The 10 best places to ride a mountain bike in Wales
Whether it be DH, trail or dirt jumps, here's your guide to the best places to ride your bike in Wales.
The 10 best places to ride a mountain bike in Wales
Words: Lauren Jenkins & Ed Haythornthwaite[splitpost intro="true" numbers="true"]If there’s one place to ride that has it all its Wales. You might think we are a little biased because we happen to be based in Wales, but we've been lucky enough to ride all over the world at some of the most famous places known to mountain biking, yet we still think that what Wales has to offer is tough to beat. Whether it be man made bike park style trails or handcut secret tracks, the place is littered with absolute gems.
Of course we can't really tell you about all the great secret stuff that's been built in the Welsh hills, but we don't really think that matters because what's officially on offer is incredible too, and there's a lot of it. With so much amazing riding to be had where do you start? Well, it's a good question and that's why we decided to come up with this guide to what we believe are the ten best places to ride in Wales. If you haven't ridden any of them then what on earth are you waiting for? And if you've ridden them all then good effort, and I bet you're still grinning!
So, without further ado, and in no particular order, just click away below to discover the ten best places to ride a mountain bike in Wales...
Cwmcarn is a purpose built trail centre in South Wales that offers two cross country and two downhill trails. It also offers a visitor centre, uplift service and camping facilities. The uplift and trails start from the car park, so you can just turn up and ride, and with it being located near Newport it's the easiest riding spot in Wales to get to for those living in South England.
Currently the uplift service offers a morning on the Y Mynydd Black track, then a stop for lunch, followed by uplifting the Pedalhounds track in the afternoon. Y Mynydd offers a choice of lines – the red run and the black run, which both cross at points before joining for the lower section. This 1.9km trail allows you to opt for a line based on skill level and everything is rollable, but the challenge is there if you want it, with technical sections, drops, gap jumps and large tables. The descent should take about three to five minutes.
Pedalhounds is a combination of an older existing track and new bottom section that leads to the fire road near the visitor centre. The track is 1.4km and starts with a fairly flat rooty section which then leads out into another wooded section before dropping into some steep turns carved into the side of the hill. The bottom section offers plenty of drops, berms, roots and jumps. It takes around two to four minutes and is graded black. The video below shows Manon Carpenter having some fun on this new track...
The cross country trails, Cafall and the Twrch, both offer amazing riding and spectacular views. The Twrch Trail is 18km and is a mixture of open and flowing to technical and rooty trail. The initial climb is pretty hard going but the descents and views from the top more than make up for it. You can expect pure singletrack with a mixture of features and it should take around one and a half to three hours. Cafall is a newly constructed trail offering 14km of challenging, natural singletrack with technical descents and some remote riding with a 400m climb. It should take around two and a half to four hours. It is recommended you bring enough equipment to be self-sufficient as it takes you off the beaten track.
This is where Cwmcarn is...
How to get there: Signposted Forest Drive from M4, Junction 28 – Postcode: NP11 7FA
Afan Forest Park
Afan has two centres, the Afan Forest Visitor centre and the Glyncorrwg Mountain bike centre. Located in South Wales it has a number of XC trails as well as a bike park and competition level 4X track. The trails are graded from blue to black - Y Wall, Penhydd, Blue Scar and the Rookie start from the Afan Forest Visitor Centre and White's Level, Blade and Skyline start from Glyncorrwg.
Details of the trails are as follows...
Rookie – Green trail – 5.5km taking around 30 minutes to two hours over a gentle gradient. Suitable for families.
Blue Scar – Blue trail – 7km – 1-1.5 hours with 437m of climbing. Great for those wanting to improve their riding skills.
Blade – Red trail – 24km – 2.5-3.5 hours with 795m of climbing. Great singletrack, technical climbs, fast descents and it can be combined with Skyline for a longer ride.
Skyline – Red trail – 46km - 4-7 hours with 2000m of climbing. Steady technical climb via singletrack and forestry road offering stunning views of the Brecon Beacons, Black Mountains and South Wales coast followed by flowing descents.
White’s Level – Red trail - 17km – 1.5-3 hours with 525m of climbing. White’s is a 90% purpose built trail starting with a 6km sheep track climb. The trail offers tight and twisty singletrack with demanding descents and an optional black run.
Y Wal – Red trail - 23km – 1.5-3 hours with 450m of climbing. Y Wal offers great views of the valley and coastline as well as some great technical sections.
Penhydd – Red trail - 14km – 1.5-3 hours with 550m of climbing. The Penhydd splits off from the Blue Scar and offers a loop with big climbs and flowing descents.
