We decided to climb Pen y Fan with our 6 and 8-year-old kids on holiday in the Brecon Beacons last summer. Pen y Fan is the highest peak in South Wales and one of the most popular mountains in the Brecon Beacons, so we thought it would be great for them to be able to say they’d climbed a mountain in the summer holidays.
My six-year-old wasn’t much of a walker at the time (she still isn’t) so we were dubious about whether she would make it to the top, but we were pleasantly surprised. The path is clearly marked and easy to follow, and we ended up climbing Corn Du – another peak on the route – along the way.
If you’re thinking about climbing Pen y Fan with children, here are some of the things I’d have found helpful before we went – particularly when it comes to parking, as it’s just been announced that there’s now a £7.50 fee to park at Pont ar Daf car park. Set off early so you can get a space, wear proper walking shoes, and enjoy the views along the way – the scenery on a clear day really is incredible.
How to climb Pen y Fan mountain with kids
What age can children climb Pen y Fan?
It will of course depend on your kids, but our 6 and 8-year-olds managed it fine, and we passed children far younger on the climb. Our kids are fit and active but by no means seasoned climbers, and although the littlest did moan – and quite a lot – she was chuffed to bits when she reached the summit.
How long does it take to climb Pen y Fan?
The climb takes between 2.5 and 4 hours to climb on average if you follow the shortest route, but we came back via a much longer route that meant we were out walking all day. We saw runners jogging up, lots of people with dogs, and plenty of families taking it much more slowly. The first section is quite a long and gentle ascent, but it gets more interesting as you climb.
What’s the best way to climb Pen y Fan with kids?
The easiest route up Pen y Fan is a four-mile circular walk that starts from the Storey Arms Outdoor Centre or the nearby Pont ar Daf car park. The locals call this route The Motorway on account of how popular it is, and it was pretty busy when we went. It didn’t detract from our enjoyment though, and people are very friendly along the way. Visit Wales recommend several longer routes up Pen y Fan if you don’t fancy the crowds, and we took an unexpectedly long detour on the way back, which I probably wouldn’t do again.
What’s at the top of Pen y Fan?
The summit of Pen y Fan is long and flat – and windy! We ended up taking most of our layers off on the climb up, but they all went back on pretty swiftly when we got to the top, so make sure you’ve got a light layer of clothing even if it’s sunny at the bottom. The wind also makes it difficult to sit and eat lunch up here, so you may want to stop off on the ascent. There’s a National Trust plaque flanked by a queue of climbers waiting for a photo. We queued for five minutes, got the obligatory shot, then found somewhere to sit and get our breath back while admiring the view.
Is there parking at Pen y Fan?
Parking can be a bit of a nightmare as this climb is so popular – particularly at peak times like the school summer holidays. For 2022 it’s been announced that there will be a £7.50 parking fee for non-National Trust members to park at the main car park at Pont ar Daf, where we parked. There’s a lot of work going on to extend the car park this summer, so it will be even more important to get there early this year and look for potential alternative parking spots that aren’t on the roadside. Use the postcode LD3 8NL to get you to the car park. The good news is, there will eventually be hundreds more parking spaces, although it’s not due to be completed until winter 2022.
Is there any food and drink available?
There was a snack van selling hot and cold drinks, snacks and hot food, which was very welcomed when we visited. We got some gorgeous hot sausage rolls, cakes and cans of Coke to help us up to the top.
Are there toilets at Pen y Fan?
There were some pretty smelly portaloos at the starting point, so it’s worth bringing your own toilet roll, wipes and antibac hand gel. The toilets and other facilities are all being improved this year as part of the work to extend the car park.
What do I need to pack to climb Pen y Fan with kids?
Proper hiking shoes or boots are a must (I wrote this guide to the best kids’ hiking boots for The Independent, which might be helpful), as are layers of clothing to strip off as you warm up/put back on when you get to the windy summit. We climbed it in the first week of September when it was still fairly hot, so we packed plenty of water, sun hats, and suncream, and it’s worth bringing the items mentioned above for the toilets. If you’re reading this and you’ve got kids, I probably don’t need to tell you to pack armloads of snacks for bribes along the way. Other than that, enjoy the climb! This family-friendly route is well worth the legwork.