Explore Pen y Fan and the Brecon Beacons with the Horseshoe Ridge hike

If you’re after a challenging but rewarding walk across wild Welsh moorland and up steep rocky peaks that offer commanding views over the Brecon Beacons, the Horseshoe Ridge hike is for you. At every step of the circular walk around the U-shaped Neuadd Valley and up the four peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan (the highest peak in southern Britain), Cribyn and Fan y Big, you’ll be swept away by magnificent views stretching for miles in all directions.

I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the superb Horseshoe Ridge hike, which, in my opinion, is one of the best walks in the Brecon Beacons. With each step on this awe-inspiring trail, I fell a little more in love with Wales and the Welsh hills. Please be aware, the paths can be muddy, and the weather inclement and ever-changing, so be prepared.

Location: Neuadd Valley, Brecon Beacons, South Wales

Walk difficulty: Challenging

Time: 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours

Distance: 10 miles (16 km)

Climbing steeply up the arresting Graig Fan Ddu ridge

The Horseshoe Ridge hike starts at the Taf Fechan Forestry Commission Car Park (CF48 2UT). The walk begins with a leisurely walk along country lanes and past the pump house of the Neuadd reservoir. From the reservoir, you have amazing views of the ridge and the four peaks you are about to climb. Stop and admire the majestic and awe-inspiring sleeping giants; they have been around for centuries and have seen many climb up their flanks.

View of the Graig Fan Ddu Ridge and Neuadd valley on the Horseshoe Ridge hike in the Brecon Beacons
The Neuadd Valley and Graig Fan Ddu Ridge

The most challenging part of the hike is the steep climb up to the Graig Fan Ddu Ridge. The ascent is made via a long and steep flight of steps, but the higher you climb, the more magnificent the views. Once at the top of the ridge and after a short break to catch your breath, the hike takes you along the ridge, through moorland and towards the four peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big.

Enjoying spectacular views from Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn & Fan y Big

The Horseshoe Ridge trail is fairly popular and you’ll meet fellow hikers along the walk. However, when you get to Corn Du and Pen y Fan, it is hordes of sightseers that you’ll meet. Leaving the moorland behind and climbing up the rocky path, the first peak you hike up is Corn Du, closely followed by Pen y Fan.

From all four peaks, but especially from Pen y Fan, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding hills and valleys, the town of Brecon, the Brecon Beacons Park, the Black Mountain and the Black Mountains. On a clear sunny day, you can even spot the Sugar Loaf Mountain in the distance.

Splendid views from Pen y Fan of the Brecon Beacons mountains and valleys on the Horseshoe Ridge hiking trail
Breathtaking view from Pen y Fan

Leaving Pen y Fan and the hordes of sightseers behind, there are two peaks left to ascend. From Cribyn, you’ll appreciate the towering scale of Pen y Fan as well as your hiking efforts. If you don’t feel like climbing one last peak, you can bypass Fan y Big, the fourth and last peak in the chain of mountains.

Strolling across the peaceful Neuadd Valley

At the bottom of Cribyn and Fan y Big, you’ll find the Gap Road, also known as the Roman Road, which takes you through the peaceful Neuadd Valley and back to the car park. The hike ends as it started, with a welcome leisurely walk along pebbled country lanes. From the valley, you can take a last glimpse at the majestic sleeping giants you just climbed.

The four peaks of Pen y Fan, Corn Du, Cribyn and Fan y Big

Pen y Fan, Corn Du, Cribyn and Fan y Big are four mountains located in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Towering at 2,907 feet (886 m), Pen y Fan is the highest peak in South Wales and southern Britain. At 2,864 feet (873 m), Corn Du is the second highest mountain in South Wales. Cribyn stands at 2,608 feet (795 m) and Fan y Big at 2,359 feet (719 m).

Peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn from the Neuadd Valley in the Brecon Beacons
The peaks of Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn

Being the highest mountain in South Wales, Pen y Fan, pronounced ‘Pen y Van’, is a very popular peak to climb for hikers and sightseers alike. But this is nothing new. The mountain has been admired for centuries and you can discover Bronze Age burial cairns at the top of both Pen y Fan and Corn Du.

From the top of the four peaks and on a clear day, you can enjoy splendid views stretching across the Brecon Beacons, South Wales and all the way to South West England, as well as spot the lovely town of Brecon at the foot of the mountains.

The Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Ridge walk details

How long is the Horseshoe Ridge hike

The walk is 10 miles (16 km) long and takes approximately 4 ½ to 5 ½ hours with regular stops to catch your breath and admire the incredible scenery.

Walkers hiking up Pen y Fan
Walking up Pen y Fan

How high is the walk

The total ascent of the Horseshoe Ridge hike is around 2,000 feet (610 m). The walk climbs to Pen y Fan, the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons and South Wales at 2,907 feet (886 m).

How hard is the Horseshoe Ridge walk

The hike difficulty is challenging, as it involves strenous ascents to the top of four Brecon Beacons peaks. The total ascent is around 2,000 feet (610 m).

Where does the hike start and finish

The Horseshoe Ridge hike is a circular walk, and starts and finishes at the Taf Fechan Forestry Commission car park (CF48 2UT).

What is the postcode

The Horseshoe Ridge walk is in the Neuadd Valley in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The postcode for the start of the hike is CF48 2UT.

How to get to the Horseshoe Ridge hike

You can get to the walk by car or by bus. From Brecon, take the A40 road towards Abergavenny. From Abergavenny, take the A40 road towards Brecon. At Llansantffraed, follow the signs for Talybont-on-Usk and the Talybont Reservoir and continue along the country road. When you reach a junction, turn right following the signs for the Neuadd Reservoir and continue straight ahead to the car park.

From Swansea, take the A4067 road to the M4 motorway. Drive east towards Cardiff on the M4, then take the A465 road towards Abergavenny. From Cardiff, take the A470 road towards Brecon. When you reach Merthyr Tydfil, follow the signs for Pontsticill and the Pontsticill Reservoir. After driving past the reservoir, continue straight ahead the car park.

Roman road across the Neuadd Valley with views of the Brecon Beacons ridges and peaks
Walking on the Roman Road across the Neuadd Valley

You can also take the X43 bus from Brecon or Abergavenny and stop at the Storey Arms in Glyn Tarell. This does not take you to the start of the Horseshoe Ridge walk, but to the most popular starting point for a straight-forward walk up Pen y Fan. Just follow the signposts for Pen y Fan and join the Horseshoe Ridge hike mid-point. Find the itinerary and timetable for the X43 bus on traveline.cymru.

Where is the car park

For the Horseshoe Ridge hike, you can park at the Taf Fechan Forestry Commission car park (CF48 2UT). The car park is free (at the time of writing) and parking spaces are limited, so I would recommend getting there early.

Where can you find the walk map and GPX file

You can find the Horseshoe Ridge walk itinerary and map on nationaltrust.org.uk. You can also download the GPX file: Horseshoe Ridge hike on outdooractive.com.

Do you have to pay to climb Pen y Fan

It is free to climb Pen y Fan, walk the Horseshoe Ridge hike and visit the Brecon Beacons National Park. You may have to pay for some car parks, but not the Taf Fechan Forestry Commission car park where this walk starts.

Are there any facilities and toilets on the Horseshoe Ridge walk

There are no facilities or toilets on the hike. The nearest toilets, shops and pubs are in the village of Pontsticill.

How accessible is the hike

The Horseshoe Ridge hike is not suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs or bikes, as it includes steep ascents to the Brecon Beacon peaks.

