Not every trip around Wales has to end up with you scaling the side of a colossal mountain, in fact, I often discover little valleys and hills that offer perfect views or hidden away spots that are just as amazing as the massive peaks around Snowdonia. If you fancy a walk in breathtaking surroundings with hills, woodlands and waterfalls, or maybe you want a place you can camp too, then Nantcol is a spot well worth checking out. Roughly halfway between Barmouth and Porthmadog, this is a perfect spot for a brief stop off to enjoy some scenery. The exploration at Nantcol can be split between two relaxing walks in nature that are split by a small climb; the climb has its own rewards, as it will give you the best place to enjoy the waterfall from.
You can get to the campsite by heading down back-roads out of the town of Llanbedr, the turning is here and is marked by a brown sign. Keep truckin' down the main road until you spot the next sign for Nantcol, turn across the bridge and take the immediate left (also signposted with a brown sign). The roads on approach snake around and follow the rivers and streams into the hills along fairly narrow paved tracks, take care as you make your way forwards and watch out for tractors as this road is shared with farmland. Any passengers will be able to enjoy the beautiful surroundings while you will need to stay alert! The entrance to the waterfall and campsite is clearly signposted, take the right turning and make your way down to the car park. The route here is easy enough to follow and most sat-navs should be fine finding Nantcol, just take your time on the narrow sections and you will arrive with ease. The car park is loose gravel and every time I have visited it has been unmanned, but the site owners request you use the honesty box with a small donation.
Immediately outside of the car park is the campsite itself, to the right are some calm flowing streams that splinter off from the river itself (Afon Cwmnantcol). Take a moment to have a leisurely stroll across the bridges and around the islands here, with a nice spot at the tip of the island to view to the lower waterfall - you won't be able to see the main falls from here but it is a great place to bask in some peace and quiet, if only for a moment. From this point forwards the terrain will get a little more challenging but the difficulty is worth the pay-off. Continue following the river away from the car park, over a ladder stile and to the foot of the hill. From the base of the hillside you have quite a limited view of the waterfalls but if you start taking the path upwards you will find a much better viewpoint. As with any waterfall, your experience will vary depending on recent weather conditions and this gives you a good excuse to visit multiple times to check out the difference a rainy week can make versus a drought.
The path cut into the hillside winds around until it reaches the top, where you are in a small area of stony woodlands. The path will take you out of the woods and onto a small plateau - you can follow the path of the river around from above with relative ease as the paths will remain flat for a little while. Depending on the time of year you choose to head up here the river can either be a roaring torrent in the wetter months or something a little calmer and possibly even crossable when it's drier. The river itself carves through a valley, as such it is a little difficult to see during the first part of the walk, but as you follow the river around it will eventually rise up to the same level as you where it will tumble and crash with sprays of whitewater. There are extended walks up here that will follow the river for a while before circling back via a nature walk and to the staircase from which you originally came up; none of the walks in the area will see you heading off for miles making them a perfect choice for a relaxing day out.
That just about covers it, this is a nice short walk in a spectacular setting that could be a wonderful spot to camp. Just picture waking up to the sounds of a nearby waterfall churning away, then starting your day by exploring the nearby countryside. The walks up the hillside can be a little challenging, especially on rainier days, but they are soon conquered by walkers of any experience level. Combined with its excellent location, just a stone's throw away from several popular towns including Harlech, this is a great option to be combined with a handful of other small stops to make one great day.