Brecon Beacons National Park
The Pen y Fan Walk from Nant Cwm Llwch car park offers a moderately challenging hike from a quiet and picturesque valley location, leading to beautiful views from the summits of Corn Du and Pen y Fan on this circular walking route
Pen y Fan Mountain Walk From Nant Cwm Llwch Car Park
I last saw Robert Jordan at my 10th birthday party in 1984. Soon after, my family moved from South Wales to Somerset, so my Sister and I could attend a new school. Robert was my best friend at primary school, and although I considered trying to get in touch down the years, I never did!
In 2018, my work phone rang. My sister, Marianne, said, “I bet you can’t guess who is having lunch with me at work?”. Yep, you guessed it, it was Robert Jordan. We made contact after a 34-year break, enjoyed a few drinks and realised that we shared a common passion for hiking.
When I suggested heading up to the Brecon Beacons to enjoy the Pen y Fan Walk from Nant Cwm Llwch car park, Rob jumped at the opportunity.
Where is the Nant Cwm Llwch Car Park?
The car park is approximately 7 miles (11km) north of the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre. Follow the A470 north and turn right in the village of Libanus, just before you reach the Tai’r Bull pub.
It is approximately 2 miles (3 km) from this turn-off to the Nant Cwm Llwch car park. This Pen y Fan car park is situated in a field alongside the idyllic Nant Cwm Llwch river flanked by trees. What a location to start any hike!
Cwm Llwch Horseshoe Walk
Although similar to the published Cwm Llwch Horseshoe Walk on the National Trust website, our version of this Pen y Fan horseshoe walk is abbreviated. This is because we did not find the need to include road walking as part of our route, especially when we are out in some of the best natural settings that Wales has to offer.
Pen y Fan Walk Map – Our Route
From the car park, head south along the tree-lined path that follows the Nant Cwm Llwch River. In approximately 0.5 miles (0.8 km), you will reach a small stone cottage where you will pass over two wooden styles.
If you are lucky enough to have selected a clear weather day for the hike, you will now be blessed with majestic views up the valley to the summits of Corn Du and Pen y Fan. Also, at this point, the trail gradient increases and the moderate climb towards the peaks commences.
Shortly, you will cross another wooden style, indicating that you are entering National Trust land. Continue along this Pen y Fan route for a short while until the trail splits.
The left fork will take you to the small glacial lake known as Llyn Cwm Llwch, whereas the right fork, which we took, will lead you up the steep valley side towards Craig Cwm Llwch, the ridge that heads the valley.
If you choose the lake option, a separate track links directly with the main circular route, so there is no need to backtrack.
You will now catch sight of Llyn Cwm Llwch for the first time as you progress up the steep path. The views of the lake improve significantly as you reach the ridge, and the trail swings to the left around the head of the valley.
A little further up the trail, just off to your right, you will see the Tommy Jones memorial. Shortly after, your trail will be intercepted from the right by the route up from the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre on the A470.
Did you know? The Tommy Jones memorial was erected to remember 5-year-old Tommy, who tragically lost his life in 1900, having become lost on the Brecon Beacons. Both locals and soldiers spent 29 days searching for the little boy before eventually discovering his body near where the obelisk stands today. The young boy had been staying with his grandparents at the time of his death. He died from exhaustion and hypothermia or exposure.
This is widely considered to be the easiest route up Pen y Fan. As such, it is by far the most trafficked of all the Pen y Fan walking routes, so you will almost certainly see a steady stream of walkers joining you at this point.
Here the trail also steepens significantly as you make your way to the summit of Corn Du. This is the second highest peak in South Wales, standing at 873 m (2,864 ft).
Now is an excellent time to catch your breath and appreciate some of the spectacular views on offer. To the north, you will be gazing down the sweeping Cwm Llwch valley from where you have just hiked.
Turn 180 degrees and soak in the far-reaching southerly views down the Taf Fechan Valley, one best experienced on the Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Ridge Walk.
Pen y Fan
From Corn Du, head northeast into the shallow ‘saddle’ before the gentle climb brings you to the summit of Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales. At 886 metres (2,907 ft), Pen y Fan Mountain is the highest summit south of Cadair Idris in Snowdonia National Park.
You can enjoy the northern view along the full extent of the Cwm Sere valley, with the baron light green upper reaches sliding into a dark green, tree-packed lower valley.
The view out to the east is equally impressive, with the majestic northern slopes of Craig Cwm Sere and Cribyn falling away dramatically into the Cwm Sere valley below.
Pen y Fan Walk – Heading North
After enjoying a break to soak in the incredible vistas and taking that obligatory summit trig point photo, it is time for the next stage of the Pen y Fan walk.
