North Wales has so many different types of riding in so many areas – over the past quarter of a century we have learned a lot of them, and we are still discovering new things to ride all the time! This area truly is a mountain biking dream, with huge varities of natural singletrack to put underneath your wheels everywhere you go! The best mountain biking routes in North Wales include very well hidden trails known only with local knowledge – so you will be glad to have a guide! A rough idea of what to expect in several locations is outlined below, but rather than describing specific trails like we do in other locations, here is a geneal overview of each location and what it offers:
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Is this the most underated natural riding location in North Wales? Most visitors to Betws-y-Coed will not venture beyond the signposts that lead you around the forest on the Gwydir Trail, formerly known as the Marin trail. But this route is simply the tip of a very loamy iceberg!
Honestly, you could spend a week riding in the Betws area without getting bored – locals only really use the trail centre route to link together the endless, incredibly fun natural singletrack! Of course, the marked route has some fun bits to play on too, but there is so much more to the area than following signposts…
There are literally trails hiding in every direction from the town centre – and loamy lushness features heavily – the thick forests hide a veritable cornucopia of mulchy fun! But there are also amazing, rocky trails that pinball you down moss-filled gullies next to burbling streams, super-flowing forest singletrack that fires you down the mountains at warp speed, fully-built off-map bikepark-style trails full of jumps, drops and berms and even – yes – natural Alpine-style switchbacks!
For every group we take to Betws we will also make a donation to the local trailbuilding group – so you are actively putting something into the local riding community.
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Hands up who has been to Llandegla? Nearly everyone? OK, so hands up if you have ever left the confines of the forest centre? Thought so! Almost everyone who has visited North Wales has ridden at ‘Degla (as we call it) – but virtually no-one from outside the local area ever realizes that they are just a few kilometres from some jaw-dropping natural riding! Well, we live just a few minutes away from here – and there’s seriously so much more to see…
Yes, it might be hard to believe, but the trail centre sits very,very high in the Clwydian mountains. When you visit you don’t notice the height, because the forest disguises where you actually are – but it’s on the doorstep of some serious mountains that tower 500m above deep, lush valleys. Fun fact: as you drive up to the Llandegla you pass through the village of Bwlchgwyn – this is actually the highest village in Wales. It is always weird that the forest up here feels so flat – but it is basically built on the top of a huge plateau, and the marked trails never make much use of the altitude, nor do they reveal the staggering surrounding views, which are hidden beyond a ridge out of sight.
When we ride in this area we will leave the forest and throngs of riders far behind us, and head into some staggering, wild, big-mountain scenery. You’ll be amazed by how easily you could imagine you were in the Alps – albeit at a smaller scale! Hardpacked rocky singletrack leads across mountain tops with huge, sweeping views for miles. Steep, narrow technical trails plunge off the tops of the hills. Contouring singletrack follows the edges of valleys hundreds of metres below. It is a magical place to ride – and one which locals know offers some of the best riding in Wales, but which visitors are highly unlikely to ever see. Are these the least known high-mountain trails in North Wales? Not to us locals!
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The most famous man-made trail centre in Wales is also surrounded by some amazing natural terrain with huge, varied descents, easily linked together via the trail network! In fact, some of the best singletrack we have ridden in the UK is right here – and much of it is not even on any of the maps…
Coed-y-Brenin played no small part in why we founded Singletrack Safari over a decade ago – and planted the seeds that led to us moving to live in Wales. We fell in love with North Wales when we rode the original trail centre routes as soon as they first opened – literally several decades ago, when we were teenagers! Immediately we realised that mountain biking here was something truly special – and that the sport was valued by local communities. Fast forward quarter of a century or so, and here we are living where we always dreamed of basing ourselves all those years ago. But yes, it was C-y-B that hooked us in…
The forests north of Dolgellau stretch for miles – and are filled with many great man-made routes – this was the first centre of its’ type in the UK – and it continues to grow to this day. But Coed-y-Brenin is home to more than just man-made trails deep in the forests – within easy reach are some huge, natural descents, often starting above the tree line, and plunging deep into the valleys. Some are rocky and technical, whilst others are fast and flowing with huge views in isolated valleys. You are more likely to see sheep dogs at work out here than other riders!
What’s more is that we can link these natural trails into a greatest hits compilation alongside the very best bits of each of the manmade trails – you’ll be surprised just how close some of the most fun sections from different routes are to each other.
But when you get away from the built sections you will realise how much you are missing out on! There is super-fast forest flow, open valley-edge descents, steep, rocky tech, switchbacks and much more – and it’s all right there waiting to be discovered. But finding it is another matter – it is a tough place to navigate, and the maps won’t help you find what we ride either!
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Why have Rachel, Dan and Gee Atherton chosen the southern tip of Snowdonia to live and ride? Well, once you have hit the trails of this incredible area you will know exactly why they love North Wales so much…
OK, to be clear, we are using Coed-y-Brenin as our dividing line between North and South Snowdonia – not because that is an official boundary, but because from travelling around it just feels accurate!
So, what is in this area? Well, a lot, quite honestly – and with heaps of variety too! The southernmost tip, towards Machynlleth, is full of big, rolling, wooded mountains – and it is here where the World’s most famous MTB siblings have built their new Bike Park in the Dyfi forest. But the wider area is also full of loads of natural and man-made woodland riding of all kinds – there’s everything from super-fast, super-long descents through to steep, challenging tech.
Head slightly north and the area around Dolgellau sees the forests fall away, and huge, rocky, ancient mountains erupt out of the land. These peaks are often within sight of the coast – and provide some of Snowdonia’s most accessible backcountry riding. You have to work hard to reach the tops of some of these huge mountains, but the rewards are amazing! Not only will you be paid back in terms of enormous descents, but these are some of the most scenic trails anywhere in the UK, as you look down into into broad estuaries winding out to sea far below, and out to sweeping views up the Snowdonian coast across Cardigan Bay.
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Heading towards the northern end of Snowdonia you start hitting areas which are often very full of tourists, or mountains that are so huge, craggy and wild that they are mostly inaccesible by bike…but if you know where to find them there are routes amongst the big mountains that get you away into the scenery on some epic trails.
Once again we are using Coed-y-Brenin as our dividing line between North and South Snowdonia – not an official boundary, but when travelling around by car it just feels right!
This area of Snowdonia is the most famous, so the most visited – with a lot of the trails being footpaths rather than mtb-friendly routes. So, funnily enough it can take a bit more knowledge to find places to ride!
Routes here tend to be rocky, with lots of open terrain – and craggy big mountain views, interspersed with beautiful lakes in the valleys. There’s plenty of technical riding to be had – but also some more chilled out trails which let you look around and see the views if you prefer! Descents are, as you would expect, often long and challenging – but if you know where to head there’s some really fast, flowing fun too!
The overall feel is often one of being remote, and high in the backcountry of true mountains – although in many places civilization isn’t actually all that far away…
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