Explore Clocaenog Forest in North Wales

Written by Shayle Follows

Clocaenog Forest is sometimes overlooked in North Wales, with Moel Famau and Loggerheads attracting the crowds. Here’s how to explore the beautiful Clocaenog Forest and why you should visit.

Clocaenog Forest is situated in the Mynydd Hiraethog and spans over 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres). Initially established in the 1930s by the Forestry Commission, it is a working forest that provides a natural habitat for various wildlife species. You can spot red squirrels and black grouse, as well as several bird of prey species. The forest boasts many quiet roads and car parks, making it ideal for family cycling, walking, and horse riding. Here’s how you can explore Clocaenog Forest in North Wales.

The History of Clocaenog Forest

Clocaenog Forest in North Wales sunlight through trees.

The local village of Clocaenog, located just outside Ruthin in North Wales, lends its name to the beautiful Clocaenog Forest. This forest is part of the larger Hiraethog Forest. Pincyn Llys boasts a grand monument at its highest point that was put up by Lord Bagot in 1830 to commemorate the planting of a conifer forest. Unfortunately, the forest was cut down during the First World War and used to form trenches and mines. However, it was later replanted in the 1930s and remains a beautiful place to explore.

Walking trails from Bod Petryal

Walking trails map from Bod Petryal.

We participated in a mixture of the Keeper’s Stroll and Animal Discovery Trail, a perfect way to explore the area on a winter’s day with children. In winter, we found the woodland beautifully haunting!

We participated in a mixture of the Keeper's Stroll and Animal Discovery Trail.

Keeper’s Stroll

Easy route | ½ mile/1 km | Takes 30 minutes

This walk takes you on a brief stroll through huge trees, past the former gamekeeper’s dwelling, and the lake.

Animal Discovery Trail

Easy route | ½ mile/1 km | Takes 20 minutes

The Animal Discovery Trail follows the same path as the Keeper’s Stroll, with the added challenge of finding hidden animals in the woods using clues in the trail leaflet designed for children. We took the Animal Discovery Trail with our little one, and he loved it! It was such an easy way to enjoy the forest with children. Plus, you can extend the route if you’d like to.

Bod Petryal Trot

Easy route | 2 miles/3.3 km | Takes 1 hour on horse, 1¼ hours walking, 20 minute cycle

Cyclists, horseriders, and walkers alike are welcome to explore this trail. The route winds through the forest on forest roads and is perfect for families. Remember to watch for woodpeckers!

Can you take part in Mountain Biking at Clocaenog Forest?

Mountain Biking at Clocaenog Forest.

Yes, the mountain bike trails here are marked from beginning to end and are categorised according to difficulty. When starting a trail, please take a moment to read the information panel. Always consider the inherent risks associated with this activity and follow the Forest Cycle Code to minimise any potential dangers.

You can find a list of mountain bike trails in the area and further information to plan your ride here.

Wildlife at Clocaenog Forest

Looking for Wildlife at Clocaenog Forest.

The trees planted in the 1930s didn’t become a food source for the red squirrels until 1950. The forest, which has matured and has a rich variety of food sources available year-round, is an excellent advantage to the red squirrels. Additionally, Clocaenog Forest is a natural habitat for various wildlife, including European Protected Species (EPS), like the hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), and several bat species.

Squirrel feeders are strategically placed in areas that are difficult for aerial predators due to the presence of buzzards, sparrowhawks, and occasional sightings of goshawks in the forest. During the spring, visitors to the forest can enjoy the company of wood warblers, willow warblers, chiffchaffs, redstarts, and other spring migrants. In the autumn, the forest is home to bramblings, fieldfares, redwings, and other migratory species. At dusk, nightjars can be heard and seen in clearings as they hunt for moths and other insects. The forest boasts a diverse range of bird species, including tawny owls, crossbills, and a variety of songbirds that can be found year-round.

Where to park and explore Clocaenog Forest

Bod Petryal is Welsh for "rectangular dwelling," named after the former gamekeeper's cottage.

We parked at Bod Petryal, just one of Clocaenog Forest’s several car parks. This spot sits by a pretty lakeside, with picnic spots, a short walking trail and a cycling path, making it the perfect place to begin your journey into the forest. Bod Petryal is Welsh for “rectangular dwelling,” named after the former gamekeeper’s cottage once part of the Pool Park Estate.

Location: B5105, Corwen LL21 9PR

Aside from Bod Petryal, other Natural Resources Wales car parks in Clocaenog Forest also serve as starting points for trails. 

