Best trail centres in Wales

What the riding's like, who it's suitable for and how to get there

Trail centres are on the up! Not only in their popularity but also, it seems, in the level of investment going into them. In fact, as we’ve compiled this guide for 2014 it’s been exciting to see how many new trails and facilities – and in some cases actual full-on trail centres themselves – have come into being.

It’s not difficult to see why we all love them so much. Great trails that are ridable whatever the weather, easy access throughout the UK and a good range of riding for different levels of ability. Not to mention the excellent facilities for bike maintenance and a nice bit of cake at the end of a long ride!

Through this guide we bring you all the info you need on what we consider to be Wales' best trail centres. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or are just starting out in the wonderful world of mountain biking, you can discover some of the best places to go and ride your bike. Happy trails!

Afan Forest Park

About the centre

Afan consists of two centres. The older of the two, by the Afan visitor centre, is the start pointforBlueScar,Penhydd andTheWall. The second, at Glyncorrwg, is home to White’s Level and Blade. The long-distance W2 trail can be ridden from either centre.

The trails

There are too many Afan trails to list here, so here are the highlights...

Blue Scar – blue

  • Distance: 7km
  • Time: 1-1.5hrs
  • Technicality: 2/5

Afan's new blue route is ideal for riders looking to brush up their skills before tackling more challenging trails.

Penhydd – red

  • Distance: 14km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

A South Wales classic, the revamped Penhydd is a progressive trail aimed at riders tackling a red route for the first time.

The Wall – red

  • Distance: 24km
  • Time: 1-2.5hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The Wall has new bits of singletrack at the start and finish and ranges from fast, open and flowing to tight, techy and rooty.

Blade – red

  • Distance: 24km
  • Time: 2.5-3.5hrs
  • Technicality: 3.5/5

The new Blade trail replaces the old Skyline route and has flowing berms, rock sections and miles of great singletrack to challenge your skills, plus a steep climb from Glyncorrwg to test your stamina.

W2 – black

  • Distance: 44km
  • Time: 4-7hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

This is another monster ride! W2 combines The Wall and White's Level with a high-level link between the two trails that offers fantastic views.

How to get there

Turn off the M4 at Junction 40 and head north. Turn left at the mini-roundabout onto the A4107, following signs to Afan Forest Park. The Afan car park is on your right after about five miles. For Glyncorrwg, continue three miles to Cymmer and turn left, following signs for Glyncorrwg. The centre is on your left, just before the village. Afan grid ref: SS 821951, sat nav: SA13 3HG; Glyncorrwg grid ref: SS 872984, sat nav: SA13 3EA.

Facilities

Bike hire, bike shop, bike wash, café, campsite, pay & display parking, showers, toilets, visitor centre (both trail centres) /

More information

www.cognation.co.uk / www.mbwales.com

Antur Stiniog

About the centre

Nestled in the small mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog is Antur Stiniog, a dedicated downhill centre that offers four trails that snake down the hillside opposite the huge slate quarry. Rated from blue to double black, the tracks range from mellow to steep and rough. An uplift service on a purpose-built road offers up to 15 runs daily, collecting from the centre at the foot of the trails. It’s worth booking in advance.

The trails

Drafft - blue

  • Distance: 1.8km
  • Time: 3.5-5.5mins
  • Technicality: 2/5

It doesn’t have many technical obstacles, but Drafft can be ridden very fast, which increases the challenge it offers dramatically. It’s fun, flowy and addictive.

Wild Cart – red

  • Distance: 1.7km
  • Time: 3.5-6mins
  • Technicality: 3/5

With a fun roll-in and an endless supply of berms, jumps and step-downs, this red-rated trail will get your grin on. It’s great fun to session on a trail bike or a DH bike.

Black Powder – black

  • Distance: 1.6km
  • Time: 3-6mins
  • Technicality: 4/5

Big rock sections and jumps await the brave on the slopes of Black Powder, with its steep banks, tight berms and flat-out speed. Make sure you're warmed up before tackling it.

Y Du – black

  • Distance: 1.4km
  • Time: 2.5-6mins
  • Technicality: 5/5Antur's big bad full-on downhill track has a fast flowy top section to get you up to speed before plunging into rock slabs, rough turns, step-down jumps and a really steep lower section.

