Ben Nevis Visitor Centre » Tackling The Ben – FAQs


How long does the walk take?

An average time to the summit and back is 7 – 8 hours.   Walkers fit enough to try to climb The Three Peaks in 24 hours need to take 5 hours or less.   The winner of The Ben Race each September gets to the summit and back in around 90 minutes.

How far is it?

To the top and back to The Visitor Centre is about 10 miles/16 kilometres.

Is the path well signposted?

Once on the path there are no signposts but in good weather it is possible to follow the mountain track.   Near the summit cliffs there is a line of cairns, stone waymarkers, which guide you when visibility and cloud allow. The ability to navigate with a map and compass is essential in poor visibility.

Is it safe?

You can minimise the risks by following the safety advice given here and from the staff at The Visitor Centre.  However even the most experienced and well equipped walker is not immune from an accident on The Ben.

Do I need to register?

There is no registration procedure at The Visitor Centre and no obligation to register unless your group consists of 10 or more people. However it is advisable to let someone know your route and the time you expect to be back.

How can I find out the conditions at the summit? links to the mountain weather report for The West Highlands. This is updated twice a day and can be seen at Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. Never rely on a forecast and always be equipped and prepared for bad weather.

Do I really need a map and compass?

Yes you do. Conditions can change rapidly, visibility can quickly drop to a couple of metres and it is essential that you know know where your position and the direction to walk.

Do I need a guide?

Booking a guide can take a lot of the stress out of organising your trip and they will have excellent local knowledge of the area, for more information on local guides go to

Are there many litter bins?

None. Bring down everything you take up.

Will my mobile phone work?

Yes, but not on all sections of the path. Reception can be patchy.

Is it safe to drink the water from the mountain streams on Ben Nevis?

You can drink from the streams but the water is not tested and there is no guarantee of its purity.  Just remember that some days there are over 1000 people on the mountain and there are no toilet facilities.  To be safe take bottled water, at least 2 litres per person on a sunny day.

Can I take my dog?

Yes, preferably on a lead so as not to impede other walkers.   Be aware that sheep graze up to around 700 metres.   Also the second part of Ben Nevis is a terrain of scree, loose stones which can be hard on a dog’s pads.

Are there other ways to the summit besides the Mountain Track?

Other routes include the Carn Mor Dearg Arête, a tricky ridge only attempted by experienced scramblers and hill walkers.

Who do I phone in an emergency?

999 is the emergency number.