The 10 Best Walks In The Brecon Beacons

Born on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, I’ve been lucky to call this National Park my back yard for 40 years. In this guide I describe 10 of the best Brecon Beacons walks on offer. I provide a brief outline of each hike, including distance, difficulty and starting location.

Exploring the best walks in the Brecon Beacons

Walking In The Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons National Park is located in South Wales and is made up of four different areas. These sections of the park are known as the Central Beacons, Fforest Fawr, the Black Mountain and the Black Mountains. Fforest Fawr is a UNESCO Geopark.

A dedicated National Park since 1957, the Beacons are famed for their flat-top peaks, forestries, waterfalls and reservoirs. The name itself is derived from the fact that signal fires (or beacons) were lit on the peaks to warn others of possible invasions and that the main central area lies just south of Brecon town.

Hill walking is one of the top things to do in the Brecon Beacons. The highest peak in the Beacons and in fact Southern Britain is Pen y Fan, standing at 886m tall. This is easily the most popular mountain to hike in the Brecon Beacons, however the Park has many more hills on offer.

Read on to learn more and discover my personal favourite!

The highest mountain in Wales is Mount Snowdon at 1085m. Discover which Snowdon walking route is right for you in this handy guide.

10 Beautiful Hill Walks In The Brecon Beacons

In this guide I focus on the best mountain hikes in the Brecon Beacons, but if you want to explore the beautiful waterfalls this park has to offer, take a look at this post.

  1. The Brecon Beacons Horseshoe – Hike to South Wales’ highest peak
  2. Llyn y Fan Fach Loop – The best ridge walk in South Wales
  3. Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad – The best of Fforest Fawr Geopark
  4. Fan y Big Loop – Waterfalls and ridges in one hike
  5. Waun Rydd Loop – Explore the Central Beacons without the crowds
  6. Fan Nedd and Fan Gyhirych – The best for getting off the beaten path
  7. Sugar Loaf – Incredible views with very little effort
  8. Table Mountain Loop – The Best of the Black Mountains
  9. Tor y Foel via the Monmouth Canal – Fairly low level walking
  10. Dragons Back Loop – The highest peak in the Black Mountains and the highest castle in England and Wales.

The Best Brecon Beacons Walks

Being born and bred in the South Wales town of Merthyr Tydfil, I have spent most of my life walking in the Brecon Beacons. It’s a beautiful area and I’m grateful to have grown up with this park on my doorstep.

There are a vast choice of great Brecon Beacons walks but in this post I wanted to share some of the best ones. By best I mean that they provide interesting walking routes with beautiful scenery along the way.

1. The Brecon Beacons Horseshoe

Pen y Fan is the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons National Park and for this reason it attracts many visitors. The most popular route to the top is from the A470 road at Pont ar Daf car park.

However, the best Pen y Fan hike is a full day hike that incorporates several of the surrounding peaks and is known as the Beacons horseshoe ridge walk.

Starting from the quieter Neuadd car park, the horseshoe trek ascends the ridge to the west and circles the Taf Fechan valley. This is a prime example of a steep sided glacial valley in the Brecon Beacons.

En-route hikers will summit the four peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big. As you might imagine, with all of these peaks to summit there is a lot of up and down on this hike, so be prepared!

For a full description of the Pen y Fan horseshoe and other routes to the summit, take a look at this post.

The Pen y fan horseshoe is arguably the best Brecon Beacons walk
From front to back to the four peaks of the Beacons horseshoe hike – Fan y Big, Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du

2. Fan Brycheiniog Loop (Llyn y Fan Fach/Fawr)

This is easily my favourite Brecon Beacons walk, as it has epic ridge walking, glacial lakes and superb mountain views. This walk is in the Black Mountain area, in the west of the National Park.

From the Tawe Valley the hike climbs steeply up a grassy hillside to the first peak, Fan Hir. There is a drop into the saddle before climbing back up to Fan Brycheiniog and then onto Fan Foel at the end of the ridge.

At Fan Foel turn to the west to drop into another saddle, before ascending the next ridge of Bannau Sir Gaer (Picws Du). Continue around and down to the first lake, Llyn y Fan Fach.

The return section skirts along the steep escarpments past a second lake, Llyn y Fan Fawr, and along the valley back to the car park.

This is a truly epic mountain day and one not to be missed! The walk can be shortened to 13.2 km, through doing an out and back hike to Fan Foel. For detailed trail descriptions on 5 different hikes in the Black Mountain range, click here!

Fan Brycheiniog is my favourite  Brecon Beacons walk
Standing on the ridge above Llyn y Fan Fawr

3. Craig Cerrig-gleisiad

The perfect option in the Central Beacons for a gradual climb and amazing views of Pen y Fan.

