7 Best Places for Photography in Snowdonia National Park
For many landscape photographers, Snowdonia National Park, also known as Eryri National Park, in North Wales, offers a series of well-known locations and areas to explore with a camera.
While the National Park covers a substantial land area, the more rugged parts of the region with locations of most interest to landscape photographers tend to occupy the North and West.
Despite North Wales being easily accessible to so many photographers across the country, I am often told by photographers that they visit infrequently, preferring to make longer photography trips to the Lakes and Scotland rather than visiting here.
But they often say that they will be making many more trips to North Wales now that they have discovered it!
Another distinct advantage of this part of the world is our proximity to the coast, which offers options to either incorporate those into your mountain work or to specifically head for the sea for one of our spectacular coastal sunsets!
In recent years, its reputation may have, in the eyes of some photographers, slipped a little due to over-tourism. So, rather than visit the more extensive and well-known locations, getting the most from a visit here will benefit from some local knowledge, given in this article!
I am probably biased, but I believe North Wales can offer some of the finest landscape photography experiences with minimal travel between locations, more easily accessible elevated locations for those jaw-dropping panoramas, and indeed more wild weather and compelling light than land-locked areas offer.
Enjoying the chance of a nuclear sunset over the sea from the summit of a mountain is certainly limited to a few places in the UK, all of which require much more remote travel to reach than what is available here.
So, allow me to whet your appetite with some pointers on how to access some of our better-known locations and get the most from them despite tourism pressure and parking problems.
I’ll also share some lesser-known options; the sorts of locations which I visit all year round and have pretty much entirely to myself, even when the honeypots are heaving with trippers!
Let’s start with some locations you may have heard of or seen before, perhaps on my YouTube channel (where I seem to have become something of a tourist information service!) or even visited but would like to learn more about.
1. Snowdon / Yr Wyddfa
Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa (a name recently formally reinstated by the Welsh), is the highest mountain peak in England and Wales.
Consequently, it attracts the most interest from visitors to the area, with the summit frequently congested with walkers awaiting their opportunity to be photographed by the cairn.
This might lead you to disregard it for landscape photography purposes, which would be a mistake, as the various paths, ridges, and corries can make for very interesting images in the right conditions.
Additionally, of course, making a partial ascent to gain elevation provides great views and photography opportunities when standing with your back to the mountain itself, on one of its six paths to the summit.
And the paths themselves offer great opportunities for the landscape photographer.
In particular, the Miner’s track from the car park at Pen y Pass leads up to the mountain lakes of Llyn Llydaw and Glaslyn.
The Watkin path takes you through some primordial temperate rainforest, past spectacular waterfalls up to the hanging valley of Cwm Llan under the summit, with a further push up onto the ridge opening out stunning views from Y Lliwedd.
Both of these paths can be quite busy during the summer, but there are still plenty of opportunities throughout the year, especially very early mornings, and these locations are very much at their best during sunrise.
As long as you avoid the summit itself and the long track up from Llanberis, Yr Wyddfa has much to offer despite its reputation.
2. Ogwen Valley / The Glyders
When it comes to notoriously crowded areas of the national park, the Ogwen Valley ranks second only to Yr Wyddfa in this respect, with parking being even more difficult at busy periods.
But that isn’t always the case, and a visit out of season at most times of the day, especially during the week, makes parking quite straightforward in one of the mini laybys alongside Llyn Ogwen on the A5.
I suspect that to any landscape photographer, there is little need to go into much detail about the potential images in this location, but one recommendation that you may not have considered is to gain some elevation on the eastern shoulder of Y Garn.
There is no need to climb very high along this easy-to-follow path, but with a little elevation, you get fabulous views across Cwm Idwal, Tryfan, and along the valley. This is also an ideal sunrise location.
Arriving early makes parking convenient, and you can get into position very easily within just 20 to 30 minutes’ walk.
Even if you decide not to climb the steeper parts of the area, much photography is available from easy-to-access vantage points. And you will find yourself surrounded by spectacular crags and summits.
Also, don’t forget to spend some time around the outflow of Llyn Ogwen and its spectacular waterfalls.
3. Capel Curig
Capel Curig is a small village situated on the A5 near Betws y Coed, where the road splits to head north into the Ogwen Valley and southeast towards Yr Wyddfa and Beddgelert.
There is handy accommodation to be found here, and it’s a great spot for a pit stop at one of the excellent pubs or the well-known Caffi Siabod.
This village serves as a good starting point for a range of interesting walks, most notably to Moel Siabod, the northern sentinel of the Moelwynion range of mountains.
You can also easily head up onto the southern aspect of the Gylderau from here, or simply stay roadside by the lakes of Llynnau Mymbyr for the classic shot of the entire Yr Wyddfa “horseshoe,” which works well both at sunrise and sunset due to the east-west aspect of the open valley.
One of my favourite recommendations for this locality is to hike to the summit of the lowly Crimpau. Easily reached within an hour of the local parking spots, and at only 400m, it is often overlooked as a photography destination.
However, as a vantage point, it offers unparalleled views across the northern part of the national park and is an excellent choice at any time of year and in pretty much any weather conditions as it is low enough to rarely be above the cloud base.
The path in the lower reaches has recently been refurbished and is an easy walk, and the final push to the summit is not particularly challenging. Good news when carrying camera gear!
Across the other end of the valley from Capel Curig is another attractive village, Beddgelert. With plenty of local services, it can also serve as an excellent base for a photography visit to the area.