Can beginners climb Pen y Fan

Beginners can climb Pen y Fan if they have a good level of fitness and are prepared for the walk. However, I would not recommend the Horseshoe Ridge hike for beginners, as it is a challenging walk with steep ascents. For beginners, the classic and popular climb from the Pont ar Dar car park is more suitable.

View on Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Ridge Hike
View of Corn Du and Pen y Fan

Can children walk up Pen y Fan

If children are used to walking and have a good level of fitness, then yes, they can climb Pen y Fan. Many children can be seen walking up Pen y Fan.

Is Pen y Fan easier to climb than Snowdon

From my personal experience, I would say Pen y Fan is easier to climb than Snowdon, but this depends on which route you take. Pen y Fan has a lower elevation than Snowdon at 2,907 feet (886 m).

What is the trail condition

The trail is a mix of pebbled, dirt and grass paths, and can get muddy in wet weather and in winter, especially on the moorland.

When I discovered the Horseshoe Ridge hike, I was lucky enough to have minimal rain and sunny bursts. It was, however, very windy at the top of the ridge and the peaks. Be prepared for any weather and trail conditions; the Brecon Beacons can often surprise you with its ever-changing climate.

Views of the Brecon Beacons and beyond from Pen y Fan
More spectacular views from Pen y Fan

What to wear walking up Pen y Fan

I would recommend being prepared for any weather and wearing/ bringing with you the following items of clothing for Pen y Fan:

  • Walking boots
  • Windproof rain jacket
  • Warm hat, scarf and gloves
  • Warm fleece/ jumper
  • Base layers
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Sunhat and sunglasses

I would also recommend bringing lots of water and snacks, as well as sunscreen. You may also want to bring walking poles.

Do you need hiking boots or can you wear trainers to climb Pen y Fan

I would recommend wearing hiking boots to climb Pen y Fan, but this is not essential, you can wear trainers. In wet weather and in winter, be prepared for your trainers to become wet and muddy, and bring with you a second pair of dry shoes.

Can you bring dogs

Dogs are allowed at Pen y Fan and in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Please be mindful of livestock and keep your dogs on a lead.

Things to do near Pen y Fan

Walking in the Brecon Beacons

The best way to explore the Brecon Beacons is to walk up its majestic peaks, along its arresting ridges and across its wild valleys. With each step you take, you’ll enjoy the spectacular scenery of the national park and South Wales. From Sugar Loaf Mountain to Llyn y Fan Fach, find the best walks in the Brecon Beacons.

View from Sugar Loaf Mountain of Brecon Beacons hills
Views from Sugar Loaf Mountain

Waterfall Country

Near Pen y Fan, the Waterfall Country is a top place to visit in the Brecon Beacons. The Four Waterfalls are the most popular walk and enchant with their spectacular falls and captivating woodland. Find the Four Waterfalls walk guide.

The mining museum in Blaenavon

Located on the outskirts of the Brecon Beacons, the mine of Blaenavon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best preserved example of Wales’ industrial past. At the museum, you can visit the furnaces, quarries and mines, as well as the typical streets and cottages of the 19th century mining community. For more information, please visit visitblaenavon.co.uk.

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2 thoughts on “Explore Pen y Fan and the Brecon Beacons with the Horseshoe Ridge hike”

  1. Living in South Wales and being a keen hiker, the Brecon Beacons are often our playground. It was only around Easter time of this year that we discovered the Pen y Fan horseshoe walk for the first time. Well, what a splendid hike it was! It was not only a real challenge but the views on offer are hard to beat and are often mesmerising. What’s more, you are almost guaranteed to avoid the crowds that you typically find on the shorter, easier routes up from the two starting points on the A470. If you are looking for a circular hiking trail in the Brecon Beacons, put this one on the top of that list!

    • Gavin, I’m so glad you enjoyed the Horseshoe Ridge hike! This walk is truly breathtaking and one of the best hikes in the Brecon Beacons. I would recommend you also check out the Llyn y Fan Fach walk, the scenery is as spectacular!


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