A Snowdonia road trip is up there with the best in the British Isles. The Snowdonia National Park has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe, from Alpine peaks to green valleys, and moorlands to amazing beaches, and there’s no better way to enjoy the best places to visit in Snowdonia than on a road trip.
We have devised four separate Snowdonia road trips, from a quick circuit of Mount Snowdon and its surrounding peaks to a full 4-day Snowdonia itinerary, exploring all areas of the National Park.
Snowdonia Road Trip – An Introduction
The Snowdonia National Park covers 823 square miles of the counties of Gwynedd and Conwy in North West Wales
You could drive from the southernmost point to the northernmost tip of the National Park in as little as two hours, but we wouldn’t recommend this as you’d be skipping many of the highlights
Snowdonia is small enough to see most of the main mountains in a day – but you’d only have time to stop, take pictures and have a meal or picnic somewhere, and won’t have time to climb any of them
Our Snowdonia routes take you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in Wales, with dramatic, rugged mountain peaks, lush green valleys and stunning glacial lakes
As well as exploring the most beautiful places to visit in Snowdonia, our full Snowdonia road trip also takes you to two of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Wales – the Castles of Edward I in Gwynedd and the Welsh Slate Landscape
The 4-day Snowdonia and North Wales road trip also takes you to some of the Snowdonia beaches along the outstanding Cardigan Bay coast
Most of the North Wales roads on our routes are classified A or B roads – and a few are narrow minor roads which are often single track, with occasional passing places
See Also: Facts About Snowdonia
Snowdonia Road Trip – Most Beautiful Places To See In Snowdonia
Our article on the best views in Snowdonia shows you 22 of the best locations on a Snowdonia trip. We recommend trying to see the following:
- Snowdon from Llynnau Mymbyr – a large roadside stop next to the Plas y Brenin Mountaineering Centre in Capel Curig with jaw-dropping views
- Tryfan and the Ogwen Valley, with a detour on foot to the gorgeous Llyn Idwal lake
- The view over Llyn Gwynant from the roadside stop on the A478, or from the lakeside a few miles further down
- The views from Cregennan Lakes (Llynnau Cregennen) – over the lakes and also over the Mawddach estuary from the hill behind the car park
- The views from the B5113 Nebo road over the eastern flank of the entire Snowdon and Carneddau ranges
- The dramatic views of the slate town of Blaenau Ffestiniog from the A470
See Also: Staycation Wales – The Best 20 Places To Staycation in Wales This Year
Snowdonia Road Trip 1 – Snowdon Circular
Time: 3 hours
This Snowdonia driving route is the shortest of our trips around the National Park, and ideal if you only have a few hours to explore the area. It’s a circuit of the Snowdon massif, starting and finishing in Llanberis, the village at the foot of Snowdon and starting point of the Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Start at Llanberis, with an immediate optional detour to the Padarn Country Park and Dolbadarn Castle, one of the smaller castles in North Wales, but dramatically sited at the foot of the Llanberis Pass.
The road, the A4086, gradually climbs between the massif of Snowdon on the right and the Glyderau on the left. Vast boulders dot the valley floor, as sheer walls rise towards the sky. Eventually you reach the car park at Pen-y-Pass, the starting point for two of the best walks up Snowdon. This car park is, more often than not, full.
Continue down the A4086 until the T-junction, where you turn left and proceed for three miles with the Mymbyr lakes soon appearing on your right. You’ll soon see a large car parking area towards the far end of the lakes – go beyond here, find a suitable spot and turn around, pulling in at the car park. From here you see the Snowdon Horseshoe, with Snowdon and its neighbouring peaks, which are sometimes reflected in the waters of the lake. Definitely one for your Wales bucket list.
Return towards Snowdon, but proceed straight ahead on the A498 rather than turning right towards the pass. You gradually move downhill, with one of the best views in Wales – of the Gwynant valley – opening up to your right. There are two viewpoints on the right as you drive down the mountain – climb the stile at the second one, and walk around 50 metres for an even better view of the valley.
The A498 runs along the shores of two of the most beautiful lakes in Wales, Llyn Gwynant and Llyn Dinas, where there are stopping points. Two miles beyond there, you reach Beddgelert, one of the prettiest villages in North Wales. It’s an ideal place for a brief stop, with Beddgelert Bistro and Antiques on one side of the river and the Tanronnen Inn, one of our favourite Snowdonia pubs, on the other.
