Are you planning a trip to Hafren Forest in Mid Wales and wondering what to do on your trip?
There are plenty of outdoor activities and other things to do in Mid Wales, including the beautiful Hafren Forest and its surrounding area, so you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Hafren Forest might be overlooked when visiting Wales.
It is a lot quieter than the three more popular National Parks in Wales – Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast. But that doesn’t mean that Hafren Forest in Mid Wales doesn’t have a lot to offer.
After my four day trip, I realised that I needed much longer to explore the stunning area. From hiking in the Cambrian Mountains to the beautiful forest trails, there’s something for everyone.
If you love the outdoors then check out these awesome things to do in Mid Wales on your visit.
Go hiking in Hafren Forest
You all know I love my hiking and you won’t be disappointed here. Whilst I was visiting, I did a couple of hikes in and around Hafren Forest but there are plenty more hiking trails that I could have done.
Here is a mix of the shorter trails, day hikes and the long-distance walks in the area.
1. Hiking to the source of the Severn
Hiking distance: 7 miles/ 11 km
Time: 3-4 hours
Start: Hafren Forest Car Park (nearest Sat Nav SY18 6PT)
Hiking to the source of the River Severn was a first for me. I’ve walked next to a lot of rivers, even swam and done white-water rafting down a few.
But this was my first hike to the river source! Hiking to the source of the River Severn is the beginning of UK’s longest riverside walk, it winds all the way down through Wales and finishes in Bristol.
If I am totally honest the actual source of the Severn is a bit of an anti-climax. I’m not 100% sure what I was expecting but the walk is beautiful and there are some stunning views along the way.
2. Pen Pumlumon Arwystli (the Highest mountain in mid-Wales)
Hiking distance: 3 miles/ 5 km (Extra route on the ‘Source of the Severn’ hike above)
Time: 1-1.5 hours
If you fancy an extra challenge on your day hike to the Source of the Severn then via the circular route on the way back you can hike the 3 miles up and down Pen Pumlumon.
This is the highest mountain in Mid Wales and part of the Cambrian Mountains.
For some reason, the Cambrian Mountains are often overlooked by visitors to Wales (as I was informed by the locals). Although, I do believe them as the entire day I was the only person hiking!
It’s a steep climb up to the summit at 741 m/ 2,431 ft but on a clear day, you have some gorgeous views. I was lucky enough to have clear skies 360 degrees around.
At the top there are a couple of cairns which act as mini wind shelters, there is no overhead cover but on a windy day sit down and you’ll soon get shelter.
3. Severn Breaks-its-neck Trail
Hiking distance: 1.5 miles/ 2.5 km
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Start: Hafren Forest Car Park (nearest Sat Nav SY18 6PT)
This walk is perfect for all levels.
Just over an hour’s hike (longer if you stop for ages photographing the waterfall), it takes you on a track alongside the river and back around the forest.
The path is well-defined in most places, apart from a few boggy sections which now have boardwalks along most of it. If it’s been raining heavily then you might get a bit muddy walking in the first section.
The walk talks you down to a small wooden bridge with a small, yet powerful waterfall and back around in a loop through Hafren Forest.
There are a few steps at the start, then a couple of short gradual uphill sections but the path is mostly flat and easy for everyone.
4. Wye Valley trail
Hafren Forest is the end of this trail (or beginning depending on which way you want to walk).
It’s a long-distance trail starting at the Marker Stones at Chepstow Castle and finishing at Rhyd-y-benwch car park, Hafren Forest.
It goes from Hafren Forest car park, the same starting point as the walks above so you can at least say you’ve done a small section of the walk, even if you don’t have time to complete it in full!
*Please note my leaflet on trails in Hafren Forest states this walk is 210 miles/ 338 km, but the website below suggests differently. Send me a message if you know the right answer! #confused (Thanks to Stewart, apparently the 210 miles is the River Severn path that starts in the same place)
Read more about the Wye Valley Trail here.
5. Glyndwr’s Way hike
Hiking distance: 135 miles/ 217 km
Time: 7 days (average)
Another long-distance walk is Glyndwr’s Way National Trail, the route goes straight past Hafren Bunkhouse so a great place to base yourself for the night.
Darren and Sarah (who run Hafren Bunkhouse) volunteer to look after a section of this trail so they have great knowledge of the route (well the 12 miles that they look after!)
The trail winds through the woods and also along the reservoir so you can either pick a few short day walks whilst you are in the area or go for the ultimate challenge!
Find out more about the full National trail here.
6. Cadair Idris Mountain
Hiking distance: 6 miles/ 10 km
Time: 4-6 hours
A short drive from Hafren Forest and you’re in south Snowdonia National Park.
Yes, I know this post says this to do in Mid Wales but during my visit, I wanted to hike Cadair Idris as it was only a short distance away.
It is less than an hour’s drive from Hafren Forest Bunkhouse and a hike I’d wanted to do for a while.
Plus it is a gorgeous hike so I wanted to share it with you.
