Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis each have a unique character, beauty and selection of sublime views. Learn more about these amazing mountains in this guide to the National Three Peaks.
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and the tallest peak in the British Isles outside of Scotland. The highest peak of this horseshoe-shaped mountain rises 1,085m (3,560 ft) above sea level from its base in Snowdonia National Park, to which it lends its name. The mountain was formed around 450 million years ago by volcanoes and hewn into its distinctive shape by glaciers. ‘Snowdon’ derives from the Old English term for ‘snow hill.’ The mountain’s Welsh name, ‘Yr Wyddfa,’ is believed to be a reference to King Arthur’s defeat of the giant Rhitta Gawr.
Six trails lead from various points around the base of the mountain to its summit, which can also be reached between spring and early autumn aboard the Snowdon Mountain Railway. When you reach the summit, prepare to be greeted by spectacular views from a head and shoulders vantage over the surrounding peaks and valleys of Snowdonia. During the railway’s months of operation, you’ll also have the chance to reward your mountain scaling efforts with refreshments from the Snowdon Summit Visitor Centre, Hafod Eryri.
Snowdon’s tall cliff faces are a popular rock-climbing spot once used as a training site by Edmund Hillary before he set off on the expedition that saw him become the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. The ease and joy of Snowdon’s ascent have helped it become the most frequently climbed mountain in the UK and one of the top three visitor attractions in Wales. Snowdon is also a designated national nature reserve that’s home to many rare plants including the Snowdon Lily.
The highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, stands 978 m (3,209 ft) overlooking the surrounding peaks of the Lake District’s Southern Fells. The National Trust acquired the summit in 1919 as a donation to honour the memory of the soldiers from the area who served in the First World War.
The name is believed to derive from Old Norse. According to one interpretation, it means ‘the fell with the bold summit,’ a reference to the wide plateaux of broken boulders that forms Scafell’s summit. North of the summit you’ll find an enchanting area of trickling streams and deep mountain ravines.
The most popular routes up Scafell lead from Wasdale Head and Seathwaite. Two longer ones can be taken from Langdale and Eskdale. Whichever route you take up Scafell, it’s a challenging climb. If you’re adventurous, you’ll have great fun on the sections that require scrambles and navigation of rough terrain. Wearing suitable clothing and keeping an eye on the weather forecast is highly recommended. You’ll find a cosy pub near every approach to the mountain.
Ben Nevis stands in the Grampian Mountains of the Scottish Highlands near the town of Fort William. It rises 1,345 m (4,413 ft) above sea level, making it the highest mountain in Scotland and the whole of the British Isles.
The summit of Ben Nevis is formed from the remains of an ancient volcano. When you reach it, you’ll find the ruins of an observatory that collected data between 1883 and 1904 that remains crucial to understanding Scottish weather. The mountain’s northern cliff face is one of the UK’s tallest and features scrambling and rock-climbing routes suited to all abilities.
Around three-quarters of people who climb Ben Nevis make the ascent up the trail popularly referred to as the Pony Track. This trail can be joined from either Nevis Youth Hostel or the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre: the two paths soon merge. About halfway up the mountain, you’ll reach the lake of Lochan Meall an t-Siudhe, Ben Nevis’s "Halfway Hole.” Beyond there, the path zigzags higher towards the mountain’s rocky plateaux summit. Two big cairns stand before the final approach to the mountain’s highest peak. Once there, you’ll enjoy spectacular panoramic views and the feeling of standing at the highest point in Britain.
To ensure you get the best possible enjoyment when scaling one of the three national peaks, you’ll want to make sure you’re suitably dressed and equipped. Our advice on what to wear when camping is equally applicable when heading out on a mountain trek. Individually, Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis can be comfortably scaled in a day. But if you are seriously intrepid, you might want to attempt The National Three Peak Challenge: scale all three, one after the other, within 24 hours.
Where to Camp Near the Three National Peaks
Bryn Gloch Caravan Park lies at the northwest edge of Snowdonia National Park. Open year-round, the park is dog friendly and welcomes motorhomes, caravans, tourers and tents.
Hillcroft Park in the Lake District is one of our top 100 parks. With pitches for caravans, motorhomes and tents, here you can enjoy amazing views of Ullswater withs easy access to the rest of the national park and the nearby market town of Penrith.
Stay in your tent, camper or caravan under the shadow of Ben Nevis at the award-winning Glen Nevis Caravan & Camping Park where you can enjoy local food and drink at the onsite bar and restaurant.
Alternatively, search for thousands of parks across the country.