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Walk up Cairn Gorm from Coire Ciste Car Park

By Ian Tupman   

on September 10, 2018    No ratings yet.

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

Walk up Cairn Gorm from Coire Ciste Car Park

Further Details

Route Summary:

An ascent of Cairn Gorm via the western rim of Strath Nethy and descent via the tourist path

This walk includes the Munro of Cairn Gorm

Route Start Location: Coire Ciste car park/Cairngorm ski area main car park

8.83 km 777 m 2.5 - 3.5 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 and also at the Ptarmigan restaurant on the descent from the summit.


The route passes close to crags with steep drops. Care is 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, open ground.

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. Parking at the Ciste car park is free at the time of writing.

Public Transport:

Buses operate between Aviemore and the Cairngorm ski area.

Traveline for UK Public Transport

Recommended Maps


Walk up Cairn Gorm from Coire Ciste Car Park Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download file for GPS

Walk up Cairn Gorm from Coire Ciste Car Park

The summit of Cairn Gorm can be reached easily via the Windy Ridge tourist path from the ski area base station but this linear walk takes a more interesting route to the summit over largely pathless terrain but with the reward of superlative views down into Strath Nethy. This walk up Cairn Gorm can also be combined with the route up Ben Macdui in order to get both Munros in one walk (although a long walk!) or to extend this walk to include the Northern Corries.

Walk up Cairn Gorm from Coire Ciste Car Park Route Description

The route starts at the Coire Ciste car park at GR NH998074 and finishes at the main ski area car park. To avoid the walk back down the ski road at the end of the walk, either use two cars (or one car and a bike) or take the number 31 bus from Aviemore and ask for the Ciste car park. The bus returns to Aviemore from the main car park.

1 From the Ciste car park walk towards the redundant chairlift building and take the path on the left between the bushes.

Take the path and continue down the wooden steps

2 Go down the wooden steps, cross the stream and keep right. Continue up the eroded path and then onto a section of pitched path, climbing steadily.

Take the left hand path

3 The path reaches more level ground before dropping slightly to a fork. Take the left hand path and head for the large gap in the ski fencing. Pass through the gap and take a route over increasingly steeper ground on a rising traverse above the rim of Coire Laogh Mòr. Trend east-south-east, continue to climb and aim for the prominent granite blocks at spot height 1028.

The granite blocks at spot height 1028

4 This is an excellent place for a rest and refreshments as there is protection from the wind from all directions. Before leaving, make the short walk east and downhill to the western edge of Strath Nethy. The views up and down the valley are superb but take care in windy conditions. In winter the tops of the crags are prone to cornicing.


5 Resume the route by heading south-west and reach a rocky knoll before descending slightly to a broad col. Climb gently over broken ground and gain the blocky summit of Cnap Coire na Spreidhe at 1,151m.

Head south-west, keeping to the high ground to avoid descending into Ciste Mheared. Turn south-south-west and walk parallel to the main path on the right to reach a rocky top to the east of the main summit. There are excellent views to the south and south-east.

6 Now head west-south-west and walk the short distance to the weather station and main summit cairn. With good visibility Ben Nevis can be seen on the western horizon as well as the northern corries and the main peaks to the south-west.

The Northern Corries and Braeriach

7 From the summit cairn, begin the descent by heading due north along a line of smaller cairns to reach the pitched section of path which is roped on both sides. Drop down to the Ptarmigan restaurant and funicular station.

The roped path and Ptarmigan restaurant

8 A quick descent can be made on the funicular railway or alternatively, walk around the right hand side of the buildings to pick up the tourist path.

Ignore the track to the right

9 Stay on this path ignoring tracks and pistes to either side and continue until reaching the base station and the end 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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