Carrauntoohil Hike: best route, distance, when to visit, and more

Carrauntoohil in the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range in County Kerry is Ireland’s tallest mountain. Here is everything you need to know about the Carrauntoohil hike.

Located in the incredible Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range in the ‘Kingdom County’ of Ireland, County Kerry, Carrauntoohil stands at an impressive 1,039 m (3408.793 ft) tall, making it the tallest mountain in Ireland. Not for the faint-hearted, the Carrauntoohil walk is no mean feat.

Covering an area of 100 square kilometres from the Gap of Dunloe in the east to Glencar in the west, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks is comprised of 27 peaks, as well as several lakes, forests, cliffs, and ridges for you to explore.

Ireland’s highest mountain is sure to be high on the bucket list of any hiking enthusiasts or lovers of the outdoors while they’re in Ireland. So if you’re thinking of taking on the Carrauntoohil hike, this guide is for you.

Basic overview – all you need to know

  • Distance: 11.43 km (7.1 miles return)
  • Start point: Cronin’s Yard
  • Parking: Car park at Cronin’s Yard (€2 parking fee to be paid at the tea room)
  • Difficulty: Strenuous. Rough terrain and a steep climb at various points
  • Duration: Five to six hours

Best route – how to get to the top

Best route on the Carrauntoohil walk.
Credit: Ireland Before You Die

There are four different routes you can take to reach the summit of the Carrauntoohil hike: Brother O’Shea’s Gully Trail, the Devil’s Ladder Trail, the Caher Trail, and the more difficult Coomloughra Horseshoe Loop.

The most popular of the three is the Devil’s Ladder Trail, and it is the one we would recommend taking as it is the most straightforward of the three – don’t be put off by its ominous name!

Starting in Cronin’s Yard, take the clearly marked trail to the foot of the Devil’s Ladder, following the signs for the Cronin’s Yard Loop. You will pass over Hag’s Glen, an open glen with a beautiful lake on either side.

This is where things begin to get difficult as you make the strenuous climb up the narrow gully known as the Devil’s Ladder – you will need to use your hands at various points to clamber up the rocky face.

Reaching the top of the gully, follow the trail that takes you to the summit of the Carrauntoohil walk.

Follow this same route down on your descent to return to the Cronin’s Yard car park.

Distance – how long it will take

How long it will take.

Following the Devil’s Ladder Trail from Cronin’s Yard, the Carrauntoohil hike is just under 11.5 km (7.1 miles) long and should take between five to six hours to complete.

However, if you choose to take one of the other trails, it could take you anywhere between four and eight hours to complete the Carrauntoohil walk.

When to visit – weather and crowds

When to do the Carruntoohil walk.
Credit: Flickr / Ian Parkes

Due to the loose rocky terrain of this area, it is best to avoid the Carrauntoohil hike altogether if conditions are poor. Many of the ridges and peaks are very exposed to wind and rain, which can prove extremely dangerous in poor visibility.

Thus, it is best to visit in milder conditions during the months between April and September.

As this is Ireland’s highest mountain, the Carrauntoohil walk is a very popular trail for hiking enthusiasts, and thus, it is no surprise that it can become extremely busy in peak season.

To avoid crowds, we advise visiting on a weekday if possible and try to avoid national bank holidays.

To get the most out of your visit to Carrauntoohil, you might consider staying at Carrauntoohil Eco Farm one of the best camping sites in Killarney.

What to bring – come prepared

Wear good walking boots.

Make sure to wear a sturdy pair of walking boots with a good grip on the Carrauntoohil hike as the terrain is very rocky and full of loose scree.

No matter the time of year, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the weather in the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range can be very changeable, so we advise you pack light layers and rain gear that you can put on or take off as you need.

As the Carrauntoohil walk will last between four and eight hours, depending on the route you choose, we recommend bringing an adequate supply of food and water to keep your hydrated and energised as you make your way to the summit.

What to see – stunning views

What to see on the Carrauntoohil hike.

You will be rewarded after completing the Carrauntoohil hike with incredible views of the surrounding area.

From the summit, you can take in 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain peaks and dramatic ridges. You will also be able to see the numerous lakes of Killarney, the Wild Atlantic Way in the distance, and the rolling farmland of County Kerry to the north-east.

Reaching the summit, you will also be greeted by the impressive cross that stands atop the mountain marking the end of your climb – a definite highlight.

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