Are you planning on hiking Pen y Fan and Corn Du in the Brecon Beacons for the first time? Keep reading for routes, maps and tips to help you plan your hike.
At 886 metres, Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons National Park is the highest peak in South Wales. It’s one of the most popular day hikes in the UK, as well as one of the top things to do in Wales.
If you’re a novice hiker and looking for a challenge, then Pen y Fan (with Corn Du en route) could be the perfect challenge for you.
Thanks to clear paths from either car park, Pen y Fan is considered a fairly accessible mountain for beginners. No crampons or ice picks needed for this one! But you’ll almost certainly still work up a sweat and get your heart pumping.
As my husband and I live just 90 minutes away in Bristol, the Brecon Beacons is one of our favourite playgrounds (hiking playgrounds that is!) We have moderate fitness levels, and while we found the initial hike up Pen y Fan tough at times, we didn’t find it exhausting or too out of reach.
With this blog post and the other walking guides on our website, we want to dispel the myth that only the most experienced hikers or athletes can attempt outdoor adventures like this. We hope you find our tips helpful and inspiring!
Hiking Pen y Fan (At A Glance)
Hiking Pen y Fan & Corn Du
There are several Pan y Fan hiking routes to choose from, which we’ll discuss shortly. But at a glance, here’s what you can expect:
Distance: 4 miles (minimum)
Duration: 3 hours (minimum)
Ascent: 886 metres (but you’ll start your hike at 440 metres)
Terrain: Steep and rocky
Conditions: No shade and very windy; windburn is likely
Best Time To Climb: April to September. Start your hike in the morning or on a weekday to avoid large crowds.
Facilities: Toilet at Pont ar Daf car park. Sometimes there’s also a kiosk in the car park selling refreshments. Grab some Welsh cakes if you can! No facilities are available on Pen y Fan itself.
Pen y Fan Routes To Choose From
There are several Pen y Fan routes you can choose from – depending on both your ability and how much time you have to devote to your hike.
The four Pen y Fan hiking routes we’ve included below each provide you with the opportunity to summit Pen y Fan itself, as well as second, third and fourth bonus mountains during the longer hikes.
We’ve also included links to maps, routes and further info, so you can easily see which route best suits you.
1. Pen y Fan Straight Hike – 4 Miles – 3 Hours
The shortest Pen y Fan hike follows the main path up from Pont ar Daf car park to the mountain’s summit at 886 metres.
Despite this being the shortest Pen y Fan walk, it’s still a rather strenuous one as it’s uphill most of the way. The path itself is easy to follow, but it’s steep and rocky, so you’ll need to wear appropriate hiking gear (especially proper walking boots!)
We like to think we have moderate fitness levels and it took us around 2 hours to summit Pen y Fan with our dog. We stopped for breaks along the way including a 20-minute lunch stop.
It would have then been another hour back down to the car park. However, you might be faster if you’re a particularly adept hiker.
Alternatively, you can also walk to the top of Corn Du and Pen y Fan from the Storey Arms Outdoor Centre. Because this route is slightly longer and trickier than the main route to the top, you should find it’s also much quieter.
We followed this route on the way back down and we passed maybe 15 people or so going the other way. This is compared to the 100+ people we saw along the main route just an hour or so before.
2. Pen y Fan & Corn Du Circular Hike – 4.5 Miles – 4 Hours
If you’re interested in hiking Pen y Fan and Corn Du in one day, then it’s entirely possible and for not that much extra effort.
At 872 metres, Corn Du is the second-highest peak in South Wales. You’ll find it right next to Pen y Fan. To summit both mountains, you only need to add an extra 10-15 minutes to your hike.
But if you want to turn your hike into a circular one as opposed to walking back down the same path you came up, then you’ll likely be walking for an extra 60-90 minutes.
For this hike, follow the same route as the straight Pen y Fan walk mentioned above, before summiting Corn Du. Then follow a parallel path across the Brecon Beacons towards the Storey Arms car park, which is about a 5-minute walk from the Pont ar Daf car park.
3. Pen y Fan, Corn Du & Cribyn Circular Hike – 6.2 Miles – 6 Hours
To upgrade your hike to include a whopping three mountains, you can follow the same route as the Pen y Fan and Corn Du circular hike mentioned above. But this time, you’ll summit Cribyn first.
At 795 metres, Cribyn doesn’t have any accolades like the other two mountains do. But it’s still a prominent peak within the Brecon Beacons National Park, offering stunning views towards Pen y Fan and of several nearby reservoirs.
It’s roughly an extra hour or so to summit Cribyn and follow the path back towards ‘Windy Pass’ and onto Pen y Fan.
