Riding Snowdon, the second-highest peak in the United Kingdom, is something that a lot of mountain bikers want to tick off. While achievable, it takes planning and is ideally led by a qualified guide, as weather conditions can change fast in the vast wilderness of Snowdonia National Park. Snowdon’s summit is 1,085 metres above sea level and has 6 recognised paths to get you to the top, ranging in difficulty, length and gradient. For mountain biking, we’ll focus on just 3 of these as the others aren’t really suitable for climbing or descending.
SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK
Snowdon sits within the Snowdonia National Park, 823 square miles of unspoilt, rugged natural beauty. It offers almost 1500 miles of walking track, and multiple mountain biking destinations, such as trail centres/bike parks at Coed Y Brenin, Antur Stiniog and Dyfi Bike Park, as well as natural terrain at Dyfi Forest and Pont Scethin.
EPIC DESCENT OF SNOWDON RANGERS PATH
Snowdon is climbed by approximately 375,000 walkers a year, so if you’re planning on doing it on your mountain bike, then pre-planning is essential.
Read on for what it’s like to climb Snowdon on a MTB Beds guided Snowdon Special 3-day tour, and hopefully, you can pick some key bits of information to make your climb a more enjoyable experience.
The Day begins at 4:45 am. Alarms ring out through our exclusive mountain bike orientated lodge. Breakfast is served at 5 am on the dot, a hearty breakfast of porridge and fruit to keep us going. Our guided trips are planned in April and October, avoiding the Voluntary Cycling Agreement restricting mountain bikes on Snowdon to before 10 am and after 5 pm, so the time of year makes it just above freezing outside. Lots of layers are needed, as are coffees to counter the time of day!
Bikes are loaded onto our private transport and we depart for Snowdon at 6am, about a 40-60 minute drive from our accommodation. Some catch some extra z’s, but most are pretty excitable and eager to get started!
CLIMBING SNOWDON - START EARLY
As mentioned above, there are 3 realistic routes to the top of Snowdon on a MTB. The most popular with mountain bikers is Llanberis Path. The shallowest gradient to the top, but also the longest at 4.5 miles. This route allows for the most amount of riding. The other two routes are more hike a bike style on walking paths, but give spectacular views and a unique experience.
Our group today decided they want a full-on hike a bike experience and choose to ascend via Rhyd Ddu Path. This route features a narrow ridge line near the top and some rugged sections but is slightly shorter than Llanberis at 4.25 miles long.
The climb starts at 7am. The opening section is gravel paths and rideable. Some layers come off as the sun rises above the nearby peaks and heart rates rise. About halfway up the hike a bike begins, led by our qualified local tour guide, the group sling a bike over their shoulders and start the climb. There’s a real sense of adventure and togetherness in the group, a feeling that is generated by the early start and being alone on the slopes of Snowdon ahead of the crowds.
HIKE A BIKE BEGINS
Taking on fuel is important when on the mountain, so always have a well-stocked backpack, not only with tubes, tools and pumps, but also with energy bars, gels, jelly babies etc. Early starts and lots of climbing make it an energy-sapping day, so we take short breaks every hour or so to refuel and prepare for the next stint.
After around 3 and a half hours of climbing, we reach the summit. Starting our day at 5 am means there were only a handful of walkers on the summit when we were, and we can get photos like this!
You hear horror stories about groups having to queue for sometimes an hour to reach the actual summit for their photographic proof, so not only are mountain bikes not allowed after 10 am through the summer months, the added incentive to not have to deal with busy trails on the way back down should be more than enough to get any mountain biker up before dawn to start the climb!
Time for lunch at the summit. MTB Beds’ guided Snowdon Special includes a packed lunch each day provided by the accommodation, even when that means leaving at 5 am. All the riders enjoy lunch with a pretty spectacular view before starting the descent around 11:30 am.
THE DESCENT - SNOWDON RANGER PATH ON MTB
The most popular route riding down Snowdon is on the Ranger Path, a flowy, alpine-style single-track trail. Ranger Path is also an option to climb Snowdon and completes the three Mountain Bike options of Llanberis, Rhyd Ddu and Ranger.
The Ranger path starts down a mix of natural and man-made steps at the top, before following a section along the railway track. This doesn’t last long before turning into a fairly narrow walker's track, with some technical, tight drops and some deep shingle/shale sections. There are sections that allow riders to let off the brakes and open it up across an open plain, before again dropping into tight single track riding. The trail is fairly quiet, even nearing midday. All of the traffic we do meet is coming up, making it a lot easier to navigate around.
DESCENDING RANGERS PATH, SNOWDON
As we reach the lower slopes of Snowdon and into Telegraph Valley, the trail opens up into flat out gravel paths and switchbacks, a fun way to end the adventure and the perfect end to the three-day trip. A short blast along the road at the bottom of Snowdon back to the waiting shuttle, load up the bikes and back to the lodge for a shower before the group disband and head home.
SNOWDON SPECIAL - 3-DAY GUIDED TOUR
Fancy climbing Snowdon and riding the epic Snowdonia National Park?
The climb of Snowdon is the last day of a 3-day epic tour. Guests arrive at our private Mountain Bike lodge set in the middle of Snowdonia National Park on Friday evening (or lunchtime for those keen to get a little warm-up in). Dinner is served Friday night followed by a talk by the riding guide.
Day one is a full day at Coed Y Brenin trail centre, the first dedicated trail centre in the UK, followed by a few beers and home-cooked dinner. Coed Y Brenin offers varied riding on man-made trails and fire roads, ranging from blue to black graded, gravity trails.
Day two is a full day either Dyfi Forest or Pont Scethin, depending on conditions and how the group feels. Dyfi Forest offers steep, technical, loamy forest trails. Pont Scethin is a 25km enduro loop set amongst the vast landscapes of Snowdonia National Park with views over the estuary of Afon Mawddach and endless miles of Welsh mountainside. Again, home-cooked dinner is served and an early night is on the cards ready to climb Snowdon in the morning.
Day three is the Snowdon epic. Guests depart mid-afternoon after returning from Snowdon for a 6-hour adventure.
WALES AS A MOUNTAIN BIKING DESTINATION
Wales is historically the epicentre of mountain biking in the UK, and is going through somewhat of a revival at the moment. With trail centres littered across the country, and perfect natural landscapes for mountain biking across two national parks, Snowdonia & Brecon Beacons, as well as steep, technical riding in the Welsh Valleys in the south, Wales is pumping out quality mountain biking riding at present.
For more information on where to ride in Wales, check out our WALES AS A DESTINATION page.