Getting to Pen y Fan

Pen y Fan is one of the most popular walks in Wales. When the weather is fine, the views are truly splendid. Mile upon mile of rolling hills disappear into the distance, fringed by eons-old sheer cliffs.

Just like Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), its popularity can detract from the experience, as trails get very busy at peak times. If you're visiting in mid-summer you might want to try the nearby Black Mountains or the Cambrian Mountains - particularly if you like to walk without lots of other people around.

To get to Pen y Fan you can walk along the Beacons Way or the Taff Trail. If you prefer to cycle, you can take National Cycle Network Route 8 or the Taff Trail.

If travelling by public transport, you can take the train to Merthyr Tydfil or Abergavenny station and then take the X43 bus. Alternatively, you can take the T4 bus from Cardiff to Newtown and alight at Storey Arms.

To get to Pen y Fan by car, follow the A470 road which connects Llandudno in North Wales and Cardiff in South Wales. It passes right through Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park in Mid Wales and directly alongside the mountain.

Pen y Fan, Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park.

Parking at Pen y Fan

If travelling by car, please only park in designated parking spaces. The main car park, Pont-ar-Daf, can be found 8 miles south of Brecon on the A470. Cwm Gwdi car park, north of Pen y Fan, is much smaller and both can get very busy year-round. 

Pont-ar-Daf and Cwm Gwdi car parks are owned and operated by the National Trust and parking charges apply 24 hours a day. 

Find further information about the facilities and answers to frequently asked questions about Pont-ar-Daf car park, on the National Trust website.

How to walk up Pen y Fan

If you choose to walk any of the Pen y Fan routes, please keep to marked trails and take care - some sections are steep and the drop at the top is precipitous. 

Before heading off, check the current weather and trail situation on the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park website, or their Twitter feed @BannauB.

So 'how difficult is it to walk up Pen y Fan?' Well, it totally depends which route you choose. The good news is even active children can manage the first route - which I've called 'The gentle one'. More seasoned hikers will love the challenge of the Horseshoe Ridge.

The gentle one: Storey Arms Pen y Fan to Pont ar Daf

Length: 4 miles/6.5km

Time: Around 3-4 hours

Difficulty: Easy

The regulars call it The Motorway – but they love it all the same. The 4 mile circular walk from the Storey Arms Outdoor Centre or the nearby Pont ar Daf car park is a classic. Starting at around 440m, the climb to Pen y Fan’s 886m peak is very manageable. But there’s nothing modest about the wild, open, moorland. It takes my breath away as I stride along.

When the weather’s good, even small children can climb Pen y Fan via this route. 'We walk it several times a year,' says father-of-three Michael Rhys from Cardiff, who’s visiting with his family. 'I’ve been coming here since I was a boy. My youngest has done the whole thing twice already, and she’s only six. You could say it’s a mountain walk for softies, but if it gets kids hooked on being outdoors, that’s a very good thing.'

Read more: Big mountains suitable for children to climb

Aerial view of the green plains below from the top of Pen y Fan with blue skies.

The views from the top of Pen y Fan, Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park

The big one: the Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Taf Fechan Circular

Length: 11 miles/18.5km

Time: Around 7-8 hours

Difficulty: Hard

The name Pen y Fan roughly translates as Top Spot. That’s top as in highest, but there’s no doubt it’s inspiring in other ways. At the summit, walkers perch on the cairn to grab a selfie. The bragging rights are not to be sniffed at – this is, after all, the highest point in southern Britain, with Mid Wales swirling around it like a carpet of green.

Pen y Fan is just one of several walkable peaks and ridges in the central Beacons. By following an exhilarating 11 mile circuit from the Storey Arms, you can also take in Corn Du (873m) and Cribyn (795m). 'I wouldn’t dream of missing out on Corn Du when I’m climbing Pen y Fan,' says Darren James, a veteran walker who’s pausing for a swig of coffee on Corn Du’s crowning plateau. 'Both summits were used as burial places in the Bronze Age, so there’s something mystical about them.'

Read more: Places to walk in the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons)

Man and woman hiking on a trail with blue sky and green hills behind
Man and woman hiking on a trail with blue sky and green mountain peaks behind

Walkers on the Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Taf Fechan Circular, Mid Wales

The quiet one: the Cwm Llwch walk from Cwm Gwdi

Length: 7.5 miles/12km

Time: Around 5 hours

Difficulty: Hard

This challenging 7.5 mile climb starts north of Pen y Fan at Cwm Gwdi car park (310m) and follows an ancient track up to Cefn Cwm Llwch ridge and Pen y Fan (886m), with stunning views east over the River Nant Sere and west over Llyn Cwm Llwch.

It’s said that if you stand on Pen y Fan and look northwest, you can see all the way to Eryri (Snowdonia). Binoculars and a very clear day would probably help. But if, like me, you’re up there on a day that’s part sunny and part showery, you’re in for a different kind of treat – a perfect rainbow, nature’s cheerful bunting, hanging over the hills.

Read more: The Welsh three peaks challenge

Walkers approaching the summit of Pen y Fan, Mid Wales

The tough one: Horseshoe Ridge

Length: 10 miles/16km

Time: Around 5-6 hours

Difficulty: Hard

The last of my Pen y Fan routes is a blinder. It’s a demanding 10 mile circuit leading from the Taf Fechan Forest up to Corn Du (873m), Pen y Fan (886m), Cribyn (795m) and Fan y Big (719m), the one with the diving board rock, returning via the eastern Neuadd Valley.

Right from the start it’s impressive, with views up the valley to Pen y Fan. The steep yomp up to Craig Fan Ddu has me gasping, but it’s worth it just to admire the sweep of these mighty glacial valleys while red kites cruise overhead. I share the ridge with keen walker Marianne Bailey and her energetic labrador. 'It’s a hefty route, and it’s our favourite', she says. 'The skies are so big, they seem close enough to touch. It’s a tremendous feeling.'

Read more: Walking in Wales: Region by region

Close up of hand holding the top of a walking pole
Close up of a man's foot in a walking boot

Walking boots and poles are recommended for the tougher routes up Pen y Fan, Mid Wales

Stay safe climbing Pen y Fan

Before you head out, please read our safety advice for exploring Wales' National Parks. Here are a few other things to bear in mind:

  • Always check the forecast as the weather can change suddenly in the mountains. On hot days you’ll need sunblock and plenty of water.
  • Prepare your clothing and kit carefully. Walking boots or sturdy shoes are recommended.
  • Keep dogs on leads and always keep an eye on children - particularly at the top.
  • Adventure Smart Wales has plenty of advice on how to ‘make a good day better’, and I recommend you read it before planning your days out.
  • Traveline Cymru is a useful public transport journey planner.
  • There are a number of apps and online maps where you can to find the location of electric vehicle charging points across Wales.
  • Help Wales to become the first Refill Nation by using nearby Refill Points to fill up your water bottle before you head off. Find out more, including how to download the free Refill app on the Refill Wales website.
Pen y Fan und Corn Du, Brecon Beacons Nationalpark.

Dark skies, Pen y Fan and Corn Du in snow

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