Volcano trail Coed y Brenin


Discover an ancient volcano plus much more

A hike of enormous diversity, the Volcano Trail at Coed y Brenin features woodland paths, mountain views and pretty cascades. The official guide states that this 11km route is a strenuous walk but it really isn’t! The first 6km of the trail are mostly uphill but the only steep section is the final ascent to Moel Hafod Owen and that is a short climb.

This is a walk which really has it all! There’s a dramatic gorge, wonderful woodland, amazing vistas across Snowdonia and much more. You walk across the site of an ancient volcano’s magma chamber, hence the name of the trail, and you can see all the way to Cader Idris from the highest point of the walk. The route is clearly marked throughout and so it is impossible to get lost and there’s something interesting around every turn.

This is a great walk for dogs. There’s plenty of interesting terrain for them to explore and no livestock. However, the route is crossed at several points by mountain bike trails and so bikers can appear suddenly and they are often travelling at speed. Listen out for the bikes and try to prevent your dog from causing an accident!

Duration: 4 hours from the car park to the summit and back including a stop for lunch.

Terrain: Woodland paths, gravel paths and woodland roads.

Volcano Trail Coed y Brenin

Starting Out

The trail begins at the Pont Cae’n y Coed  car park in Coed y brenin Forest Park. The start of the route is clearly signposted and you should follow the orange waymarkers throughout. Shortly after leaving the car park, you cross a small bridge over a dramatic gorge. Once over the bridge, turn left and follow the road until a waymarker directs you up and to your right.

The trail wends its way up the mountainside past a copper bog, pleasant woodland and open areas which afford lovely views across the valley. The climb isn’t a steep one and there is much to take in as you go. The trail continues upwards until you see a waymarker directing you left and into woodland. The path through the trees takes you down to a lower elevation before you begin to climb once more.

Sign for the Volcano trail
Moel Hafod Owen

The Volcano and the summit

When you emerge from the woodland, turn left and after a short distance you will see an information board. This explains that you are standing on the site of what was once the magma chamber of a volcano. It’s hard to imagine that a huge volcanic eruption devastated the landscape here but a section of exposed igneous rock next to the information board hints at the dramatic events which took place.

After contemplating past events, continue along the trail which climbs upwards again. You will be walking on the forest road until you reach a waymarker directing you to the left and into another area of woodland. The path becomes steeper and narrower here. When you reach a small stream tumbling down the mountain, you have arrived at the foot of the steepest section of the trail. There are steps to help you on your way and it only takes a few minutes to reach the highest point of the walk, Moel Hafod Owen, from where there are incredible views across the mountains.

Admire the views

After walking up all of those steps, you might want to take a seat on the bench at Moel Hafod Owen for a few minutes. There’s another information board next to the bench which provides useful information about the geology of the region and the mountains that you can see in the distance. One of these peaks is the mighty Cader Idris.

From Moel Hafod Owen, the trail descends via the road for a short distance before you enter a pine forest which is notable for being very dark! There’s a pretty spot by a small stream if you are looking for somewhere to linger for a while. After short walk in the forest, you rejoin the network of forest roads and footpaths, continuing downwards.

Volcano Trail Coed y Brenin

The last leg

The last leg of the journey takes you along forest roads and through the trees with mountain bike trails crossing your path. You will pass a small but very pretty waterfall on the way.  You will also see the fifth and final information board on the trail which will be of particular interest to geology buffs. This board tells you all about iron pyrite and what happens when it is exposed to the air as a result of mining operations.

Eventually, you will find yourself back on the road which leads you to the bridge over the gorge. It’s worth stopping to admire the white water beneath as you cross the bridge. You are now back at the car park, probably feeling quite tired! If you have the time,  drop by the Coed y Brenin visitor centre on the A470 on your way back. There’s a cafe and toilets at the centre but you have to pay to park.

Volcano Trail Coed y Brenin


From the Woollen Mill, head for the A487 and travel south towards Porthmadog. After passing Porthmadog, you will drive under a metal bridge and then arrive at a roundabout. Turn left at the roundabout towards Penryhndeudraeth (A487). Keep on this road which becomes the A470. You will eventually pass the sign for the Coed Y Brenin visitor centre. Ignore this and continue to the village of Ganllwyd. Just before the village, turn sharp left immediately after the 30mph speed limit sign. Follow the road over the bridge and up into the forest. Park in the Pont Cae’n y Coed car park. There is no charge for parking.