North Wales is home to a wealth of hidden gems, whether you prefer a leisurely hike with time to enjoy the stunning scenery, or rather more of a challenge, the Snowdonia National Park can provide you both. For the outdoor enthusiasts or adventurers who loves being out in nature there are mountain trails and for those who prefer a more gentle pace, numerous footpaths taking in stunning lakes and valleys. Here’s a guide to 10 of the best hiking trials that fuel my dreams.
I hope these fascinating walks will inspire your wanderlust like they did for me and my wife.
1. Aber Fall Walk
Distance: 4 km
Estimated time: 2hrs 30min
Starting point, address: Abergwyngregyn, Llanfairfechan, LL33 0LP
A family friendly circular Aber Falls walk to the spectacular Rhaeadr Fawr waterfall that returns to Aber via the North Wales Path, high above the valley. The Aber Falls Walk follows an easy gradient, except for the steeper descent at the walk’s end which requires a little more care in the wet. Very easy walk. Best views of the waterfalls are to be had after heavy rains.
Travel Tips: Highly recommended to take some beverages and light snacks with you, it is really good place (just in front of the waterfall) to have some drinks or sandwiches while enjoying the nice view.
2. Llyn Parc Walk from Betws-y-Coed
Distance: 10.9 km
Estimated time: 3 – 4 hrs
Starting point, address: Pont-y-Pair car park, Pentre Felin, Betws Y Coed LL24 0BA, just over the bridge and near Cunnighams outdoor store.
Starting at the picturesque and popular village of Betws-Y-Coed which lies within the Snowdonia National Park, this walk takes you up into the Gwydyr Forest with it luscious green backdrops and winding rivers.
As you ascend, the walk takes you past riverbanks and very beautiful cascading waterfalls, old industrial mine workings where the village of Betws-Y-Coed grew very slowly with the development of the local lead mining industry and up to Llyn Parc (scenic lake hidden in the middle of the Gwydr Forest), which used to power the mines many years ago. As you proceed following the path you gradually we’ll be at a height that affords you nice views of the Conwy Valley and town of Llanrwst.
You skirt the water’s edge of the Llyn Parc for its full length before circling back along the south side of the Gwydyr Forest, again alongside old workings and wonderful views over the valley and Snowdonia. You descend using way-marked meandering tracks and small winding paths through the forest before returning to the village.
Travel Tips: This route is way-marked all the way around with yellow markers, and despite being 10km, does not shy away from losing altitude on the way! If some point you feel kinda got lost, don’t panic, just follow the yellow arrows. Highly recommended to take a proper meal with you and enough water!
3. Druid’s Circle (Y Meini Hirion), Penmaenmawr
Distance: 4.4 km
Estimated time: 2hrs 30min
Starting point, address: Exact location: South of Penmaenmawr, Gwynedd, Wales / Off the A55 / SH723 746. Exit the A55 at Penmaenmawr Roundabout, follow Conwy Road to Penmaenmawr town centre and Car Park at Y Berllan.
This beautiful walk climbs the steep escarpment behind Penmaenmawr into the north-eastern end of the Carneddau range. The route takes you back 5,000 years in time and of course includes a notable Druid’s Stone Circle. On a bright sunny day there is a great enjoyment for both trekking and photography.
Don’t follow the Jubilee path, instead turn right and follow a steep gravel track, that hugs the edge of Foel Lus on your left. Walk up the track towards a large white marker stone, giving directions for the Huw Tom Upland Walk, Druid stone circle and other routes.
Take the route to Meini Hirion (Long Stones), which forks to the right, before passing a large standing stone and an isolated cottage, Bryn Derwedd. From Bryn Derwedd the path follows the stone boundary wall for a short way before veering away from the wall toward the coast and fronting Cefn Coch.
A beautiful ancient monuments soon comes into view.
Y Meini Hirion (The ‘Druids’ Circle) is situated on a grassy saddle on the Cefn Coch ridge at an altitude of 1,300 feet above sea level, and at the junction of two trackways. Only eleven of the original thirty stones have survived and they are nearly 6 feet in height.
4. Castell Dinas Bran, Llangollen
Distance: 6.5 km
Estimated time: 3hrs 30 min
Starting point, address: Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales LL20 8D
This walk takes you to the atmospheric ruins of a medieval castle from the attractive north Wales town of Llangollen. The 13th century castle is about a 1 mile climb from the town centre, rising to a height of over 1000ft. From this elevated position there are stunning views over the surrounding mountains and hills of North Wales.
