Waterfall Country: Your Complete Walking Guide

This picturesque Waterfall Country with steep, tree-lined gorges and abundant tumbling water lies at the southern slopes of the Fforest Fawr massif, and west of Merthyr Tydfil. It is one of the most fascinating and well-known parts of Brecon Beacons National Park and the Fforest Fawr Geopark.

So we understand if the thought of visiting Waterfall Country excites you a lot. But before you jump into your plan, it is vital to have enough information about this place to make the most out of your journey.

Here are some facts about the Waterfall Country of Brecon Beacons National Park.

Facts About the Waterfall Country:

It is located right on the south-westerly edge of Brecon Beacon National Park, within the triangle formed by three villages- the Ystradfellte, Hirwaun and Pontneddfechan.

Waterfall Country is known in Welsh as Coed-y-Rhaeadr (which means Wood of the Water)


Several waymarked trails lead through this beautiful region of the Brecon Beacons National Park, to the most dramatic waterfalls.

These trails are linear. The distances shown below are the total mileage, there and back.

Things That You Can Do at the Waterfall Country


1.) Walking
Much of Waterfall Country is open access land, which means the general public is free to explore it on foot. However, for safety reasons and to minimise erosion, please stick to the paths – there are around 25 miles of them. You can enjoy the waterfalls, streams and the woodland scenery, spot plants, insects and birds, or discover the remains of mines, quarries, kilns and a gunpowder factory with the help of our audio guides.

2.) Gorge-walking
The combination of rocky gorges and fast-flowing water makes Waterfall Country an exciting and challenging location to explore. Adventurous activities like gorge-walking should only be undertaken as part of an organised group with suitable equipment and training. Groups require permission to operate in the area and should follow a code of conduct to minimise the environmental impact of their activities. The South Wales Outdoor Activity Provider Group (www.swoapg.co.uk) can provide information.

3.)Caving
Porth-yr-Ogof cave, a single cave with over 1.5 miles of passages under the valley floor of the River Mellte, can be accessed from Cwm Porth car park, where there are basic toilets, changing facilities and a small shop selling snacks and drinks. More experienced cavers visit the Nedd Fechan caves and the silica mines near Craig-y-Ddinas.

4.) Canoeing and kayaking
The rivers in this area are accessible to all and offer some of the best whitewater canoeing in Wales. Conditions are usually graded four or grade 5 and are suitable for experienced paddlers only.

  1. ) Rock climbing
    The Dinas Rock area is one of only two areas within the Park where rock outcrops ideal for sport climbing, top-roping and bouldering are to be found. The main face of Craig-y-Ddinas in the car park is suitable for learners, and there are several bolted sports routes for more experienced climbers to be found up the Sychryd.

Trails

Walking Trails in Waterfall Country
Several waymarked trails lead through this beautiful region of the Brecon Beacons National Park, to the most dramatic waterfalls.

These trails are linear. The distances shown below are the total mileage, there and back.

Four Falls Trail
Distance: 5.5 miles
Grade: Energetic
Starting point: Gwaun Hepste or Cwm Porth car park
OS grid reference: SN935123 or SN928124
This trail leads to Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd y Pannwr and Sgwd-yr-Eira on the River Mellte in the heart of Waterfall Country.
As you approach Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, listen out for the thundering roar of the falls before you reach them.
The Elidir trail (Sgwd Gwladus Waterfall)
Distance
1.3 miles to Sgwd Gwladus, 1.2 miles to Pont Melin-Fach
Grade
Very moderate, then moderate
Starting point
Pontneddfechan Village (or Pont Melin-Fach car park, to walk the trail in reverse)
OS grid reference
SN900075 or SN907104
The entrance to a fairy kingdom is reputed to be somewhere along the Elidir Trail, which takes you upstream along the path on the right-hand side of the River Pyrddin to Sgwd Gwladus, the Lady Falls.
To continue, double back to the bridge and bear left along the banks of the Nedd Fechan to reach Sgwd-y-Bedol (the Horseshoe Falls), shaped in several levels of semi-circular ledges. A little further upstream the water cascades over Sgwd Ddwli Isaf and Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf (the Lower and Upper Gushing Falls) which after heavy rain, truly live up to their name. From here you can continue to the picnic area at Pont Melin-Fach or retrace your steps back to Pontneddfechan.