You can read my full post on my hike here – Cadair Idris hike in Snowdonia
Drive around Clywedog Reservoir
The nearby reservoir is huge and provides water to many parts of England and Wales. It sits beautifully within the roaming hills surrounding the area and has some great vantage points across the whole reservoir.
From Hafren Forest Bunkhouse it’s a 16.5-mile loop around the reservoir, stopping off along the way at various places.
To drive around without stopping it’s about 40 minutes but there are plenty of places to stop, enjoy the view and even have a picnic so you can make a half-day out of exploring.
The first stop (if you are driving around the reservoir anti-clockwise) is the Clywedog Trout Fishery. I’ve never tried fishing myself but if you fancy giving it a go this looks like it would be interesting to try.
Day permits cost £21
For more information go to Clywedog Trout Fishing
Clywedog Sailing Club
This is a member sailing club but they also have day options if you are visiting for a short period. You can rent a kayak or small boat to enjoy the reservoir from a different angle.
Unfortunately, the Sailing Club doesn’t open until the beginning of April so I missed out on trying the water-based activities but I can imagine it’s a wonderful way to explore the area.
Stop off at Clywedog Dam
Built in the 1960s to help control the floodwaters from the River Severn. You can drive up close above the dam for stunning views of the Clywedog Reservoir and the amazing structure of Clyweedog Dam.
It amazing me how it holds all that water in!
Look down to your right and you will see the remains of Bryntail Lead Mine (detailed below)
Visit Bryntail Lead mine (or the remains of!)
There’s a small car park and you are free to go and wander around the remains of Bryntail Lead Mine.
The mine dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, there are a few signs which explain a little bit more about how it all works!
Stop off at the best viewpoint
Continue your drive around the reservoir and you’ll come across the best viewpoint. There’s a small layby, but after that, there’s a larger car park so you can stop and enjoy the views.
A few people I saw had parked up and were overlooking the scenery from the warmth of their cars with a flask of tea!
Also, watch out for birds of prey, I spotted a kestrel whilst enjoying the view so a double bonus!
Read next: Best Places to Visit in Wales
Go Cycling in and around Hafren Forest
There are plenty of biking-related activities for those who love exploring places on two wheels. Whilst driving around Clywedog Reservoir I saw a man on a road bike flying down the hills and battling up the hills (12% gradient – that’s steep!)
This 16-mile loop would be a great day out and there are plenty of picnic spots on the way around.
Hafren Forest Trails
Also whilst hiking in Hafren Forest I noticed there are plenty of trails perfect if you love mountain biking. I can imagine this is a great place to go biking with the forests around you.
National Route No. 8
The 257-mile National route 8 runs from Cardiff to Holyhead and is known as one of the toughest cycle routes. These National Trails are great, as they are well signposted throughout the route.
The No. 8 section runs very close to Hafren Forest Bunkhouse so a good place to rest for the night before continuing your journey.
You can read more about the National trail No. 8 here
If you love even more adventure, like me, then read these cool and unique things to do in Wales.
Explore the local town Llanidloes
About a 9-mile drive (or cycle ride) you have the quaint town of Llanidloes. It won’t take you long to explore the cute streets of this town but there’s a nice walk down by the river or you can simply stop and relax at one of the many coffee shops.
I tried out a hot chocolate and the Lemon and Poppy cake at The Great Oak cafe which I can highly recommend if you want to treat yourself.
The cafe caters for Vegan and Vegetarian and has a lovely relaxed mood inside, in fact, I sat in there for quite a while people watching!
Also if you’re staying in Hafren Forest this is one of the nearest locations with food shops and fuel.
Wildlife spotting in Hafren Forest
Hafren Forest is a great place for birdwatchers. Even whilst staying at Hafren Forest Bunkhouse I saw many different species whilst just washing my dishes at the kitchen sink!
Several Great-spotted Woodpeckers live nearby, along with smaller birds like the Great-Tit, Chaffinch and Robin.
The area is also common with birds of prey. I saw a Red Kite fly directly above the Bunkhouse one day and also whilst driving in the area saw Buzzard catching prey and kestrels flying above the huge reservoir.
One bird that returns to the area from the end of March to the end of the August to nest is the Osprey. Many of these birds have microchips so can be traced when they return to the area.
On the day I was leaving there was news that one of the Ospreys was back in the area but I missed seeing him.
- The nesting area is protected so bring your binoculars for an up-close experience.
Where to Stay in Hafren Forest
(Once accommodation is open again it would be great to support these small independent businesses)
Hafren Forest Bunkhouse is where I stayed in a place called Staylittle.
- A perfect place for families, groups and solo travellers.
- Prices from £20 per night.
- Luxury accommodation in Staylittle. Single and double rooms available.
- Prices from £60 per night.
- 4-star accommodation in Llanbrynmair, about 3 miles from Staylittle.
- Prices from £85 per night
Are you planning a trip to Hafren Forest or would you like to know more about the things to do in Mid Wales?
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