Cycling Snowdon

Mount Snowdon, going officially now by its Welsh name, Yr Wyddfa, is the highest and best-known peak in England and Wales — and it features not one but three bridleways curving up toward the summit. How can any mountain biker resist?

My partner, his brother and I decided to undertake the challenge last year. The ascent took some work, but it paid off well with staggering views from the top and a racing decent to the bottom. If you’re interested in cycling Yr Wyddfa yourself, here are a few useful pointers for getting the most out of your trip.

A cyclist ascends Snowdon on Llanberis Path, with mountainous views in the background.

When can I cycle Mount Snowdon?

Yr Wyddfa is subject to a Voluntary Cycling Agreement to reduce clashes between cyclists and the vast crowds of walkers drawn to the peak.

In the high season, from the beginning of May through to the end of September, you’re welcome to ride Snowdon until 10.00 in the morning and again in the evening from 17.00 onward.

In the off season, from the beginning of October to the end of April, the mountain is open to bicycles all day long.

We decided to try our ride on an evening in the high season. We arrived later than intended and began our pedal from the car park toward Llanberis Path just after six o’clock.

In the middle of July, when the days are long, this proved perfect: the last hikers off the mountain were long gone by the time we started our descent. We even had time to stop for photos — and to pick ourselves up after the odd crash — before returning to the car park in the gloaming.

I admit we were lucky to encounter so little traffic on the route. If you’re particularly worried about dodging walkers, riding on a weekday will always be your best bet, and if you’re riding in the high season, tackling Snowdon in the morning is the most reliable tactic.

Three cycling routes up Mount Snowdon

Map of the three bicycling routes up Mount Snowdon, including the Bwlch Maesgwm bridleway commonly used to return from the Snowdon Ranger Path to Llanberis. Llanberis Path is the smoothest route, most commonly used to ascend the mountain. This trail is only challenging because of the gradients; expect easy gravel track and some cobblestone undertyre.

Snowdon Ranger Path is bumpier but rideable, varying between fast gravel track, sketchy loose stone and sections of slab steps.

Rhyd Ddu Path is the most technical and exposed. You should expect to walk your bike in several places, in particular near the top, where the mountain falls steeply away beneath the narrow, rocky path.

Bwlch Maesgwm, commonly known as the Telegraph Valley trail, is included on the map as a useful linking route between Snowdon Ranger Path and Llanberis town.

On our trip to Yr Wyddfa, we chose the most popular combination of bridleways and decided to ascend along Llanberis Path and descend via Snowdon Ranger Path.

Ascending Llanberis Path by mountain bike

Llanberis Path is the most popular path for hikers, so it can be crowded. Fortunately we found it almost empty when we arrived to ride in the evening: we met one trail-runner and only two or three groups of walkers. They were all on their way down as we were heading up, and threw us some encouragement as we went.

A cyclist and a dog ascend Snowdon via Llanberis Path.
Two cyclists dismount to push their bikes up cobblestone on Llanberis Path.

The encouragement was much appreciated. A sizeable chunk of the ascent of Llanberis Path is rideable... but it may not feel that way. After a pleasant gravel section, the trail turns to a stone path, and from there it gets steadily steeper.

Are ebikes better at climbing Snowdon?

We thought our ebikes would make the ascent of Snowdon fairly easy, but there’s not much opportunity for the engine to do the work when you’re pushing and carrying.

Skill certainly comes into it — my partner has a real feel for traction and rode huge stints that his brother and I had to hike. If you’re good at putting power down on steep, loose surfaces, an ebike may give you an edge, but for the two of us, a lighter push bike might have been a better choice.

A mountain biker enjoys the far-reaching views from an easier stretch of the ascent up Llanberis Path.
Two ebikers push their bicycles up a steep section of the Llanberis Path up Snowdon.

Cycling atop Snowdon

Fortunately the gradient eases up toward the summit. A mix of gravel and stone, the path is nadgery in places and tight enough that you’ll need to walk if there’s traffic, but if you’ve made it to this upper shoulder of the mountain, be reassured that the final climb won’t take long.

A cyclist rides the final stretch toward the summit of Snowdon, pursued by dog.

A bicycle stands propped against a rock at the top of Snowdon, with the valley behind.
A mountain goat peers around the rocky flank of Snowdon.

The views up here are incredible, almost alpine. From the top, we spotted a herd of mountain goats skipping across the near-vertical scree beneath us.

Descending Snowdon Ranger Path

We chose to descend Snowdon along Snowdon Ranger Path as we’d heard it was the intermediate option: more challenging than Llanberis Path, but more enjoyable and not as exposed as Rhyd Ddu. We found that to be a pretty accurate ranking. The Snowdon Ranger Path includes stretches of large, loose rocks, as well as some fixed drops.

A cyclist tackles slab steps on the Snowdon Ranger Path.
Loose rocks can be daunting to ride down on the Snowdon Ranger Path.

Long, flowing gravel descents feature too. On a quiet evening like ours, you can pick up reasonable speed on the Snowdon Ranger Path, enjoying fine views all the way.

We had a couple of offs between us, but nothing major; this route is very rideable with a bit of skill. Visibility ahead is great, too, so you’ll spot anything daunting in good time, making it easy to dismount and walk any section you’re unsure about.

A mountain biker rides down an easier section of the Snowdon Ranger Path.

Returning to Llanberis via Telegraph Valley

A useful bridleway juts off the side of the Snowdon Ranger Path near the bottom: Bwlch Maesgwm. Often referred to as the Telegraph Valley Trail, Bwlch Maesgwm leads all the way back to the car park in Llanberis. It’s a practical way to turn your Snowdon bike ride into a circular route — and it’s such an easy, enjoyable blast along rolling bridleway that I’d recommend it anyway.

Keep an eye out for the culverts early on (gravelled over in 2021, but the Welsh weather could well expose them again) and there’s nothing else to worry about but the dimming light as the sun sets on Snowdonia.

Originally published 03/02/23

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