Cadair Idris: Minffordd Path Route
Cadair Idris is Wales’ second most hiked mountain and is an attractive trek for several reasons. The relatively straightforward hike up, its location, and impressive views from the summit have made it increasingly popular with tourists and locals alike.
The mountain has several associations with Welsh mythology. The most notable of these is the concept that Cadair Idris makes a chair shape where the ‘Giant Idris’ used to sit.
This explains why Cadair Idris translates to ‘Chair of Idris‘ in Welsh.
It was one of my first hikes in Wales. I sort of did it to ‘tick the box’ but it turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable day out and definitely a peak I’d climb again from a different angle.
The summit is called Penygadair and caps the end of an imposing ridge.
The mountain is home to an array of impressive glacial features which become apparent as the hike progresses. The most noticeable of these is a large corrie (or ‘cwm‘ in Welsh) with a reasonably sized lake, Llyn Cau, at its base. This can be seen in the photo above.
- Peak Climbed
- Getting There
- Duration & Length
- Where To Stay
- The Hike
- Alternative Routes
- To Conclude
Cadair Idris – 893 metres (2930 ft)
Getting to the actual starting point depends on what route you’re taking. This guide focuses on the Minffordd Path so I’ll base your starting point on that route.
The Minffordd Path starting point is a large car park just off the A487 about 9 miles (14.5 km) north of Machynlleth or 8 miles (12.9 km) south of Dolgellau. The pin on the map below is the exact location.
Cadair Idris Car Park
I would by no means call this a very physically demanding hike but it does have a fair bit of climbing involved.
Duration & Length
*For the Minffordd Path only*
Duration: 3 – 5 hours
Length: 6 miles (9.66km)
The other routes vary from 3 hours up to 7/8 hours depending on your level of fitness.
Below is my recorded route according to my Garmin Fenix 5X.
Where To Stay
There are a wealth of accommodation options near Cadair Idris.
Some of these include:
- Gwesty Minffordd Hotel – most conveniently located hotel right by the car park.
- The Old Rectory on the Lake B&B – stunning setting next to the lake Llyn Mwyngil, just down the road from the car park.
- Cwmrhwyddfor Campsite – budget option, campsite right at the base of Cadair Idris, don’t even ask about pronunciation!
There are several routes you can choose from. This is partly why Cadair Idris is such a popular mountain.
I took probably the most ‘touristy route’ which is the one I’ll focus on today. Next time I’ll definitely tackle one of the harder paths. Another popular one is the ‘Pony Path‘ which we’ll get to later.
Starting off, it’s worth noting that at the time of writing you do have to pay for parking. There’s a machine next to the toilets (did I mention that this is a popular place?).
For me, this was one of the first UK hikes I’ve done outside Scotland and I was astounded to be charged for parking and see public loos.
The route I talk about is called the Minffordd Path. This is clearly marked and quite self-explanatory all the way up so you can’t go wrong. It’s one of the most popular because it’s easy to access and provides some truly staggering views.
There’s a Snowdonia National Park sign welcoming you to the Cadair Idris Nature Reserve. This gives you a detailed overview of the routes you can take as well as some of the mountain’s flora and fauna.
Following the Minffordd Path, the hardest part is straight after the car park where the route quickly becomes steep. Take your time going up the stony path and enjoy the views of the hills behind as you quickly gain altitude.
Soon the path emerges out of the oak woods into the open and the curving ridge of Cadair Idris bends far ahead with the prominent dip before the final ascent to the summit.
Continue on the path up to the left and onto the ridge. This is mostly a steady climb with short steep bursts.
When you get up to the ridge make sure you get some decent photos of the beautiful Llyn Cau Lake which is directly to the east.
The path will dip into a hollow called Bwich Cau and straight after this is the final rocky climb up to Penygadair.
The summit itself has a cairn with a trig point inside. Just below this, there’s a shelter to have a rest/snack if you so wish.
If visibility is poor or it’s especially windy then you may just want to retrace your steps back to the car park.
If not, you can make a loop out of the hike by following the flat summit ridge all the way to the fence which serves as the Cadair Idris Nature Reserve border.
It’s possible to head up to the second and slightly smaller summit of Mynydd Moel or you can bypass this by veering to the right.
Cross over the fence and follow the steep path straight down until you reach a stile. Be careful of loose stones and gravel during this section. Hop over the stile and follow the path as it links up to where you started.
As well as the Minffordd Path, there are several other ways to tackle Cadair Idris. This is what makes it such a popular mountain in Wales. These are briefly outlined below.
The easiest and one of the most popular. It starts off steep but then levels out for the majority with a short scramble to the top.
Keep your eyes open for the Will Ramsbotham memorial. Will was tragically killed in a climbing accident the day after setting the record for the Cadair Idris hill race in 1993.
Not for the faint-hearted. The Foxes Path is a direct ascent up Cadair Idris’ north-western scree-covered slopes. Only attempt this if you’re an experienced climber. The starting point is on the road by Lake Llyn Gwernan and is approximately 2.5 miles to the summit.
Llanfihangel y Pennant Path
This route starts at the tiny settlement of Llanfihangel y Pennant. It’s not particularly arduous but is the longest route up Cadair Idris at around 10 miles up and down. The climb is long and slow with a difficult final climb up to the summit.
If you’re a fan of hidden mountains and quaint mountain paths all to yourself then Cadair Idris might not be for you. It is, however, a thoroughly enjoyable hike with some of Wales’ most beautiful scenery on offer.
The shape of the mountain and variety of ascents means you can head up Cadair Idris several times and not get bored. It’s also a very family friendly mountain with the different routes catering to varying ages, fitnesses and levels of experience.
Cadair Idris also has a sort of romantic appeal with its various associations to Welsh Mythology.
Whether you want to take the Minffordd Path or another route, I hope this guide has been useful!
Thanks a lot for reading and if you have any questions or anything to add then please write in the comments box below. 🙂