  • Boncyn Foel Bach – This is a lovely spot that has a picnic area and a short trail through the woods.
  • Coed y Fron Wyllt – An ancient woodland area with a riverside walk and a wildlife-viewing hide. It is a lovely spot if you are interested in observing and appreciating the local wildlife.
  • Pincyn Llys – Here, there is a short uphill walk that leads to a monument with breathtaking views.
  • Pool Park – Perfect for an easy woodland short walk.
  • Rhyd y Gaseg – Visitors can take a short walk through the woodland to reach a beautiful waterfall from here.

The “Clocaenog Forest Man”

The victim of a murder case, known as the “Clocaenog Forest Man,” was discovered in November 2015 after having gone unnoticed for over two decades. In 2017, serial killer Peter Moore contacted the police, claiming to know the identity of the victim. However, the police dismissed his claims as the dates did not align with the evidence. You can find more information on the police investigation and intriguing discoveries here.

Trees looking up.

In another case, Richard Sumner an artist, handcuffed himself to a tree and discarded the key, leading to his death in 2005. Evidence indicates that Mr. Sumner was a talented and intelligent individual who was frustrated with his illness and did not want to be a burden. According to his sister, he had expressed suicidal thoughts in the past and had attempted to take his own life on three occasions. She testified in court that he had gone deep into the woods intending to end his life but hoped that his remains would not be discovered to avoid upsetting those who found him. You can read more about this case here.

Stay at Parc Pen Bryn Campsite

Stay at Parc Pen Bryn Campsite.

We stayed at Parc Pen Bryn Campsite, a fantastic base for exploring the forest. ‘ Pen Y Bryn’ translates to ‘top of the hill’ in Welsh. The owners are incredibly welcoming and went out of their way to ensure that we had a lovely stay. The campsite feels open and spacious, with plenty of pitches allowing families, couples, and dogs to explore and roam freely.

Stay at Parc Pen Bryn Campsite Fire Pit.

If you don’t have your own accommodation, don’t worry. The site has several wooden cabins, each with a double bed, sofa bed, TV, kitchenette, and an outdoor decking area with chairs and a fire pit for cooking outdoors. The on-site facilities, including a shower and toilet block, are well-maintained, and there’s a communal kitchen available for food preparation and washing up. There’s also a small wooded area and field to exercise your furry friend and picnic benches dotted around the site.

A few places to visit nearby

Bala Lake Paddle Boarding.

Try watersports at Bala Lake 

Bala Lake is just roughly 35 minutes from Clocaenog Forest. It’s located southwest of the small town of Bala and is known as Llyn Tegid, which translates to ‘Lake of Serenity’ in English. Bala Lake is one of our favourite paddle boarding spots. The lake is between the Berwyn, Aran, and Arenig mountains and Wales’ largest natural lake, measuring almost four miles long, up to ¾ of a mile wide and 42 metres deep in parts. It’s a popular spot for watersports, especially during the warmer months.

Location: Llyn Tegid

Hike Moel Famau.

Hike Moel Famau

Just 45 minutes from Clocaenog Forest is Moel Famau, which means ‘Mother Mountain’ in Welsh. It is the highest summit in the Clwydian Range at 554m (1818ft). It allows you to experience breathtaking views across the Vale of Clwyd to Snowdonia and the North Wales coast. One of the best ways to reach Moel Famau is via Offa’s Dyke National Trail. At the top, you’ll find the Jubilee Tower, an iconic landmark visible for miles around.

Approximately 200,000 people visit Moel Famau Country Park annually! So the trail can get busy at peak times. Follow our Loggerheads and Moel Famau Circular Walk.

Location: Moel Famau Car Park

Jump on a steam train at Llangollen

Jump on a steam train at Llangollen

Llangollen Railway is just 45 minutes from Clocaenog Forest and is a beautiful Heritage Railway Line stretching 10 miles from Llangollen to Corwen. It follows the River Dee through the Dee Valley. The railway was started in 1975 by a group of enthusiasts who created a scenic heritage line through the Dee Valley. Five stations are along the line and are of a typical Victorian design and recreated in a 1950s Great Western colour scheme. You can stop at one of the stations and go for a stroll. Or visit one of the tea rooms for a refreshing drink and maybe a piece of cake. Whether you want to spend an entire day or just a few hours, there is lots to see and do at Llangollen and Llangollen Railway.

Location: Llangollen Railway

In the woods.

Overall, Clocaenog Forest in North Wales offers a beautiful setting for those exploring the outdoors. Whether hiking, cycling, or simply enjoying a picnic, Clocaenog Forest is a lovely place to reconnect with nature.

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