The Cadair Idris walk is a 10.1km loop. It’s rated as moderate and features a lake. Located near Machynlleth Powys in Wales, the trail is common among hikers and mountain walkers. It also features nature trips and is perfect for bird watching.
Cadair Idris is no easy fete. It’s the highest mountain in Southern Snowdonia and quite a popular peak to conquer because it is one of the Welsh Three Peaks.
There are various recommended routes to conquering Cadair. Each of the routes offers unique scenery and challenges, so you have to be well prepared.
Most of the routes will take you about six hours to get to the summit and back. As part of your gear, you should have enough food and drink because there’s nowhere to eat at the summit, and there’s no toilet.
The Minfford Path
The Minfford Path takes you 10Km and will take you around 5 hours to circuit. It is the most spectacular of the routes up the mountain. The path is not a straightforward path and varies continually throughout the route.
It starts at the wooded gorge heading to Llyn Cau. From here, you have to climb to the ridge and Craig Cwm Amarch as part of the ascent before putting in a final pull to Penygadair.
Most mountain walkers consider this the best ascent. If you want to complete the circular route from Minfford, you can divert from Mynydd Moel on to the faint path.
The Pony Path
The Pony Path is slightly shorter than Minfford. It takes you in a 9km loop that will take you more or less the same time. If you’re a strong walker, it can take you about three hours. It’s been done before!
This route is also called the Llwybr Pilin Pwn. It is a simpler and more straightforward route and takes the northern approach to the summit.
The route starts at Ty Nant Car Park. It’s a convenient starting point considering there are toilets and an over-spill car park.
From here, the path is steady and feels more like a workmanlike walk to the summit. The Pony Path is considered the fastest route to the summit because of its stable nature but is slightly longer than Fox’s path.
While most walkers looking for an easy ascent will quickly settle for this route, it doesn’t have views of the Corrie Lake on the ascent like the Minfford and the Fox’s routes. However, the route still offers expansive views on a clear day.
While using this route for the ascent, you should be mindful, especially when following the postcode from Google. Some of the people following this code have ended up on the wrong side of Cadair Idris near Dolgellau, which is private land. It’s possible this problem has since been resolved. Just in case it hasn’t, use LL40 1TN instead of what is provided on Google. It should take you to the car park and not on the lane that starts at the path.
Like the Pony Path, the Fox Path takes you through a 9km loop that will take you about five hours to complete. This path is also called Lwybyr Madyn in Welsh. Locals believe it’s named after George Fox – a Quaker who visited Dolgellau in 1689.
However, the Welsh name of the path provides divergent insight because madyn is another name for fox but is rarely used in the Welsh language.
The path for this route starts at the Gwernen Lake Hotel, or you can also start from the Ty Nany National Car Park. Both are convenient starting points, but the more convenient option would be to use the Gwernen Lake Hotel point if you need to stock up on necessities.
From both locations, walk along the valley for a few more kilometres. If you want to take a circular route, you can descend to the Pony Path. If not, you can continue on the path. It’s worth noting that this is the shortest and most direct route up Cadair Idris if you ascend from Llyn Gwernan. If you start from Ty’n Nant Car Park, you will cover more or less the same distance. But this path is more difficult as such, you will take longer.
A good section of the path is on steep scree, which is dangerous. That’s why you’re not going to find this path listed on the Snowdonia National Park as one of the recommended routes. You should only consider the Fox Path if you’re confident on Steep ground and you have a knack for substantial challenges.
The Llanfihangel-y-Pennant route is the longest of the three. It starts from the peaceful valley of Llanfihangel-y-pennant, where you can take a quick detour to see the Castell y Bere and the home of Mary Jones, a 15-year-old girl who walked barefoot to Y Bala 26 miles away to buy a bible she had been saving up for years.
Although the route is quite remote, it is very steady and later joins the Pony Path for the last ascent to the summit. If you want a longer and more satisfying route to the top, this is a good option. There’s a fair chance you won’t see many people on this path up until it links up with the Pony Path.
These are the four main routes up Cadair Idris. If you’re feeling more adventurous or you’ve tried these routes before and want something slightly different, there are other lesser known routes you can try.
Via Mynydd Pencoed from Llanfihangel-y-pennant
When approaching Cader Idris from Llanfihangel-y-pennant, you can take the route up Mynydd Pencoed and Craig Cwm Amarch. The path will join the Minfford Path for the last section. This is a great option if you’re looking for a quiet and pathless route. But it’s not very scenic.
If the Llanfihangel-y-pennant route isn’t long enough for you. Then you can opt for an even longer one that starts from the historic town of Dolgellau and follows the country lanes before setting off in a quiet ridge to Gau Graig. From here, cross the wide ridge to the summit of Cader Idris. On the descent, you can return to Dolgellau by using the Pony Path and walking back on the Country Lanes. This adds about thirty minutes to the end of the walk.
Via Mynydd Moel
This is an alternative route that briefly follows the Minffordd Path before heading in the opposite side of Cwm Cau to the summit of Mynydd Moel. Compared to the Minffordd Path, the ascent on this path is steep, and it is patchy in some places. However, it’s a satisfying route and is commonly used by those that use the Minffordd Path for descending.
Amenities and Access
Cadair Idris is highly accessible with numerous facilities for various individuals and groups. You can access the location by car through the Cadair Idris Visitor Centre Car Park, which is signposted off the A487.
You can also use public transport through the three mainline railway stations. The closest one is Tywyn station.
There are on-site light refreshments at the Cadair Idris Visitor Centre and Cadiar Tea room, which are only 250 metres from the car park. You will also find public and disabled toilets. The facility accepts coach parties, dogs, and children are also welcome.
Suppose you would like to learn a bit about Cadair Idris before your ascent. In that case, the visitor centre has an exhibition that houses the legends of Cadair Idris National Nature Reserves, wildlife and geology. There are also some interactive games and short films about the the conservation of nature in the region.