Start the walk from the canal in Llangollen, near to the train station. You can then follow paths north up to the site. It’s quite a challenging climb but there are good paths and the reward of splendid views over Dee Valley.
The castle was probably built in the 1260s by Gruffydd Maelor II, a Prince of Powys Fadog, on the site of an Iron Age hillfort. The Great Hall is sited on the castle’s southern side, where some of the more visible remains can be seen. It’s a very photogenic spot with the ruins surrounded by some breathtaking scenery.
Footpaths run along the northern side of the castle allowing you to complete a circuit of the hill before descending back into the town.
Travel Tips: Detailed history of the castle is to be found in a small museum with free entrance in Llangollen. Address: Parade St, Llangollen LL20 8PW
5. Moel Ty Uchaf Stone Circle, Berwyn Mountains
Distance: approx 5 km
Estimated time: 3 hrs
Starting point, address: Just off the B4401, Llandrillo, Corwen LL21 0SN, Wales
The circle is set on the summit of a hill overlooking the valley of the Dee, just south of Cynwyd on the B4401 to Llandrillo. Parking available in free car park in village.
The site is not signposted, so you need turn left from car park and walk until you see the War Memorial, there will be the footpath sign. Keep left up a narrow lane past some houses.
Take the road until you pass through a gate, from there you have about a mile to walk up the road, which passes through woodland before emerging into open fields, where sheep graze. Go though a gate – remembering to shut it firmly behind you – and keep going up the farm track. There’s a fork, stay to the right, it’ll take you to another closed gate which had a warning notice attached stating this is a SSI (Special Scientific Interest) area and that motor vehicles are prohibited beyond this point. You’re heading for the summit of the hill ahead of you. The circle isn’t obvious until you’ve emerged right onto the crown of the hill, and there it is.
Moel Ty Uchaf (highest house on the bare hill) is a stone circle roughly 12 metres in diameter, consisting of approximately 40 stones, all around one metre in height. It is situated atop a hill along the edge of the Berwyn mountains, with spectacular views stretching out towards Llandrillo and over the River Dee.
The Berwyn Mountains run south west to north east across central North Wales, separating Shropshire from the Snowdonia National Park. It is very beautiful, unspoilt and relatively unknown area of upland. The isolation this area has to offer is unforgettable in that when you access out onto the main ridge or summits on most days you will meet very little people.
6. Dinorwig Slate Quarry. Vivian Quarry Trail, Llanberis
Distance: 4 km
Estimated time: 2hrs 20 min
Starting point, address: Gilfach Ddu, Padarn Country Park, Llanberis
This fascinating way-marked walk takes you through the old slate quarries and above Vivian Quarry and is ideal for anyone interested in the industrial archaeology of Llanberis and the Dinorwig Quarries.
Starting off at the Gilfach Ddu car park in Padarn Country Park, you’re straight up the side of the hill and soon looking down into Vivian Quarry and over Llyn Padarn.
A short walk through the forest brings you to the Barics Gwyr Mon – where the quarry workers from Anglesey used to stay during the week. The walk from the start by the Dinorwic quarry up the zig zag path is about half an hour, on very steep and unstable ground but well worth the effort to see the cottages where there once was a community of people living there.
Walking along an old incline takes you up to the high-point of the walk, a viewing platform high above the Llyn Padarn. With the Llyn Padarn in front of you, the forest below, the mountains of Snowdonia to the left and the vast slate quarries behind you it makes it a unique place.
Descending the way you came, and beyond to the zig zag paths that the quarrymen used.
Travel Tips: Some parts of the rout are very slippery even in dry conditions, make sure you wear proper hiking boots.
7. Trail to Dinas Emrys, Beddgelert
Distance: 5 km
Estimated time: 2hrs 30 min
Starting point, address: Beddgelert, Caernarfon LL55 4NG. To find the site, from Beddgelert turn right on the A498 heading towards Capel Curig. After one mile turn left into the Craflwyn Centre (National Trust) and park here. You will find a visitors centre and toilet. Entrance to the ruins area is free.
It’s beneath the hills of Dinas Emrys that Merlin the wizard discovered the red and white dragons. Start your quest at Craflwyn and search the woods for the dragon sculpture before heading up to Dinas Emrys. You will pass very beautiful waterfalls while walking through magical oak woodland to reach the amenable summit with magnificent views. At the top you’ll find remains of a square tower and defensive ramparts belonging to the ancient princes of Gwynedd, actually ruins of what is considered to be an 11th Century tower at Dinas Emrys.
