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The Snowdonia Slate Trail

By Dave Roberts   

on February 2, 2018    5/5 (1)

The Snowdonia Slate Trail

Further Details

Route Summary:

Long Distance Path through North Snowdonia’s historic slate villages.

Route Start Location: Penrhyn Bay, Bangor to Bethesda (the long way round)

133.89 km 4167 m 5 - 13 days

Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.

Activivity Type: LDP

Summits and Places on this Route


Most on the way – especially Bethesda, Capel Curig, Dolwyddelan, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Beddgelert, Rhyd Ddu, Penygroes, Waunfawr and Llanberis.


Some sections reasonably remote, needing some route finding skills.

Remember that we cannot outline every single hazard on a walk – it’s up to you to be safe and competent. Read up on Mountain Safety , Navigation and what equipment you’ll need.

Parking : n/a


Public Transport:

Well served by public transport on most sections.

Traveline for UK Public Transport

The Snowdonia Slate Trail Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download

Download file for GPS

The Snowdonia Slate Trail

The Snowdonia Slate Trail is a 134km (83 mile) trail which enables walkers to explore the industrial heritage of the slate villages of northern Snowdonia.

The route starts at Porth Penrhyn near Bangor and ends at Bethesda and attracts walkers to villages such as Llanllechid, Bethesda, Dinorwig, Llanberis, Waunfawr, Nantlle, Rhyd Ddu, Beddgelert, Croesor, Ffestiniog and Penmachno. The path passes by a number of social enterprises and community run facilities and provides opportunities for people to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the slate heritage of the area.

Why not buy the official Snowdonia Slate Trail guidebook which is sponsored by Heritage Lottery Fund and Magnox, and your purchase will bring over £5 for future path maintenance.

Download the Snowdonia Slate Trail Passport, collect eight stamps from participating businesses and, for a nominal sum, send away for a commemorative Snowdonia Slate Trail medal.  List of participating businesses on the website.

Visit the Snowdonia Slate Trail Facebook Page
Follow Snowdonia Slate Trail on Twitter

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 1 – Bangor to Bethesda

Distance: 10.2km, 6.3mls            Ascent: 325m, 1050ft                    Time; 3-4hrs

The Bangor to Bethesda leg of the Snowdonia Slate Trail is a wonderful introduction to Snowdonia and its slate heritage. Starting from the sea, it provides easy walking with interest throughout as the mountains are approached.

Start at Porth Penrhyn and follow Lôn Las Ogwen along the old Penrhyn Quarry Railway, running alongside the high walls surrounding Penrhyn Castle, before branching off along the North Wales Path past Cochwillan Mill to Cochwillan Farm. After tracing the route of the Afon Ogwen to Halfway Bridge, take field paths, tracks and lanes to Llanllechid Church.

From Llanllechid, follow minor roads before crossing the open mountainside below Moel Faban.  With opening views of the Carneddau and Glyderau before you, and the extensive blue spoil tips of Penrhyn Quarry, take the footpath down to Hen Barc, and drop down into Bethesda along footpaths and through winding streets.

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 2 Bethesda to Llanberis

Distance: 11.6 km, 7.2mls           Ascent: 360m, 1200ft                    Time; 3-4hrs

The leg from Bethesda to Llanberis takes you through the heart of the slate industry. After following the Afon Ogwen for a short, the Trail climbs out of the Ogwen Valley to Mynydd Llandegai by riverside paths and minor roads. After crossing the wild moor of Gwaun Gynfi, good paths lead to Parc Padarn, the National Slate Museum of Wales and Llanberis.

Leave the High Street next to Londis, and follow the Afon Ogwen for a short while before starting the climb out of the valley along a woodland path.  The minor road is then followed to Mynydd Llandegai.

After walking along Gefnan lane, take to the open moors, initially on a good track, but which comes increasingly indistinct and, in places, wet, before following good field paths, minor roads and lanes into the woodland of Parc Padarn.

Follow the way marked route to the National Slate Museum of Wales, passing the recently restored Dinorwig Quarry Hospital, and crossing the Padarn Lake Railway. Once you have looked around this very interesting museum, follow the signs into Llanberis.