From Beddgelert, you have easy access along the valley of Nant Gwynant where there are two roadside lakes to enjoy, both with photogenic mountain backdrops. This takes you to the start of the Yr Wyddfa Watkin path mentioned previously.
If you’re feeling adventurous, this is also the starting point for the lonely summit of Moel Hebog, another great way of gaining elevated views across the northern part of Eryri.
But beware, this is a very challenging hike, so my recommendation is to keep your camera gear as lightweight as possible for this one.
Following the road for three or 4 miles towards Caernarfon, you come to the village of Rhyd Ddu, easy parking pretty much all year round at the Welsh Highland railway stop.
This gives you access to another more gentle path up Yr Wyddfa, with great views across to the Nantlle Ridge. But you could also easily spend a day around the lakes in the valley, Llyn y Gadair and Llyn y Dywarchen.
Both of these have many interesting landscape photography opportunities.
Indeed, this is my preferred mountain location for my group photography workshops since we are able to take advantage of the scenery in any conditions and any light using the Rhyd Ddu car park as a base.
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Less well-known locations
Now let me share three locations which would be my firmest recommendations for anybody wishing to visit this area at any time of year.
Where parking is easy, where you can rely on peace and quiet (depending, of course, on the weather!), and which I generally reserve for my own photography and trips with my personal clients.
5. Yr Aran
Yr Aran is one of my favourite peaks in the park. It often forms the backdrop to my images, having a distinct and craggy aspect. Also, ascending to its summit affords excellent views across the peaks of northern Eryri.
The path to the summit, for the most part, is easy walking. Setting out from the car park at Rhyd Ddu, take the Yr Wyddfa path. Approximately a mile from the start, you will come to a crossroads in the path.
Ignore the sign leading left to Yr Wyddfa and just carry straight on. It’s about 2 miles up to the col at Bwlch Llan, which opens out extensive views down the Watkin path and across to the Moelwynion. This is a good spot to take a break and make some images.
The final push onto the summit runs around the eastern shoulder of Yr Aran, and, while steep in places, is not particularly technical, making the summit quite accessible.
From here, you can enjoy 360° of stunning photography possibilities. Again, as with Crimpiau, mentioned earlier, this summit is often below the cloud base.
6. The Eifionydd / Nantlle Ridge
This area of the park, approached from the A487, which connects Caernarfon south to Porthmadog, is my favourite area to enjoy some solitude even during the busiest periods of high summer.
It is a range of low peaks, but they have some spectacular glaciated corries, crags, and steep drop-offs that make for excellent and less well-known landscape photography opportunities. The ridge forms the westernmost boundary of northern Eryri.
Accessibility and parking are much easier from the small east-west valleys that cut into the ridgeline from this main road. The valleys themselves are also very interesting and very quiet.
Cwm Silyn has twin lakes, Cwmystradllyn has a single large lake, Cwm Pennant has quarry workings, and the easiest route onto the heights of the ridge is past Llyn Cwm Dulyn, where there is convenient parking, situated just above the village of Nebo.
This route onto the summit of Mynydd Graig Goch, the southernmost peak of the Nantlle Ridge, is a very easy-to-follow and gently sloped path. Yet it is somewhere you will often find complete solitude.
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7. Mynydd Maw
Mynydd Mawr is a solitary peak, separated from the southern part of the Eifionydd range by the deep chasm of the Dyffryn Nantlle valley. But it is one of my favourite recommendations for inexperienced hillwalkers to reach a proper mountain summit.
Parking and access are very easy but not obvious, thus should you meet another walker or photographer along the way, the likelihood is that they are as local as I am.
This is a favourite vantage point for three distinct subjects to photograph.
Firstly, an elevated view across the main ranges of the park to Snowdon / Yr Wyddfa & Yr Glyderau.
Then swing your camera around 90° and you have an elevated view southwards down the line of the Nantlle Ridge, a unique viewpoint of this wonderful range of peaks which, especially in evening light from over the sea, can make for some fabulous images.
Finally, swing your camera around again by another 90°, and you’re looking across the Llyn Peninsula, Yr Eifl, and the sun setting into the Irish Sea.
This peak can be reached from a southern aspect path with parking at Rhyd Ddu, or the lakeside layby at Llyn y Dywarchen.
This path takes in the lake itself but is longer and steeper than the path which you can use from the northern aspect of the mountain on the opposite side.
For the easier ascent, the parking is close to the village of Carmel, south of Caernarfon. The path along the north-western Ridge of the mountain is much easier, although often more exposed to prevailing weather.
There is a stone circle refuge at the summit where you can take a breather after your climb, and then you can enjoy some fabulous landscape photography in 360° from the plateau around the summit.
This location is one which I always recommend when photographers want to shoot through the sunset into the blue hour because the descent from the summit is very easy and no problem in the dark with a head torch.
And, of course, the opposite holds true in that you can head up in the dark for a sunrise shoot relatively easily, although I would recommend a daytime visit before attempting this, just to familiarize yourself with the route.
But it’s almost impossible to get lost on this hill as the path is so obvious.
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These suggestions merely scratch the surface of what is available in this region to the landscape photographer. It has been difficult deciding which ones to feature, as there are so many more available.
If you are considering a visit, carry out some detailed research and be prepared to want to return many times as you discover more. Perhaps even make contact with a local photographer or guide for the very best local advice based on the prevailing light and weather conditions.
This small area of the country truly offers the highest quality landscape photography opportunities. Enjoy them!