Alex Langfield

Unearth one of Wales’ most spectacular hikes — Snowdonia Slate Trail

Jason (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Unearth one of Wales’ most spectacular hikes — Snowdonia Slate Trail

Hiking Collection by Alex Langfield

7

Tours

41:04 h

88.7 mi

11,400 ft

If you’re looking for a spectacular and varied long-distance trail in one of Britain’s most awesome national parks, you can’t go far wrong with the Snowdonia Slate Trail. Only launched in 2017, it is an 83-mile (134 km) journey that explores not only the sensational landscapes of this special corner of North Wales, but also its proud slate mining heritage.

The Trail’s shape is said to resemble a leaf hanging from a stem and it begins, stem-first, at the sea, on the Menai Strait in the city of Bangor. From there, it heads south to the eventual end point of Bethesda, a town that is home to what was once the world’s largest slate quarry, Penrhyn. It then embarks on an epic loop of Northern Snowdonia, exploring landscapes that hikers have enjoyed for generations, as well as many beautiful parts that will be new to most.

The idea behind the Trail is to use existing rights of way to thread through the national park’s celebrated landscapes, linking the slate mining communities en route. From the ‘super quarries’ above Bethesda, Llanberis and Blaenau Ffestiniog, to the silent infrastructure left behind in places like Nantlle, Penmachno and Croesor, you visit a whole host of fascinating and historic settlements. You also cross paths with the various railways built to transport the slate, some of which lie in ruin and some of which are now heritage lines.

There’s a wealth of wildlife, from the wild mountain goats of the Glyderau to the red kites circling the sky above the forests. The Trail takes you from the mudflats of the Menai Strait, to open moorland and mountain, forest, river valley and pasture, each inhabited by its own unique flora and fauna.

Many of North Wales’ most famous peaks watch over the route. Stunning mountain views are a near constant as the Trail ventures below Snowdon, the Nantlle Ridge, Moel Hebog, Cnicht, the Moelwynion, Tryfan, the Glyders and the Carneddau.

The route does not climb to any major summits, though detours to the peaks would be perfectly feasible if you are that way inclined. This, combined with the path quality, makes it a long-distance hike suitable for all reasonably fit walkers who are happy to put up with a moderate amount of elevation gain, but are not too preoccupied with summit-bagging.

Other highlights along the route include: Penrhyn Castle, the grand home of the mine-owning Pennant family; Nantlle Valley, a gorgeously secluded and scenic former mining valley; Beddgelert, a wonderfully picturesque village at the foot of the Snowdon massif; Afon Cynfal, a tumbling river with many superb cascades; Migneint, a vast and untrodden moorland; the River Conwy, boasting enchanting beauty spots like Conwy Falls and the Fairy Glen; Betws-y-Coed, an alpine-like village and gateway to Snowdonia; and the Ogwen Valley, famously dramatic and surrounded by famous peaks.

In this Collection, I have split the Trail into seven stages of between 10 to 16 miles (16 to 26 km) in length. All the stages finish at towns or villages with accommodation. You could easily make the stages longer or shorter, as there are plenty of places to stay along the route. There is also no reason why you couldn’t do the loop in reverse, heading clockwise from Bethesda.

Although the paths are generally easy to follow, certain sections can be boggy after rainfall — a common occurrence in Snowdonia. Sturdy boots, waterproofs and warm layers are all essential regardless of the season. The Trail is best in the warmer months when the daylight hours are longer and the weather is generally better. Although a winter round is not impossible, many of the amenities en route are likely to be operating a reduced service or closed altogether.

At the start of the Trail, Port Penrhyn is a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) walk from Bangor station. The city of Bangor is on the main London to Holyhead line. Chester is a useful junction for other population centres, only an hour away by train. The main A55 North Wales Coast Road is the best way to reach Bangor by car. The Trail finishes in Bethesda, a short bus ride from Bangor. Services are frequent.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    07:12
    15.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,900 ft
    1,550 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    After leaving Bangor, the first stage takes you between the town of Bethesda and the village of Llanberis, home to two of Snowdonia’s most extensive ‘super quarries’. The blue-grey slate …

  • Difficult
    05:07
    10.7 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,650 ft
    1,675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage shadows the north western boundary of the national park, taking you from Llanberis, around the shoulder of Moel Eilio and Mynydd Mawr to the gloriously secluded Nantlle Valley …

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  • Intermediate
    04:42
    10.6 mi
    2.3 mph
    850 ft
    1,075 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage takes you from the serenity of the Nantlle Valley to Rhyd Ddu, a charming little village at the foot of Snowdon. From there, you head south, skirting Beddgelert …

  • Difficult
    07:02
    14.3 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,750 ft
    2,300 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This is a challenging hike that is full of interest and variety. You leave picturesque Beddgelert, venture along the narrow gorge of the Aberglaslyn Pass, before heading east to Croesor …

  • Difficult
    06:34
    13.8 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,125 ft
    2,200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Another varied stage awaits as you venture between Llan Ffestiniog at Penmachno. The early section is characterised by the dramatic Afon Cynfal, which you follow on a delightful journey upstream, …

  • Difficult
    05:28
    11.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,450 ft
    1,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The penultimate stage is characterised by rushing rivers and woodland magic and is achingly picturesque. Your journey follows the separate course of a trio of scenic rivers, the River Conwy …

  • Intermediate
    04:58
    11.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    675 ft
    825 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The final stage is undoubtedly spectacular, despite broadly following the A5 on its way between Capel Curig and Bethesda. You follow the Afon Llugwy to gorgeous Llyn Ogwen, with Tryfan’s …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    88.7 mi
  • Duration
    41:04 h
  • Elevation
    11,400 ft
Alex Langfield

Unearth one of Wales’ most spectacular hikes — Snowdonia Slate Trail