Pen Y Fan: A Complete Guide in Hiking Brecon’s Peak

Are you planning for a hiking adventure on Pen y Fan? With splendid mountain plateaus of grass and heather, verdurous valleys, fresh waterfalls, and a green rural woodland landscape, this mountain range lures about 350,000 climbers every year. 

So we wouldn’t be surprised if Pen y Fan caught your attention.

Pen y Fan, the highest peak of Brecon is standing proud right at the heart of the National Park. It is a popular hiking choice in the Brecon Beacons, and a well-preserved Bronze Age cairn marks its summit which seems like a coveted accolade that draws hikers to climb to the top.

But this walk requires proper preparation for you to climb its peak successfully. 

So we’re giving you a complete guide in hiking the Brecon’s highest mountain. We’ll provide you with a piece of helpful information, guides, routes and tips to achieve your goal.

But before the voyage, check the things you need to know about Pen y Fan.

Things You Need to Know About Pen Y Fan:

What does Pen y Fan mean?

Pen y Fan is a Welsh name which decodes into “the mountain’s peak” in English which perfectly fit its name for the summit.

Where is Pen y Fan?

Pen y Fan lies in the sensational Brecon Beacons National Park, south of Powys, Wales and right in the middle of Brecon Beacons at coordinates 51.88328 N, 3.43684 W. The closest town is Brecon, which has a small market town with a population of roughly 10,000. Pen y Fan and its twin summit Corn Du were formerly known as Cadair Arthur or ‘Arthur’s Seat’. A picturesque riverside village Talybont-on-Usk is accessible at the east of the mountain which makes it a perfect base in the hiking area. 

How high is Pen y Fan?

Pen y Fan boasts the tallest peak of Brecon Beacons with a height of 886m above sea level and a topographic prominence of 672m. It stands opposite to the Cribyn (795m) and adjacent to Corn Du (873m). You can tackle all three mountains for a bracing walk.

What are the tales about Pen y Fan?

Every mountain has its own tale, and for Pen y Fan, some stories might interest you before setting out your adventure. 

As stated above, the mountain’s secondary summit called Corn Du was previously named Cadair Arthur, which means ‘King Arthur’s Chair‘. No stories directly link King Arthur to the mountain, but the legend says that the people of Brecon were terrorised by a pack of pesky wild boars and Arthur helped them. After killing the pack leader, its body rolled down into a river, which is known today as Afon Twrch or  ‘river of the boar’.

Despite being accessible for all hikers, it is considered to be one of the most dangerous Wesh mountains due to its changeable weather conditions. So watch out for the weather before the walk, but it’s not something that should put you off.

Thousand of people attempt to climb Pen y Fan that its main track gained the nickname ‘the motorway’ because many climbers are passing here. But if you don’t want to be with the crowd, there are lots of routes that you can take to reach the peak of this Welsh peak that doesn’t reside on the touristy track.

Pen y Fan Hiking Routes

1. The Motorway– Walk From Storey Arms or Pont ar Daf (2 Miles – 3 Hours)

The locals call it the Motorway mainly because it is the main track and most of the hikers follow this way. It is the shortest hike that starts from Pont ar Daf car park or the Storey Arms Outdoor Centre. It is the most popular route to Pen y Fan.

It starts at around 440m up to 886m of Pen y Fan’s peak and is very manageable. It is well-worn and will take approximately 2 hours to reach the summit with few breaks, including a 20-minute lunch stop. To go back don to the car park, it will take another hour, but if you’re an adept hiker, you might arrive faster.

2. Pen Y Fan & Corn Du Circular Hike (4.5 Miles – 4 Hours)

If you want to hike Pen y Fan and Corn Du in just one day with much effort, then go with the second route.

With the height of 873 metres above the sea level, Corn Du is considered the second highest peak in South Wales right next to Pen y Fan. To summit both mountains (Pen y Fan and Corn Du), you’ll need to add another 10-15 minutes to your walk. 

However, if you want to turn it into a circular hike as opposed to walking back down the same path, you came upon, then it would take an extra 1 hour or so. 

In this route, you should follow the previous Pen y Van straight hike before reaching the peak of Corn Du and following a parallel track across the Brecon Beacons towards the Storey Arms car park, which is just a 5-minute walk from the Pont ar Daf car park.

3. Pen Y Fan, Corn Du & Cribyn Circular Hike ( 6.2 Miles – 5 Hours)

You can upgrade your hiking experience through passing three huge mountains via Pen y Fan and Corn Du circular hike mentioned above. But you need to summit Cribyn first. Cribyn has a height of 795 metres and has no accolades like the other two mountains, but it is still a notable peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park. It offers a stunning view towards Pen y Fan and other several nearby reservoirs.

It takes roughly an extra hour to summit Cribyn and then follow the track back towards the ‘Windy Pass’ and onto Pen y Fan.

It’s exhausting and challenging, but it’ll be worth it. Remember that “the best view comes after the hardest climb.” The stunning view is more than a beautiful reward.

Pen y Fan Car Park

Travelling is quite simple, with many options of parking locations available depending on the route you’re daring to take. 

Here are two parking options:

  • Pont ar Daf car park

It is the safest bet if you’re taking the south side of the mountain

  • Cwm Gwdi car park 

It is a good spot if you’re tackling the peak from the north.

Safety Tips for Your Hike:

Here are some helpful safety tips that you should consider while hiking. 

1. Wear proper walking/hiking boots. 

Even if the paths are well worn, the slopes are very challenging, so your feet (and ankles) need adequate protection.

2. Take plenty of water and food. 

The long trail takes a lot of energy, so make sure to bring enough, or safe to say, plenty of food, water and snacks.

3. Be prepared for all weathers. 

The weather might be warm on the ground as you walk, but it will be very windy once you reach the summit, so make sure that you’re wearing a jacket that’ll suit changing weather conditions. Make sure to wear protective sunscreens too, and a lip balm(for women) as the wind can make your lips dry. You don’t want to take selfies with dry lips, do you?

4. Keep your dog on the lead (especially at the top of Pen y Fan). 

National Trust does not mention specific rules about dogs, but it would be better if you keep your dog on the lead as there are steep drops on the sides. Don’t forget to get your dogs under control too, as not everyone likes dogs.

5. Park for FREE at Pont ar Daf car park or Storey Arms car park. 

Some people opt to park on the grass verges either side of the road near the Daf car park or Storey Arms car parks when it’s busy, so you take these alternatives if you need for free.

There was your guide for your Pen y Fan walk. We hope you’ll enjoy it and make it memorable.

So get your backpack ready, make everything set, and start the journey!

Pen y Fan is calling, and you must go!

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