How to get there

Antur Stiniog is located just outside Blaenau Ffestiniog in Snowdonia National Park, and is easily accessed from the M6. Leave the M6 at junction 10A and take the M54 to Shrewsbury. Pick up the A5 towards Oswestry and stay on it until you reach Betws-y-Coed, then take the A470 to Blaenau Ffestiniog. Grid ref: SH700458, sat nav: LL41 3NB

Facilities

Bike shop, bike wash, parking, uplift service, visitor centre, café, changing rooms, toilets

More information

www.anturstiniog.com

BikePark Wales

About the centre

BikePark Wales is a new development with downhill trails for all abilities. There’s a single climb to the top – or an uplift service, if you want to save your legs – and it’s then up to you which of the 22 different trail sections you link up to get back down to the cafe. With a mix of blue, red and black graded options, plus a pump track and beginner’s loop, you don’t need a long-travel bike to have a blast. There’s a £5 per person entry fee to ride the trails.

The trails

There are too many to list here, so here are some highlights. Times will vary depending on your skill level, but none is more than a few minutes long.

Badgers Run – green

  • Distance: 1km
  • Technicality: 1/5

This smooth, flowing trail is ideal for newcomers to mountain biking.

Sixtapod – blue

  • Distance: 2.2km
  • Technicality: 2/5

BPW's longest trail is packed with jumps, rollers and berms. Fun for beginners, it's also a blast to ride flat-out.

Blue Belle – blue

  • Distance: 1.5km
  • Technicality: 2/5

This rollercoaster trail sweeps through ancient woodland that's filled with bluebells in spring.

Vicious Valley – red

  • Distance: 1.2km
  • Technicality: 3/5

This red trail is super-fast – just watch out for the occasional rooty bit and the optional road gap.

Rim Dinger – red

  • Distance: 1.2km
  • Technicality: 3/5

This rock garden filled route isn't one for the puncture prone but is heaps of fun if your tyres/skills are up to the job.

Enter The Dragon – black

  • Distance: 0.9km
  • Technicality: 5/5

The old Dragon Downhill track is full of massive jumps and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

How to get there

BikePark Wales is located in Gethin Woods, near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. Leave the M32 at Junction 32 and take the A470 north towards Merthyr Tydfil. Go past Pontypridd, straight over the first roundabout and then, after five miles, left at the second roundabout. Grid ref: SO 050035, sat nav: CF48 4TT

Facilities

Bike hire, bike shop, bike wash, uplift service, cafe, parking, showers, toilets

More information

www.bikeparkwales.com

Brechfa

About the centre

Brechfa is a huge forest to the west of the Brecon Beacons, with great natural riding and manmade trails designed by downhill rider Rowan Sorrell.

The trails

Derwen Trail – green

  • Distance: 9km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 2/5

An ideal trail for beginners, the Derwen sweeps through the forest on well surfaced, wide singletrack, with some steady climbs and fun, gentle descents. 

Derwen Trail Extension – blue

  • Distance: 5km
  • Time: 45mins-1hr
  • Technicality: 2/5

An extension of the green, with an extra (steeper) climb and (longer) descent. It’s a good stepping stone up to the more technical, red-graded Gorlech.

Gorlech Trail – red

  • Distance: 22km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

There’s a fair bit of forest road climbing, but on the way back down the trail is a total rollercoaster, with berms and switchbacks that get better the faster you ride them!

Raven Trail – black

  • Distance: 18km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

The Raven mixes the big-bermed, jumpy style of riding on the other routes with predominantly natural singletrack. It features fast, brash descents that sweep between trees and flow through berms and over jumps. 

How to get there

From Carmarthen, head east on the A40 towards Llandeilo. Turn left onto the B4310 at Nantgaredig and follow it up through Brechfa. Parking for the green, blue and black trails is on your left between Brechfa and Nant-y-ffin. For the Gorlech trail, continue along the B4310 to Abergorlech. The car park is on your left in the middle of the village. Grid ref: SN 545315, sat nav: Brechfa.

Facilities

Parking, toilets

More information

www.forestry.gov.uk/wales / www.bikebrechfa.co.uk / www.cognation.co.uk

Coed Llandegla

About the centre

Coed Llandegla gives a new meaning to ‘something for everyone’, with green and blue routes for beginners, a reasonable length red route for intermediate riders and a famous black route. There’s a good bike shop, freeride and skills areas, and a fantastic café too.

The trails

Green

  • Distance: 5km
  • Time: 30mins-1hr
  • Technicality: 1/5

The green route climbs wide tracks up to the reservoir. Up top, there are picnic benches and good views, then a fun, swoopy descent. It’s relatively flat and wide, and suitable for beginners.

