The Best Routes For Walking Pen Y Fan

Pen y Fan is the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons. The mountain stands at 886m in height, making it a fairly straightforward walk, depending on how you approach it. There are Pen y Fan walks to suit most levels of fitness — but keep in mind that weather conditions can be very changeable, and you should always go well prepared.

We’ve outlined some of the best Pen y Fan walking routes below, plus some tips for walking in the Brecon Beacons.

Pen y Fan, by @edmaughan

Pen y Fan Walks

There are many different routes up Pen y Fan — so the age-old question of ‘how long does it take to climb Pen y Fan?’ really depends on the adventure you choose. The shorter walks can have you up on the peak in around an hour — or take a full day to explore some of the lesser-known patches of this stunning part of Wales.

The Classic: Pont ar Daf Route

Time: 2-3 hours return Distance: 3 miles

The route up from the Pont ar Daf car park is straightforward for anyone with a good base level of fitness. Children will be able to conquer this route with relative ease (in good weather!) There’s a reason locals call this route ‘the motorway’; on weekends and during the school holidays it will be very busy.

The path starts at the car park and follows a well-formed path to the peak of Pen y Fan. Fit walkers should reach the summit in around an hour. There’s a simple detour over the top of Corn Du if you want to take in another peak. If you want to mix things up a little, you can start or finish at the Storey Arms Centre.

You can see the route in more detail on the National Trust website here.

The Horseshoe Ridge Walk

Time: 5-6 hours Distance: 10 miles

Looking back to Cribyn from Corn Du
Looking back to Cribyn from Corn Du, by @edmaughan

For the more experienced hiker, the Horseshoe Ridge Walks is a great day out in the Brecon Beacons. Taking in four of the central Beacons most stunning summits in Corn Du (873m), Pen y Fan (886m), Cribyn (795m) and Fan y Big (719m) it’s a great way to explore the area.

The walk starts from the Taf Fechan Forestry car park to the south of the mountains. From there you’ll head north and follow the ridgeline around the peaks, before looping back to where you started. On a clear day you’ll have some of the best views in the Brecon Beacons all day long.

More info on the Horseshoe Ridge Walk route can be found here. You can also take on a version of this route starting at Pont ar Daf – more info here.

The Cwm Gwdi Approach, via Llyn Cwm Llwch

Time: 5 hours Distance: 8 miles

Starting at the Cwm Gwdi car park, this route is a personal favourite. It’s more challenging than the Pont ar Daf/ Storey Arms routes and is often much quieter.

Pen y Fan Loop Map
Credit: National Trust

For an alternate version, you can also start in the next valley over beneath Llyn Cwm Llwch and the Nant Cwm Llwch car park. This route follows the river up from the car park, before emerging out onto the hillside beneath Llyn Cwm Llwch. The beautiful tarn lake is a great place to stop for a snack before the climb really begins. It’s a steeper climb than most other routes onto the ridge beneath Corn Du, but you can take a pit stop at the Tommy Jones memorial. You can then follow the track back to Cwm Gwdi.

You can check out the full Pen y Fan loop walk here.

Looking up to Pen y Fan from Nant Cwm Llwch
Looking up to Pen y Fan fromNant Cwm Llwch, by@edmaughan

Alternate routes up Pen y Fan

The above routes are just three of the many ways you can take on the Beacon’s highest peak. There are countless access points to the central Beacons area. We’d recommend taking a look at the map and peaks you’d like to conquer. Including some of the other peaks in your hike is relatively straightforward, either as loop or point-to-point walk.

Check out the likes of AllTrails or the OS Maps apps for inspiration!

Planning for a walk up Pen y Fan

Despite the relative ease of some of the routes up Pen y Fan, it is still a mountain and you should always go prepared. That means packing the right kit, wearing the right clothes and making sure you know how to navigate out in the mountains should the weather change.

Here are a few frequently asked questions:

How long does it take to walk up Pen y Fan?

That depends entirely on the route you choose to take. It can take as little as an hour from Pont ar Daf providing you have a good level of fitness.

What should I wear to walk up Pen y Fan?

The weather in the Brecon Beacons can be changeable at all times of year. Make sure you take warm clothes and waterproofs. Good quality walking shoes or boots are recommended.

What’s the best Pen y Fan walk?

That depends on what you want to get out of your walk! If you’re after a longer walk then there are plenty of great routes in the area, if you want something straightforward, then the Pont ar Daf route is a great introduction to hillwalking.

What’s the best time of year to climb Pen y Fan?

Pen y Fan can be walked all year round, but beware of highly changeable weather outside of the summer months. There is often snow on Pen y Fan in the winter months, and if you plan to climb during the winter then you need to be an experienced hiker with suitable equipment.

Is Pen y Fan a mountain?

Yes! The definition of a mountain in the UK is any peak over 610 metres, making Pen y Fan a mountain.

Staying safe in the Brecon Beacons

Always ensure that you check the weather before heading into the hills. You’ll need good quality gear to protect yourself from the cold, and plenty of water on warmer days. It’s also important to pre-plan your route and have a contingency plan should the weather change. Our guide to hiking solo is a great resource if you’re just starting out on your hiking adventure.

And finally, as with any mountain adventure, always make sure you let someone know where you’re heading and what time you’ll be back. That means if the worst happens and you do get into difficulty on the hills they can raise the alarm.

You can read more about staying safe in the Brecon Beacons here.


Written by Ed Maughan

Date: 07th December 2021

  • Adventure in Wales
  • Brecon Beacons
  • Trails & Hikes