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Walk up Ben Macdui from the Cairngorm Ski Centre Aviemore

By Ian Tupman   

on September 6, 2018    5/5 (3)

Posted as a walk in – Cairngorms National Park, Europe, Scotland

Walk up Ben Macdui from the Cairngorm Ski Centre Aviemore

Further Details

Route Summary:

A straightforward ascent of Ben Macdui with the option of extending the route to take in more of the Cairngorm plateau.

This walk includes the Munro of Ben Macdui (Beinn Macduibh)

Route Start Location: Cairngorm ski area car park

17.37 km 1093 m 5-6 hours

Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

Activivity Type: Hard Walk

Summits and Places on this Route


Cafe and toilets at the ski area but no facilities on route


The route passes close to corrie rims with steep drops. Care needed in strong winds and in winter conditions. In poor visibility good navigational skills are essential as it is easy to become disorientated on the featureless plateau.

Between June and September, the Highland midge can really spoil your day if you are not well-protected. There are various products available but Smidge seems to be effective for most people.

Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Mountain Safety , Navigation and what equipment you’ll need.

Parking : Not applicable

The large car park at the ski area now charges £2 per day for cars

Public Transport:

Buses operate between Aviemore and the Cairngorm ski area.

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Recommended Maps


Walk up Ben Macdui from the Cairngorm Ski Centre Aviemore Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download file for GPS

Walk up Ben Macdui from the Cairngorm Ski Centre Aviemore

The Cairngorm peak of Ben Macdui is the second highest mountain in Britain. At 1,309m it is one of the easier Munro summits to reach. This route can be done as either a straight out and return from the ski area or as a circular route enjoying some pathless terrain and superb views down Loch Avon.

Walk up Ben Macdui from Aviemore Route Description

1 Park at the ski area car park. Alternatively, take the number 31 bus from Aviemore.

Exit the car park at the south-west corner, drop down on the path to cross a footbridge, climb the steps and continue  below the bottom of the drag lift.

Take the path at the top of the steps

2 Continue on the good path and reach a fork. Take the right hand path which swings gently south west and cross the Allt Coire an t-Sneachda.

Take the right fork

3 Ignore the path on the left and continue on the made path rising steadily up the western shoulder of Coire an Lochain. There are excellent views down into the corrie with its post-glacial lake.

Coire an Lochain

4 The path levels out and views start to open up to the right across the Lairig Ghru to the mighty bulk of Braeriach.

Braeriach with Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine to the left

5 Continue gently downhill and cross flat ground passing Lochan Buidhe on the left. The path starts to rise now and eventually peters out when it reaches a boulder field. The route is well-marked with cairns but needs good navigation skills in mist.

Lochan Buidhe (left) before the rise to Ben Macdui

6 Cross the broad col on a south-southeast heading and pick up the eroded path which climbs steeply at first and then becomes more gentle as it crosses the rocky ground to the summit cairn and trig point. From the car park allow 2.5 – 3.5 hours to the summit.

Summit cairn and trig point

7 In good weather the views are excellent in all directions and there are plenty of shelters scattered about the summit plateau should they be needed.

Looking west from the summit

8 For a quick descent, reverse the outbound route. However, if weather, energy levels and time permit, head north-east from the summit over broken, pathless ground. The descent steepens briefly to reach the Garbh Uisge Mor which you need to keep on your right.

Descending towards Garbh Uisge Mor

9 Take the easiest route over undulating ground and around several small lochans before turning north-northwest to drop down and cross Garbh Uisge Beag. From here it is important to stay high and not be drawn down towards the cliffs which surround the head of Loch Avon.

Use the large granite slabs and ‘steps’ to maintain altitude. Cross the rocky ground and choose a safe spot to cross the Feith Buidhe which cascades over the edge of Hell’s Lum Crag.

Loch Avon

10 There are superb views down into Loch Avon (pronounced ‘Arn’) with its amphitheatre of climbing crags below you.

From the Feith Buidhe stream, head north and climb gently over a rocky knoll to reach a broad path. Turn right and continue on the path to reach the col on the rim of Coire an t-Sneachda with good views into the corrie and the popular Fiacaill ridge on the left. From the col head north-east on the good path to skirt around the corrie rim. In winter be aware of cornices and keep well to the right.

Coire an t-Sneachda

11 Continue around the eastern flank of the corrie and turn north to reach the large cairn at spot height 1141m.

Cairn at spot height 1,141m

12 On the north side of the cairn pick up the made path which descends steeply at first and then more gradually to eventually reach a ski piste.

The descent to the ski area

Walk down the piste (keeping to the left hand side if there are skiers) and after the third bend, take the footpath signed ‘Base Station’. Stay on this path to return to the car park and the start of the route.


Ian lives In Ardrossan and being only a fifty five minutes ferry crossing to Brodick, the Isle of Arran is his 'back yard'. He knows the mountains of the north of the island well and has walked every permutation of routes over the various summits. He is now spending more time further north exploring the Cairngorms, the far north-west and the mountains of the west of Scotland.

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