From the car park take the trail to the right and walk around the mountain rather than heading directly up the hill. Traverse right around to the backside of the mountain and begin the gradual ascent to Fan Frynych summit.

As you near the top you’ll be rewarded with the best views of Corn Du and Pen y Fan from anywhere in the park. From the summit turn right to circle around Craig Cerrig-gleisiad Nature Reserve and descend back down to the road.

This easy to moderate Brecon Beacons hike provides great views and nature without the crowds of nearby Pen y Fan.

Wild ponies on Craig Cerrig. Purchase this image.

4. Fan y Big Loop (From Blaen y Glyn)

This hike gets straight into the thick of it with a steep ascent from the car park, with a small waterfall marking the start of the trail. However, once up on the ridge, it’s a gradual climb to Fan y Big with beautiful views on offer the whole way.

From Fan y Big follow the Roman Road down the Taf Fechan valley, through the forestry and back along the road to the car park.

This walk in the Brecon Beacons offers waterfalls, ridges, glacial valleys, reservoirs and forestries. What more could you want?

Sunset on the “diving board” on Fan y Big

5. Waun Rydd Summit from Talybont

  • Distance: 12.5 km
  • Time: 3 – 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Starting Point: Talybont car park on the west side of the reservoir
  • Map: OS Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park
  • Best for: Enjoying the Central Beacons without the crowds

From the car park, cross the road and take the footpath that leads directly up the mountain. Follow the path past the forestry, up the shoulder and onto the ridge. Don’t forget to look back every now and then to appreciate views over Talybont Reservoir.

Continue past Waun Rydd summit and around the valley before taking the path to the south, to access a crash site memorial. This memorial marks the point where a Canadian bomber crashed into the mountain during bad weather in July 1942. For a hike dedicated to seeing this crash site, take a look at this post.

Retrace your steps to Waun Rydd where views stretch across to Pen y Fan and the other peaks that make up the Beacons Horseshoe. Then take the path that bears to the left and down the ridge. Follow this scenic ridge down to the road and along to the car park.

This is one of the best Brecon Beacons walks to avoid the crowds and for learning a little history at the same time.

Boggy ground on Waun Rydd

6. Fan Nedd and Fan Gyhirych

  • Distance: 10 km
  • Time: 3.5 – 4 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
  • Starting Point: Lay-by on Sam Helen 500m north of Maen Llia standing stone
  • Map: OS Explorer OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park
  • Best for: Getting off the beaten path

This might be the hidden gem of the Brecon Beacons! Located smack bang between the more well known areas of the Central Beacons and the Black Mountain, this is a hike to escape the crowds and get off the beaten path.

Climb the style to access a path that follows the old stone wall up towards Fan Nedd. After 1 km take the left fork to climb the shoulder of the mountain. The trig point and true summit is a little further on from the rock cairn.

From the trig point return to the cairn and follow the path down to the left. At the bottom of the valley the path then continues straight ahead, up towards to the next summit of Fan Gyhirych. There is a gravel road a third of the way up, but cross over that and continue walking along a footpath along the ridge until you reach the summit.

At the top, savour the fabulous views of Fan Brycheiniog to the west and Pen y Fan to the East. Return back to the base of Fan Gyhirych, then pick up the trail that follows an old stone wall around the side of Fan Nedd (thus avoiding the need to ascend Fan Nedd for a second time)

The stone wall path leads right back to the lay-by where the hike started. This is a beaut of a Brecon Beacons walk that even I didn’t discover until this year!

Fan Nedd is one of the best Brecon Beacons walks
Nick walking back towards Fan Nedd

7. Sugar Loaf

This is a great little conical-shaped hill in the Black Mountains, which is the Eastern side of the National Park. At just 596m, it might not be the highest of peaks, but it certainly packs a punch with the views it can offer of the Black Mountains and Central Beacons.

Did you know? To be considered a mountain rather than a hill, the mountain has to stand over 600m high. At 596m Sugarloaf falls just short of mountain status

From the car park follow the well trodden path to the left of the information board. At the fork bear to the right to ascend the flat top peak. Take a moment at the top to delight in the views.

From the summit descend on the path in a westerly direction to form a loop that leads back down to the car park.

As one of the best Brecon Beacons short walks, this is a popular and often busy option.

For an alternative route to the summit, take a look at this guide.

