Pen Y Fan Walk
It stands at 886 meters tall, making it the highest peak in the area and contrary to what many people seem to think, Pen Y Fan is not a mountain!
Understandably, a Pen Y Fan walk is popular among keen hikers like me – and I would hazard a guess that you’re probably going to like this one.
Fan Y Big, Cribyn, and Corn Du all sit beside Pen Y Fan in a uniform line, so you’ll quickly discover many of the Pen Y Fan walks combine multiple, if not all, four peaks in the Brecon Beacons.
In this guide, we’ll start with some of the need-to-know basics that I recommend you read over first to avoid any mishaps.
We’ll then jump into the best Pen Y Fan circular walk that remarkably seemed to avoid most of the crowds, whilst still being pretty epic.
As always, you’ll find some alternative routes to Pen Y Fan, just in case you decide this one isn’t the best for you, as well as some recommended hotels and FAQ’s.
What to know before hiking Pen Y Fan
How to get there
The easiest way to get around the Brecon Beacons National Park, and therefore to the start of any Pen Y Fan walk, is by car.
This is because the Brecon Beacons are, simplistically put, a bunch of mountains connected by some main roads (but mostly country roads), with a few towns scattered around for residents and tourists to live/stay.
So, if you don’t have your own car then I highly recommend renting one.
By public transport
If you can’t drive or really don’t want to take/hire a car, then hiking Pen Y Fan is still possible – you just need to hop on a bus, or book a taxi.
The best way to figure out which option to take is via the Rome2Rio platform since they’ll tell you the best way to get from A to B based on time and cost.
Pen Y Fan weather: the best time to walk
The best time for a hiking trip to the Brecon Beacons is between May and October.
However, this part of the world has some temperamental weather.
If you want to increase your chances of blue skies and sunshine, then June, July, or August are probably your best bet.
But, if you prefer to hike in cooler temperatures, opt for May or October – just pack some extra waterproofs to be safe!
Here’s a full breakdown of what you can expect by season:
Spring (March to May):
- Spring brings milder temperatures and longer daylight hours, making it a great time to hike Pen y Fan.
- The landscape starts to come alive with blooming wildflowers, and the views are often clear and crisp.
- However, be prepared for occasional rain and rapidly changing weather. Layered clothing and waterproof gear are advisable.
Summer (June to August):
- Summer is the busiest season for hiking Pen y Fan, with the most predictable weather.
- The days are long, and the temperatures are generally mild, but it can still get hot on sunny days.
- Due to its popularity, you may encounter larger crowds on the trails, especially on weekends and holidays.
- Make sure to carry plenty of water, as the sun can be intense.
Autumn (September to November):
- Autumn offers beautiful foliage as the leaves change colour, creating a stunning backdrop for your hike.
- The temperatures begin to drop, and you may encounter cooler and more unpredictable weather.
- Trails can be less crowded compared to summer, providing a more serene hiking experience.
- Be prepared for rain and potentially colder conditions, especially as you ascend.
Winter (December to February):
- Winter hiking in Pen y Fan can be challenging and is generally only recommended for experienced hikers.
- Snow and ice are common at higher elevations, making trails slippery and dangerous without appropriate gear like crampons and an ice axe.
- The days are shorter, so plan your hike accordingly to ensure you finish before darkness falls.
- Check weather and trail conditions before heading out, and be prepared for the possibility of trail closures.
Travel tip: We always use an app called AccuWeather to check the forecast as we love its live radar feature which shows what’s coming up in the next 2 hours – which, in our experience, is very accurate!
The best hike: Pen Y Fan and Corn Du Circular walk
We’ve chosen to give an in-depth guide on Pen Y Fan and Corn Du Circular as we genuinely think that this is one of the best Pen Y Fan walks out there.
It avoids the crowds but does not compromise elsewhere – it’s peaceful, challenging in all the right places, offers stunning panoramic views, passes a wealth of wildlife, and stops by a crystal clear reservoir.
What more could you want from a hike in the Brecon Beacons?
Duration: 3-5 hours
Best for: Wild swimming, history, panoramic views
Pen Y Fan and Corn Du Circular walk starts from Cwm Gwdi car park, which is a decent size and takes payment by cash, card or phone.
the cost was roughly £3 for the day, which is a bargain compared to some of the other car parks in the Brecon Beacons.
As you head through the gates of Cwm Gwdi car park, the walk begins across open moorland that’s littered with sheep – the incline is minimal and the views as you look behind you are already awesome, however, the best is yet to come.
Around 10 minutes into the walk, the route begins to steepen to a reasonable incline that definitely gets the blood moving around your legs.
It’s a great warm-up for what’s to come later down the line, or rather, up the line!
Before long, the route luckily finds some cobbled steps to give you a helping hand over the first of a series of false peaks.
