A hiker’s heaven in Snowdonia
I feel like I’ve stepped through the wardrobe and into Narnia as we pull up to our hotel in Betws-y-Coed, our home for the next few days.
Set on the north-eastern edge of Snowdownia National Park, the village is only 14.3 miles from Snowdon and the mountain’s peak is visible at almost every corner.
The mountains tower around us, shrouding us from the wind and creating a bubble of tranquillity. There’s no one around but us – even the Royal Oak Hotel, where we’re staying, is deserted aside from the staff.
In recent years, Snowdonia National Park has been experiencing an overcrowding problem, with approximately 600,000 people visiting every year, mostly gathering on trails to reach the summit of Snowdon.
But that shouldn’t put you off visiting, as there are still plenty of quiet areas to explore.
To help visitors find these more peaceful spots (and others across the UK’s most popular areas), AllTrails has created a downloadable app, featuring trail maps along with photos, reviews, and user recordings crowdsourced from a community of over 50 million hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers and trail runners.
Eager to see how it all works, I’ve joined a group on a mission to test the effectiveness of the app over the next few days.
AllTrails offers the standard easy/moderate/hard and distance filtering you would expect from any hiking app, but you can also filter for accessibility, child-friendliness, and what kind of views you’re after.
What I’m most interested in, however, is the ‘trail usage’ function, which allows me to filter out all the busier routes.
We dive in at the deep end with a walk to the summit of Moel Siabod, Snowdon’s neighbour. The hike is only 4.6 miles in total, but the challenge lies in the elevation. Parts of the trail are very steep and the thinner air means getting out of breath unfortunately becomes all too familiar. The hike is classified as ‘hard’ and I can definitely feel it once we reach the summit.
There’s very little noise on our way up and we see a grand total of three people along the way – surprising considering how popular Snowdonia is as a hiking destination. Instead, there are plenty of sheep, although I have no idea how they made it this far up the mountainside. They’re having a grand old time though, bleating at us as we walk by.