau, the Carneddau, Snowdon Horseshoe, Llyn Boclwyd, Llyn Idwal, Llyn Ogwen
Full walkthrough of the best Tryfan hiking loop.
Tryfan is without doubt our go to mountain in Snowdonia for fun, and this is the best Tryfan hiking loop. Ascending the north face at either walk or run pace is a really amazing experience; loads of scrambly bits and short bouldering sections to freeclimb. There’s no single definitive path, and despite summiting this mountain well over 100 times to date, we have yet to take exactly the same route twice. The north face ascent usually takes around 50/60 minutes walking, and the descent around 30/35 minutes. We run this trail up in around 40-50 minutes and descend between 10 and 20 minutes.
1. We park by the Tryfan end of Llyn Ogwen and head through the stile looking up at the north face. The familiar dry stone wall soon disappears by the stile and the fun begins up to the left, using the partial steps and various boulders/cracks/small gulleys to head UP quickly.
2. There’s so many highlights in this incredibly short but steep route, with the popular “tryfan cannon stone” around halfway up being one such area. As we snake around the ridge taking in a short path above heather terrace, the views both east towards Moel Siabod and west over the Ogwen Valley are all simply breathtaking, in every weather condition.
3. Similarly to Snowdon itself, we rarely find ourselves on Tryfan at weekends due to the deluge of tourists and mountain leader types. The weekdays and particularly mid-week evenings are more often than not the best times for us. Tryfan’s summit with the Adam & Eve stones is a truly special place, and making time for regular sunsets there is an essential part of life.
4. Descending via the west side into the Ogwen Valley is simply amazing, every time. The top section of boulders take around 10 minutes walking briskly, then it’s “the floor is lava” (bouncing rock to rock without touching the ground) all the way back down to Llyn Ogwen. Running this section is one of the finest thrills on offer in Snowdonia National Park.
How To Find Ogwen Valley
South of Bangor on the main A5 road off the A55 expressway on junction 11, for most the journey heads through the historic slate mining village of Bethesda. The road winds up the Nant Ffrancon valley until reaching Ogwen Visitor Centre on the right of a sharp left hand bend.
From the south or east it’s a case of reaching the A5 road near Llangollen and staying on it through Corwen, the Rhug Estate & Betws Y Coed, eventually reaching the valley a couple of miles after Capel Curig.
Sat Nav LL57 3LZ
Knowing The Area
Getting to know and understand Ogwen Valley has been and still is a life changing and experience rich endeavour. The mountains change so much throughout each day, never mind the seasons, with never ending weather transformations.
We luckily visit mostly on weekdays, often on days of “miserable” weather, when we get to enjoy the spaces with very few other people around. This time is meditative and incredibly good for wellbeing. It’s a place to truly connect with nature, uninterrupted by capitalism and modern life. We know these hills that well that wandering in complete white out clouds with only yards of visibility from summit to summit is a blissful and carefree experience.
This kind of confidence took time and literally hundreds of visits to Ogwen, summiting again and again in bright sunshine to torrential rain to full winter snow. The paths are so familiar, certain boulders like old friends, nodding knowingly as we pass. Despite this we still find new routes to take, new boulders to scramble on and repeatedly enjoy breath taking moments courtesy of nature.
The best advice for new visitors is to explore the lower areas of the valley first, spending time around the three lakes Llyn Ogwen, Llyn Bochlwyd and Llyn Idwal. Taking in the shapes of the different ridges and mountains from below, learning the names and their positions not only enhances the enjoyment but helps navigate when higher up.
Tryfan and Y Garn both have clearly defined paths that are easy to follow on a clear day, making them both natural progressions upwards from the lakes. Devil’s Kitchen is a popular route up to Glyder Fawr but we both prefer the views and scramble of Y Gribin.
Pen Yr Ole Wen offers the best views over the entire valley on the right day, with the 180 degree view stretching from Tryfan all the way round to Foel Goch.
The more popular side of the valley, and with good reason. Tryfan is arguably the most fun mountain in the UK, and challenges of Bristly Ridge and Y Gribin lead to an incredible landscape and views from the tops of Glyder Fach and Fawr.
The Carneddau side is more rugged, more remote and it’s possible to achieve blissful isolation here a lot easier than the neighbouring Glyderau. The open rocky stretches between Pen Yr Ole Wen, Dafydd and Llewelyn seem other worldly in the right weather conditions.
Ogwen Visitor Centre
The current Ogwen Visitor Centre was opened in 2013 and services over 125,000 visitors a year to the valley.
Well maintained public toilets, the great Ogwen Snack Bar and an exhibition area with benches ideal for a rest at the end of colder days out. This snack bar is famed for it’s quality pasties and homemade cakes. The hot chocolate is also worth a go at the end of a long day on the mountains.
Parking in Ogwen Valley
Parking is limited, particularly at weekends with the popularity of walking mountains increasing. There is of course a huge seasonal difference, with weekdays in the autumn and winter the place is pretty much empty.
There is a paid area at the visitor centre that fills up quickly. A number of smaller free areas are alongside Llyn Ogwen going south on the A5.
Just past the tip of Ogwen, at the base of Tryfan’s north face, there is a reasonably long straight stretch of road with free parking all the way along one side.
Ogwen Valley Video Gallery
Some of our favourite video memories from hundreds of adventures and experiences in the Ogwen Valley.
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