The Great Sugarloaf Mountain hike is one of the most popular walks in Wicklow.
Now, there are two main trails you can do here – the short (and straightforward) Sugarloaf walk and the long (and not-so-straightforward) Sugarloaf loop.
The short trail takes roughly 1 hour in total while the long trail takes 2.5 hours. Each has a dedicated car park, as you’ll discover below.
Some quick need-to-knows about the Great Sugarloaf walk
Overlooking the village of Kilmacanogue, the Great Sugar Loaf isn’t the tallest mountain in Ireland, but its conical shape makes it instantly recognisable.
Although climbing the Sugarloaf is relatively straightforward, there’s a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit easier to plan (pay particular attention to the point about the Great Sugarloaf car park).
Located in the north-eastern section of the Wicklow Mountains, its summit offers glorious panoramic views across the mountainous landscape, Dublin city and over the Irish sea.
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.
3. Two trails to try
You can tackle the Sugarloaf hike from the little car park right beside it (the short walk) or from the car park at Fitzsimons Park GAA ground (the long walk). You’ll find info on both version of the walk below.
4. How long it takes
The short route takes around 1 hour or so to reach the top and get back down. Allow more time to soak up the views. The long Sugarloaf hike takes around 2.5 hours.
5. Sugarloaf parking warning
This Sugarloaf car park has been infamous over the years for break-ins. If you park here, leave no valuables in the car and, hopefully it goes without saying, lock your doors. This car park also fills up quickly at the weekends, so try and arrive early.
An overview of the short route for climbing Sugarloaf Mountain
The short Sugarloaf Mountain walk is both the most popular and the most straightforward of the two trails.
This is a moderately difficult liner walk with a trail that’s relatively easy to follow until the final section.
With its relatively simple ascent up the Great Sugarloaf Mountain without much change of direction, the short walk can be done in about 1 hour up and back.
Allow 1.5 hours as you’ll want some time to soak up the views from the summit. If you’re bringing children, then the walk may take around 1.5 – 2 hours max.
For the majority of the Great 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.
There’s a car park (here on Google Maps) 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. 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 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.
An overview of the long Great Sugarloaf walk
I’m going to be honest, I’ve done this trail up and around the Great Sugarloaf Mountain once before and I wouldn’t recommend it.
Despite having a map, I found this trail near-impossible to follow. However, for those interested, I’ll take you through it.
How long it takes
Starting on the opposite side of Sugarloaf Mountain near the village of Kilmacanogue, this route will take around 2.5 hours at the most, depending on pace.
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.
What makes this Sugarloaf hike tricky is that the trail is almost non-existent in places, especially on the southern side of the mountain (the addition of very sharp bushes makes this literally a pain at times).
Turn off the N11 into Kilmacanogue and make your way to Fitzsimon’s Park GAA ground (here on Google Maps).
There’s a small car park here and alongside the GAA ground is a path that marks the beginning of the trail.
This version of the Sugarloaf walk is looped, so the path starts by taking you west along the north face of the Great Sugarloaf.
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. Climbing down can also be just as tricky as climbing up, especially in winter.
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 Sugarloaf Mountain car park.
What to do after the Sugarloaf hike
One of the beauties of the Sugarloaf hike is that it’s a short spin away from some of the best places to visit in Wicklow.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the mountain!
1. Blessington (25 minutes)
2. Lugnaquilla (30 minutes)
The Lugnaquilla hike is for experienced climbers only but, if you know your way around a map and compass, this is a hike to add to the bucketlist. If you’re after handier walks, the Djouce Mountain Walk and the Lough Ouler hike are worth looking at.
3. Glendalough (40 minutes)
FAQs about the Sugarloaf Walking trail
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from where is the car park for the Sugarloaf Walk to which route is the best.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
Where is the Sugarloaf car park?
If you’re doing the short Sugarloaf Walk route, you can park right in front of it. Just stick ‘Sugarloaf Car Park’ into Google Maps. If you’re doing the long Sugarloaf Mountain Walk, you’ll park at Fitzsimons Park GAA ground.
How long does the Sugarloaf Walk take?
The short trail for climbing the Sugarloaf takes around an hour, while the longer Sugarloaf Walk takes around 2.5 hours.
Is the Great Sugarloaf Mountain Walk hard?
The short Sugarloaf Walk is very doable. The only part that’ll prove difficult for some, unless very unfit, is the top, as you need to scramble a bit to reach the summit.
Keith O’Hara has lived in Ireland for 34 years and has spent most of the last 10 years creating what is now The Irish Road Trip guide. Over the years, the website has published thousands of meticulously researched Ireland travel guides, welcoming 30 million+ visitors along the way. In 2022, the Irish Road Trip team published the world’s largest collection of Irish Road Trip itineraries. Keith lives in Dublin with his dog Toby and finds writing in the 3rd person minus craic altogether.