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 3 –  Llanberis to Waunfawr

Distance: 6.1km, 3.8mls               Ascent: 310m, 1000ft                   Time; 2-3hrs

The leg to Waunfawr leaves Llanberis through its narrow streets following the route of the North Wales Pilgrims` Way. Good forest tracks and lanes take you to a footpath down into Waunfawr.

Leave the High Street by way of Tŷ Du Road, eventually leaving Llanberis along an ascending lane, before contouring the hillside. Here, wonderful views of the Glyder and Snowdon can be seen.

Follow a wide track, passing through forestry and quarry workings, before joining a narrow lane.  Follow the lane andl signs for the North Wales Pilgrims` Way into Waunfawr. Take the opportunity to call in Antur Waunfawr`s Caffi Blas y Waun for a quick snack.

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 4 – Waunfawr to Nantlle

Distance: 9.5km, 5.9 mls              Ascent: 270m, 900ft                     Time; 3-4hrs

For most of this leg, the Snowdonia Slate Trail follows the North Wales Pilgrims` Way. Leaving Waunfawr along a lane near the Welsh Highland Light Railway station, the route follows a country lane before branching off up the steep wooded hillside. Eventually, open moorland is reached with views of Mynydd Mawr to the left and the rugged Nantlle Ridge ahead. Soon, the extensive slate workings of the Nantlle Valley are reached and the route passes beneath towering slate tips and between cavernous quarries before emerging in the village of Nantlle.

Follow the main A4085 oad through Waunfawr as far as the Welsh Highland Light Railway station, where you turn up the narrow lane signposted to Rhosgadfan.  Still following the North Wales Pilgrims` Way, follow a rough footpath up the wooded hillside, over ancient iron stiles, and past long-abandoned cottages onto the open moorland.

After following the North Wales Pilgrims` Way for some distance, branch off between quarry workings and down into the village of Y Fron. After crossing some fields, take the path, firstly along an old tramway, then down a bracken-covered field, where the path can become indistinct.

The route here requires concentration as you go down the hillside between the impressive quarry workings and among the cascading slate tips and ruined slate mills. Finally, the Trail emerges onto a broad track which leads into Nantlle village.

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 5 – Nantlle to Rhyd Ddu

Distance: 8.2km, 5.1mls               Ascent: 260m, 850ft                      Time; 2-3hrs

THE Nantlle Valley is an unfrequented place of beauty, with the bulk of Mynydd Mawr on the one side and the towering cliffs of the Nantlle Ridge on the other. This is an easy walk along the valley bottom before an ascent, with one very boggy area, to the forest and a descent into Rhyd Ddu with its pub and café.

After a short walk along the main road from the village to Llyn Nantlle Uchaf, take a good farm track for some miles to Tal y Mignedd campsite.  Here, the route joins the road for a distance, through the small settlement of Drws y Coed.  Look out for the memorial stone which commemorates the destruction of a chapel by a falling rock.

At Drws y Coed Isaf farm, leave the road and follow the way markers past the unused dam and into the woods. You then have a short, initially steep, walk overlooking Llyn y Dywarchen and through the forest to Rhyd Ddu with its choice of accommodation and refreshment tops, as well as the Welsh Highland Railway.

The Snowdonia Slate Trail

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 6 – Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert

Distance: 8.4km, 5.2mls               Ascent: 110m, 350ft                      Time; 1.5-2.5hrs

This leg follows the recently established Lon Gwyrfai all the way. It is a pleasant and easy walk along way-marked paths and forest trails, with views of Snowdonia`s highest mountains.

From Rhyd Ddu station car park, cross the road, go through the ornate gate and just follow the signs to Beddgelert. After crossing the refurbished causeway and skirting Llyn y Gader, enter Beddgelert Forest. Take the well-marked path and track, which crosses the Welsh Highland Light Railway many times as it zig zags down the steep incline into the Glaslyn valley.

On the other side of the valley, you may hear the hoot of the Welsh Highland Railway, and, weather permitting, you might see the summit of Snowdon, together with the small column of smoke from a toiling Snowdon Mountain Railway steam engine.

When you reach the village of Beddgelert, you will have ample choice of refreshment and accommodation.

