All the Walking Routes up Pen y Fan
By Dave Roberts
on December 28, 2017 4.71/5 (21)
All the Walking Routes up Pen y Fan
Facts and Figures about Pen y Fan
Pen y Fan Facts:
Pen y Fan is the highest mountain in South Wales
The descent from Pen y Fan towards Cribyn is known as Jacob’s Ladder
Pen y Fan is climbed as part of the Fan Dance SAS Challenge
How many people climb Pen y Fan a year? The National Trust estimate that around 350,000 people climb the mountain every year
Where is Pen y Fan?
In the Brecon Beacons between Brecon and Merthyr Tudfil.
How High is Pen y Fan in metres / feet?886m in height
How long will it take to walk up Pen y Fan ?
It shouldn’t take a fit walker more than a couple of hours from any of the paths near the Storey Arms.
How Far is it to the top of Pen y Fan?
The direct route is only just over 3km in length.
How hard is it to climb Pen y Fan ?
From the Storey Arms, it’s a reasonably straightforward hill walk.
What’s the best walking route up Pen y Fan?
Either one of the horseshoes from Cwm Llwch or Cwm Taf Fechan – both great walks.
Which is the easiest walking route up Pen y Fan ?
From The Pont ar Daf car park – the path is wide and straightforward to follow.
Map showing all the routes up Pen y Fan
All the Walking Routes up Pen y Fan Introduction
At 886 metres in height, Pen y Fan is the highest mountain in South Wales and the highest summit south of Cader Idris. Pen y Fan boasts a number of routes to the summit other than the far too popular routes up from Pont ar Daf and the Storey Arms. Pen y Fan is also one of the Welsh 3 Peaks.
Pen y Fan is a very popular mountain, too popular. The National Trust who own the mountain, have worked relentlessly to repair and manage the footpaths in the area from erosion. So we suggest you choose a quieter approach to the mountain, but whichever you choose to stick to the path! Walking either side of the paths widen and erode the paths, causing further problems.
The Brecon Beacons range is crossed by the Beacon’s Way long distance footpath , as well as for special forces military training. Though none of the routes outlined below will that challenging!
Why is it called Pen y Fan? The welsh for the Brecon Beacons is the Bannau Brycheiniog – with the singular for bannau being ban which mutates to Fan. Pen is one of the many words that translate to mountain top or summit – so it’s basically the “Summit of the Beacons”. Quite appropriate really! It was originally called Cadair Arthur – Arthur’s seat – along with the neighbouring Corn Du. In some parallel universe we could well imagine that the Welsh 3 Peaks are named Cadair Arthur, Cader Idris and Cader Rhitta.
What pubs are good for Pen y Fan? It’s important to note that the Story Arms is not a pub. There will not be a welcome for weary walkers as it’s an outdoor centre. Tai’r Bull is the only pub near the main routes from Storey Arms or the North, unless you intend on poppin into Brecon which has a wide variety of pubs. From Cwm Taf Fechan, Pontsticill to south boasts the Red Cow and Butcher’s Arms, which is also a bunkhouse, for the thirsty walker.
What to wear walking up Pen y Fan? It’s vital that you’ve got proper boots and appropriate clothing. Check out our Mountain Skills section for more information, with our Summer Hill Walking Kit List.
Pen y Fan Weather Forecast: Met Office Brecon Beacons Mountain Weather
Recommended Pen y Fan Maps : Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park – Western & Central Areas Map, Brecon Beacons British Mountain Map
We’d also recommend the Cicerone Guidebook – Walking on the Brecon Beacons: A Walker’s Guide to the National Park
Here are all the walks up Pen y Fan.
Height Gained – 480 metres, Distance – 3.6 km, Time – 2 hours. One Way
A popular route up Pen y Fan that starts directly from the Storey Arms Outdoor Centre. It does have a slight disadvantage as it loses some height at Blaen Taf Fawr, but is a good constructed path all the way. It isn’t the most exciting route up this mountain either – but at only 3.6km, it’s one of the shortest. It is often combined with the next route – which is why we’ve only put the distance for the one way trip.
Height Gained – 450 metres, Distance – 3.25 km, Time – 2 hours. One Way
The most popular walk up Pen y Fan, twice as popular as the Storey Arms route. This is a slightly easier route up Pen y Fan than the direct route from the Storey Arms, with the path being a wide track for most of the distance. It starts barely a kilometer south of the Storey Arms on the A470 and you can easily walk between the start of each route. You can even avoid the summit of Corn Du via this route, if you wanted to make it even easier. Though it adds some much needed interest, so we’d wonder why you’d want to! It’s the most popular route up Pen y Fan, but like the route from the Storey Arms, isn’t the best available.
Height Gained – 650 metres, Distance – 12.4 km, Time – 6 hours.
There are two routes up Pen y Fan from Cwm Taf Fechan, and the Beacon’s Horseshoe route covers both of those walks. The ascent is via the Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog ridge to join the Beacon’s Way at Bwlch Duwynt. After ascending both Corn Du and Pen y Fan, it continues along the ridge by descending a section known as Jacob’s Ladder to Cribyn and on down to Bwlch y Fan. The descent is via the Gap Road, which was open to off-road traffic until the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority wisely banned it a few years ago. It is a very popular route with mountain bikers, so you’ll need to be aware of bikes and share the path accordingly.
Height Gained – 600 metres, Distance – 4.6 km, Time –2.5 hours.
This is a pleasant approach starting from the Nant Cwm Llwch car park to the south of Brecon. It ascends Pen y Fan via a pleasant and secluded cwm, complete with a corrie lake – Llyn Cwm Llwch.
As there’s a variety of routes from the north – with the walker likely choosing a circuit, the stats given are one way only.
Height Gained – 560 metres, Distance –3.8 km, Time –2.5 hours.
Another approach to Pen y Fan from the north is the ridge walk via Cefn Cwm Llwch. It’s ideally combined with the route from Cwm Llwch as a horseshoe walk (as described in the route linked to above).
There are also a few more variations from this direction, such as the ascent via Bryn Teg and Cribyn on the other side of Cwm Sere or the Gap Road route. You could combine any of these to create a practical horseshoe route up Pen y Fan from Brecon.
Height Gained – 660 metres, Distance – 7.5 km, Time –3 hours.
The approach via Craig y Fan Du isn’t a route up Pen y Fan in one respect, but would be if you were walking the Beacon’s way. There are a few hills to this end of the range that are less frequently visited, but make a welcome respite from the crowds that pour out from the Storey Arms. In fact, the terrain around Gwaun Cerrig Llwydion looks more like the Peak District than the Brecon Beacons! This route crosses the peak of Fan y Big, with it’s famous Diving Board photo opportunity.
For more walks in the Brecon Beacons, visit our Walks in the Brecon Beacons page.