The unmistakeable conical shaped Sugar Loaf Hill

8. Table Mountain, Pen Cerrig-calch and Pen Allt-mawr

  • Distance: 12 km
  • Time: 4 – 5 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Starting Point: Lay-by near Llanbedr on the main road from Crickhowell. The lay-by is located beside a bridge where the stream flows down from Cwm Banw 
  • Map: OS Explorer OL13 Brecon Beacons National Park
  • Best for: Panoramic views of the Black Mountains

This loop is a great hiking option for exploring the Black Mountains in the East of the Brecon Beacons.

From the lay-by, cross the bridge and take the footpath that leads straight up the hill before turning left to follow the line of the forestry. The path gradually ascends to the first peak named Table Mountain, which is the site of the iron-age hill fort Crug Hywel.

After enjoying panoramic views from Table Mountain, turn north and follow the trail as it climbs, first steeply, to Pen Cerrig-calch and then more gradually to Pen Allt-mawr. Continue in a northerly direction along the ridge as the trail starts to descend, before sweeping around to loop back along the opposite side of the valley.

A gradual descent provides great views of Grwyne Fechan, before passing through the woods and back to the roadside. Despite taking in several peaks this hike isn’t too strenuous and is one of the best Black Mountains walks.

Views along Pen Allt-mawr

9. Monmouth & Brecon Canal and Tor y Foel

This is a pretty little walk which adds a slightly different element with the inclusion of the canal.

Walk west along the towpath to lock 65 and cross to the other side of the canal. Follow a waymarked path into the woods and then ascend steeply to Tor y Foel summit.

Enjoy views of the Central Beacons from the top before following the path off the mountain in a westerly direction. At the trail junction turn right to walk along the old tramroad, parallel to Talybont Reservoir.

At the end of the reservoir bear right along the path to skirt around the base of Tor y Foel, before rejoining the canal. Stroll along the canal to return to the Coach and Horses for a well earned drink! 

Tor y Foel in the centre of this photo, sits as a stand alone mountain above Talybont Reservoir

10. Dragons Back Loop

This is my favourite Black Mountains hike since it offers fine views for most of the route. There is a good amount of up involved to reach the highest point, but since it’s mostly ridge walking the constant Brecon Beacon visas make up for the effort required!

Starting from the Dragons Back Pub car park (parking free via an honesty box) a lane leads you out onto the grassy green hills. There’s no opportunity to warm up as the uphill starts immediately. 

At 450m, there is a break in the climbing upon reaching the remains of Castell Dinas. This is the highest castle in England and Wales though what remains is very much a grassy ruin. Up ahead you can now see Y Crib or the Dragons Back, so named because the ridge resembles that of a sleeping dragon.

The walk takes in the peaks and troughs of the Dragons Back before climbing steadily to the rather featureless plateau summit of Waun Fach. However heading west off the summit the views reappear for the rest of the walk back down into the valley.

Complete the walk by walking along the country lanes back towards the Dragons Back Pub.

For an in depth trail description, read this post!

Black sheep on the Dragon's Back which is one of my favourite walks in the Brecon Beacons

Purchase your copy of this image here.

What to pack for your Brecon Beacons walking trip

  • Waterproofs – of course it’s Wales!
  • Water – bottles with filters are very handy for refilling in streams
  • A hat and warm layers for the top where it’s quite exposed
  • Good hiking shoes/boots – some areas are often boggy and the terrain is rough in parts
  • The relevant Brecon Beacons map and compass
  • Most of these paths are marked on so download the map before you go

I love to take photos when I’m hiking in the Beacons. To discover everything I take on a photography hike, take a look at this post!

Where to stay

There are some incredible glamping properties that have sprung up in the Brecon Beacons over recent years. Discover the 10 most unique glamping spots in this guide – some of them might surprise you!

A great base option for an exploration of the Central Brecon Beacons is the town of Merthyr Tydfil. Merthyr is an Iron Heritage town centrally located just south of Pen y Fan. Read this post for a full description of all the things to do in Merthyr with places to eat and places to stay.

Final thoughts on the best walks in the Brecon Beacons

If you want to go walking in the Brecon Beacons then there are many options to choose from. There are long ridge walks to explore, multi-peak adventures to enjoy and canal strolls to savour.

In this guide I have outlined 10 scenic Brecon Beacons hikes which have varying degrees of difficulty. Whatever your fitness level or mountain ability, there is a beautiful Brecon Beacons walk to suit.

Do you have a Brecon Beacons trek you would add to this list? Let me know your thoughts below!

Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps cover the cost of running this blog. Thanks for your support!

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In this guide I discuss the best Brecon Beacons walks. I provide a brief outline of each hike, including distance, difficulty and starting location.

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Louise is a tour leader from South Wales who runs adventure tours in Africa, Asia and the Americas. She lives in her converted campervan & is currently based in Turkey. Louise is trained in mountain leadership and has a passion for photography.

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