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The Croagh Patrick Hike (Ireland Mountain Pilgrimage)

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The Croagh Patrick hike near the town of Westport, Ireland is one of the most popular and challenging climbs in the region.

The significance of Croagh Patrick Mountain dates back to 441 AD when Saint Patrick is said to have fasted on the mountain for forty days. Since then the mountain has enjoyed significance for its religious history and is one of the most popular attractions in County Mayo, Ireland.

Irish natives and tourists alike flock to Westport each year for a shot at climbing the extremely steep Croagh Patrick.

If you can endure over 2,400 ft of elevation gain (nearly 750 meters) then you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Clew Bay and the surrounding Irish landscapes.

Man standing atop Croagh Patrick, Ireland
Views of Clew Bay from atop Croagh Patrick are well worth the trek to the peak!

During my travels through Ireland we stayed at Westport with the goal of climbing the Holiest Mountain in all of Ireland.

After successfully reaching the top and enjoying incredible views of the surrounding area I’m happy to share with you everything I wish I knew before attempting this amazing climb!

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Where is Croagh Patrick located?

Croagh Patrick is located in County Mayo, which is near the western coast of Ireland. The nearest major town is Westport which serves as a great jumping off point for visiting and this is where I stayed during my trip. From here we enjoyed an easy 15 minute drive to the mountain car park.

If you’re still searching for accommodations you can find reasonably priced hotels in Westport here. Just be mindful that the town isn’t that big so rooms can sell out during peak season.

Westport. Ireland's town square
Westport is a medium sized Irish town located just east of Croagh Patrick

Another viable option would be staying in the town of Castlebar. It’s a little bit further east (35 minute drive each way to Croagh Patrick) but will offer additional hotel choices when trying to plan out your stay in this region.

Croagh Patrick sits just south of Clew Bay. Views of the bay along with its many islands are the highlight of making it to the summit. Also know that another great way to experience the bay is by booking a Clew Bay boat tour departing from either Westport or Newport. This will allow you to get directly out on the water!

The surrounding area is also considered to be part of the Wild Atlantic Way which is a 1600 mile (2600 km) defined coastal route which spans the entire western coast of Ireland and features some of the country’s most beautiful natural landmarks.

How do I reach Croagh Patrick?

The easiest way to reach Croagh Patrick is by car from the town of Westport. If you’re traveling to this area from Dublin you’ll need to rent a car and make the 3+ hour drive across Ireland.

There’s a large car park at the trailhead where you’ll need to pay a small fee to park your vehicle.

Croagh Patrick car park in County Mayo, Ireland
From the car park you’ll be able to see Croagh Patrick dominating the horizon

For my trip to Ireland we flew into Dublin and then immediately rented a car and drove to Westport on the first morning. If you’re planning to road trip Ireland like we did, this is one way to do it. From there we planned a route that finished back with activities in Dublin for a few nights before we flew back out.

If you’re still trying to nail down a rental car for your Ireland vacation, I’d advise against waiting until the last minute if you’re visiting during peak season. And be sure to use a rental car price comparison tool to ensure you get a good deal on your vehicle!

Renting a car is essential for attempting some of Ireland’s best activities including a road trip across the Dingle Peninsula, exploring the Coastal Causeway in Northern Ireland, or stopping at a remote roadside waterfall in Donegal.

Why is Croagh Patrick so special?

Croagh Patrick is considered a holy site because it is believed to be the place where Saint Patrick fasted for 40 days and nights in the 5th century. Today, many people make a pilgrimage to the mountain to honor Saint Patrick and his legacy.

The mountain was subsequently named after Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. If you’re visiting Croagh Patrick with aspirations of a holy journey to the top, you’ll find signage near the trail start and a stone plaque near the top with recommendations on how to experience the hike in this way.

St. Patrick Statue at the base of Croagh Patrick
You’ll encounter this statue early on during your trek up Croagh Patrick

The mountain is also known as “The Reek” to locals and the name is used interchangeably.

While the mountain has strong religious ties, it’s also enjoyed strictly as one of the best hiking destinations in all of Ireland due to its challenging features and incredible summit views.

What to expect when hiking Croagh Patrick?

My visit to Croagh Patrick occurred on the last Saturday in May and we were fortunate to have beautiful weather during our hike. May is one of the best times of the year to visit Ireland since you’ll enjoy long hours of daylight, warm temperatures, (relatively) dryer weather and fewer crowds by avoiding peak summer tourism season.

Hikers climbing Croagh Patrick
Beautiful afternoons will attract many hikers hoping to climb Croagh Patrick

The parking lot for Croagh Patrick is pretty large, but when we arrived around 10am it was mostly filled. Fortunately, spaces were turning over and we didn’t have too much of an issue finding a spot.

However, we did face crowds in every direction on this trail so if you have the luxury of starting first thing in the morning I’d suggest going that route. We encountered bottlenecks in a few spots and the trail becomes pretty near as you approach the top.