Each time you make it to the top of a peak, the route flattens before ensuring the next one is even more of an uphill battle – but hey, who doesn’t like a challenge?!
Eventually, after a few false peaks – ok, maybe more than a few – you’ll be delighted to find a long ridge that heads toward the base of Pen Y Fan.
The panoramic views from this ridge are nothing short of incredible, and the surrounding mountainscape will make you feel like you’re on top of the world.
Although, in reality, you’re only halfway up at this point.
As you make a bee-line along the ridge and toward the base of Pen Y Fan, the wind may be strong, but this will likely be welcome after the ascent you’ve just climbed.
The penultimate ascent to Pen Y Fan follows a wide and gravel path that, I’m not going to lie, is long and steep.
But, with a few breathers to absorb the views, it’s manageable.
The last section of the hike to Pen Y Fans summit is a scramble – again, it’s tough – but it’s short-lived and the views that are hiding behind the peak are phenomenal.
Being the highest peak in south Wales, the views from the top of Pen Y Fan go on for miles across the Brecon Beacons and beyond.
It’s truly fantastic how far the naked eye can see from this high up on a clear day.
However, regardless of when you embark on your Pen Y Fan walk, the summit will undoubtedly be busy.
As the network of hiking trails in the Brecon Beacons come together to meet at the top of Pen Y Fan, each walker queues to take a picture against the height marker to commemorate their achievement.
Nevertheless, there is plenty of space to sit down and take a few moments to relax and soak up the views before heading over to Corn Du – the sister peak of Pen Y Fan.
Once you’re ready to move on, the route quickly leads you down and up again to Corn Du in the space of what must be 5 minutes, where you will find similar views to that of Pen Y Fan.
Still, it’s nice to see Pen Y Fan on a level playing field and see just how far you have hiked from a side profile – and watch other fellow hikers clamber up their last few steps, too.
After completing Pen Y Fan and Corn Du, the route still requires some attention.
As the trail down to the Pen Y Fan pond – Llyn Cwm Llwch, is steep and rocky in places, some poles would certainly come in handy if you have any.
On the way down, the route passes an obelisk in memory of Tommy Jones – a young boy who lost his way in the Brecon Beacons in 1900.
The search for Tommy went on for a number of weeks with no luck, and it wasn’t until a woman living in the north of the Brecon Beacons dreamt of the exact location, that they found his body.
It’s a harrowing and tragic story, to say the least, and makes you thankful for the mountain rescue team that we have today.
As you continue on, the crowds disperse, and the pathway narrows as you reach Llyn Cwm Llwch.
This is the perfect spot for a picnic, and even a wild swim, should you fancy it!
The remainder of the walk is relaxing and leads alongside a river and across undulating hills, that are, of course, scattered with more sheep!
In this section of the route, we saw absolutely nobody.
It was incredibly peaceful and utterly idyllic being surrounded by nothing but mountains and wildlife.
The Pen Y Fan and Corn Du Circular walk eventually come to meet a quiet country road that is surprisingly hilly – just to keep you on your toes for the last leg of the hike!
A kilometre or so later and you will have returned to the Cwm Gwdi car park – likely with some burning legs, but with a new appreciation for how wonderful the Brecon Beacons really are.
Best Pen Y Fan walk map
You’ll definitely need a map for this one.
I highly recommend downloading the below map for offline use, since the phone signal can be it and miss round here.
Route map: Pen Y Fan and Corn Du Circular
Alternative Pen Y Fan routes
Now, of course, we recognise that the Pen Y Fan and Corn Du Circular may not be what everyone is looking for – and that’s fine!
Perhaps you’re after something a bit easier, or maybe a longer?
While there are no ‘easy’ routes up Pen Y Fan, there are some moderate and hard walking routes to cater to different levels of fitness and requirements.
Below we’ve picked out some alternative routes that we have either taken ourselves or have on our ‘to-hike’ list for the next time we visit the Brecon Beacons.
- Brecon Beacon Horseshoe Circular walk: moderately difficult | 17.7km distance | 817m elevation | 6-8 hours
Route map: Brecon Beacon Horseshoe Circular walk
- The Four Peaks walk: challenging | 13.4km distance | 1180m elevation | 5-7 hours
Route map: The Four Peaks walk
- Pen Y Fan, Corn Du and Cwm-Llwch Circular walk: moderately difficult | 11.1km distance | 687m elevation | 4-6 hours
Route map: Pen Y Fan, Corn Du and Cwm-Llwch Circular walk
- The Fan Dance walk: extremely challenging | 22.2km distance | 1169m elevation | 7-9 hours
Route map: The Fan Dance walk
What does Pen Y Fan mean?
Pen Y Fan is Welsh and simply translates to English as ‘the top peak’, which makes perfect sense, given the fact it’s the highest peak in south Wales.