W2 – Black trail – 44km – 4-7 hours with 975m of climbing. W2 gives you the option to start from either centre and then you’re able to stop at the other one half way round to break up the ride. A challenging but rewarding trail with some great downhill style sections.
Afan Bike Park - A progression area that offers a variation of five trails ranging from blue to black with a mixture of berms and jumps. The bike park is located next to Bryn Bettws lodge and is also close to the 4x track.
Here's a video of Mike Jones hitting up the Blade trail...
And this is where Afan sits on the map...
How to get there: Stick SA13 3HG in your Sat Nav for Afan and SA13 3EA in for Glyncorrwg.
Afan Visitor Centre opening hours:
April to September: Monday to Friday 9.30am - 5.00pm (6pm on weekends and Bank Holidays)
October to March: Monday to Friday 9.30am - 4.00pm (5pm on weekends and Bank Holidays)
Glyncorrwg Ponds Visitor Centre opening hours:
8am - 5pm Mon & Tues
8pm - 8pm Wed & Thurs
9am - 10pm Fri & Sat
9am - 5pm Sun (10pm on Bank Holidays)
Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre: 01639 851 900
[part title="Bike Park Wales"]
Bike Park Wales
No list about mountain biking in Wales would be complete without Bike Park Wales. As the first full scale private mountain bike park in the UK, BPW has loads to offer. The park has an uplift service which allows you to choose from a whole pile of different tracks and sections, most of which can be mixed and matched to your hearts delight. As if that isn’t enough there’s also a great XC loop, pump track, bike shop and visitor centre with café. You can even hire good quality bikes if you haven't got one of your own, and BPW are now offering coaching too. The great video below was produced last year to mark the opening of BPW and it gives you a great flavour of the place.
The trails are graded from green to black and most people can average around eight runs a day on the uplift. If you'd prefer to ride up then the climb to the top is 4.6km and takes around 20 to 40 minutes. BPW have a professional trail crew meaning the trails are well maintained, and with most of them being hard packed they are rideable in all weathers.
Beginner trails include the Badger trail and the link from the Taff Trail. These are a great option for families and beginners.
The intermediate trails include the XC loop Beast of Burden, Sixtapod, Willy Waver, Melted Welly, Blue Belle, Norkle, Bush Wacker and the pump track. These range from 0.2km to 4.6km.
The Advanced trails are Locomotion, Wibbly Wobbly, Rim Dinger, Vicious Valley, Bonneyville and Insufficient Funds. They vary from 0.3km to 1.5km.
The Expert trails are Enter the Dragon, Dai Hard, Pork Belly, Coal not Dole, Deep Navigation, Zut Alors, Half Cut and Rock ‘n’ Roll. These are between 0.2km to 1km long.
All the trails in Bike Park Wales contain a range of features from sweeping flowy turns, rock gardens, drops, berms and jumps, but perhaps the best thing is you don’t need to keep riding the same trail, there’s something for everyone.
BPW are also constructing a red jump trail and a steeper black downhill run which are expected to open in August 2014.
This is where you'll find Bike Park Wales...
Full directions along with a whole pile of other useful info on the area can be found on the Bike Park Wales website.
Prices: Entry £5, Uplift £30 (this includes your £5 park entry fee), Weekend Uplift Pass £55.
Opening hours: 9:30am to 4:30pm – Thursday Evening sessions from May until mid-August 5pm – 8pm
[part title="Van Road Trails"]
Van Road Trails
Van Road Trails are located in Caerphilly and the site was completely rebuilt in 2012, with the result being that it’s now the biggest dirt jump site in Wales. The self-contained jump spot is accessible via train or road and is roughly fifteen minutes ride from Caerphilly station.
As you can see from the map above the trails are graded and include pump tracks, jump lines, pro lines and a dual slalom track. The site is free to ride and is run and maintained by volunteers. It's perfect for an early morning or evening session in the summer before or after riding some of the great trails that are close by. There are no facilities on site, but Caerphilly town centre is only about two miles away, and who cares about proper facilities when you've got riding as good as this. Honestly, this place is pretty special, there's always a great vibe, and as you can see in the video below you don't have to have super sick skills in order to be able to ride there (although there's more than enough to challenge you if you do).
This is where you'll find the trails...
Postcode: CF83 3EL
For more information head over to the Van Road Facebook page.
[part title="Coed Llandegla"]
Llandegla is one of the largest privately owned trail centres in North Wales and has a choice of four trails as well as a skills area and pump track. It benefits from being continuously developed and maintained, and alongside the main trails there are also optional loops to help add even more variety. All the trails are enclosed within the forest and are rideable in all weathers, plus there's a good visitor centre where you can also hire bikes should you need to.