Hikers climbing The Reek in Ireland
It’s a long ways up to reach the top of The Reek!

The hike up The Reek is pretty challenging. Even though the total distance up is only about 2.3 miles (3.6 km), you’ll be facing a constant incline that gets gradually steeper the further you go.

While the hike gets progressively more difficult, the views get progressively better the higher you climb. You’ll be looking up Croagh Patrick most of your hike out but be sure to take plenty of breaks to look back and take in views of Clew Bay.

Clew Bay, County Mayo Ireland
Views of Clew Bay during our hike up Croagh Patrick

The trail loops around the back side of Croagh Patrick and provides views of the fields and rolling hills to the south before shooting what feels like straight up the side of the mountain.

Once the trail steepens at this point, it will be a bit of a slog until you reach the top. Even though the terrain is steep, it never feels unsafe since there aren’t any sheer drops. Just keep an eye on your footing as you climb up the large loose rocks.

St. Patrick's Chapel sitting atop Croagh Patrick
I can’t imagine what went into building this chapel atop Croagh Patrick

After navigating the super steep rocky terrain you’ll be rewarded with flat ground surrounding St. Patrick’s Chapel at the top and out of this world views of Clew Bay. If you have flexibility, make sure you attempt this hike when the sky is clear so you can enjoy these views to their fullest.

During our hike up we passed through some stray clouds and at the top stood roughly eye level with that day’s partly cloudy skies.

Hikers watch a cloud pass nearby while hiking Croagh Patrick, Ireland
Don’t be surprised if you briefly get engulfed by a cloud during your hike!

If you attempt this hike on the weekend or on a nice afternoon expect the top to be fairly crowded. There’s plenty of room to spread out and enjoy whatever snack you packed, but it was a bit challenging to take a good photo clear of anyone else.

Not everyone sets out to visit Ireland with an eye for challenging hikes, but if you do decide to hike Croagh Patrick you won’t be disappointed. The views of Clew Bay we enjoyed from the top were unique compared to the numerous coastal cliff faces we set out to explore elsewhere on our adventure.

Man standing with Croagh Patrick sign in County Mayo, Ireland
The views atop Croagh Patrick of Clew Bay are some of the best in Ireland!

My only regret is that I didn’t bring my trekking poles. The trek up was a grind but with hikes like this my legs and knees always get whipped the worst on the steep descent back down!

How long is the Croagh Patrick hike?

The Croagh Patrick hike is approximately 7.2 km (4.5 miles) round trip, starting from the visitor center car park at the base of the mountain. The trail boasts over 2,400 feet (740 meters) of elevation gain which is a substantial amount considering the relatively short trail length.

How long does Croagh Patrick take to climb?

Climbing Croagh Patrick will take most visitors upwards of 4 hours to complete including some time spent hanging out at the summit. The trail has a significant grade for much of the hike which means you’ll be moving at a slower pace most of the way up than usual.

Hikers near Clew Bay, County Mayo Ireland
Be prepared to share the trail with plenty of other hikers on this one

The trail can become fairly congested on nicer days and weekends which can cause you to move more slowly than you’d anticipate. Getting an early start to your hike can help cut down on crowds and bottlenecks along the trail.

Is Croagh Patrick a tough climb?

While the length of 7.2 km (4.5 miles) would suggest a medium difficultly hike, the substantial elevation gain, steep grade as you approach the summit and rocky terrain make this hike fairly difficult to complete.

But with proper preparation you’ll see hikers of all skill levels completing the pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick. Be sure to pack more water than you’d normally bring since most people end up on this hike longer than they expect given how slow you move.

Hikers climbing up the back of The Reek, Ireland
If you look super close, you can see what look like little ants marching up the mountainside!

If you’re moving slowly be sure to practice good trail etiquette and let other hikers work around you.

Also, don’t underestimate the hike back down the mountain. Your legs will be tired from the journey up and the trail is so steep that it’s almost as hard as the way up!

For more Ireland hiking inspiration be sure to check out my post covering the Benbulben Forest Walk in County Sligo or Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland! Carrick-a-Rede also pairs well with a stop at the Dark Hedges for any Game of Thrones fans interested in checking out a filming location from the TV show.

Do I have to pay to hike Croagh Patrick?

No, there is no fee to hike Croagh Patrick. The mountain is freely accessible to the public, and you can embark on the hike at your own convenience.

However, there is a small charge for parking at the visitor’s center if you arrive by car.

Are dogs allowed at Croagh Patrick?

Dogs are not allowed to accompany you during your hike up Croagh Patrick. You’ll have to leave your pets at home for this one!

Are there bathrooms at Croagh Patrick?

You’ll find restroom facilities near the visitor center, where the trailhead for this hike originates. However, there aren’t any other facilities on the mountain and you should anticipate being out on the trail for 3-4 hours.