Follow the sign for Caernarfon, and continue along the western side of Snowdon. One of the best places to pause and appreciate the North Wales scenery at the remote Llyn y Dywarchen lake, off the B4478 road to Nantlle lake.
Back on the main road, continue to Caernarfon, from where you head straight back out of town on the A4086 to Llanberis.
Snowdonia Road Trip 2 – Extended Snowdon Circuit
Time- 7-8 hours, with stops
This is one of the best road trips in Wales, an extension of the first route which includes the magical A5 run through the Ogwen Valley and across to the Isle of Anglesey, where you get to enjoy one of the best views of Snowdonia, and also the rarely-visited Nantlle Valley.
We begin in Capel Curig, visiting the large lay-by just beyond the Plas y Brenin Mountaineering Centre, where you can (weather permitting) survey the scene of the Snowdon Horseshoe, as described in our first Snowdonia drive above. Turn around here, continuing back to the junction in the village, and head left towards Bangor and Holyhead.
The A5, built by Thomas Telford, is one of the great engineering achievements of its time, and the run from Llangollen to the Menai Strait is one of the most scenic drives in Wales. The run through the Ogwen Valley is sublime, one of the most striking landscapes in Wales, with the Carneddau range on the right and Tryfan and the Glyderau on the left.
After Idwal Cottage and the visitor centre on your left, the landscape abruptly changes, as the river Ogwen flows down gentle U-shaped Nant Ffrancon towards the sea. A few minutes later you’re suddenly surrounded by slate – heaps of spoil from the nearby Penrhyn Quarry, which is part of the newly-created Wales Slate Landscape World Heritage Site. You can also take a zip-wire ride over it.
Once you’re through the village of Bethesda, keep following signs for the A5, which runs through Bangor, one of the smaller cities in Wales, turning right uphill at the station and around to the Menai Suspension Bridge, another of the works of Thomas Telford, turning left at the junction at the end of the village in the direction of Llanfair PG. Half a mile further on, you’ll come to a large parking area on the left, where you can stop and admire the Menai Suspension Bridge in all its glory, and its setting in the shadow of the Carneddau mountains.
From here, head for the A55 and Britannia Bridge, and be prepared to turn left onto the A487 to Caernarfon once you reach the mainland. Caernarfon Castle is one of the most imposing and formidable of Welsh castles, and this may be the only time you get to visit. If not, follow the A4086 out of town to Llanberis, where you follow our first Snowdonia road trip directions to the top of the Pass, down to Beddgelert and along the west side of Snowdon.
We then divert from our first Snowdonia route, turning left onto the B4478 and continuing over the pass into the Nantlle Valley. You eventually reach Llyn Nantlle Uchaf, the main lake in the valley – look back from there to Snowdon, framed by the craggy cliffs either side of the valley.
Once you leave the valley, turn right onto the A487, continue along it through Caernarfon towards Bangor – join the A55, then turn off on the A5, heading back through Bethesda and the Ogwen Valley to Capel Curig.
Snowdonia Road Trip 3 – Eastern Snowdonia and The Conwy Valley
Time: Only around 3 hours’ driving time, but with stops you could easily turn it into a full day
This short Snowdonia trip mainly follows quiet backroads, including one of the best drives in Wales, taking in one of the loveliest lakes in Snowdonia and the outstanding Conwy Castle.
We suggest Betws-y-Coed as a start and end point for this Snowdonia road trip, though other villages nearby would work just as well.
Head out of Betws-y-Coed on the A5, turning right in the direction of Llangollen. A few miles east, at Pentrefoelas, turn left onto the B5113 toward Nebo. If you’re visiting Snowdonia by car, this is an essential journey, as no public transport passes this way. The road soon reaches high ground, with views across the farm fields to the entire eastern side of Snowdonia.
It passes through the hamlet of Nebo (pronounced ‘nebbow’ in Welsh, with the ‘e’ sounded the same as in ‘net’ in English), and there’s a sizeable lay-by with a Snowdonia National Park sign just after the turn-off for the B4527. This is the best view on the whole stretch of road, with the Snowdonia peaks rising above the Gwydyr Forest below.
Turn back south along the B5113, and take the right B4527 you had just passed down to the market town of Llanrwst. Head for the river and a tea break at Tu Hwnt I’r Bont, an astonishingly picturesque tearoom next to the centuries-old stone arched bridge.
