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Climbing Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons National Park is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes that represents the iconic Welsh countryside. If you only have a short time in Wales, climbing Pen y Fan is one of the activities that needs to be ticked off the bucket list. The views ooze beauty and magnificence! When better to write this blog than after a 3 hour round trip of Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn, the 3 tallest mountain peaks in this area of the Brecon Beacons! Let’s break it down below:

Pen y Fan

This popular mountain stands at 886m, the tallest in the Brecon Beacons and in South Wales. There are various translations for Pen y Fan but the most fitting would be the ‘Beacon’s summit’. Once you reach the top you will understand this name, it is breathtaking, especially on a clear day.  It is also high enough to sometimes be above the clouds when you reach the top. This is a particularly special experience.

Pen y fan

Trails and footpaths are well marked and if you’re walking on a weekend, follow the sea of people who will be climbing with you. Due to its popularity and the estimated 250,000 pairs of feet that make the trek annually, the footpaths are maintained by the National Trust. 

When climbing Pen y Fan don’t be fooled, you must take precautions! The weather can swoop in very quickly, as is the case on any mountain. We have witnessed the change! From blue skies to torrential down pours within an hours walk. It is also a lot windier at the top of the mountain than in the car park. We will cover what you should pack and wear below.

Corn Du

As we mention below, our preferred parking spot is ‘Pont ar daf’ car park. When you hike from this spot you will see a flat mountain peak which is popularly misidentified as Pen y Fan. It is in fact Corn Du and the second highest peak in South Wales at 873m, only 13m shorter than Pen y Fan. The views from this summit act like a stepping stone to the views you’re about to uncover from Pen y Fan. It is also a lovely spot for a photograph!

The walk to Pen y Fan is not too difficult from here. There is a short walk along a ridge like path swooping downwards and then inclining until you see the marked stone for Pen y Fan.


Once you have conquered Pen y Fan you have a choice. You can either turn around and go back the way you came calling it a day, or you can accept the next challenge. If you accept the challenge to conquer Cribyn, after a kick of adrenaline just as we did, good on you! Don’t be fooled by its english translation ‘little ridge’ and the fact it is 795m, 91m lower than Pen y Fan. The rocky path leading down from Pen y Fan is pretty tricky. Take care here, especially if your legs turn to jelly just as ours did. This particular section was tough on the knees.

Cribyn may not seem so steep at first, but as you descend further and further into the valley, the steepness becomes increasingly scary. Once you have reached the bottom of the climb to Cribyn, you have 115m to ascend over approximately 0.35 miles. This is tough!

Pen y Fan The views though… Unreal! This is the perfect spot to relax for 15 minutes and have something to eat and drink. We always love challenging ourselves and this peak was particularly rewarding, we highly recommend.

Just remember you have to now climb back up most of the trail to Pen y Fan. Near the top, you will see a path that meanders off to the left. If you’re planning to go back to the car park take this path, unless you want to punish yourself and ascend Pen y Fan for the second time in a day. You could also walk down the spine of Cribyn and loop back on yourself via the ‘Horseshoe Ridge’ trail.

Horseshoe Ridge

The horseshoe ridge is a trail that acts as a loop, incorporating all mountains above. It is approximately an 8.6 mile (13.8km) loop that will give you some of the best views of the Brecon Beacons. This is on our list to complete next! If this challenge interests you, check out ‘Paul Fears Photography – Horseshoe Ridge Trail Guide’.

Pen y Fan

Where to park when climbing Pen y Fan?

A classic place to start the climb is at ‘Pont ar daf’ car park or at ‘Storey Arms’. If it is a weekend and the sun is shining, do not expect to get a parking space past 9:00am. The car park will be rammed. We arrived on a Friday morning at 07:00am and it was pretty busy. When we finished our 3 hour hiking adventure and returned to the car park, there were no parking spots available. 

What to pack and wear?

Walking boots are recommended, especially if descending to Cribyn, but trainers should do you fine. I mean, we preach this, but every local in Sri Lanka climbing 1000 metres to Adams Peak wore flip flops. Check this crazy mountain and adventure out here!

The weather can change during your hike and it does get windy at the top as previously mentioned, so bring a fleece and/or a waterproof jacket.

You will need water and we recommend taking something to eat to replenish your sugar and energy levels. If you are going up for sunrise or sunset take a torch of some sort, it has been known for people to fall off the edge of Pen y Fan…

When to climb?

We recommend early morning to ensure parking isn’t an issue and to start your day with a BANG! If you love a sunrise, allow yourself at least an hour to get to the top. This is our preference but it has been said that sunset up the top is stunning too!

Other details

  • Toilets are located in Pont ar daf car park.
  • There are no bins on the trail so please take all of your rubbish home. 

Travelling Translated

Travelling Translated

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