Do you need walking boots for Pen Y Fan?
The long answer: you don’t need walking boots – you can walk in flip-flops if you really want to.
But, it will take you considerably longer and I certainly wouldn’t want to be one of those people who turn up ill-prepared to hike the highest peak in south Wales.
Plus, your feet will hurt 1000x more if you don’t wear walking boots.
The short answer: yes you need walking boots.
Do you have to pay to walk up to Pen Y Fan?
One of the reasons why people love hiking so much is because it’s free!
The only costs you need to consider before your Pen Y Fan walk is transport and car parking (which are minimal).
Is Pen Y Fan harder than Snowdon?
The height of Pen Y Fan is 886 meters versus Snowdon which is 1085 meters.
Both mountains offer various routes with different difficulty ratings, so this question is very subjective to your fitness and choice of route.
However, based on the elevation alone, Snowdon is harder than Pen Y Fan.
We’ve hiked Pen Y Fan and Snowdon, and both are no mean feat.
Is Pen Y Fan suitable for dogs?
Pen Y Fan is dog friendly – and in reality, your dog could probably make it to the summit and back 4 times before you reach the top.
Jokes aside, while Pen Y Fan is suitable for dogs, there is a lot of sheep along the route, so you will need to take a lead and dog poop bags.
What to pack
As just mentioned, Wales has particularly fickle weather.
So, whilst you may be putting your swimmers on one day, that may quickly change the next day to waterproofs.
Regardless of what time of year you’re visiting the Brecon Beacons, we would recommend that you pack for all of the elements, just in case.
- Hiking boots (him/her)
- Hiking socks (him/her)
- Quality compression socks
- Zip-off trousers (him/her)
- Waterproof trousers (him/her)
- Lightweight and breathable t-shirt (him/her)
- Waterproof jacket (him/her)
- Swimmers (him/her)
- Water shoes
- Microfiber towel
- Sun cream
- First aid kit
Where to stay in the Brecon Beacons
Deciding where to stay in the Brecon Beacons isn’t too difficult as there isn’t a lot of choice.
The below towns all offer something slightly different, yet act as the perfect hub for a trip to south Wales.
Crickhowell is a picturesque town in the southeast of the Brecon Beacons.
It’s home to a small high street filled with boutique shops, independent cafes, and a handful of fantastic pubs to dine in.
In addition, there is a great spiders web of walking routes from the centre, making it the perfect hub for any trip to the Brecon Beacons.
Crickhowell is where I chose to base myself for this trip to south Wales and I honestly could not have asked for a better location to explore the Brecon Beacons.
Some great places to eat are:
- The Bear Hotel (for a nice lunch or evening meal)
- Vamos (for breakfast or something light – they also do great home-made cakes)
- Latte-da coffee and kitchen (for a light lunch or cake stop)
Some great places to stay are:
Crickhowell to Pen Y Fan: 40 minutes
The beautiful village of Llangorse is even smaller than Crickhowell.
Its main attraction is Llangorse lake – the second largest lake in south Wales and provides a wealth of opportunity when it comes to watersports.
While there are a few shops and restaurants dotted around the village, Llangorse is best suited to those who enjoy remote locations among little more than nature.
Where to stay:
Llangorse to Pen Y Fan: 30 minutes
Brecon is in the northern part of the Brecon Beacons National Park and would have been my second choice of place to say.
It’s slightly bigger and a bit more lively than Crickhowell, with plenty of great pubs to visit.
Brecon also hosts events such as Brecon Jazz Festival – a popular event among tourists and locals.
If you’re looking for somewhere slightly more upbeat, then Brecon is probably a better choice than Crickhowell and Llangorse.
Where to stay:
Brecon to Pen Y Fan: 25 minutes
Final thoughts on this Pen Y Fan hike
Regardless of which Pen Y Fan walk you choose, I can guarantee that you’ll be in absolute awe of how spectacular the Brecon Beacons are.
Just remember to check the weather ahead of your walk, wear sensible clothing and footwear, and of course, take a phone or camera to capture the memories!
Explore the Brecon Beacons further
If you enjoyed this guide on one of the best Pen Y Fan walks and now you’re looking to explore the Brecon Beacons further, then below are some additional guides which you may find useful:
- 6 OF THE BEST WALKS IN THE BRECON BEACONS
- SUGAR LOAF MOUNTAIN IN WALES: HIKING GUIDE
- FOUR WATERFALLS WALK (BRECON BEACONS): GUIDE & MAP
- THE PYG TRACK (SNOWDON): THE COMPLETE GUIDE (202
Stay Wild Travels.
Disclosure: any links within this blog are affiliated. This means we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you; if you use any of these links it really helps support my blog, so thank you!