Many of the Forestry Commission's conifer plantations in Snowdonia contain custom-made trails that have been designed to offer a variety of riding surfaces and seem to be hugely successful so far. In Snowdonia there are two big forests that have been converted for this purpose. The Gwydyr Forest that towers above Betws-y-Coed and is renowned for its range of mountain bike trails for all skill levels from forest roads and tracks to steep downhills and rocky terrain.
The Marin trail - (named after a co-sponsor) has been constructed as the principal mountain biking trail through the forest. It's 25 kilometres long and incorporates "long challenging climbs up to miles of technical single-track weaving through trees and boulders, across streams and down snaking ridge lines to get your heart and brakes pumping". For more leisurely cycle routes the forest tracks are open for you to explore at leisure. There are also nine graded walks which are pinpointed in the map-brochure produced by the Forestry Commission available from the Tourist Information Centre.
Coed y Brenin is now internationally rated as one of the world's best mountain biking destinations with nearly 100 kilometres of all weather riding. The handcrafted tracks are suitable for all skill levels from complete novice to expert. Trails include "Fun", "Sport", "Red Bull", "MBR" and "Karrimor" ranging from easy novice level 2 hour rides up to 38 kilometre 2-4 hour routes with serious climbing and descending.
You can find it slap bang in the middle of the southern part of Snowdonia National Park, north of Dolgellau. This is a huge conifer plantation includes all weather single-track and even dual slalom courses for mountain biking. A new family route has just been opened and there are also a number of waymarked all-ability and family walking trails and two running trails. Next to the brand new Visitor Centre at Dolgefeilliau is a tiered children's play area. The visitor centre also houses bike hire at Beics Brenin under the cafe, toilets, showers and a cafe.
Beddgelert is another conifer forest area with biking possibilities but not quite on the scale of these two. The terrain is ideal for all ages and abilities from children and families through to adrenaline junkies. Flat routes encompass disused railway lines and the Welsh Highland Railway line is being reinstalled so that it will pass through the forest in the future.
There are more leisurely cycle routes along the beautiful Mawddach Estuary. The Mawddach Trail follows the estuary for 15 kilometres (9 miles) from Abermaw to Dolgellau. It follows the former railway track and has now been converted into a leisure route for walkers and cyclists giving you fantastic views of the estuary. It is part of the Sustrans Cross-Wales Cycling Route - No 8. The surface is largely tarmacked so is smooth and flat so pushchairs and wheelchairs won't find problems.
The National Whitewater Centre at Bala is entirely man-made and was developed as the first commercial whitewater rafting operation in the UK in 1986. Since then it has grown to become the largest rafting organisation in the UK. The main centre has a reception, cafe and, more importantly, free hot showers! The man-made River Tryweryn is 8 kilometres of white water whose level can be altered by dam release from Llyn Celyn. However, you do need to check on the latest water release information on their website.
The lower river can be used recreational kayaking/canoeing anytime the centre is open except when competitions are on. There is a whole host of events throughout the year including canoeing/kayaking competitions that are held on the white water downstream from its dam and whitewater rafting on the two kilometre stretch of rocky steep rapids classed as a grade 3/4 (Grade 1 being gentle flowing water). You can book kayaking, canoeing and coaching courses or adventure breaks for weekends.
Lake Bala is the best place in Snowdonia for watersports as the winds howling down the mountain valley makes it great for sailing and windsurfing. Activities or equipment hire can be arranged from Bala Adventure and Watersports Centre.
Snowdonia can be as challenging as you make it. There are centres within the National Park where you can book yourself onto activities, take courses to develop your skills or book activity holidays. You can even book stag and hen weekends with a difference. The majority of the activities are rock climbing, abseiling, hill walking, mountain biking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, navigation skills, gorge walking and canyoning and near the coast - windsurfing and surfing. Plas y Brenin is probably the biggest, based in Capel Curig, but there are many more places offering activity holidays throughout Snowdonia National Park.