Best walks in the Brecon Beacons National Park

From spectacular ridgelines and mountains to glistening waterfalls, rivers and lakes, the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales has something for everyone. Our guide looks at the best walks in the Brecon Beacons – all within an hour's drive of several major cities.

Brecon Beacons National Park
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The Brecon Beacons National Park was designated as a national park in 1957, later achieving International Dark Sky Reserve status in February 2013. The park covers an area of 519 square miles and comprises four regions: the Brecon Beacons, Black Mountains, Fforest Fawr and Black Mountain (Y Mynydd Du) each with its own bounty of beautiful walking routes.

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Head to Waterfall Country in the south and take a hike along a gushing river to a series of impressive cascades, or visit the verdant valleys and ridgelines of the Black Mountains in the east. Many people seek the highest mountain, Pen y Fan, but there are plenty of other, quieter mountains with equally exciting walking routes.

Our guide explores some of the best hiking routes in the Brecon Beacons, each with its own walking map and set of directions.

Best walks in the Brecon Beacons

Waterfall Country, Powys

2.5 miles/4km | 2 hours | moderate

Autumn waterfalls
You will first glimpse Sgwd Ddwli Uchaf (Upper Gushing Falls) through the trees, before the footpath takes you to its very top/Credit: Getty

“I cannot call to mind a single valley that… comprises so much beautiful and picturesque scenery and so many interesting and special features.”

With these words, Victorian naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was describing neither the Amazon nor the Far East that he explored on his intrepid travels, but somewhere much closer to home: the Vale of Neath on the southern slopes of the Brecon Beacons.

Spilling water, mossy riverbeds and tree-shrouded caverns – Waterfall Country is a ramblers dream – find out for yourself with this 4km walk.

The route
  • 4km/2.5 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Moderate
Waterfall Country walking route and map
Waterfall Country map

Cribyn, Powys

11.5 miles/18.8km | 6 hours | moderate-challenging

The Brecon Beacons comprises an Old Red Sandstone ridge formed over 400 million years ago during the Devonian period./Credit: Getty

Often overshadowed by its towering neighbour, Pen y Fan, this verdant mountain in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales is one of Britain's most understated peaks. Cribyn is the kind of mountain a child may draw; pyramidal and stacked with brawn.

Yet in spite of its mountain status, its summit is neither as high nor as insurmountable as you may imagine, making it well worth the climb.

The route
  • 18.6km/11.5 miles
  • 6 hours
  • Moderate/challenging
Cribyn walking route and map
Cribyn map

Pen y Fan, Powys

10.3 miles/16.7km | 6 hours | challenging

Brecon Beacons National Park
At 886 metres (2,907 ft) above sea-level, Pen y Fan is south Wales’ highest peak/Credit: Getty

This quiet accent of Pen y Fan begins at the enchanting Taf Fechan Forest, rising beyond the now-empty Upper Neuadd Reservoir to meet the summit from the south. It’s a long day, but a highly rewarding one.

For anyone who doesn’t fancy to entire 10.5-mile hike, stop at the reservoir and appreciate the peak from the valley. A string of trees runs alongside Neuadd, offering shade in the warmer months and shelter in the cold.

The route

  • 16.7km/10.4 miles
  • 5-6 hours
  • Moderate/challenging
Pen y Fan walking route and map

Pen y Fan map

Abergavenny and Avon Cibi, Monmouthshire

6.1 miles/9.8km | 4 hours | moderate

The market town of Abergavenny on the river Usk seen from Blorenge mountain in the Black Mountains, Wales
Abergavenny market town at the eastern end of the Brecon Beacons National Park/Credit: Getty

Take your time exploring the newly pedestrianised town centre, gather your treats, then set off on a lovely four-hour walk, taking in some beautiful countryside on the Sugar Loaf mountain just north of Aber.

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The route
  • 9.9km/6.2 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate
Abergavenny walking route and map
Abergavenny map

Blorenge, Monmouthshire

6.5 miles/10.6km | 3.5 hours | moderate

Keeper's Pond on the flanks of Blorenge in the Brecon Beacons/Credit: Getty

Step out of your car at Keeper’s Pond and look out over the Black Mountains. The instantly recognisable flat top of Sugar Loaf mountain rises above Abergavenny and, on a clear day, you can pick out the Brecon Beacons’ highest peaks, Pen y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn to the west.