Green Trail – 5km – Developed specifically with families in mind avoiding major climbs and technical sections. Should take around 30 mins to 2 hours.
Blue Trail – 12km – Offers a gradual climb, a great option for those who want to test out a few smaller features before progressing onto other routes. Should take around 1-2 hours.
Red Trail – 18km – Starting off on the same climb as the blue before splitting off on to a more technical route including switchbacks, whoops, water crossings, boardwalk and jumps. Should take around 1-3 hours.
Black Trail – 21km – Offering steeper downhill stretches and more technical features. As well as steep climbs it has steps, gaps, drops and timber structures. Should take about 2-4 hours.
The video below gives you an idea of the kind of trails on offer at Llandegla.
Random fact: 50% of the Welsh Black Grouse population lives within one mile of the forest.
Coed Llandegla lies here...
Post code for Sat Nav: LL11 3AA
[part title="Antur Stiniog"]
Antur Stiniog opened in 2012 and is located on one of the biggest slate mines in the World, just outside the historical mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog. Whilst it’s predominately a downhill trail centre there is also a jump area and pump track on site, and the centre also offers a café, showers, bike wash, uplift and bike hire. It is currently uplift only and on average it’s possible to get around 10 to 15 runs a day, if not more.
There are five trails on offer, graded from blue to black:
Jymapr – Blue – Not as steep as the other trails on offer, and slightly longer than the other tracks. Jymapr is smoother and easier with sweeping turns and flowly singletrack, it’s aimed at novice downhill riders, but it’s still good fun if you fancy a fast trail with some smaller features. New for 2014.
Wild Cart – Red – Great fun on a DH rig or AM bike – offers a range of jumps, berms and step downs from top to bottom.
Drafft – Red – A slightly less challenging trail than Wild Cart, great for those who want an introduction to more technical trails. All features are rollable with a mixture of berms, jumps and step downs.
Black Powder – Black – Black Powder shares the first 50m with Y Du before splitting off down the other side of the hill to big rock sections and jumps.
Y Du (The Black) – Black – The most challenging track at Antur. The first section starts you off with a fast flowy top section before a gnarly rock section into tight switchbacks and then jumps down the hill before reaching a rock roller and more jumps at the end. A challenge, but definitely worth it.
The first round of the 2014 British Downhill Series was held at Antur Stiniog and the video edit below from that race will give you a good idea of what to expect if you head there.
This is where you'll find Antur Stiniog...
Post code for Sat Nav: LL41 3NB.
Uplift: £27.50 per person for the day.
Opening times: Thursday to Sunday all year round, Summer 10am - 4.15pm, October to March 10am - when it gets dark.
Bike Hire: £55 per day for DH Bikes / half day £30, £50 per day for All Mountain Bikes / half day £30.
Coed-y-Brenin has so much to offer and is just down the road from Antur Stiniog, so it's perfect if you want to combine a weekend of DH with XC. It has a reputation for being one of the best places to ride in the UK and it definitely lives up to it. There are eight trails on offer, graded from green to black, as well as a skills area, so there is loads of choice. The trails start from the visitor centre which houses a bike shop, café, bike wash, bike hire and a craft shop. If you are planning on heading to this area for a longer trip then as well as Antur Stiniog you should definitely consider also checking out the trails Betws-y-Coed and Penmachno because they too are first class and only a short distance away.
Yr Afon – Green – 10.8km, 1-3 hours – This trail takes you on open forest roads and contouring hillsides past waterfalls on the Gain and Mawddach rivers as well as the old Gwynfynydd Gold mine, the last source of Welsh gold. Great for families, this trail has a few downhill sections but nothing too challenging.
Minor Taur – Blue – 8km, 0.5 – 1.5 hours – A unique and hugely popular trail. The Minor Taur is an accessible trail suitable for those with adaptive mountain bikes. Built in three loops it gets progressively longer so you have the option to choose what distance you want. The trails offers a mix of features from stone steps, table tops and swoopy berms.
Cyflym Coch – Red – 11.2km, 1.5-3 hours - This trail offers a slightly more technical option than the Minor Taur, and despite only having relatively short climbs Cyflym Coch (Red Fox) strings together some of the best, fast flowing sections in Coed y Brenin.
Temtiwr – Red – 8.7km, 0.5- 1 hour - Temtiwr includes five sections of great singletrack, from extremely technical rock pitching, to fast flowing swooping curves through the trees with one main climb up from the river Gain. A short route to get an idea of what the longer trails in Coed-y-Brenin have to offer.