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 7 – Beddgelert to Croesor

Distance: 7.2km, 4.4mls               Ascent: 400m, 1300ft                    Time; 2-3hrs

This section takes you from the bustle of Beddgelert to the calm of Croesor by way of a spectacular riverside path, a quiet country lane and a wild drovers` road across the open moors.

From Beddgelert, follow the Afon Glaslyn along a paved path through parkland, maybe visiting the nearby grave of Gelert. After crossing the river and the railway, take the rugged exciting path, crossing bridges and passing along boardwalks hugging the sheer rocks. This is the Aberglaslyn Pass. At the end of the riverside walk, climb left alongside the road to reach the National Trust car park at Nantmor, where there are toilets.

Next, take the narrow lane through the pretty village to Bwlchgwernog where the drovers` road crosses the moorland to Croesor.  Look out for the ancient marker stone

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 8 – Croesor to Tanygrisiau

Distance: 7.4km, 4.6mls               Ascent: 470m, 1550ft                    Time; 3-4hrs

This leg is probably the wildest and most strenuous yet. A good track climbs the side of the Croesor valley to Croesor quarry.  There are way marks but careful navigation is also needed to reach the remote Rhosydd Quarry, from where a broad track drops down to Cwmorthin Lake and its abandoned settlement.  From here, the road drops down to Tanygrisiau.

Go along the road up the Croesor valley from Caffi Croesor, and take the broad track which climbs up the south side of the valley to Croesor quarry. After passing some derelict buildings, keep to the faint track which goes up between the ruins and climbs steadily, bearing left above the quarry. After a short while, follow the path across the dam of Llyn Croesor. Continue across sometimes boggy ground, aiming for a large white rock next to a stile. You are now above Rhosydd quarry.

Find your way through the quarry and take the broad track steeply down to Llyn Cwmorthin.  Pass rows of derelict houses and the forlorn and roofless chapel, and take the track down alongside the tumbling river.  At the houses, cross the river and walk down to the Lakeside Café at Tanygrisiau.

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 9 – Tanygrisiau to Llan Ffestiniog

Distance: 8.6km, 5.4mls               Ascent: 250m, 850ft                      Time; 2.5 -3.5hrs

From Tanygrisiau to Blaenau Ffestiniog may not be the most beautiful section of the Trail. However, much work has been carried out in Blaenau Ffestiniog to regenerate the village. From the town, the Trail passes down the wide Cwm Bowydd before crossing over into the attractive gorge of Cwm Teigl.  From here, it is a short field walk up into Llan Ffestiniog.

A short walk from the Lakeside Café will bring you into Tanygrisau itself. Look out for the footpath crossing the river to your right and follow field paths and tracks to Blaenau Ffestiniog. While walking up the High Street, pause to see carvings of Welsh sayings inlaid into the footway; also, look out for the River of Slate in the central car park, and the nearby slate sculptures.

Following the streets of the village, turn into Cwm Bowydd next to the secondary school. The Trail follows tracks and paths along the left side of the valley, revealing excellent views of the Moelwyn range. Continue to the end of the Cwm and take field paths past Pengwern Old Hall to the hidden gorge of Cwm Teigl.  After this, walk up to Llan Ffestiniog and the Pengwern pub.

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 10 – Llan Ffestiniog to Penmachno

Distance: 21.3km, 13.2mls          Ascent: 880m, 2850ft                    Time; 8 – 9hrs

This day is certainly the toughest of all, commencing with good paths through the hidden gem of Cwm Cynfal gorge, followed by a crossing of the wild, open and sometimes boggy moors of the Migneint. Good route finding is necessary here. A descent through quarry workings takes you to Cwm Penmachno before a final climb and subsequent descent through the forest to Penmachno.

From Llan Ffestiniog, cross the main road and take the way-marked path into Cwm Cynfal. This secluded gorge is well worth the walk. Cross the A470 and continue to follow the river, with the spectacular Cynfal Falls looming ahead. Cross the road and follow the markers to Llyn Morwynion. Cross the dam and follow the path along the bottom of Craig y Garreg Lwyd, passing Bryn y Castell fort.  From here, cross the Afon Migneint and follow the course of Sarn Helen up the ridge, eventually reaching Cwt y Bugail (Manod) quarry.

