Hikes & Walks / Leinster / Wicklow

Great Sugar Loaf trail – lots of gain for little pain!

Sugar Loaf trail

You know when you finally do something you’ve been meaning to do for ages and you wonder how the hell did it take me so long to get around to this? Well, that was me with the Great Sugar Loaf in Wicklow. I only climbed it for the first time recently and it’s a great little hike. Short and sweet but at the end of the day you still get to boast that you climbed a mountain!

Easily recognised by it’s distinctive conical shape, I’ve passed by the Sugar Loaf countless times in my life. Many of those times, I’ve thought I must climb it one day. Well that day finally came around a few weeks ago. Now I find myself asking why I haven’t made it to top of the Sugar Loaf till now. I’m sure that if I’d know about the stunning views and the straightforward climb, I’d have been there before. Why didn’t anyone tell me? You’ve all been holding out on me!

Panoramic views of Dublin and Wicklow

Seriously though…if you want to take in probably the best views of Dublin and Wicklow, then the summit of the Sugar Loaf is the place to be. It’s just stunning in every direction and much cheaper than a hiring a helicopter. Just in case you were considering it! 

You have the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains to one side and on the other, the Little Sugar Loaf, Bray Head and coastal views of Bray, Greystones and beyond.

The best thing is that you can enjoy all of it with minimal effort. You could be up and down in just over an hour if you really wanted. Though it’s likely you’ll spend a little time at the top too, at least if the weather is in your favour.

Stunning views to the mountains and tiny people making their way to the summit!

A couple taking in the views from the Sugar Loaf summit

Great Sugar Loaf Route

The route to the summit is a fairly direct and manageable one. It will be pretty obvious as soon as you pull into the carpark on the southern side of the mountain. The walk is graded easy but I do think that could be a little misleading. In terms of mountain climbing, yes it’s definitely easy but in terms of a walk for all the family it’s not quite what I would grade as easy.

View of the Sugar Loaf from the start of the trail having just left the car park

Near the start of the trail having just left the car park

A large bush of bright yellow gorse in the foreground with the Sugar Loaf behind

The coconut smell from this gorse was so good!

In fairness, it’s just the final climb to the summit I’m referring to. Although short, it is tricky with loose rocks and scree underfoot. So there is some risk of slips and falls and my parents did think twice about doing it, knowing the way down would be a little harder. In the end we just took it slow and steady and made it to the summit and back down again without any bother.

Note that if you prefer a longer, more challenging route, you can also start your walk from Kilmacanoge which takes about 2.5 hours.

On the rocky last part of the climb to the summit

On the last part of the climb to the summit

Looking back to the parking area from the summit

Looking back to the parking area from the summit

Parking and facilities

Of course being so accessible means the Sugar Loaf is a very popular walk. We looked like a little trail of ants climbing up and down! On weekends, particularly long weekends (which is when we went), it’s worth getting there earlier if possible. We arrived about 11am and although it was very busy already we were lucky enough to get a parking space in the car park.

A line of people like marching ants on our way to and from the summit!

Marching ants on our way to and from the summit!

When we left about 1.5 hours later, it was a totally different story. The cars where lined up and down the road. Which would be fine if it wasn’t a really narrow road that only fits two cars! So as we were leaving the carpark, a guy ran up to ask us to wait a few minutes to let some cars through from the other direction. After that it was a slow crawl to get to the R755 and more cars were queuing to get past. It was all a bit chaotic. So, if it’s summer and a sunny day, I’d recommend going early so you can finish before the madness starts!    

There are no toilets or facilities at the carpark. There was a van selling tea, coffee and snacks the day we were there but how regular that is, I don’t know.


Highest point: 501m

Time: allow up to 1.5 hours. More if you want to linger at the top.

Grade: Easy to moderate (see above!)

Distance: 2.5km

Parking: Sugar Loaf carpark on the L1031 at Red Lane, just off the R755 from Kilmacanoge.


1 Comment

  • DerekBridger
    18th December 2020 at 1:05 pm

    If your up for a challenge start in Bray follow the the bray head loop then the Belmont way then sugarloaf way there and back should take about 8 hours depending on fitness it’s a beautiful hike on a good day fantastic views


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