Dragon’s Back – Red – 31.1km, 3-5 hours - The Dragons Back is a challenging trail that encompasses some of the best things about mountain biking. It offers challenging climbs, tight singletrack and flowing, fast descents with amazing views.
Tarw Du – Black – 20.2km, 1.5-3 hours - The Tarw Du (Black Bull) was the first trail built at Coed-y-Brenin. It offers a rocky, twisty and technical trail aimed at testing your skill and fitness.
MBR – Black – 18.4km, 1.5-3 hours - A rocky, challenging and technical trail offering sweeping descents with the addition of natural and stone pitched sections. It’s as fun as it is challenging.
Beast of Brenin – 38.2km, 3-6 hours - A physically and mentally demanding trail, it combines Dragons Back and MBR offering both fast open sections and tight, technical descents. There are also shortcuts back to the centre if you need them, and a café on route for a much needed break.
Yr Ffowndri - The great new skills and training area which is featured in the video below...
This is where Coed-y-Brenin is...
How to get there: From Dolgellau head north on A470, taking a right turn for visitor centre after five miles. Sat Nav: LL40 2HY
Coed-y-Brenin visitor centre opening hours:
Summer: Mon – Fri 9.30am -5.00pm , Sat – Sun 9.00am – 5.00pm
Winter: Mon – Fri 9.30am – 4.30pm, Sat – Sun 9.00am – 4.30pm
Beics Brenin bike shop opening hours:
9am - 5pm is 7 days a week
[part title="Revolution Bike Park"]
Revolution Bike Park
Revolution Bike Park is situated in 110 acres of private woodland at the foot of the Snowdonia National Park. Uplifts run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday but are also available on other days if booked by a group. You can expect around 10-18 runs a day, which equates to a fairly whooping 4500m of descending in one day. There is parking, toilets and a small hut on site, but it’s always undergoing development so expect further facilities and tracks in future. As it stands now though it's still a great venue with five tracks ranging from red to black. This place is definitely not aimed at beginners and is also home to the quarry line which has been made famous by Dan Atherton. A video of him riding it can be seen below.
Freeride – Red – This all-weather trail is packed with table tops, rollers, berms and kickers. An advanced trail, but everything is rollable.
Mainline – Black – The Mainline is a highly technical downhill track with lots of roots, exposed rock and slatey corners, and a plenty of line choice.
Ghetto Track – Black – The Ghetto Track is the most natural trail at the park. Steep, loamy and challenging it weaves its way to the bottom.
L1 – Black – L1 starts on the Mainline and branches off on the first fire road. It pretty much goes straight down the hill, super steep, technical and fun. It's one more experienced riders, and one hell of a ride.
Ffar Side – Pro Line - This starts with big tabletops and berms and then turns into a tighter, steeper section with drops before dropping into a high speed flowing traverse across the hill before joining the Main Line at the last fire road. A helmet cam run of this track and Main Line can be seen below.
Revolution Bike Park lies here...
Postcode for Sat Nav: SY10 0HJ
[part title="Brecon Beacons"]
The Breacon Beacons is a much loved area for mountain biking. There are around 16 designated natural trails on offer which all start from a number of mountain biking hubs and are graded from green to black. The reason why we love them so much is that they are not purpose built and therefore offer a more natural experience. There is also a great bike bus that offers pick up and drop off from several locations.
Hubs & Trails
Brecon – From the town of Brecon, just North of the Brecon Beacons themselves, you can enjoy three routes as well as many bike shops, places to eat and places to stay in the town.
Visitor Centre Route – 8km – An easy route suitable from beginners and families.
Mynydd Illtud – Blue - 24km – Quite a challenging route but it does offer the possibility of shortcuts if needed. It takes you from Brecon up to Cefn Llechid where you will be rewarded with amazing views and a descent down open hillside, farm tracks and country lanes before a short climb back to the centre.
The Gap – Red – 38km – One of the classic trails in the Beacons it follows the Taff Trail, Brinore Tramway and the Gap road. Rideable in all weathers but it can get a bit difficult in bad weather. It has a tricky ravine halfway up the Gap road and a few large rock steps at the beginning of the descent from the Gap itself. The descent goes from the top of the Brinore Tramway to the valley bottom, just upstream of the Talybont Reservoir. The track varies from smooth grass, to gravel, rocks and ruts.
Crickhowell - A small town in Powys, Mid Wales with a number of pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels. A good starting point to explore what the Beacons have to offer.
