Snowdonia National Park: The Complete Guide

lake in a green field with a mountain in the background, Cwm Idwal, Snowdonia, North Wales

Alan Novelli / Getty Images

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Snowdonia National Park

Address
Penrhyndeudraeth, Gwynedd LL48 6LF, UK
Phone +44 1690 710426

Snowdonia National Park, located in North Wales, boasts some of the highest peaks and best views in the United Kingdom. The massive park is known for its hiking and camping, but there's plenty to see and do in the area for all types of travelers. It's home to Mount Snowdon, Wales's highest mountain, as well as iconic peaks like Cader Idris, and Tryfan. The park also contains numerous towns and villages within its diverse landscape, which ranges from mountains to valleys to beaches.

Things to Do

Snowdonia National Park draws in travelers with its scenic beauty, outdoor activities, and historic towns and sites. The park is particularly popular for hiking, cycling, and camping, Snowdonia also offers activities for visitors less inclined to outdoor activities.

Check out historical towns, like Harlech, Beddgelert, Ogwen, and Dolgellau, or visit numerous castles, including Castell y Bere, Castell Dolwyddelan, and Castell Dolbadarn. Conwy isn't technically in Snowdonia, but the coastal town is a great place for sightseeing and beach excursions. For additional seaside excursions, head to Porthdinllaen or Llanbedrog, both of which are located in Snowdonia.

Water sports and fishing are popular throughout the park due to its lakes, rivers, and coastline. Visitors also enjoy golf, especially at the Royal St. David's Golf Club in Harlech, which offers remarkable views from the course. You can also test your skills by climbing or mountaineering. Contact an outdoor adventure company like Plas y Brenin, if you need a guide.

You can also learn about Welsh culture by paying a visit to the Sygun Copper Mine, the National Centre for Welsh folk music, Tŷ Siamas, or Llechwedd Slate Caverns. GreenWood Forest Park offers families an eco-friendly adventure park venue, and King Arthur's Labyrinth is great for little ones, complete with activities based on the legend of King Arthur.

view of hills and mountains with a small group of people standing by a tent

Paul Harris / Getty Images

Best Hikes & Trails

There's no shortage of hiking trails in Snowdonia National Park. The nine mapped trails up Snowdon and Cader Idris peaks are all graded as "difficult" mountain walks. The Snowdonia National Park website includes ascent and descent videos so that hikers can see the level of difficulty for themselves. If you aren't looking to climb a peak, hop on one of many easier walking routes around the park. Snowdonia also boasts accessible walks, designed for those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. Download the Snowdon Walks app ahead of time for a GPS-guided map of routes. Standout trails include:

  • Llanberis Path: Llanberis Path is the most popular tourist hiking trail up Snowdon Peak. The 9-mile long trail takes you on a gradual route to Snowdon's summit. This hike is recommended for intermediate to expert hikers only.
  • Snowdon Ranger Path: The easiest route up Snowdon, Snowdon Ranger Path is an 8-mile roundtrip jaunt. Expect several switchbacks and uneven terrain as you approach the summit, making the trail suitable for intermediate hikers.
  • Pony Path: The Pony Path, which begins in Ty Nant, is a 6-mile round trip hike up Cader Idris. The intermediate trail gets steep in places, with stairs to aid in the journey, and there is a rock scramble at the top. On top, enjoy views of the town of Bala and Lake Llyn Tegid.
  • Crimpiau: Crimpiau takes travelers through the highlands of Snowdonia without bagging any peaks. This moderately easy 3.5-mile circular walking route passes Mymbyr Valley, Ogwen Valley, and Lake Llyn Crafnant. You can walk as far as you want and turn around at any point without completing the loop.
  • Waun-oer Ridge: Waun-oer Ridge climbs from the village of Dinas Mawddwy over uneven grassy terrain. This moderate 9-mile walk heads over the bare mountains of Maesglase, Craig Portas, Cribin Fawr, and Waun-oer, and then descends into the Maesglasau Valley.
Llyn Idwal lake and Pen yr Ole Wen mountain in Snowdonia

James Osmond / Getty Images

Biking

Mountain biking offers a great way to explore Snowdonia National Park. Numerous cycling routes exist for bikers of all levels, from long-distance climbs to scenic rides along the coast. Look for various rental shops in the area, if you need to rent a bike and gear.

  • Ffordd Brailsford Way: Named after Sir David Brailsford, this road cycling route has two loops, one that's 50-miles long, and another that's 75-miles long. This route starts at Pen y Pass and has signs throughout, easily guiding your way.
  • Gwynedd Recreational Routes: The seven paths that make up Gwynedd Recreational Routes are easy nature trails intended for families and leisure cyclists, rather than diehard bikers. The paths meander along an old railway bed and include a mix of pavement and dirt. When biking this path, make sure to yield to walkers.
  • Coed y Brenin Forest Park: This park provides mountain bikers an intricate network of trails and a robust visitors center, complete with refreshments. Trails are rated green, blue, and black, providing something for every ability level.
  • Blaenau Ffestiniog: Blaenau Ffestiniog is a known mecca for downhill mountain biking. Take the uphill lift at Antur Stiniog and ride one of six blue- and black-rated trails back down.

Fishing

Snowdonia provides many options for those looking for a quiet spot to fish. Check out the casting spots on Llyn Cwellyn, a reservoir in the northern area of the park, the Mawddach River, and Bala's Llyn Tegid, the largest natural lake in Wales. Fishing permits are required and can be purchased at any fishing shop or fishery throughout the park.

