Snowdonia has long been a mecca for climbers and hillwalkers, but it also boasts some spectacular trail running routes – including the iconic Paddy Buckley Round, one of the UK’s ‘Big Three’ fell running challenges. Completing the full round means covering 61 miles and climbing 47 peaks, with around 28,000ft of total ascent. In April this year, former British Trail Running champion Kim Collison completed the route in an impressive 16 hours and 20 minutes. But even if you’re not quite up to a challenge of that magnitude, there are plenty of scenic off-road routes within the national park that can be completed in a couple of hours or a full day – without needing to run at record-setting pace.
By way of example, we’ve picked out our top five trail runs that showcase the spectacular landscapes of North Wales. Ranging from circular lakeside trails to exhilarating ridge routes, there ought to be a run here to suit all abilities, whether you’re looking for a quick morning sharpener or a more challenging high-level mountain route that will really test your endurance – and your calf muscles.
1) Precipice Route, Mawddach Estuary
Distance: 3.6 miles (5.8 km)
Elevation: 270m (886 ft)
Start / Finish: SNPA Car Park, Saith Groesffordd, Llanfachreth (Grid Ref SH 746 212 / Sat Nav postcode LL40 2NG)
This scenic circular trail near Dolgellau offers spectacular views of the Mawddach Estuary and far-reaching vistas of some of Snowdonia’s central and southern mountain ranges, including the Snowdon massif, the Moelwynion, the Rhinogydd and Cader Idris. It’s a short and easy route that heads out through broadleaf woodland and conifer plantation before contouring around the shoulders of two minor peaks, Foel Cynwch and Foel Faner.
“Genuinely jaw-dropping panoramas”
The return takes you through upland meadows and along a lake shore, which all form part of the sprawling, privately-owned Nannau estate. The ‘precipice’ section of the route isn’t as vertiginous as it sounds, and largely sticks to the 250m contour line, so the elevation is gentle and undulating. This makes it an ideal circuit if you’re looking for a relaxed 5k to get the legs working – but it’s also one with genuinely jaw-dropping panoramas.
2) Cwm Bychan and Aberglasyn from Beddgelert
Distance: 6 miles (10 km)
Elevation: 420m (1380 ft)
Start / Finish: Beddgelert (Grid Ref SH 588 481 / Sat Nav postcode LL55 4YJ
This varied 10km circuit starts from the picture-postcard village of Beddgelert, situated at the confluence of two rivers – the Afon Glaslyn and Afon Colwyn. The village has plenty of parking and a wealth of amenities, including a famous ice cream parlour and four excellent pubs (ideal post-run R&R). Essentially, this route skirts the foothills of Mynydd Sygyn, a minor peak that rises above Beddgelert, most famous for the historic copper mine on its northern flanks. Leaving Beddgelert, you pick up the popular riverside path along the Glasyn Gorge, known as the Fisherman’s Path, hopping from boulder to boulder beside the rushing river before heading up Cwm Bychan from Nantmor.
“One of Snowdonia’s best hidden gems”
This little valley is one of Snowdonia’s best hidden gems, punching well above its weight in terms of views to be gained for the modest amount of effort expended. You’ll see the atmospheric remains of the old copper workings here, including rusting pylons that once carried an aerial cableway. Later on, the views open out towards mighty Snowdon and Moel Siabod. As the path forks, head right to continue up the valley, before gradually descending towards Llyn Dinas. When you reach the southern end of the lake, pick up the path towards Sygun Copper Mine. Go past the entrance to the mine, following the quiet lane and the riverside footpath that leads back into Beddgelert.