Crystal clear air, unbelievable views and dozens of tempting watering holes make Snowdonia a fantastic place for mountain bikers to test their stamina and their skills. Because the national park is such a perfect location for some gruelling pedal power, a number of mountain bike trails have sprung up, with varying degrees of difficulty. Why not put your helmet on and let us guide you through some of the best mountain bike trails Snowdonia has to offer?
Getting to Snowdonia by train
First, we’ll quickly cover getting to Snowdonia by train. As it’s so mountainous, you won’t be too surprised to find out there isn’t a comprehensive rail network up there. However, there are enough tracks to get you into the heart of the mountains to start your ride.
Wherever you’re coming from in the UK, you can get a train to Snowdonia via Avanti West Coast. The main line runs all the way along the North coast of Wales to Holyhead on Anglesey, but if you change at Llandudno Junction, you can head south on the Conwy Valley Line right into the national park. The line calls at Dolgarrog, Llanrwst, Betws-y-coed, Pont-y-pant, Dolwyddelan and Roman Bridge, terminating at Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Riding around Betws-y-Coed
Betws-y-Coed is the perfect rendezvous for the start of a ride, and an even better place to finish it. It’s a bustling village between the rivers Llugwy and Conwy and is popular with drivers, motorcyclists, walkers, campers and cyclists all year round. With an abundance of restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and hotels, it benefits from a relaxed, almost alpine, atmosphere.
Just outside the town is Gwydir Forest, a beautiful woodland area. It’s perfect for a mountain bike ride that’s as strenuous as you want it to be. Nowhere is really out of bounds in the woods, although mountain bikers are asked not to use the designated footpaths, as there will invariably be dozens of walkers taking in the trails on a given day.
Gwydir Mawr a Bach (formerly known as the Marin Trail) is a custom-made mountain bike trail, which dates back some 30 years. It forms a huge circuit, 25km in length, and passes within a kilometre of Llanrwst Station in the North and Betws-y-Coed Station in the South. We’d urge you to download the PDF of the route here and use it on your phone or print off the map. It’s a relatively challenging route (designated “Red” by British Cycling, i.e. for “proficient mountain bikers with good off-road riding skills. Suitable for better quality off-road mountain bikes”). Note that there’s a shorter circuit at just under 9 km, but it’s just as technically challenging.
A perfect ride from Dolwyddelan
This ride comes courtesy of the people at Komoot, the cycling and walking maps specialists. It’s an 18km intermediate trail that starts and finishes at Dolwyddelan Station, so it’s ideal for anyone travelling with their mountain bike on the train. You start by heading into the village, then turning right onto the A470 for 350m, before taking a left. From then on, you’re on natural ground and paved pathways all the way to Capel Curig, whereupon you’ll continue on the circuit through Rhiwddolion in Gwydir Forest.
This is a wonderful ride to enjoy, with a range of scenery including hillsides, woodland and villages. It’ll give the average rider a decent workout without too many elevations, and it’s mainly on easy surfaces. If you’re riding with an active family or moderately experienced friends, you’ll have a fine time. Download the Komoot app on Android or Apple devices and you can rig it up to guide you, just like a satnav.
Blaenau Ffestiniog and Antur ’Stiniog
This corner of Snowdonia is fast becoming the centre of the UK for energetic outdoor (and underground) pursuits. And when we say fast, how does 160 km/h sound? That’s the speed you can reach on one of Zipworld’s ziplines. But that’s not what you’re here for (until you hear the howl of delight, that is) – there’s a superb mountain biking centre available for riders of all abilities, and it’s home to some of the best Snowdonia mountain biking trails.
There are 14 trails graded beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert, so it’s a great place to visit with friends who all have different skills. These trails are all gravity-assisted too, which is a technical way of saying downhill, but once you’re at the bottom, you can use the Uplift service, which is a minibus with a trailer to take you and your ride back to the start. They reckon you can get 20 rides in a day if you push yourself, but most visitors are happy with about 10 rides. The entrance is just off the A470 – turn left out of Blaenau Ffestiniog Station and it’s about 1.5km up the hill.
Can I ride up Snowdon?
If riding to the pinnacle of Wales’s highest peak isn’t on most British riders’ bucket lists, then mountain biking really needs to change its name. You’ll probably be glad to know that you can technically ride all the way to the peak, although there are a few conditions attached.
The first thing to take into account is that Snowdon is popular. By that we mean it attracts more than half a million walkers, runners and even horse riders every year to take on the challenge. That rules out riding up the footpaths during peak seasons. However, these restrictions only apply from mid-spring to early winter (1 May to 30 September).
In the intervening months (1 October to 30 April), you’re free to take on this magnificent challenge. Even then, however, you are expected to give way to pedestrians on the paths and exercise common courtesy to all users. That isn’t usually a problem, of course. It’s so exhilarating up there that it really does bring out the nice in people.
Book your ticket to ride
Do any of these rides spin your spokes? Catch the train to the mountains and valleys using our Journey Planner and prepare yourself for breathtaking views and wonderful Welsh hospitality. Also have a look at Bike Park Wales, Bike Wales and Mountain Bike Wales for further inspiration.