Crickhowell Loop – Blue – 16km – This loop allows you to do most of the climbing on tarmac leaving all the descents to natural singletrack and off road paths.
Sennybridge – A great hub to start from, Sennybridge has a range of accommodation and facilities if you are making a weekend of it.
Usk Reservoir – Green – 8.9km – This route is a circuit of Usk Reservoir, most of the climbing will be done on forest roads and tarmac. The start takes you to the water’s edge before climbing back on the road.
Cwm Treweryn – Blue – 14.5km - This blue route has an optional extra loop half way round. With a 200m descent, it loops back to Sennybridge.
Sarn Helen – Red - 33.8km – This trail starts off on country lanes before joining the Sarn Helen road. It then brings you down a tarmac descent and runs along the Senni Valley before climbing 150m again. The final stretch is along Heol Cefn Y Gaer, passing the site of one of the many hill forts in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Talgarth - Situated to the North East of Brecon, as well as mountain biking there are a whole host of other outdoor activities to be enjoyed here.
Llangors & Bwlch – 38.6km - The first half of this route is mostly off-road then from Cwm Siencyn you climb to the top of Cefn Moel before going down to the village of Bwlch. From Bwlch you go up to the knife edged ridge of Allt yr Esgair and the Iron Age hill fort, before descending again, now on a narrow path, to Pennorth back to Talgarth.
Grwyne Fawr Reservoir – Black – 51.5km - This route reaches heights of around 700m. It is very open and takes you out of Talgarth to the top of Y Dâs. At the top you descend past Grwyne Fawr Reservoir and down to Mynydd Du Forest. You then make your way through the forest and along country lanes. There is a very steep descent past the church at Ffynon Ishow then a climb back up to the “cairn" at the ridge top at Pen Trumau. The descent to Talgarth takes you along lanes and tracks with one last climb to the base of Castell Dinas. It can also be ridden in reverse.
Talybont on Usk - Both the Taff Trail and the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal pass through Talybont-on-Usk and three routes go from this point. Car Parking is available at Henderson Hall, Penpentre, and it’s great if you intend to leave your car all day. There are also pubs, cafés and a range of accommodation in the town.
Tramway – Green – 8.9km - This trail follows the Taff Trail climbing up on a forest road before returning to the Brinore Tramway then descending to Talybont.
Talybont Forest – Blue – 17.7km - Again this trail takes you on the Taff Trail up from Talybont. The Brinore Tramway then takes you a short way up into the forest before a descent to the Talybont Reservoir. You then cross to the other side of the valley for some hilly riding in Talybont forest. A rewarding trail with some fun descents.
Pontsticill Crossover – Red – 33.8km - The Pontsticill trail is a figure of eight loop that starts with a 400m climb before descending to the half-way point of Pontsticill village. After the village you can choose between the Taff Trail forest route or the road alongside Pontsticill Reservoir, before going off-road and up to the figure of eight crossing and down to the Usk Valley just a few kilometres down the road from Talybont.
If you don't know where the Brecon Beacons are then wonder no more...
Last by by no means least is Brechfa which is situated around 10 miles North East of Camarthen. There's not much in terms of facilities at Brechfa but that is more than made up for by the great trails on offer, many of which were designed and built by trail builder extraordinaire Rowan Sorrel. These trails should be plenty enough to keep you happy for a good while, but if you are in the area and fancy trying out something else then we'd definitely recommend heading over to Cwm Rhaeadr to ride the red trail because it's yet another Welsh gem.
Derwen - 9.2Km, 1.5-2 hours - Green/Blue - Clinging low to the valley sides, the trail eases you in with steady climbs and fun descents. Weaving through the forest you will encounter some lovely scenery and flowing terrain in what has until now been one of Wales’s best kept secrets, and there's the option of an extended blue section if you fancy a bit more of a challenge.
Gorlech - 19Km, 1.5-3 hours - Calling a trail a roller coaster ride is a knackered old cliché, but there’s no other way to describe the unique Gorlech ride. Every climb drops you into a madder, faster descent on the far side. The stone clad berms, kickers, tables and stump jumps just keep getting bigger and bigger every time in a mad mountain bike crescendo right up to the end. A truly unique skill and grin building experience!
Raven Trail - 18.5Km, 1.5-2 hours - Suitable only for proficient bikers, the trail effortlessly mixes up the more traditional narrow woodland singletracks with Brechfa’s signature brash descents: fast, undulating trail that sweeps between trees and flows sinuously into berms and over jumps.
The video below shows some of the best sections on the Gorlech track.
Brechfa can be found here...
Postcode for Sat Nav: SA32 7RA