The surrounding landscape bears scars from the industrial activity the area is famous for; coal mining has left black furrows in the hillside, evidence of limestone and ironstone quarries litter the landscape and bell pits pockmark the ground behind the car park – the starting point of this 16.6km walk.

The route
  • 10.6km/6.5 miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate
Blorenge walking route and map
Blorenge map

Craig-Cerrig-gleisiad, Powys

2.7 miles/4.4km | 2 hours | moderate–challenging

Hills and crags
Craig Cerrig Gleisiad in high summer/Credit: Getty

Climb any of the Brecon Beacons and you’ll find a stirring view. But the best of them all is the glowering peak of Craig-Cerrig-gleisiad.

This raven-haunted buttress is studded with steep crags that have prevented sheep from grazing rare sub-Alpine plants such as the delightful purple saxifrage. It means that the flora here is richer and more interesting than elsewhere in the national park. And so are the birds.

At the foot of the cliff you’ll find bluebells in flower now among the hawthorn scrub, from where male redstarts sing. As you climb the steep paths to the top, look out for nesting peregrine falcons and the star of the reserve, the ring ouzel.

The route

  • 4.4km/2.7 miles
  • 2 hours
  • Moderate
Craig-Cerrig-gleisiad walking route and map

Craig Cerrig Glesiad map

Llanthony and Hatterall Ridge, Monmouthshire

5 miles/8km | 3 hours | moderate

Llanthony Priory, Wales
Llanthony Priory sits in the Vale of Ewyas in Monmouthshire/Credit: Getty

Running along the spine of England and Wales for 177 miles, this ancient path follows the eighth-century fortification built on the order of King Offa in an attempt to divide Mercia from rival kingdoms.

This energetic circular walk meanders in and out of the Brecon Beacons National Park, negotiating the scenic Hatterall Ridge that separates England from Wales. Lying in the Vale of Ewyas, the evocative ruins of Llanthony Priory, a 12th-century Augustinian abbey, can also be enjoyed. However, to appreciate its full splendour, grit your teeth and prepare for a heart-pumping climb…

Here's our guide to one of Britain’s exhilarating national trails, the Offa’s Dyke Path.

The route
  • 8km/5 miles
  • 3 hours
  • Moderate
Llanthony Priory walking route and map
Llanthony Priory map

Carn Pica, Powys

5 miles/8km | 3.5 hours | moderate-challenging

Look out for wild ponies on the ridge up to Carn Pica
Look out for wild ponies on the ridge up to Carn Pica/Credit: Daniel Graham

The Brecon Beacons National Park comprises many great peaks, each as worthy as the next – one of the most understated of all these is Carn Pica.

There's no easy way to get to the summit of this mountain, which rises more than 750m above sea level. You can approach it from the long, sprawling mass of Bryn and the boggy uplands of Waun Rydd, or from the west and the Central Peaks of Pen y Fan and Cribyn. My favourite way to reach the summit, however, is from the east and Talybont Reservoir. It's a steep route to the top, but a quiet one, perfect for those seeking a little solitude in the hills

The route
  • 8km/5 miles
  • 3.5 hours
  • Moderate/challenging
Carn Pica walking route and map
Carn Pica map

Fan Hir, Powys

6.6 miles/10.6km | 4 hours | moderate-challenging

Surrounded by peat moorland, rocky mountain ridges and spilling streams, Llyn y Fan Fawr is a great place for novices to try their hand – and feet – at a guided trail run/Credit: Sian Anna Lewis

This seven-mile route across the Black Mountain to Llyn y Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons National Park is wild and rugged – take on the path at walking pace, or for a little more excitement, try running the length of the ridge.

The route
  • 10.6km/6.6miles
  • 4 hours
  • Moderate/challenging
Fan Hir walking route and map
Fan Hir, Black Mountains map

Craig-y-Cilau, Monmouthshire

4.3 miles/7km | 2.5 hours | moderate

Lesser spotted woodpeckers can be seen in the hazel and oak woodland
Lesser spotted woodpeckers can be seen in the hazel and oak woodland/Credit: Getty

Little known and seldom celebrated, these towering rocky crags are within an hour’s drive of Cardiff and Bristol – yet people insist on travelling further in search of such mountainous drama.

