Ben Lomond is one of the most popular Munros, with truly fantastic views of the length of Loch Lomond and its islands. The view to the north reveals range beyond range of mountains into the Highlands. The path up is well made, but the optional return down the Ptarmigan ridge is steep and rocky, and muddy lower down.
Start from the car park (charge) at Rowardennan (Nearest postcode G63 0AR). The mountain is not in view from the car park but can be seen from the metal jetty on the loch shore. The ascent starts by heading through the information building (which has toilets). The excellent path climbs steadily through oak woods.
Soon the path reaches a track – go straight across and continue on path opposite. Cross a small bridge and soon there are the first views of part of Loch Lomond. The native forests are being regenerated here, after the removal of commercial plantations. Further up the route passes through a gate. The path becomes rockier in places.
Pass through another gate to reach the open hill. By the 1990s this section of the path had been eroded until it formed a scar up to 25 metres wide, visible from Glasgow. The National Trust then began a program of repairs and the current, excellent path is only a couple of metres wide. The ascent continues; the views back over Loch Lomond and its islands are already stunning.
The gradient eases slightly as the shoulder of the mountain is gained. The final summit cone of Ben Lomond is now in full view ahead and the path heads directly towards it.
The ascent steepens once more in two great zig-zags up the final cone of the mountain. The view back over the islands in Loch Lomond becomes ever more impressive, and at the second switchback there is a first great view east over the Trossachs, with Loch Chon and Loch Ard visible.
The path eventually reaches the rim of the very impressive eastern corrie which has been hidden until this point – a sudden moment of real mountain drama. The path keeps to the left of the cliff edge before making a final short rise to the summit.
From the summit trig point there are stunning views in all directions, particularly of the southern end of Loch Lomond and its islands. It is rare to be alone at the top, as this is one of Scotland’s favourite mountains, popular with visitors and locals including fell runners who make numerous ascents in a year. The easiest and most usual route back is to retrace your outward route, but there is a rougher alternative.
For the alternative, harder descent, take the rocky path NW, soon descending a very steep rocky slope. The route leads to a col before climbing south-west to Ptarmigan at 731m. From here the route follows the nobbly ridge for much of the descent with excellent views down Loch Lomond. Approximately half way down the ridge, the distinctive shape of the Cobbler comes into view alongside the other peaks of the Arrochar Alps on the far side of the Loch to the west. There is a clear path although it is narrow and rocky in places. The wettest areas have been improved with large stepping stones. About two-thirds of the way down the path leaves the true ridge to descend below crags and continue on a direct route towards Rowardennan.
The path passes through a gate and descends more steeply. Before reaching some trees at the top of the woodland bear left to go through another gate and descend alongside the burn. After an open gateway there is a good view of a waterfall. Continue down through the woods until the road is reached. Turn left here and walk along the road passing behind the Youth Hostel. For the last section it is possible to take the path to the right along the shore. This passes a modern war memorial sculpture by Doug Cocker of Dundee. Ben Lomond and its slopes going down to the loch have been dedicated as a Memorial Park to commemorate those who have lost their lives for their country. From the memorial continue round the shore a short distance to return to the car park.