Follow the road across the valley, where you reach Gwydir Castle – if you evert wanted to stay in a Castle in Wales, there aren’t many to match this. Turn right onto the B5106, and in the village of Trefriw, take the left turn up the very steep hill, following the sign for Llyn Crafnant. The road passes farms and forest before arriving at the end of Llyn Crafnant, one of the most beautiful lakes in Snowdonia, with wonderful views to the mountains at the other end.
Return downhill to Trefriw, and take the left onto the B5106, which takes you through the lush, verdant Conwy Valley to the walled town of Conwy, one of the finest towns in Wales.
There are more than enough things to do in Conwy to warrant a stop. Conwy Castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe, the town walls offer amazing views and Plas Mawr is the best-preserved Tudor (16th century) townhouse in Britain. You could easily spend a couple of days there.
Take the second left turn after Conwy train station up Sychnant Pass Road, which is the historic main road linking London and Holyhead. It’s a steep minor road, a pass between two mountains and one of the most enjoyable North Wales scenic drives. It’s particularly beautiful in late July through to early September when the slopes are carpeted in heather.
The road continues through the village of Capelulo to the village of Penmaenmawr. You can join the main A55 North Wales Expressway there – take the right turn in the direction of Conwy and Llandudno. You soon enter the Conwy Tunnel, which takes you across the river from the town of Conwy, in the village of Llandudno Junction.
From there you can either head back to Betws-y-Coed via the A470, or cross the bridge to Conwy and return the way you came, on the B5106.
Snowdonia Road Trip 4 – The 4 Day Snowdonia Grand Tour
Day 1 – Time 6 hours
We begin in the south, on the main A470 Cardiff to North Wales road. It meets with the A458 at the Brigands Inn at Mallwyd, so if you’re travelling from London to Snowdonia, you can leave the A5 just after Shrewsbury, head across to Welshpool and on to Mallwyd to join our route here.
Take the A470 through Dinas Mawddwy and continue to the sudden climb up Bwlch yr Oerddrws – the Pass of the Cold Door – and your first sight and feel of serious mountains in Snowdonia. You emerge at the top of the Pass with a view of the east flank of Cadair Idris – turn left onto the A487, taking the right turn off this road soon afterwards to skirt Llyn Mwyngil – also known as Talyllyn Lake – on the B4405.
The Ty’n y Cornel Hotel on the far end of the lake is a great spot for a lakeside drink or lunch, before continuing to the village of Abergynolwyn. Turn right into the village, following the minor road signposted Llanfihangel-y-Pennant – this takes you two miles (3 km) past Bird Rock (Craig yr Aderyn) to the Dysynni Valley, one of the most picturesque places in Wales.
Continue along the minor road until you reach Llanegryn, where you join the A493 coast road and turn right. It runs through pretty Llwyngwril and past the turn to Fairbourne to the village of Arthog. Here, look out for a sharp right turn to Cregennan Lakes, and take it.
The road climbs through woodland and out into open country. You’ll have to get out and open and close four farm gates. You then pass a stone cottage on your left before reaching the first of the lakes. The car park is just ahead on the right.
These lakes would be the highlights of any Wales roadtrip. There are breathtaking views across them towards mighty Cadair Idris, and great walks up Bryn Brith (the rocky hill immediately to the north and between the lakes, where you’ll find an ancient standing stone. There’s also a great view over the Mawddach estuary and Barmouth from the hill just behind the toilet block in the car park.
Rejoin the minor road, turning right, continuing about a mile to a T-junction. Take the left turn here to Dolgellau, a gorgeous old town on the banks of the Mawddach. Rejoin the A470 just outside the town, turning left and northwards in the direction of Betws-y-Coed.
The road climbs through Coed y Brenin – the King’s Forest – before reaching a flat stretch running alongside Llyn Trawsfynydd, which has great views to the remote Rhinog range. It then drops down into Llan Ffestiniog, before the climb to Blaenau Ffestiniog, the remarkable slate quarrying town surrounded by mountains, some of which are giant tips of slate waste. It’s one of the most arresting sights in Wales, and you won’t encounter anything quite like it on any other road trip in Wales.
You then climb north out of Blaenau on the Crimea Pass, resuming your Snowdonia scenic drive with the imposing sight of the peak of Moel Siabod before you. The road descends into the Lledr valley, one of the least-explored parts of Snowdonia, passing the lonely battlemented tower of Dolwyddelan Castle on your left.
A few miles ahead, the A470 briefly merges with the A5, before you turn left into Betws-y-Coed, one of the best places to stay in Snowdonia. Our article on things to do in Betws-y-Coed gives you the full lowdown.