Travel Tips: This lovely hike is recommend by National Trust, route details. Waterfalls, streams, dragon bench, lots of sheep, ladders stiles over the rock walls – great views at the end.
8. Llyn Eigiau, Carneddau Mountains
Distance: 3 km
Estimated time: 2 hrs
Starting point, address: The start is the small parking area for Llyn Eigiau (grid ref. SH731662), which is reached by a narrow lane from Tal-y-bont on the B5106 Conway to Betws-y-coed road.
Despite being on the quieter side of Snowdonia, this high-level circuit of Cwm Eigiau ranks as one of the classic walks in North Wales. The path is leading to spectacular lake on the edge of the Carneddau mountain range.
Llyn Eigiau was hidden from view by a dam wall and presently we came across a gaping hole in it. It seems that this section of wall collapsed in 1925 after days of heavy rain, the subsequent flood claiming the 16 lives in Dalgarrog village in the Conwy valley below.
You can walk to the lake and back (easy walk) or you can walk a long way up the valley with mountains all around you (slightly challenging).
Travel Tips: Please note, a car-park is literary in the middle of nowhere, you head up an unmarked road from Tal-y-Bont that looks more like someone’s driveway than a road. It climbs almost vertically to start with, single-track with passing places, you drive for three miles up to car park.
9. Cwm Idwal, Gwynedd
Distance: 4 km
Estimated time: 2 hrs
Starting point, address: Ogwen Warden Centre, Nant Ffrancon, Bethesda, LL57 3LZ.
The trail starts from the car park next to Ogwen Cottage and you take the path that leads uphill from behind the Kiosk and Information Centre.
It takes you into a normally inaccessible upland environment, and through beautiful ice-sculpted Cwm Idwal – a bowl-shaped hollow filled with the crystal clear waters of Llyn Idwal. Cwm Idwal is a very popular attraction for visitors interested in walking, climbing, fishing and geology. Llyn Idwal is 800 metres long and 300 metres wide.
The valley was scooped out by ice thousands of years ago and is one of the best examples of a glacial valley in Wales.
During the 12th century, Owain, prince of Gwynedd, decided to entrust the care of his son Idwal to Nefydd Hardd. Nefydd was envious of clever Idwal because his own son Dunawd was untalented. Dunawd decided to push Idwal into the lake so that he would drown. Owain banished Nefydd from the kingdom of Gwynedd and named the lake Idwal in memory of his son. It is said that no bird flies over the lake’s surface and that a wailing voice can be heard when there is a storm in the Cwm.
Travel Tips: Walking boots and appropriate wet weather clothes required. As long as you stick to the lakeside path you can’t get lost.
10. Cadair Idris, the Minffordd Path, Gwynedd
Distance: 4.9 km
Estimated time: 5 hrs
Starting point, address: The Minffordd Path walk starts at Cadair Idris Car Park, off the A487. The closest sat nav postcode is LL36 9AJ but once you turn off the A487, you’ll see the signs for the car park at the base of the Minfforrd Path.
The Minffordd Path up Cader or Cadair Idris is one of the most spectacular walks in Snowdonia. The Minffordd Path is tough and rough but very scenic ore attractive than other routes leading to Cadair Idris.
If you like steps, you’ll love this path. Setting off steeply up the wooded gorge of Nant Cadair, the steps get you quickly up the first section of the hill. Once they’re out of the way, the walk is much more pleasant as you reach an amazing viewpoint of Cwm Cau and its lake – Llyn Cau, which a classic example of a ‘corrie’ or ‘cirque’. This immense crag-enclosed bowl was scraped out by a glacier grinding its way down from an enormous icecap.
According to famous legend a hero King Arthur killed the a water monster called an Afanc in Llyn Barfog (Beared Lake). But the second legend says that Arthur and his horse dragged it to a more remote lake called Llyn Cau on the mountain of Cader Idris. There it could do less harm, and remains to this day.
A straightforward ridge walk takes you first up to the top of Craig Cwm Amarch before the final, less distinct pull to the summit of Cader / Cadair Idris and its shelter.
Travel tips: Better make sure you walk this path on clear day as some sections can be tricky to follow in mist.