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.
Some quick need-to-knows about 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.
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 savage 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 an 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 the Sugarloaf Mountain
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 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 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 ‘Great Sugarloaf Car Park’ into Google Maps if you can’t find it. Also don’t leave anything on show in your car as break-ins aren’t unheard-of!
What to expect on the short Sugarloaf Mountain hike
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!
An overview of the long Great Sugarloaf 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 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.
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.
What to expect on the short Sugarloaf Mountain walk
This version of the Sugarloaf 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.
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 (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).
1. Blessington (25 minutes)
The Blessington Lakes and the brilliant Blessington Greenway are both a handy, 26-minute drive from the Great Sugarloaf. There’s plenty of places to eat here, too.
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)
Glendalough, part of the Wicklow Mountains National Park, is an absolute joy to explore on foot. Discover the best rambles in our Glendalough walks guide.
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.