Cnicht walk guide: circular route from Croesor
Cnicht walk guide: circular route from Croesor

Cnicht walk guide: circular route from Croesor

The circular Cnicht walk starting and finishing at Croesor is a 11.6 km physically demanding adventure full of stunning views and interesting history that takes between 4 h – 6 h to complete. This amazing trail ascends all 689 m of Cnicht mountain to its summit and takes you via the old Rhosydd and Croesor slate quarries before descending to where you started from.

Find out all you need to know about the Cnicht circular walking route from Croesor in this guide.

Table of contents

Cnicht circular from Croesor route

  • Distance: 11.6 km
  • Duration: 4 h – 6 h
  • Difficulty: hard (includes grade 1 scrambling)

The Cnicht circular walking route involves steep, tiring trails and sections of grade 1 scrambling. This means that you should be comfortable with heights, traversing narrow passageways, have good balance and have a good level of general fitness. Otherwise, I’d recommend doing a less technically challenging hike in the area.

I wrote a guide to a Moelwyn Mawr walk which also starts and finishes at the same place as this Cnicht walk that you can check out. It’s less challenging but you get the same views and adventure.

Mountain goats on the Cnicht walk trail.

The Cnicht walk starts and finishes at the village of Croesor. This is an old 19th-century quarry village. There is a small, free car park in the village that marks the route start point.

From the carpark you have two options for doing the hike. You can either go clockwise and head up to Cnicht mountain by passing through Croesor. Or, you can journey anti-clockwise and start by heading away from Croesor towards the Snowdonia Slate Trail.

We did the walk anti-clockwise. However, now that I know how tough it is to descend from Cnicht to Croesor, I recommend that you do the route in the opposite direction. This is because the descent down to Croesor has an extended period of grade 1 scrambling. And on tired legs, this section becomes even more challenging.

The Ascent

So, starting from the car park, exit via the main entrance and turn right. Head straight past Chapel Street and the road will start to climb uphill. Keep following the road for a couple of minutes until it forks.

Now you’ll see a lane heading off the right, while the road you’re on bends left. Leave the road and join the lane to the left. This lane is steep, cobbly and lined by thick trees. It’s a quant section of the trail and felt fairy tale-esque when we were there during the evening summer light.

A picturesque lane lined by a stone wall and green, golden trees.

Continue uphill along the lane for approximately five minutes until you come to a gate on the right-hand side. Leave the lane here to pass through the gate. Now you’ll join a dirt track used by local farmers.

Croesor feels a while away now and ahead of you will be Cnicht. The pointy, triangular shape is just visible over the hills and it becomes easy to understand why the mountain has the nickname ‘Welsh Matterhorn’.

Continue on the dirt track following it for roughly 750 m. The dirt track then forks giving you the option to head right. Take this right turn and the gentle, flat dirt track begins to climb a steeper gradient. After a minute or so you’ll come to a style allowing you to cross a stone wall.

Moelwyn Mawr as seen from the first style on the Cnicht walk.

Now you join a grassy hiking trial as you head upwards towards Cnicht mountain. Continue on this section of trail for roughly 1 km until you come to another style.

Getting to this point takes you past lots of boulders and, once you’ve hopped the style, you’ll have to traverse a huge rock formation along a narrow, loose rock path. Around the other side of the formation, you’ll then see the trail become much steeper.

Continue along the narrow, windy trail and things will start to get more challenging as the incline increases. From here on, you need to stick to the trail all the way to the summit of Cnicht.

Between here and the top, there are sections that require grade 1 scrambling and sections that don’t. However, overall, this is the aspect of the Cnicht circular walk that makes it a hard one.  So, take your time as you navigate rocks and narrow passages. This is also the section that varies in duration the most as some will struggle a lot more than others here.

Kester climbing the grade 1 scramble section of the Cnicht ascent.

As you come to the top, you’ll see that Cnicht has what appears to be two summits. I couldn’t tell which point was higher, so you’ll just have to climb both to be sure! Now you can take a second to enjoy the unreal landscapes. You can see Moelwyn Mawr on the other side of the valley and Croesor when looking back in the direction you came from.

The view from the summit of Cnicht.

The descent

The descent from Cnicht’s summit is fantastic. On a good day, you’ll have amazing views of Snowdon and Crib Goch, as we did. The descent is also mostly grassy trail that’s kind underfoot and not too steep.

Starting down from the summit, follow the ridge until it plateaus. Look to your left here and you’ll see a picturesque lake with an islet and a backdrop of Mount Snowdon.

Mount Snowdon in the background and a lake with an islet in the foreground.

Keep following the ridge as it bends around right. At this point, you could drop down the steep side of Cnicht into the small valley below (passing a small dammed lake) and then climb up the other side.

However, I don’t recommend doing this as following the ridge is gentler and more scenic. The only thing is that by this point, the trail is not very visible. But all this means is that you’ll need to trust your gut a little.

Luckily, however, soon you’ll see a large lake and a pair of smaller ones. The large lake marks the direction you want to go in. So, head towards it, pass it and drop down into Rhosydd Quarry.

A lake in the mountains. Rhossyd Quarry is in the background.

There’s plenty of history at the quarry as the many derelict buildings tell a story of the industry that once thrived here. The towering piles of slate dwarf you and long, dubious, now flooded tunnels head deep into the mountain.

Croesor Quarry

There’s also a clear path through the quarry to its far side allowing you to easily explore the abandoned site. Head along this path, which is part of the Snowdonia Slate Trail, up through the huge piles of slate and around to the far side. As you walk around, you’ll come to a point that looks straight down the valley.

An old dram road at Rhosydd Quarry. Cnicht is in the background.

At the other side of the quarry, you’ll rejoin grassy trail as you head downhill into old Croesor Quarry. Here you’ll come across some more derelict buildings and the start of a dirt road. This is the old Croesor Quarry road that takes you down to the bottom of the valley. Follow this road, now used by farmers, all the way down until you reach a gate and a small row of houses. Walking down from the quarry to this point takes about half an hour.

Here the road splits in different directions. But you need to go through the gate and keep straight. Continue along the road until you come to Oriel Caffi Croesor (Oriel café). Just beside the café there is a narrow lane into the car park from where you started.

And that’s the Cnicht walk starting and finishing at Croesor.

Where to park to the circular Cnicht walk

As mentioned before, there is a car park in Croesor village which acts as the walk start and end point. It’s a free, but small car park with limited spaces.

Because of this, I recommend climbing Cnicht from Croesor early in the day and during a quieter period to ensure there’s space for your vehicle.

Cnicht walk FAQs

Is Cnicht easy to climb?

No, Cnicht is a difficult mountain to climb. Despite only being 689 m tall, climbing the mountain involves steep, rocky trails with sections of grade 1 scrambling.

What does ‘Cnicht’ mean in Welsh?

‘Cnicht’ means ‘knight’. It is a name derived from the old English word ‘cniht’.

Is Cnicht a grade 1 scramble?

Yes. Cnicht has a couple of sections during the ascent from Croesor that require grade 1 scrambling.

More travel guides on A World Over

I’ve written more hike and also waterfall guides for Snowdonia along with this Cnicht walk guide other. Check them out below. For all my detailed travel content, head to the A World Over blog.

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