Snowdonia is often thought to describe the mountainous area in Gwynedd principally around Snowdon itself. In actual fact Snowdonia National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri), designated in 1951, extends south into Powys covering 823 square miles of mountainous countryside. It stretches from near Conway in the north of Wales down to Aberdovey at its southern border and from Bala in the east to Tremadoc in the west. Snowdonia National Park is the largest National Park in Wales and only the second largest in the UK after the Lake District in Cumbria.
It's very much a destination for enjoying the outdoor life whether it be mountains, lakes, woodlands or the coast. Snowdonia National Park contains several National Nature Reserves (NNRs) including the stunning waterfall at Coedydd Aber NNR at the foot of the Y Carneddau mountain in the north of the Park, mountain reserves such as Cwm Idwal, Snowdon, Cadair Idris, the Rhinogs and Berwyns as well as a variety of woodland NNRs such as Coed Llyn Mair and the beautiful coastal reserves of Morfa Harlech and Morfa Dyffryn.
Given the mountainous nature of Snowdonia travelling by car does give the traveller the freedom to explore the whole area fully. For most of the year the roads are relatively quiet apart from peak summer weekends. Public transport within the National Park is run under the banner of the Snowdonia Sherpa bus service. You can buy an all day ticket that allows you to hop on and off buses within the Sherpa network as much as you like on the day of purchase. The ticket is valid between Bethesda, Llanberis, Llanrwst, Porthmadog and Waunfawras.
The mountain railways offer an alternative travelling option. Lines run through scenic areas of Snowdonia National Park as well as along the coast. You can take return journeys on different lines or take your bike for onwards exploring. There are also discount cards available for travel on all "Great Little Trains of Wales" and concessions for families, children, seniors and groups.
Most of the land in Snowdonia National Park is privately owned and farmed so access throughout the area is by Public Rights of Way only. However, some of the land is owned by the National Trust where there is often greater access across land. Suggested walks are available in a variety of books, websites and tourist information. You'll need to make sure you're kitted out for any eventuality especially if you're planning hikes up the mountains. Maps, waterproofs, walking boots are a minimum essential and you need to keep an eye on the time if you're planning a mountain walk.
Cyclists can use Bridleways, Roads Used as Public Paths (RUPPS) and unclassified county roads - these are shown as white roads on Ordnance Survey Maps, but, private roads are also shown in this way. There is no access to open land except where the landowner's permission has been granted. There are, however, several cycle trails such as the Mawddach Trail, an 8 mile stretch of former railway track that follows the river from Morfa Mawddach, (at the South side of the Barmouth railway bridge), up to Dolgellau.
There are great forest trails for mountain bikes, walkers and horse riding in Gwydr Forest near Llanrwst in the north and Coed y Brenin, near Dolgellau in the south of Snowdonia. More details of the cycle trails can be found on Snowdonia National Park's website. The Forestry Commission also produce maps available at the visitor centres at Gwydr Forest and Coed y Brenin.
Snowdonia has a multitude of Information Centres throughout the National Park. Their locations are helpfully pinpointed on an interactive map on the Snowdonia National Park website. You can obtain information on local events, attractions, recreational activities and public transport at all these centres as well as a small exhibition of the Park and local areas. In addition to the Information Centres there are also Information Points at some local Post Offices and shops throughout the area that provide access information and brief information on the National Park.