4. Pen y Fan Horseshoe Route – 9 Miles – 7 Hours
If you want to climb all four peaks in this area: Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big, then the full Pen y Fan Horseshoe Route is the one for you.
This circular route is a long and challenging hike meant for experienced hikers. But it’s certainly a popular one within that group of people!
The Pen y Fan Horseshoe Route is also considered the hardest route to Pen y Fan. Here’s the AllTrails map and info if you want to find out more about it.
What To Wear & Pack When Hiking Pen y Fan
Given Pen y Fan is a challenging hike across steep and rocky terrain, you should wear proper walking boots and appropriate hiking gear.
But you’d be surprised how many people we saw trying to climb Pen y Fan in trainers or pumps. Don’t do this! It’ll be murder on your feet and ankles.
Here’s what we think you should wear and pack (at a minimum) when hiking Pen y Fan:
- Walking boots
- Thick boot socks
- Walking trousers
- Thermals (especially if you’re hiking in winter or after dusk)
- Layers (so you can put more on and take more off when needed)
- A jacket that’s both windproof and waterproof
- Gloves (the wind can be awful on exposed hands!)
- Plenty of food and water (pack more than you think you’ll need – just to be safe)
- Lip balm or chapstick (my lips got windburnt during our hike on a sunny day in April)
- Map (if you’re going off-piste)
- Stuff for your dog if they’re joining you (lead, poop bags, water, snacks, collapsible water bowl, etc)
FAQs About Hiking Pen y Fan & Corn Du
If you still have questions about hiking Pen y Fan, then hopefully you’ll find the answers you need in the list of FAQs below. But if not, please leave us a note in the comments section at the bottom of the blog post and we’ll reply ASAP!
Where is Pen y Fan mountain?
You’ll find Pen y Fan in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. While Pen y Fan is surrounded by other mountains, there are several towns and villages in the valleys and north of Pen y Fan. For the best pre- and post-climb facilities, you might want to visit the charming riverside town of Brecon (after which the National Park is so named).
What is the Pen y Fan postcode?
The approximate postcode for Pen y Fan (or rather the closest car parks) is LD3 8NL. There are two main car parks to choose from (depending on where you want to start your hike).
Further along that road, you’ll find the Storey Arms car park (free for everyone), which is best for those of you who want to start your hike with a slightly trickier but quieter route to the top.
Is Pen y Fan part of the Black Mountains?
Pen y Fan isn’t part of the Black Mountains. This mountain range is further west and consists of other mountains, such as Pen y Gadair Fawr, Pen Twyn Glas and Pen Cerrig Calch among others.
Where is the best place to start a walk to Pen y Fan?
The best place to start your hike to Pen y Fan depends on how easy or hard you want the route to be. The easiest (and most popular) route starts at the Pont ar Daf car park along the A470. Close to this car park, you’ll find the main slipway (sometimes referred to as “the motorway” to both Corn Du and Pen y Fan).
If you want to make your hike more challenging or avoid crowds, then you can start your hike at the Storey Arms car park instead. This route will still allow you to summit Corn Du and Pen y Fan, but you’ll need to traverse fields and rocky paths to do so.
What does Pen y Fan mean in Welsh?
Loosely translated, Pen y Fan means “Top Spot” (as in highest) or “Summit of the Mountains”. It’s called this because, while Pen y Fan isn’t the tallest mountain in Wales, it is the tallest one in the Brecon Beacons and throughout the whole of South Wales.
What does Corn Du mean in Welsh?
Corn Du (pronounced “Corn Dee”) means “Black Horn”. It’s called this because, from some angles, the summit of Corn Du can appear pointy, while in certain daylight conditions, it looks black.
Is Pen y Fan the highest mountain in Wales?
At 1,085 metres, Snowdon (aka Yr Wyddfa) is the highest mountain in Wales. But at 886 metres, Pen y Fan is the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons and all of South Wales.
How difficult is it to walk up Pen y Fan and Corn Du?
Thanks to the main path leading from the car park to both Corn Du and Pen y Fan, this is probably one of the easiest mountains you can climb in Wales. However, at 2 miles uphill to a whopping 886 metres and across rocky terrain, Pen y Fan is still a challenging climb.
If you’re brand new to hiking, you might want to try something flatter to build up your muscles and stamina. But if you’re used to hiking and want something more challenging, then Corn Du and Pen y Fan are some of the best mountains for beginners.
Is the climb to the top of Pen y Fan steep?
Both the final path to Pen y Fan’s summit and the main hike are steep and rocky. You’ll start at an elevation of roughly 440 metres and ascend to 886 metres across roughly 2 miles.
