Cadair Idris The Minffordd Path

Llyn Cau

Cadair Idris is probably the most spectacular mountain in Wales outside of the main three mountain massifs in the north. Some say it is the best and I wouldn't argue. Due to its less accessible geographic location it is often much quieter the more popular north. The Cadair Idris massif is a fantastic example of a glacial landscape sculptured by the last Ice Age. This incredible walk takes you round the narrow rim of its most impressive cwm. Cwm Cau is a stunning amphitheatre of huge cliffs towering and circling the beautiful waters of Llyn Cau. On the first leg of the walk there are fine examples of glacial moraine and boilerplate slabs on the valley en route to Llyn Cau, and a fantastic journey through the woodlands above Minffordd at the start of the walk. The summit known as Penygadair has awesome views and a welcoming stone shelter building. The descent takes you along a ridge walk to Mynydd Moel from which you then descend back to Minffordd to complete one of Wales's best horseshoe walks. This was the first mountain I ever climbed to the summit of back in 2004, and before I was born my mother made the same ascent in the early days of her pregnancy with me.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts at the Minffordd car park on the main A487 trunk road several miles south of Dolgellau. The car park is situated on the west side of the road just by the junction with the minor B4405 road to Tal-y-llyn at grid reference SH732115.
  2. From the car park head up the tree lined track that crosses the Afon Fawnog. The track then bends left and passes the old National Trust building at Dol-y-cae.
  3. Shortly after the building the path crosses the Nant Cadair then turns right and heads north on its steep and rocky ascent through the woodland.
  4. The path continues through the beautiful woodland for half a kilometre. On the earlier stages there are views to the right of the cascading falls of the Nant Cadair tumbling down through the woodland.
  5. The path eventually comes out above the woodland and reaches the open valley. Here it splits where another path heads off to the right and down over a wooden bridge crossing the Nant Cadair.
  6. Continue along the main path heading north then north west in to the Nant Cadair valley. The path bends left and heads west through the Nant Cadair valley and eventually to the shores of Llyn Cau in Cwm Cau.
  7. Look out for the huge boulders on your right by the path just before Llyn Cau comes into view. These huge boulders, known as Moraine, are huge pieces of debris left behind by the retreating glacier that once shaped this stunning landscape in the last Ice Age.
  8. From Llyn Cau a very steep path heads south up on to the rim of the cwm. Though steep, it is only like this for a short while.
  9. Once at the top, follow the path and head west along the back and then the crest of the rim ridge. The path will turn right and head north to reach the small summit at the top of the Craig Cwm Amarch ridge which heads south west from the summit.
  10. From the summit of Craig Cwm Amarch head north towards the col at Craig Cau. The views over the drops down to Llyn Cau on your right as you cross the top of Craig Cau are incredible. The drop could be fatal, so take care in bad visibility.
  11. From the col at Craig Cau ascend north for two hundred metres then ascend north east over the rocky boulder field for four hundred metres and you will reach Penygadair the highest summit of Cadair Idris.
  12. The Penygadair summit is 893 metres above sea level. The highest point is marked by a white OS trig pillar on top of a rocky knoll. On a good day the views stretch far and wide: west to the Barmouth estuary, east to the Cambrian Mountains, south to the Brecon Beacons, and north to the Rhinogs and the main Snowdonia massifs.
  13. Just below the rocky summit knoll there is a solid stone hut. This famous hut is a great shelter from the elements and a huge relief on a bad weather day as I found out on my first visit to the summit. It is a modern version of a 19th century hut that was made famous by an old lady who would climb early in the morning to the summit and provided tea to all those who visited.
  14. From the hut head north east to east along a wide grassy ridge towards Mynydd Moel. As you leave the hut looking left you have fantastic views north over the other popular approach route to Cadair Idris. The Pony Path heads up over the stunning Cyfrwy which towers impressively over the beautiful Llyn y Gadair.
  15. After just over a kilometre and a half along the grassy ridge, crossing two small summits, you will ascend to the top of Mynydd Moel. This is a fairly featureless top but gives great views north.
  16. From the summit of Mynydd Moel descend south to south east on fairly pathless terrain. Turn south after a while and then cross the stile to reach a more obvious path.
  17. The path continues its steep descent south hand railing a stone wall which it eventually crosses and then heads south west.
  18. After just under another half a kilometre of descent the path will eventually reach the wooden bridge over the Nant Cadair that you saw earlier above the woodland.
  19. Cross the wooden footbridge and turn left. Trace your footsteps back down the step woodland path to Dol-y-cae and follow the track back to the car park.
  20. Just five minutes up the road from the Minffordd car park you will find the Gwesty Minffordd Hotel. This four hundred year old drover's inn is a great place to enjoy a well deserved feast and drink.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL23 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 124 Map Click to buy Harvey Super Walker Glyderau & Carneddau Map Click to buy Harvey Snowdonia Mountain Map

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.