Day 2 – Time – 3-4 hours driving, but easily a full day with stops
The second day of our suggested Snowdonia road trip is largely the same as our third Snowdonia day trip above, sticking to the eastern part of Snowdonia and the Conwy Valley. However you will need to put in a longer day to fit everything in.
The only detour I’d suggest is to Bodnant Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK. It’s on the higher slopes of the eastern side of the Conwy Valley, with great views across to the Carneddau mountains.
It’s open from spring to autumn, and the best time to visit is between mid-May and early June when the rhododendrons, camellias and laburnum arch are in flower.
Day 3 – Time 8 hours
This day follows a similar route to our Snowdonia Road Trip 2 route, with an optional extension to the south.
Starting out at Betws-y-Coed, drive up the A5 past the most famous of Snowdonia waterfalls, Swallow Falls, where you can pay a small fee to watch the deafening roar of the Afon Llugwy hurtling down towards Betws. Continue from there to the long, strung-out village of Capel Curig, turning left onto the A4086, continuing to the viewpoint next to Plas Y Brenin over Llynnau Mymbyr lakes and Snowdon – the starting point of our second Snowdonia road trip.
Backtrack from there to the junction with the A5, and follow the route described through the Ogwen Valley, Bethesda, Bangor, across to Anglesey and down the Menai Strait to Caernarfon and inland to Llanberis. Then continue with this itinerary as far as Beddgelert where, instead of turning right, you take the left turn on the A498 towards Porthmadog as far as the village of Tremadog, where you turn left onto the A487.
You could continue along the A487 Porthmadog bypass, but we suggest taking the next right into the town, continuing the length of Porthmadog High Street and driving across the Cob, the causeway across the Glaslyn estuary. The passengers will get a stunning view out of the left windows of the southern aspect of Snowdonia.
Continue beyond the Cob towards the village of Minffordd, where you have the option of a detour (right, a 5-minute drive) to the picturesque Italianate village of Portmeirion, which would detain you for a couple of hours or so).
Rejoin – or continue along – the A487 as far as the Oakeley Arms just before the village of Maentwrog. Shortly after the Oakeley Arms, take the left A496 turn to Blaenau Ffestiniog, before joining the A470 for the 10-mile run back to Betws-y-Coed.
Day 4 – Time 6-8 hours, possibly more depending on stops
This part of our Snowdonia road trip takes you onto some of the lesser-known parts of Snowdonia, to the shore of the largest lake in Wales, before a run along the sublime Mawddach estuary and up the coast to Harlech Castle.
Leave Betws-y-Coed, taking the A470 through Blaenau Ffestiniog. Continue until just before Llan Ffestiniog, and take the left turn onto the B4391. This is one of the most underrated scenic drives in Snowdonia, passing through dramatic Cwm Cynfal and some wild country before meeting the A4212, where you turn left towards Bala.
The reservoir on your right, Llyn Celyn, was created in 1965 to supply water to the English city of Liverpool. In order to create the reservoir, the village of Capel Celyn had to be flooded, causing a furore among the Welsh which has never quite subsided. Capel Celyn, in what was then the Tryweryn valley, has been a rallying point for many Welsh people since then, and the most famous graffiti in Wales, a few miles south of Aberystwyth, simply says,”Cofiwch Dryweryn” – Remember Tryweryn.
The A4212 reaches Bala, where you arrive at a T-junction and turn right. Bala is a pleasant small town on the shore of Llyn Tegid, Bala Lake in English. It’s very popular with watersports enthusiasts, and a narrow-gauge railway runs along its southern shore. Continue along the northern shore of the lake on the A494 until you reach the A470 outside Dolgellau. Turn right there, then left onto the A496 to Barmouth.
Our things to do in Barmouth article gives you much more detail on this charming seaside town and Mawddach estuary walks. Its beach is one of the best in Mid Wales, and the views across the river to Cadair Idris are unforgettable. Barmouth makes a great base for exploring southern Snowdonia and the Cambrian Coast, with many Snowdonia attractions around an hour away by car.
One of these is the splendid Harlech Castle, one of the four castles of Edward I that make up Wales’ first World Heritage Site. It sits on what was a sea cliff – the sea has retreated around a mile over the 740 years since it was built – and commands amazing views over the vast sand dunes to the Snowdon range.
Back at sea level, the A496 takes you all the way back to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where you join the A470 back to Betws-y-Coed.