Scenic Drives

Snowdonia is an expansive park, so why not experience it by taking a scenic drive in your car? Several roads wind through the park, including the A470, which runs north to south through Snowdonia is intersected by the A5 (Betws-y-Coed to Bangor), which branches off to the north and then follows the Afon Llugwy river. The A494 (Dolgellau to Bala) runs up the west side of the park, and the A487 (which heads towards Porthmadog and Caernarvon) loops out around the coast. Use the A493 and A496 to access the nearby beaches.

Driving is easy, and the roads are usually quiet, but pay attention, as you may be sharing them with cyclists, pedestrians, and, occasionally, sheep. During the summer, and on bank holidays and weekends, roads around Betwys-y-Coed can be busy.

Where to Camp

Summer camping is especially popular in Snowdonia National Park. There are numerous campgrounds that accommodate tents and RVs. However, off-piste camping is not permitted anywhere in Snowdonia without permission from a landowner or farmer. Book your site in advance to assure availability and consider staying in one of the many available cabins or yurts instead.

  • Riverside Touring Park: Located within walking distance of the Snowdonia village's shops, restaurants, and pubs, Riverside Touring Park offers peaceful camping along the river with mountain views. Dogs are welcome and wifi and laundry services are available
  • Bryn Gloch: Located near Snowdon, Bryn Gloch has campsites as well as self-contained caravans for rent. RV hookups and grassy sites with a barbecue area are available here, as well.
  • Graig Wen Glamping: For a luxurious camping experience, look into Graig Wen Glamping, where you can reserve a yurt, a cottage, or one of two traditional tent camping sites. There's also a bed-and-breakfast on-site, and pets are welcome, too.
  • Llanberis Touring Park: Llanberis Touring Park is located on the bank of Lake Llyn Padarn at the foot of Snowdon peak in Llanberis village. This facility is ideal for RV camping, complete with hookups, RV service, and Wi-Fi.

Where to Stay Nearby

Because Snowdonia National Park is dotted with towns and villages, there are plenty of hotels, inns, and bed-and-breakfast accommodations throughout the park and the surrounding area. The town of Conwy, in particular, has a lot of options, including cottages and holiday rentals. For unique housing options, check out Canopy & Stars, a travel site with interesting properties for rent around the UK.

  • Plas Dinas: This historic five-star boutique hotel in Caernarfon has a chic vibe. You can book a basic room, a suite, or one of three holiday cottages. The on-site restaurant, The Gunroom, offers farm-to-table seasonal fare.
  • Bryn Tyrch Inn: Conveniently located in Betws-y-Coed, the Bryn Tyrch Inn has 12 rooms and provides easy access to all of Snowdonia's outdoor activities. Choose from twin and double standard ensuite rooms, or luxury rooms with adjacent lounges.
  • Penmaenuchaf Hall Hotel: Set in a historic Victorian house that looks like a castle, this high-end hotel boasts intricate gardens and 14 guest rooms. The hotel's Garden Room restaurant serves contemporary British dishes made from vegetables and herbs grown on-site.
  • The Royal Victoria Hotel: Nestled at the foot of Snowdon near Llanberis, the Royal Victoria Hotel is a large hotel that caters to both leisure and business travelers. The hotel has 105 ensuite guest rooms, two restaurants, and meeting and event rooms.
Bala Lake and the Aran Hills in the Snowdonia National Park. Elevated view over the landscape in autumn.

VisitBritain / Britain on View / Getty Images

How to Get There

Most visitors drive to Snowdonia National Park, however, you can also get there by train. The park has three main rail stations: Barmouth, Porthmadog, and Betws-y-Coed. Outside of Snowdonia, travelers can also access the park via the gateway towns of Bangor and Conwy. Buses are also plentiful in Snowdonia, as well. The Sherpa Bus allows visitors to hop on and off the via the Snowdon Sherpa network all day long.

There are three scenic railway services within the park that offer a great way to see the sights. The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway operates between Porthmadog harbor and the slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, while the Conwy Valley Railway links the north coast to the heart of the park. The most popular is the Snowdon Mountain Railway, a magical way to climb to the top of Wales's highest mountain and catch a glimpse of the spectacular views. 

Take advantage of Snowdonia's interactive travel map to plan your visit.

Accessibility

The park operates under the tagline "Snowdonia For All" and its accessibility programs are extensive. Snowdonia specifically welcomes disabled visitors, parents with young children, and people with restricted mobility, and offers resources and options for travelers who need assistance.

The Mawddach Trail, located in the south end of the park, has several accessible benches and picnic tables along the path, as well as wide gates accessible by wheelchairs. Look for accessible facilities, such as fishing platforms, at most of the popular fishing areas, as well.

Tips For Visiting

  • Visit one of several information centers in Snowdonia National Park before heading out on a trek, a bike ride, or in your car. The experts in the centers will help you plan your trip.
  • Take advantage of the Met Office's 24-hour online weather forecast service, which details the current ground conditions, visibility, wind speed, wind direction, and temperature in the park. It's important to be mindful of the weather when planning outdoor activities, especially if you're summiting a mountain.
  • Be sure to follow the park's mountain safety advice, which includes wearing comfortable, sturdy shoes, carrying food and water, and keeping to your planned route.
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Snowdonia National Park: The Complete Guide