If you have a moderate fitness level like us and are used to walks and hikes in general, then you’ll probably only break a sweat and need to rest once or twice. But it’s more than doable!
If you’re not used to walking, then you’ll likely find it much harder and need to rest more. Take plenty of snacks, water and other important gear with you.
How long does it take to climb Pen y Fan mountain?
If you’re walking up the main slipway to Pen y Fan and summiting Corn Du en route, then most people take about 2 hours (with a rest stop). Note: This doesn’t include the walk back down. You’d likely need another hour for that.
How many miles is it to the top of Pen y Fan?
From the Pont ar Daf car park, Pen y Fan is about 2 miles away. From the Storey Arms car park, it’s about 2.5 miles away. Remember: The hike is mostly all uphill, so it won’t feel the same as a flat 2 miles.
Does Pen y Fan have a trig point?
Pen y Fan used to have a trig point, but this was removed in 1991 during an emergency archaeological excavation of a bronze age burial chamber. Today, you’ll find a National Trust marker to recognise you made it to the top. Please note you might need to queue to have your photo taken with it.
Does Corn Du have a trig point?
Unlike Pen y Fan, Corn Du doesn’t have a trig point. Usually, people use the Pen y Fan marker to note their summit for both Corn Du and Pen y Fan.
Is Pen y Fan easier than Snowdon?
In elevation alone, Pen y Fan is considered easier than Snowdon because it’s 200 metres shorter than Snowdon. Pen y Fan is one of the most accessible mountains in Wales thanks to its main slipway, while most routes to the top of Snowdon are far more rugged, steeper and narrower. That said, the weather conditions will also affect the difficulty.
Hike Snowdon on a calm and clear day and you’ll probably find it easier than hiking Pen y Fan in the middle of a storm. Assuming you’ll be starting your hike in fair weather, Corn Du and Pen y Fan are great options for novice hikers in search of a challenge.
Can you wild camp Pen y Fan?
Wild camping is illegal in Wales (unless you obtain permission from the landowner), so we would naturally advise against it. Pen y Fan is also witness to some extreme weather and wind (even on a fine day) and is rather busy for a mountain, so even if wild camping was 100% allowed, we still wouldn’t recommend it.
How cold does it get on Pen y Fan?
How cold it gets on Pen y Fan depends on when you’ll be visiting. In winter, you can expect temperatures of anywhere from 2 to -3 degrees Celsius or even colder. While in summer, you might experience temperatures upwards of 15 degrees Celsius.
Either way, it will be colder at the top of Pen y Fan than in the car park and the weather can change very rapidly. It’s also one of the windiest places you can find, so come prepared with layers and every essential you think you might need.
Is Pen y Fan safe for dogs?
Pen y Fan is safe for dogs if you keep them on a short lead. Because of how steep it is in places, how busy it can get and the fact that there are sheep around, you’re supposed to keep dogs on lead and under close control at all times.
There’ll always be the odd person who doesn’t listen to that, though.
Especially at the top, keep your dog on a short lead because the drops are very, very steep. We hiked Pen y Fan with our dog and we were all perfectly safe with him on lead and under our control. He loved it!
What’s Pen y Fan like for people with vertigo or a fear of heights?
While everyone’s different, I personally suffer from a very big fear of heights, so I’ll speak to this from my experience. I didn’t have any fears during the actual hike – likely because the paths to the top of Pen y Fan are wide and sloping, rather than steep and narrow. Once we reached the summit, I felt some nausea if I or Scott stood too close to the steep drops. By standing back a little (and convincing Scott to do the same), I didn’t have any concerns. I hope this will be the same for you.
What safety information should you know about?
To stay safe during your hike, you should wear and pack the appropriate hiking gear and keep dogs and young children away from steep drops. Pen y Fan is also served by the Brecon Mountain Rescue Team. Should you need them in an emergency, you’ll need to dial 999 and ask for “Police” followed by “Mountain Rescue”. Strictly speaking, you shouldn’t need to use this if you’re hiking Pen y Fan normally like everyone else.
Other Brecon Beacons Walks & Hikes You Might Like
If you’ve decided Pen y Fan isn’t quite the hike for you, or you just want to try some other epic walks and hikes in the Brecon Beacons, then you might want to check out:
- The Four Waterfalls Walk: Where (yep, you guessed it!) waterfalls await.
- Ponsticill Reservoir Walk: Easy, flat walk by the side of a stunning reservoir.
We hope you enjoy your hike to Pen y Fan, Corn Du and beyond. Which route do you think you’ll take? And have you got any other questions? Let us know in the comments section below…
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