Blue

  • Distance: 12km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 2/5

After a seemingly never-ending climb, the blue swings downhill with sections of flowy, undulating singletrack. The surface is good, the trails are wide and the corners are fun.

Red

  • Distance: 19km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

Beginning with a long climb, the route ‘proper’ kicks off with a promising descent around berms and over jumps. From there, rough singletrack cuts up and down through the forest.

Black

  • Distance: 21km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

With a smooth, hard surface, berms around every corner and jumps on every straight, this is the route people come to ride at Llandegla!

Further riding…

The red and black routes have optional sections of ‘extreme’ trail along their routes, including JJ’s Jumps, Yellow Pine Jumps, Parallel Universe and B-Line. Good jumping skills are essential. Llandegla boasts a pump track near the visitor centre, and a skills area with berms, drop-offs, jump lines and some pretty steep North Shore. There’s also a freeride area that is definitely not for the faint-hearted. 

How to get there

From Wrexham, take the A525 signed towards Ruthin. Coed Llandegla is up a minor road on your left about eight miles from Wrexham. Grid ref: SJ 227520, sat nav: LL11 3AA.

Facilities

Bike hire, bike shop, bike workshop, bike wash, café, pay & display parking, toilets /

More information

www.mbwales.com / www.coedllandegla.com

Coed-y-Brenin

About the centre

Coed-y-Brenin was the first dedicated trail centre. Now it’s the largest in Britain, with eight trails – six graded red or above – with something for every level of rider.

The trails

There are too many Coed-y-Brenin trails to list here, so here are some highlights…

MinorTaur – blue

  • Distance: 10km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 2/5

A great introduction to singletrack made up of three loops.

Cyflym Coch – red

  • Distance: 11km
  • Time: 1hr30-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

Starts with a technical climb and then pieces together the best bits of Coed-y-Brenin's flowing singletrack.

Dragon's Back – red

  • Distance: 31km
  • Time: 3-5hr
  • Technicality: 4/5

At 31km, this is one big dragon, so make sure you're feeling fit! There's lots of singletrack, lots of distance and lots of fun.

MBR – black

  • Distance: 18.4km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

A Coed-y-Brenin staple – fairly rocky, with loose climbs and jagged descents.

Beast of Brenin – black

  • Distance: 38km
  • Time: 3-6hrs
  • Technicality: 4/5

At 31km, this is one large dragon, so make sure you’re feeling fit! There’s lots of singletrack, lots of distance and lots of fun – you’re thrown into the heart of the action as soon as you leave the car park.

How to get there

From Dolgellau, head north on the A470, towards Betws-y-Coed and Porthmadog. Go straight ahead at the roundabout and the centre is signposted on your right after about five miles. Grid ref: SH 720270, sat nav: LL40 2HY

Facilities

Bike hire, bike shop, café, pay & display parking, shop, showers, toilets, visitor centre

More information

www.forestry.gov.uk/wales

See the Coed-y-Brenin Facebook page for regular news and updates

Cwmcarn

About the centre

Cwmcarn is easily accessible, yet never seems to get too crowded, and now has two new trails to enjoy. There’s an uplift service – see www.cwmdown.co.uk for details, which currently only serves the Y Mynydd track but should be operating on the Pedalhounds side of the valley too by summer 2014.

The trails

Twrch – red

  • Distance: 14km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The Twrch trail winds upwards, over fiddly rock sections and sharp climbs. It then spirals through the woods before blasting you round berms and over jumps.

Cafall – red

  • Distance: 14km
  • Time: 2.5-3.5hrs
  • Technicality: 3.5/5

Tough climbs and technical descents make this new trail a must-ride. Handbuilt singletrack gives a unique natural feel.

Y Mynydd Downhill – red and black

  • Distance: 1.7/1.9km
  • Time: 5-10 mins
  • Technicality: 4/5

The Downhill has two runs – an easier red and a more technical black. Both contain plenty of roots, turns and jumps. They require a high level of skill to ride but are scorchingly fast for better riders.

Pedalhounds Downhill – yellow

  • Distance: 14km
  • Time: 2-4mins
  • Technicality: 4/5

Cwmcarn's new downhill track starts off in tight, rooty woods with technical lines through the trees. It then flows through some jumps and fast, steep turns before dropping back into woodland packed with swooping turns and drops that lead into an open, high-speed final section.