Follow the tramway and incline to Rhiwbach quarry and then the track to Rhiw Fachno quarry and Cwm Penmachno. In Cwm Penmachno, follow the markers into the forest, eventually to arrive at St Tudclud`s Church in Penmachno, opposite the Eagles Pub.

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 11 – Penmachno to Betws y Coed

Distance: 8.6km, 5.3mls               Ascent: 150m, 500ft                      Time; 2 – 3hrs

After the last leg, this section is a doddle. Broad forestry tracks take the Trail down to Roman Bridge, after which the road is followed to Conwy Falls Café. A pleasant track passes the Fairy Glen before a minor road, followed by a short woodland walk, leads to bustling Betws y Coed.

The short climb along a lane from Penmachno will take you to the forestry tracks running high above the Afon Machno.  When you reach the road, turn right to Penmachno Mill. Keep your eyes open for Roman Bridge over the river on the left, and turn left to Conwy Falls Café.  Walk just 200m along the busy A55 and take the good track through the woods, above the Conwy river, past the Fairy Glen and on to the A470. Cross the River Conwy and follow the minor road on the right towards Betws y Coed.

Watch out for the footpath sign on the right which takes you into the grounds of the Waterloo Hotel, near Waterloo Bridge. Turn left along the main road into the village centre.

Snowdonia Slate Trail Section 12 – Betws y Coed to Capel Curig

Distance: 9.5km, 5.9mls               Ascent: 420m, 1350ft                    Time; 3 – 4hrs

This is a lovely section with plenty of interest. The Trail leaves Betws y Coed by a well-engineered riverside walk, passing the famous Swallow Falls before reaching the road at The Ugly House.  A steep pull up a lane takes you once more into the Gwydir Forest and good woodland tracks. Once out of the woods, the stunning views of Snowdon, Moel Siabod, the Carneddau and the Glyderau open up as you drop down into Capel Curig.

Follow the accessible riverside walk on the north side of the river, making sure you look at the Cannon Rocks immediately over the bridge near the toilets. At Miners` Bridge, branch off right uphill through the woods and turn left along the narrow lane.  Soon, follow signs for Swallow Falls where a narrow but safe path clings to the cliffs above the swirling torrent.  Enjoy the view of these spectacular falls before continuing alongside the river.

At The Ugly House, walk up the steep lane before turning left into the forest. Follow the marked route until you reach open moorland.  Walk along the engineered path with a wonderful mountain panorama ahead.  Soon you will reach Capel Curig.

Snowdonia Slate Trail  Section 13 – Capel Curig to Bethesda

Distance: 17.6km, 11.0mls          Ascent: 150m, 500ft                      Time; 5 – 6hrs

The hard walking is over and you can enjoy a virtually level walk to the head of the impressive U-shaped Nant Ffrancon valley. Then comes a few miles of minor road down this beautiful valley, after which you join the Lon Las Ogwen cycleway. This takes you around the blue cascading slate tips of the Penrhyn Quarry before a short cycleway takes you back into Bethesda.  You`ve done it.  Congratulations.

At Capel Curig, take the lane towards Joe Brown`s climbing shop and follow the broad track along the south side of the wide valley. Eventually, you reach the A5 which you cross to follow a National Trust footpath around the far side of Llyn Ogwen.  Pen yr Ole Wen towers to your right and Tryfan to your left.

At the far end of Llyn Ogwen, cross the river to the food kiosk and toilets and follow the old stage coach road down the far side of Nant Ffrancon. Note the A5 bridge, with the old packhorse bridge beneath it, over the river.  At the end of the road, carry straight on to Lon Las Ogwen cycleway.  When you come to the bridge over the river before the caravan park, have a look at the parapets which are covered with ancient carvings of the quarrymen, along with some not so ancient.

Pass the derelict quarry hospital and the quarrymen`s institute, now residential, until a sign takes you to the right off the cycleway.  Cross the road and follow the track, crossing the River Ogwen, into Bethesda, where you can get a bus back to Bangor to get your car or the train home

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.
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