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.
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.
Buy Unique Snowdonia Canvas Prints
Only available on this website, limited edition images on canvas from our adventures in Snowdonia National Park, including many in the Ogwen Valley.