The great Sugarloaf Mountain hike is one of my favourite walks in Wicklow.
It’s fairly handy and, if you reach the top on a clear day, you’ll be treated to mighty views of the surrounding countryside and beyond.
In the guide below, you’ll find everything you need to know about the popular short Sugarloaf walk and the much longer trail that’s much less trodden.
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The Great Sugarloaf walk
Overlooking the village of Kilmacanogue, Great Sugar Loaf isn’t the tallest mountain in Ireland, but its conical shape makes it instantly recognisable.
Located in the north-eastern section of the Wicklow Mountains, its summit offers savage panoramic views across the mountainous landscape, Dublin city and over the Irish sea.
Before we dive into the trails for the long and short Sugarloaf Mountain walks, here are a few FAQs to start you off.
How high is the Great Sugarloaf Mountain?
Standing at 501 metres, the Sugarloaf is by no means the highest mountain in Ireland, but it’s a rewarding one to conquer at any time of the year.
How difficult is the walk?
The Sugarloaf walk is reasonably handy, especially if you start it in the car park at the foot of the mountain.
How long does the Sugarloaf walk take?
The short Sugarloaf walk takes an hour to complete in total. The long Sugarloaf walk (starts near Kilmacanogue Village) takes around 2.5 hours to complete.
Where to park for the long and short walk
For the short walk, pop ‘Sugar Loaf Car Park’ into Google Maps. For the long Sugarloaf walk, pop ‘Fitzsimons Park’ into Maps and head for the GAA car park.
How to get to the Sugarloaf from Dublin
The drive down from Dublin should take around 45 minutes (55 if you’re coming from the airport). There’s also the handy 133 bus service from Connolly Station that takes you to Kilmacanogue, via Bray.
The Short Walk
There are two walks to choose from when you visit Sugarloaf Mountain and the short walk is by far the most popular.
For first time visitors, this version of the sugarloaf walk is arguably the most rewarding, as it can easily be paired with some of the other incredible places to visit in Wicklow nearby, or with one of the many Glendalough walks.
How long it takes
With its relatively simple ascent up the Great Sugarloaf Mountain without much change of direction, the short walk can be done in about an hour up and back.
Although you’ll probably want to stick around at the summit for a while to enjoy the view and take a breather.
If you’re bringing children, then the walk may take around an hour and a half.
For the majority of the Sugarloaf walk, it’s an easy stroll along a simple, albiet steepish, path. It gets quite rocky towards the summit so you’ll need to scramble a little, but it shouldn’t pose too many problems for most.
Where to park
There’s a car park just south of the mountain on the L1031 with a distinctive concrete arch. It can fill up quickly on weekends so try to arrive earlier if possible.
Stick ‘Sugar Loaf Car Park’ in Maps if you can’t find it. Also don’t leave anything on show in your car as break-ins aren’t unheard-of!
Beginning at the car park, the short walk up the Great Sugarloaf mountain follows a fairly direct path and you’ll likely see the small shapes and outlines of people in the distance, making it easy to follow.
The wide path is surrounded by green grass and slowly rising hill before taking a left turn at a slightly steeper gradient. The path becomes a little rockier here as it arcs towards the summit.
The trail then turns right, and the final 30 metres are by far the most challenging of the track. This section is a largely compromised of loose and jagged rocks and care is required when climbing them, especially in windier conditions.
Once at the summit there’s plenty of room to take in the gorgeous views. On clear days, it’s possible to see all the way 150km across the Irish Sea and, amazingly, make out the distinct peak of Snowdon, Wales’ tallest mountain!
The Longer Walk
If you’ve done the short walk before and fancy more of a challenge, then this longer walk around and up the Great Sugarloaf Mountain might be more up your street.
Note: make sure to bring snacks and water along with some comfortable walking shoes as you’ll be walking for just under 3 hours.
How long it takes
Starting on the opposite side of Sugarloaf Mountain near the village of Kilmacanogue, this route will take around 2 and a half hours at the most, depending on fitness levels.
The length of this walk makes it more challenging than the short walk and there are a few more rugged quartzite slopes, but the gradients aren’t too different and the rocky scramble at the summit is still the same.
Where to park
This one is a bit more difficult to find than the shorter route. Turn off the N11 into Kilmacanogue and make your way to Fitzsimons Park GAA ground. There’s a small car park here and alongside the GAA ground is a path that marks the beginning of the trail.
This walk takes the form of a loop, so the path starts by taking you west along the north face of the Great Sugarloaf (look out for the rabbits!).
You’ll keep heading along the fairly broad path until you reach the shoulder of the mountain where you’ll turn left at a height of around 300 metres and head toward the summit.
As with the short walk, this is where the terrain gets rockier and the gradient gets steeper so take a bit more care in regard to your climb. Climbing down can also be just as tricky as climbing up too, especially in winter.
Making your descent
On the way back down, you can follow the path of the short walk but, rather than head back down to the L1031, you can head east and circle back around the mountain.
This narrow path can be a bit more difficult to spot amid the gorse and heather so keep an eye out for it as you’re walking down.
Once you’ve found it, head east for the Glen of the Downs before joining the path that leads north back towards the GAA ground.
The Great Sugarloaf walk: wrapping it up
Climbing the Great Sugarloaf Mountain is up there with our favourite things to do in Wicklow. The climb is easy enough and the views you’re treated to are out of this world.
Have you done the Sugarloaf walk in the past? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!