Take the trail that drops sharply from the summit of Pen y Fan, in a northerly direction, onto Cefn Cwm Llwch ridge. This initial section of the descent is particularly treacherous owing to the steepness of the gradient and the multitude of loose rocks and stones underfoot.
Soon, the trail becomes less steep as you go north along the ridge, surrounded by spectacular views whichever way you turn. Follow the path until you catch sight of an extensive stone collection off to your left.
Leave the path and head in the direction of the stones. There is no specific trail from this point, just open grassy moorland.
Did you know? You probably think these stones look out of place in this location. Well, this is the site of the now-disused Cwar Mawr Quarry, wherein the 18th century, roof tiles were cut.
Continue past the site of the stones until you reach the valley’s top. From here, seeing your Pen y Fan parking location is now possible.
With a line of sight to your destination, it is now a simple case of picking the most suitable route down the valley’s centre and across a few fields to your car.
Pen y Fan Walk From Nant Cwm Llwch Car Park – Q & As
How long is this hike?
The route as described is 5.15 miles (8.29 km) as measured by ViewRanger, our chosen hiking app.
How long does it take to climb Pen y Fan?
This Pen y Fan walk detailed here should take approximately 3.5 – 4 hours. However, it takes around 2-3 hours to complete the round-trip hike up Pen y Fan from either Storey Arms or Pont ar Daf.
How challenging is the hike?
I would say that walking Pen y Fan from the Nant Cwm Llwch car park is a moderately challenging walk for those in reasonable physical condition. It is undoubtedly more demanding than the more popular route from the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre on the A470.
Firstly, this walk starts from a lower valley elevation, so the climb is longer. Secondly, climbing Pen y Fan from this northern starting point is also more than 2 km longer.
What other Pen y Fan walking routes are there?
There are several other Pen y Fan routes that you may wish to consider, depending on the distance and challenge required:
- Pen y Fan from Storey Arms
- Pen y Fan via Beacon’s Way from Pont ar Daf
- Beacon’s Horseshoe from Cwm Taf Fechan
- Pen y Fan via Cefn Cwm Llwch
- Beacon’s Way from the East
Is Pen y Fan a popular hiking destination?
Pen y Fan is a top-rated hiking destination, attracting around 350,000 visitors annually.
What is the easiest route up Pen y Fan?
The easiest route up Pen y Fan is the ‘Storey Arms’ route, which is well-marked and maintained.
Are there any other peaks near Pen y Fan?
Yes, Pen y Fan sits close to numerous other peaks, namely Corn Du, Cribyn, and Fan y Big. However, beautiful peaks are abundant across the entire Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, many of which can be seen here.
What is the best time of year to hike Pen y Fan?
The best time of year to hike Pen y Fan is in the summer months (June-August) when the weather is generally warmer and drier.
Is there a visitor centre at Pen y Fan?
Pen y Fan does not have a visitor centre, but the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Visitor Centre is located six miles north in Libanus.
Is it safe to hike Pen y Fan?
Hiking Pen y Fan can be safe if you are adequately prepared and follow the necessary safety precautions.
Are there any dangerous sections when climbing Pen y Fan?
There are steep dropoffs at the summit of Pen y Fan, especially on the north side. Avoid the edge, especially if you are climbing in poor visibility.
What is the best way to prepare for a hike up Pen y Fan?
To prepare for a hike up Pen y Fan, ensure you have suitable clothing and footwear, bring enough water and food, and be familiar with the route. Weather can change quickly at this location, so treat these peaks with respect and plan accordingly.
Is there a cafe or restaurant at the top of Pen y Fan?
There is no cafe or restaurant at the top of Pen y Fan, but there are several cafes and restaurants in the nearby towns and villages. Moreover, a burger van is usually in the Storey Arms car park.
Pen y Fan Walk From Nant Cwm Llwch Car Park – Our Thoughts
Having experienced four Pen y Fan walking routes over the years, I can honestly say this one has the most picturesque starting point. What’s more, start early like we did, and for the first hour or so, you should have the trail pretty much all to yourself!
The only section of this Pen y Fan walk where you may meet the masses is where the trail intercepts the path from Storey Arms to the summit of Pen y Fan. Once you take the route off the north slopes of the summit, the numbers drop off significantly.
Descending back into the Cwm Llwch Valley towards the end of the walk is a real treat. As this is not a published section of any of the Pen y Fan walks, you will almost certainly have the hillside all to yourself.
You will pick your route during this part of the descent, with the beautiful patchwork of fields laid out before you to the northwest.
Remember, whichever of the routes you try, check out the Pen y Fan weather forecast before heading to the Brecon Beacons. The Beacons’ weather tends to change quickly, and a pleasant day can soon become miserable.
With that said, also make sure you come prepared with appropriate hiking gear and sufficient food and drink for your adventure!
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