How to get there

From Junction 28 of the M4, head north on the A467, following signs for Cwmcarn Forest Drive. Go straight ahead until the fifth roundabout, then go right and right again. Cwmcarn Forest Drive is the second turning on your left. Grid ref: ST 230936, sat nav: NP11 7FA

Facilities

Bike wash, café, campsite, pay & display parking, toilets, uplift service, visitor centre /

More information

www.cognation.co.uk / www.cwmdown.co.uk

8 Gwydyr Forest

About the centre

Another trail opened relatively early in trail centre history, the Marin Trail in Gwydyr Forest mixes singletrack descents with forest road climbs. Sitting in the woods above Betws-y-Coed, it’s in a great location.

The trails

Marin Trail – red

  • Distance: 25km
  • Time: 2-4hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

With a big ascent straight out of the car park and a fair amount of forest road climbing, the Marin Trail doesn’t sound like a promising option. But throw in fast, twisting trails, pleasant open singletrack and a jagged rocky section and things start looking up. The clincher may be the final few stretches of singletrack descent – they’re long, winding and fast, with some large humps and compressions that offer plenty of opportunities for taking to the air.

How to get there

Turn off the A5 through Betws-y-Coed beside the chip shop in the centre of town. Cross the bridge and follow the road around to the right. Go straight ahead for about 3.5 miles until you pass Gwydir Castle on your right, then turn left up a minor road. The car park is on your left. Grid Ref: SH 757618, sat nav: LL26 0PN

Facilities

Parking, toilets, full facilities in Betws-y-Coed and Llanrwst

More information

www.mbwales.com / www.forestry.gov.uk/wales

See the Marin Trail Facebook page for regular news and updates

Nant yr Arian

About the centre

Nant yr Arian’s trails are some of the finest in Wales. The centre is known for its long singletrack runs, the big climb in the middle of the Summit Trail and the huge, wild Syfydrin loop.

The trails

Pendam – red

  • Distance: 9km
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

Pendam is the one to ride when you’re short on time. You’ll quickly find yourself up to speed and leaning through the corners. After a short section of forest road you’re into the trees, carving around berms before a stiff climb up for the final descent.

Summit Trail – red

  • Distance: 16km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The Summit Trail is the backbone of Nant yr Arian. It packs in the most singletrack, creating a fast, flowing ride. The trail is never too technical, leaving you to concentrate on the corners and take them as fast or slow as you like.

Syfydrin Trail – black

  • Distance: 35km
  • Time: 3-5hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The Syfydrin branches off the Summit Trail to carve a big extra loop, with a really ‘out there’ feel, through the countryside. It’s a long route with stunning views, good singletrack and solid natural riding.

How to get there

From Aberystwyth, take the A44 east towards Llangurig. The centre is on the left after about 10 miles. Grid ref: SN 718813, sat nav: SY23 3AD

Facilities

Bike wash, café, pay & display parking, shop, toilets, visitor centre

More information

www.mbwales.com / www.forestry.gov.uk/bwlchnantyrarian

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Penmachno

About the centre

There are no unique trail features here, no jumps and no rock gardens – just good, solid singletrack. It’s for this reason that many riders rate Penmachno as their favourite trail centre. The two trails below can be looped together to create one 30km ride. The trails are managed by the community, funded by donations from bikers and maintained by volunteers.

The trails

Dolen Machno – red

  • Distance: 19km
  • Time: 1.5-3hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

This is an unashamedly cross-country trail – there are no bermed or jumpy sections, just tight, flowing singletrack. It’s never too technical, so you can focus on the corners and compressions that weave through the woods. The final descent ensures you finish on a high!

Dolen Eryri – red

  • Distance: 11 km
  • Time: 1-1.5hrs
  • Technicality: 3/5

The second trail is less steep and relatively flat in nature – there are no big climbs or descents, so you end up doing a lot of pedalling to keep your speed. The singletrack is good – not too technical but nice and flowing – and there’s the odd tricky section here and there. 

How to get there

From Betws-y-Coed, head east on the A5. Once over the bridge and out of the town, take the second right onto the B4406, signed to Penmachno. Follow the road into and through Penmachno. The trails begin from a small car park on your right. Grid ref: SH 786498, sat nav: Penmachno

Facilities

Parking, full facilities in Betws-y-Coed

More information

www.mbwales.com / www.penmachnobiketrails.org.uk

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The information in this article is taken from Britain’s 50 Best Trail Centres, free with issue 303 (June 2014) of  Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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