The trail is fully exposed and usually crowded, so there aren’t any great spots to go in nature once you set out on your hike.

Do I need any special hiking gear for Croagh Patrick?

The most important piece of gear to bring with you up Croagh Patrick is a sturdy set of hiking boots. The trail can be extremely rocky at times so reliable footwear is a must for this one.

Keep in mind this entire trail is exposed, so if it’s a sunny day when you’re visiting you’ll want to pack plenty of sunscreen.

Green field with sheep at the base of Croagh Patrick
It’s a long way up to the top of Croagh Patrick!

Be sure to budget enough food and water to get you through a rigorous 4 hours of hiking. You don’t want to run out of water on this one!

I didn’t have my trekking poles for this one but I really wish I did, particularly for the trek back down. Learn from my mistake and pack your poles!

Check the weather the morning of your hike. Weather in Ireland, especially around a mountain like Croagh Patrick, can be unpredictable. Strong winds near the summit and the possibility of rain or poor visibility are very real during this hike. Pack layers to ensure you’re prepared for rain or much colder conditions at the top.

I’ve put together a complete day hike checklist that should be helpful ensuring you don’t leave anything behind for this hike. Be sure to check that out when you’re finished here, especially if you’re planning to do other outdoor activities during your Ireland trip like exploring Skellig Michael Island or hiking around Slieve League.

Is there food at Croagh Patrick?

There is a small café and snack cart at the Croagh Patrick Visitor Centre, where you can purchase light refreshments, snacks, and beverages before or after your hike.

However, there are no food options on the mountain itself, so it’s a good idea to bring your own snacks and water for the hike.

What is the best time of year to visit Croagh Patrick?

I’d recommend planning your Ireland trip during the spring and summer months (April to September) which generally offer warmer weather and more daylight hours.

Bartraw Beach, County Mayo Ireland
Views from Bartraw Beach which sits along Clew Bay not far from The Reek

May and June are the driest months in Ireland so they make for great months to visit. This is especially true if you want to spend time outside hiking or on the beach. Speaking of beaches, be sure to check out my post about visiting Dog’s Bay Beach which is a 90 minute drive from Westport.

This was a stop we made on our way from Westport to the Cliffs of Moher and was one of the most beautiful beaches we encountered during our travels.

I made my trip to Ireland around the end of May and early June. During my trip we were fortunate to go ten straight days without a single drop of rain which is difficult to do in Ireland!

Be sure to check out some of my other travel planning resources as you put together your Ireland trip. There’s a helpful guide to planning travel abroad along with my complete guide to cheap airfare hacks to help you save money!

What is the best time of day to visit Croagh Patrick?

The best time of day to visit Croagh Patrick is during the early morning or late afternoon. Starting your hike early in the morning allows you to avoid the hottest part of the day while avoiding peak crowds which tend to arrive around midday.

Sheep grazing near a pond in Ireland
During our hike we spotted some sheep grazing near this pound to the south

Late afternoon hikes can also be enjoyable as the crowds begin to fade and the sun passes its highest point in the sky. Just make sure to allow enough time to descend the mountain before it gets dark if you choose this route.

Crowds will be worse on the weekends so try visiting during the week if possible. It’s also critically important to check the weather before attempting this hike and to try timing it with any favorable breaks in the weather forecast.

Do I need a reservation to visit Croagh Patrick?

No, you do not need a reservation to hike Croagh Patrick. The mountain is freely accessible to the public and you can enjoy the hike at your own convenience. Just be mindful that parking spaces will be in high demand on weekends whenever the weather is favorable.

Is the Croagh Patrick hike dangerous?

While the Croagh Patrick hike is challenging due to its steep and rocky terrain, it is not inherently dangerous. Despite how steep the terrain is, hikers won’t be forced to walk along any sheer drops.

Your bigger concerns should be staying hydrated by packing enough water, salty snacks and checking the weather to avoid any hazardous conditions.

Check out these activities available in the area

Looking for more ways to fill out your trip itinerary? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide.

Is Croagh Patrick worth it?

Yes, hiking Croagh Patrick is definitely worth it and this was one of our favorite activities that did during our road trip across Ireland. If you’re into adventure or outdoor activities this should definitely be on your itinerary.

Man standing with sign atop Croagh Patrick, Ireland
Climbing Croagh Patrick will go down as one of my favorite Ireland memories

The rocky climb is challenging but rewarding, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape and Clew Bay from the summit.

If the site holds religious significance for you, then that will only make the experience that much more enjoyable.

Be sure to check out my drone video compilation on YouTube that features some of the most stunning landscapes in Ireland that we encountered on this trip, including some shots of the area surrounding Croagh Patrick.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope this post helps prepare you for the Croagh Patrick hike during your travels through Westport, Ireland!

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