Gunpowder trail
Distance
1.5 miles
Grade
Very moderate
Starting point
Dinas Rock car park – turn right over the bridge and right again to reach a welcome panel for the trail.
OS grid reference
SN912079
In the gorge at the far end of Pontneddfechan village are the remains of the Glyn-Neath Gunpowder Works. The Powder Trail audio will take you on a fascinating journey through this historical site, discovering what life was like for the men and women who worked in the dangerous trade of gunpowder manufacture. The walk takes you through a wooded setting with the River Mellte rushing below.
As you go, look out for the purple waymarkers and numbered posts which indicate which audio track to play. Cross the bridge to return or take the spur up to the viaduct before heading back.
Sychryd trail
Distance
0.5 miles
Grade
Very moderate, easier access
Starting point
Dinas Rock car park
OS grid reference
SN912079
A stone-dust path winds its way through the narrow wooded gorge carved by the River Sychryd to the Sgydau Sychryd cascades. On the other side of the river is the spectacular rock known as Bwa Maen, an impressive geological fold which earns its name of the bow or arch rock. This trail is suitable for more robust wheelchairs and buggies.

Sgwd-yr-Eira trail
Distance
2 miles
Grade
Energetic
Starting point
Dinas Rock car park
OS grid reference
SN912079
This trail leads to Sgwd-yr-Eira, the Snow Waterfalls. The audio trail describes how this land has been used by different people, from early farmers to rock miners and climbers.
As you go, look out for the yellow waymarkers and numbered posts which indicate which audio track to play.

Waterfall Country Car Parks


Gwaun Hepste car park
From the South: From the A465 (Heads of the Valleys Road), follow the A4059 North through Penderyn. Once in open country, take the minor road on the left signposted ‘Ystradfellte’. Keep left at two junctions, following signs for Gwaun Hepste car park.

From the North: from the A470 at Beacons Reservoir, take the A4059 right and after 6.5 miles take the minor road on the right signposted ‘Ystradfellte’. Keep left at two junctions, following signs for Gwaun Hepste car park.

  • Please be aware the roads in this area are very narrow and are often single track with little visibility and few passing places. Be prepared to give way and reverse on narrow lanes.

There are other smaller car parks scattered around Waterfall Country, but they fill up very quickly at peak times.

For the Sychryd gorge, Dinas Rock and Bwa Maen follow the road through Pontneddfechan, keeping right at the road fork by the Dinas Hotel and continue past the bus turning circle and over the narrow bridge into Dinas Rock car park.

For the cave located at Porth-yr-ogof, follow advisory signs for the pay and display car park at Cwm Porth (Os grid ref SN928124). There is a basic shop open 10 am – 4 pm, seven days per week – closed Christmas day.

Safety Tips on Your Walk

Waterfall Country is a fragile landscape that can be easily damaged by the large numbers of people that visit. Follow these guidelines, and with your help, we can keep this place unspoilt
for future generations.

• Keep on the waymarked paths – they will offer you the safest route.

• If you bring it here, take it home – litter can spoil everyone’s visit.

• Watch where you step! – plants, especially mosses, are fragile and slow-growing and easily trampled.

• Fires are devastating, leave standing and fallen trees for the wildlife.
• Peace is appreciated by the residents, both people and animals.

We care about you too, so please:
Remember to wear sturdy footwear; the walking trails can be steep and slippery underfoot. Be aware of unguarded steep drops, especially when taking photos.

Don’t be tempted to swim in the water – it can be cold and fast flowing. Even the strongest swimmers have been known to get into trouble.

Mobile phone coverage is unreliable in Waterfall Country. Emergency phones and phone boxes are indicated on the map overleaf. For walking, rock climbing or caving accidents call Police on 999 or 112 and ask for Mountain Rescue.

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