All the Walks up Cader Idris
By Dave Roberts
on February 18, 2023 4.83/5 (12)
All the Walks up Cader Idris
Facts and Figures about Cader Idris
Cader Idris Facts:
- The actual summit of Cader Idris is called Penygadair.
- There’s a shelter on the summit, and it is said (in other words it isn’t true) that anyone spending a night on the summit will descend either a madman or a poet. If they’re descending the Pony Path in peak season, then madman it is.
- Cader Idris may be the most famous mountain in South Snowdonia, but is shorter than the neigbouring Aran Fawddwy by 12 metres.
- If Cader Idris resembles Snowdon in some of the photographs, it’s because they share the same geology.
Where is Cader Idris?
The mountain of Cader Idris is found in Southern Snowdonia near the town of Dolgellau.
How High is Cader Idris in metres / feet?893 metres in height.
How long will it take to walk up Cader Idris ?
Most of the shorter routes should take around 3 hours in one direction, obviously depending on your fitness.
How Far is it to the top of Cader Idris?
The main routes are around 4 to 5 kilometres in length, with the longer paths from Llanfihangel y Pennant and Dolgellau being around 8km
How hard is it to climb Cader Idris ?
The walks are reasonably straightforward, with no scrambling, and no harder than any other comparable mountain.
What’s the best walking route up Cader Idris?
The Minffordd Path is often noted as the pick of the routes up.
Which is the easiest walking route up Cader Idris ?
The easiest route via the Pony Path from the Ty Nant car park.
Map showing all the routes up Cader Idris
All the Walks up Cader Idris Introduction
Cader Idris or Cadair Idris, is regarded among Wales’s best mountains. It is found between the town of Dolgellau and Abermaw (Barmouth) on the coast, with views up from the Mawddach Estuary dominated by this impressive South Eryri (Snowdonia) mountain.
Sitting outside the popular ranges in the north of the Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri (Snowdonia National Park), you would imagine Cader Idris to be a ‘quieter’ option in comparison. But don’t be fooled, with it having numerous approach options, spectacular views, being part of the Cader Idris Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and boasting to be part of the Welsh Three Peak Challenge, it is rightly one of the stars of Eryri(Snowdonia), if not Wales as a whole.
Interestingly the summit is known as Penygadair, which means top of the chair. On a clear day you can enjoy views up towards the north of Eryri (Snowdonia), as well as out to the coast with the Mawddach Estuary taking your eye out to Abermaw (Barmouth) and beyond.
Why is it called Cader Idris – why not Cadair – don’t get us started…
Cader Idris translates as “chair of Idris”, and many believe it origins come from a character in Welsh mythology called Idris Gawr or “Idris the giant”. Who would use the mountain’s geological features as a massive natural armchair to look up at the stars. Some say it may owe it’s name to a previous prince of Meirionnydd Idris ap Gwyddno, with the real origins somewhere in between perhaps?
Cader Idris Weather Forecast:
What pubs are good for Cader Idris?
We recommend the Llyn Gwernan Hotel and the Minffordd Hotel as they are both convenient to the path starts. For Llanfihangel y Pennant, you’ll need to go to the Railway in Abergynolwyn. However, we suggest you check the individual routes for further information on local facilities and whether they are still open in these difficult times or operating under reduced hours..
All the Routes up Cader Idris on Mud and Routes
Height Gained – 930 metres, Distance – 5 km, Time –3 hours
The Minffordd Path is regarded as one of the best route up Cader Idris. With an initial approach up a steep gorge, views across it’s own mountain tarn, Llyn Cau and a ridge walk over Craig Cwm Amarch to complete the walk to the summit – everything you need for a day out in the mountains.
Note that there is an alternative that cuts out Craig Cwm Amarch and ascends a scree gully at the far end of Llyn Cau to Crag Cau, this is loose and we’d suggest the official route unless you have a thing for steep scree paths – which we certainly do not!
Height Gained – 740 metres, Distance – 4.6 km, Time –3 hours
If the Minffordd Path is the most dramatic, then the Pony Path is probably the most popular. It’s certainly the most straightforward route up as there are no intermediate summits to climb as with the Minfordd Path or a scree chute to navigate as with the Fox’s Path.
Height Gained – 710 metres, Distance –4.5 km, Time – 3 hours
The Fox’s Path is the most notorious path up Cader Idris owing to a section of treacherous scree on the final section. In Welsh it is known as Llwybr Madyn, which is a rarely used term for a fox, which contradicts the alternative reasoning for the name – that it was named after the founder of the Quakers – George Fox. This article from 1820 mentions no source for the name – Ascent of Cader Idris in 1820 and calls the path Llwybr Madyn or later in the article as the “Fox’s Path” – with the emphasis given by the author suggestive of a translation from the Welsh. The route itself is an interesting approach, with views more open than the Minffordd Path, but the steep scree path from Llyn y Gadair to the summit lets this route down.
Height Gained – 870 metres, Distance – 8 km, Time –4 hours
From the notorious to the laborious – with the Llanfihangel y Pennant path being the longest of the ‘official’ approaches at 8.5km in length. Despite the length, it’s steadier than the Pony Path with which it shares the final couple of kms to the summit.
Height Gained – 970 metres, Distance – 7.5 km, Time –3 hours
An alternative approach from Llanfihangel-y-pennant takes the route up Mynydd Pencoed and Craig Cwm Amarch to join the Minffordd Path for the final section. This is one for those looking for a pathless and quiet route.
Cader Idris Via Gau Graig from Bwlch Llyn Bach
Height Gained – 720 metres, Distance – 6 km, Time – 3 hours
You can start this route from the car park at the top of Bwlch Llyn Bach and follow the Cambrian Way up to the plateau at Gau Graig. This is a seldom frequented route, but a pleasant enough walk once you attain the summit of Gau Graig. The views of Cader Idris’ northern cragd fro this approach are one of the highlights.
There is a bridleway that you can follow to join this route up with the Minffordd paths, but this only joins partially and involves two sections of dangerous road walking which is not recommended. That is unfortunate as coupling this route with the Minffordd Path would make this one of the best days out on Cader Idris
Height Gained – 980 metres, Distance – 9 km, Time –4 hours
This is the longest route up Cader Idris at 9km and is basically a longer approach to the Gau Graig route. Starting from the historic town, it follows country lanes before setting off up a quiet ridge to Gau Graig and across the wide ridge to the summit of Cader Idris. You can return to Dolgellau by descending the Pony Path and walking back on country lanes..
Height Gained – 850 metres, Distance – 5 km, Time –2.5 hours
Again – we’re back at Minffordd with an another alternative route. This walk follows the Minffordd Path for a short distance before heading up the opposite side of Cwm Cau to the summit of Mynydd Moel. The ascent is steeper and the path is patchy in places in comparison to the Minffordd Path, but is still a satisfying route. It’s often used as a descent for those ascending via the Minffordd Path.
Height Gained – 720 metres, Distance – 6.6 km, Time –2.5 hours
Our final approach is a long route that can be started from numerous points along the Ffordd Ddu, with the distance above given from Hafotty-fach on that road and along the Cambrian Way. You would be more likely to start from Cregennen or even the Ty Nant car park that the Pony Path starts from. Follow the link above for a longer version that includes the bonus summits of Craig-y-llyn and Braich Ddu.