Off-Bike Gems: On-Road & Off-Road Motorcycling In Snowdonia

| | ,

As far as weekend’s go, I’d planned the motherload of trips. And just as I thought it couldn’t get any better, mother nature stepped in and made it ten times better.

With our bikes on the bed of his pick-up truck, my friend headed to Snowdonia National Park on Friday night. And I would meet him there the following morning.

When I woke up, I could see my Saturday had started well.

With sleepy eyes, I peered out of my bedroom window. The morning was crisp, and a thin layer of fog coated the atmosphere below a canopy of crystal-clear, blue sky.

The forecast predicted dry weather all weekend – unusual for this time of year in the UK.

Feeling fortunate, I got my kit together with a self-satisfied grin on my face and headed for Snowdonia.

motorcycling in snowdonia - off-road bikes on pickup truck

The Motorcycle Ride To Snowdonia

Skirting around the dreary cities of the northwest, I took the motorway to the Welsh border. From here, the cities and traffic drifted into memories as country air filled my lungs.

Belting down the North Wales Expressway, I caught glimpses of the North sea on my right. And with every roundabout came a satisfying grumble as my Africa Twin eagerly devoured the A55.

With Colwyn Bay behind me, I headed South towards Betws-y-Coed. If you haven’t visited this part of the world on a motorcycle before, I urge you to!

In fact, I really must write a dedicated post on the delights of motorcycling in Snowdonia – and Wales as a whole! (Mental note made.)

With a copious amount of twisty roads and delightful towns to explore, North Wales could keep you entertained for a lifetime.

And if you want to take it a step further, you can hit the trails and not see anyone for days.

ICM image of sunrise from wales expressway

Off-Road Motorcycling In Snowdonia

After having my fill of the glorious Welsh roads, I finally met up with Ian to unload our bikes from the pick-up truck.

With our bellies full of bacon sandwiches and cups of tea, we did our final checks on the bikes. Side by side, my 1994 Suzuki Djebel 250 looked ancient next to Ian’s DRZ 400.

But it proved to hold its own in the rugged Snowdonia mountain range.

As far as weekends go, we had an absolute blast. I loved every second of it.

motorcycling in snowdonia - rugged mountain in wales


The following afternoon, we loaded the bikes back onto the pick-up. The plan was that Ian would drive home with the bikes whilst I would take the scenic route back.

My Africa Twin felt big (too big) after a weekend throwing around the Djebel.

Feeling usually light and nimble (when on the move), it felt heavy and cumbersome. Although it was nice to have the extra oomph from my right wrist.

Heading east from Llanberis, the plan was to ride the A4086 with its glorious twists and epic mountain scenery.

But as I headed towards Pen-y-Pass, darkness fell quickly as heavy, grey clouds sat ominously above me.

And with no warning whatsoever, thick, luxurious flakes began to drop from the sky – silently and beautifully landing on the road in front of me.

A covering of white began to coat the surface of the road, and I knew I had to make a choice.

I either had to brave this notoriously dangerous road and trust the snow wouldn’t follow me to the motorway. Or, I take refuge for the night and carry on home in the morning.

As I thrashed out my choices, I saw lights in the distance. Slowly and tentatively, I edged closer and saw they were coming from a hostel.

Pulling up alongside the hostel, I saw a guy on a KTM who had clearly found himself in the same position as me.

Unpacking my kit, I headed inside to book myself a room for the night.

sunrise in snowy mountains and lake

Motorcycling In Snowdonia: The Stop Over

Having filled my belly with hot, wholesome food from the hostel restaurant, I headed outside to observe the snow.

In real life, I hate snow. I hate how it disrupts everything and makes everybody’s life hard work. But when I have nothing to do and nowhere to be, I’m not sure there’s anything else more beautiful.

It was pitch black, but the light from the moon and the stars bounced up off the white covering of snow, and the entire area seemed to be illuminated from the bottom up.

With the Snowdonian mountain range in the background and the silhouette of Crib Goch illuminated in the distance, I decided I would head out with the camera in the morning to see what I could find.

And with that, I head off to bed.

motorcycling in snowdonia - valley and reflection

The Miner’s Path

The following morning, my alarm woke me up at 6 am. With coffee in my flask, I headed out of the hostel to see the most perfect, virgin snow covering the entire landscape.

Crossing the road and heading through the extortionately priced car park (yes, Snowdonia National Park Authority, I’m talking to you), I headed for the Miner’s track.

In the darkness, it’s an eerie place. I could feel the eyes of wildlife stalking me silently as I passed.

Rounding the bends and following the path, the vast silence rendered the crunching of the snow beneath my feet deafening.

The hike to Llyn Teyrn isn’t particularly arduous. And for the view you get when you get there, it’s well worth the effort.

As the icy wind whipped across the water, my eyes began to water in the cold.

I sat down, opened my flask of coffee and unwrapped a supermarket croissant. Okay, so it wasn’t quite like being in the French Alps, but it was as good as I could muster!

With a coffee in one hand and a croissant in the other, the sun began to rise. I lay my camera bag on the ground, took out my camera and started to shoot.

hiking up to snowdon - snow and blue lake

The Hike To Snowdon

Continuing on the Miner’s path, I headed towards Snowdon – the highest mountain in Wales and the highest mountain in the British Isles outside of Scotland.

Again, the wind was bitter as it whipped across the water.

Crunching through the snow, I clambered up the unsavoury and uneven steps leading up to Glaslyn at the foot of Snowdon.

These steps are a pain at the best of times. But hidden under a foot of snow, every step was a precarious one that led to numerous and inevitable tumbles.

But eventually, I made it over the final step and rounded the bend. Glaslyn came into view, and I was greeted by an infinity waterfall at eye height.

motorcycling in snowdonia - waterfall with misty mountains in background

Motorcycling In Snowdonia: Blue Waters

Looking around, I was surrounded by 360 degrees of mountains, scree, and Snowdon in its rawest form.

It was beautiful. To the point where all I could do was stop and attempt to take it in.

Standing silently, I became absorbed in the turquoise waters (Glaslyn means ‘blue waters’ in Welsh) at the foot of these fog-shrouded mountains.

Again, I took out my camera and began to shoot these astonishing blues and whites.

In the end, I spent two nights at the hostel exploring the area, the mountains, and climbing halfway up Snowdon before having to turn around due to the conditions.

By Tuesday morning, the snow had finally cleared, and I began to make my way home. Stopping on the A5, I crossed the road and headed for Llyn Ogwen to get a final shot of Tryfan before heading home.

waterfall with tryfan in background

Motorcycling In Snowdonia: Conclusion

If you regularly go motorcycling in Snowdonia National Park just to ride it for a day, you’re doing it all wrong!

Of course, the riding in Wales is fabulous. But the true beauty lies off the main roads.

The people of Wales are some of the friendliest and welcoming I have ever known.

And the beauty of this stunning country lies in the communities that occupy it.

Take time off the bike to immerse yourself in its people. Contribute to its economy. Enjoy what it has to offer.

Because Snowdonia is one of those places that if you give it a little, it’ll give you a hundred times back in return.

Fancy a few more Off-Bike Gems? Here are the rest in the series:

Top image via William Hook


How To Take Amazing Photos On Your Motorcycle Tour!

How To Deal With A Breakdown On Your Motorcycle Tour