This was once a huge quarry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Here, limestone was hewn from the ridge and taken by tram to the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in the valley below. It was then burnt in kilns for use as fertilizer, whitewash on cottages, and as a vital part of the iron-making process when the southern Welsh valleys were awash with pits and furnaces.

The route
  • 7km/4.3 miles
  • 2.5 hours
  • Moderate
Craig-y-Cilau walking route and map
Craig y Cilau map

Llyn y Fan Fach, Camarthenshire

4.8 miles/6.2km | 2.5 hours | moderate

Looking east from Bannau Sir Gaer over Llyn y Fan Fach/Credit: Getty

Perhaps the hardest part about this day out is finding the car park; pass the small community of Llanddeusant and you know you’re close.

Parking up in the small, gravel car park, you’ll already be aware of the solitude of this part of the Brecon Beacons – it’s the quiet understudy to the neighbouring central peaks of Pen y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn, yet certainly no less spectacular.

The route
  • 6.2km/4.8 miles
  • 2.5 hours
  • Moderate
Llyn y Fan Fach walking route and map
Llyn y Fan Fach map

Sugar Loaf Mountain, Monmouthshire

5.2 miles/8.4km | 3 hours | moderate

Pinched at its crest, the iconic Sugar Loaf peak is visible from miles around/Credit: Getty

In its relatively modest 596m, the summit of Sugar Loaf in the Brecon Beacons National Park encompasses much that is magical about mountains, hills and woodland – explore this wonderful Welsh peak with a five-mile circular walk.

The route
  • 8.4km/5.2 miles
  • 3 hours
  • Moderate 
Sugar Loaf Mountain walking route and map
Sugar Loaf mountain, monmouthshire map

Talybont-on-Usk, Powys

1.7 miles/2.8km | 1 hours | easy

Talybont Reservoir, Wales
Brinore Tramroad runs alongside Talybont Reservoir beneath the rounded summit of Tor y Foel (551m)/Credit: Getty

The Brinore Tramroad fell out of use more than 150 years ago, yet evidence of the primitive railway still haunts this quiet valley in the heart of the Brecon Beacons.

Explore this old track on a short walk from Talybont-on-Usk along the tramroad and back along the Caerfanell River.

The route
  • 2.8km/1.7 miles
  • 1 hours
  • easy 
Talybont-on-Usk walking route and map
Caerfanell River walking route and map

Llanellen to Govilon, Monmouthshire

7.4 miles/11.9km | 5 hours | moderate

Canal and houses
Llanfoist Wharf/Credit: Ian Capper, Geograph

Arguably the most beautiful – and peaceful – canal in Britain, the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal runs only for about 35 miles (55km) between Brecon and Newport. Built in the late 18th century to carry iron and other goods from the Valleys to the River Usk, it appears to defy gravity, clinging to hillsides and giving boat users and towpath walkers extraordinary views.

This walk takes in one of the loveliest stretches – and offers a more challenging route back to the start following a tram road over the mountain.

The route
  • 7.4 miles/11.9km
  • 5 hours
  • moderate
Mon and Brec Canal walking route and map
Llanellen and the Punchbowl walking route and map

The Skirrid, Monmouthshire

5.6 miles/5.6km | 2.5 hours | moderate

Hills and woodland
Skirrid Mountain, Monmouthshire/Credit: Getty

Holy Mountain, Sacred Hill, Ysgyryd Fawr in Welsh – ‘ysgyryd’ meaning shattered or split – or simply The Skirrid, this mini mount goes by many names, hinting at its extensive and intriguing past.

The land surrounding the hill has long been considered holy and fertile – according to one ancient legend, a powerful landslide hit it the moment Christ was crucified on the cross – and religious pilgrimages have been made to the summit for centuries.

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Enjoy a 5km circular walk to the summit of this spooky hill, which offers dramatic views across the surrounding countryside with the Blorenge hill in the distance.

The route

  • 3.5 miles/5.6km
  • 2.5 hours
  • moderate
Skirrid walking route and map

Skirrid walking route and map
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