Guide to the Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons Circular Walk
Guide to the Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons Circular Walk

Guide to the Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons Circular Walk

I did the Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons walk on a moody winter’s morning and lived to tell the tale. Joking aside, this 11.5-km circular walk in the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park (Bannau Brycheiniog) is a seriously good one.

The route packs in a bunch of adventurous features including beautiful valley views, Waun Fach mountain, a rugged, stepped ridgeline (the Dragon’s Back) and Norman castle ruins.

Along with being one of the most interesting hikes in the national park, the Dragon’s Back walk in the Black Mountains is also a physical challenge. The route takes 3 h – 5 h to complete and you’ll gain over 650 m of elevation as you tackle steep ascents and tough terrain.

Table of contents

Car parking for the Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons walk

The Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons walk starts and finishes at the Dinas Castle Inn (formerly the Dragon’s Back Pub) car park in the small village of Pengenffordd.

The car park is located directly alongside the main road (A479) which you’ll take to get to the pub. As you approach the car park, drive slowly because it’s easy to miss. The pub charges a couple of pounds to park and has an honesty box for you to pay at. Remember to bring change as you’ll need it to pay.

There is a blue information sign for the hike in the car park and to the left of this you’ll see a trail leading down into the treeline. This is the start point of the Dragon’s Back walk.

A blue sign with hike information written on it. It's the sign for the Dragon's Back Brecon Beacons hike.

Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons walk route

  • Distance: 11.5 km
  • Duration: 3 h – 5 h
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Summits: Waun Fach (811 m), Pen y Manllwyn (707 m)
  • Elevation gain: 656 m

The Dragon’s Back walk includes sections that are easy, moderate and difficult to tackle. The terrain is varied and ranges from concrete road to steep dirt trail to even steeper and slippery grass path. I recommend that you wear a decent pair of walking shoes.

The route can be completed in a clockwise or anticlockwise direction. I walked it in an anticlockwise direction and I’d say the hike is equally challenging whichever way you choose.


Leave the walk starting point by heading down into the tree line via the path next to the hike information sign. Turn right and follow the trail (an old stoney road) through the trees as you walk parallel to the main road.

A narrow path lined with trees. There are brown and yellow leaves on the ground.

After a few metres there will be a style to your left. If you want to do the Dragon’s Back walk in a clockwise direction, then climb over the style and continue uphill. Otherwise, ignore the style (you’ll come over it on the way back).

After a few minutes walking the road will split into three and you’ll need to take the middle road.

A road forking into three directions. There is a muddy puddle in the middle.

It was raining heavily at this point when I hiked the Dragon’s Back and the old road became very boggy in parts. However, stay on the old road as it bends left and the views open up through the trees.

A mountain in the background. A hedge in the foreground. This is the Dragon's Back Brecon Beacons hike trail.

In a few minutes you’ll come to a stream, which in heavy rain gushes and breaks its banks. The stream is too deep to walk through so you’ll need to find a way to cross. Being tall, I used the thin trees on the far bank to grab onto and pull myself across.

Cross the stream and continue until you join a tarmac road. Join the road and head left.

A road junction. There is a mountain in the background.

The road weaves between farms and fields with a couple of gentle climbs. Shortly you’ll come to a junction. Take the right fork here and after a few metres there’ll be a stoney path to your left. Take this path—which is actually sign posted as a bridleway.

A road splitting into two directions. The left directions has a signpost that says 'Dragon's Back Brecon Beacons hike'.

The terrain here is challenging. On a wet day a mini stream forms in the middle of the trail and the large rocks make the underfoot uneven. Say goodbye to smooth concrete roads as you begin the first ascent of the walk, to Pen Trumau.

Pen Trumau (707 m)

Pen Trauma is the first summit of the Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons walk. At just 707 m it may seem like a quick hike, but the journey up is one long steep climb.

Stay on the bridleway and pass through the metal gate ahead as the path bends to the right. Here you’ll get the first spectacular views of the day looking down the Rhiangoll Valley.

A valley shrouded in mist.

Stick to the narrow path as it now bends left around the side of the hill. Once around the bend, you’ll see the summit of Pen Trumau to the left and a peak to the right. The peak on the right is Mynydd Llysiau.

The trail will open up and the underfoot becomes an easier grass path; the incline becomes easier too. Continue uphill until you come to the saddle between Pen Tramau and Mynydd Llysiau.

At the saddle you get what I think is one of the best views of the day as you look east towards the border with England.

Sunlight lighting up a green valley.

From here follow the trail left—passing the cairn—to the summit of Pen Tramau. As you come to the summit, the dirt, rocky trail becomes a manmade gravel path.

This snakes all the way from Pen Tramau to the summit of Waun Fach passing peat bogs. I wasn’t a fan of the manmade path as it takes away from the challenge of the hike. However, it doesn’t take away from the brilliant scenery.

A gravel trail running along a mountain top. This is part of the Dragon's Back Brecon Beacons hike.

Waun Fach (811 m)

Waun Fach marks the end of the hike’s climb, and at 811 m, it’s the highest point of the Black Mountains. The summit is the least summity you’ll ever see. It’s as flat as a pancake and marked by a set of small stones.

However, on a good day you’ll have panoramic views over the region. Unfortunately for me, the cloud rolled in as I reached the top creating poor visibility. The Brecon Beacons National Park is notorious for how its weather conditions can change at a moment’s notice.

The summit of Waun Fach mountains. There is a gravel path and some small rocks.

Leave the summit of Waun Fach and begin the descent. The next point on the hike is Pen y Manllwyn, which is a mountain standing slightly shorter than Waun Fach at 766 m.

The section between Waun Fach and Pen y Manllwyn is probably the gentlest part of Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons hike. The flat, open moorland lets you see for miles over the Black Mountains range.

At Pen y Manllwyn the grassy trail turns left and you join the Dragon’s Back ridge (proper name Y Grib).

Y Grib (the Dragon’s Back)

Y Grib is the section of the hike from which the route gets its name. It’s a narrow ridge with a series of natural steps that look like the spikes of a dragon’s back.

A cairn on a ridgeline. The ridge is the Dragons Back in the Brecon Beacons.

Descending the ‘ridge of the dragon’ is a bit of a challenge. Not because the terrain is tiring, but because it is slippery. I had a few falls here resulting in mud slides as my hiking trainers simply didn’t have enough grip. Hence why at the start of the guide  I recommended you wear proper hiking boots for this trail.

Continue along the dramatic ridge ascending and descending the ‘spikes’. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across wild ponies as I did. There was also sheep to keep me company.

Sheep in the foreground and a valley in he background. Sun rays are shinning on the valley through clouds.

Ahead, on the other side of the valley you’ll see Mynydd Troed. And on a good day, beyond Mynydd Troed, Pen y Fan and Corn Du are visible.

A final  steep descent marks the end of Y Grib as you approach the site of the remains of Castell Dinas.

Remains of Castell Dinas

Castell Dinas is the final feature of the Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons walk. It was a Norman castle built atop a strategic point to defend the Rhiangoll Pass. However, the site’s history goes way back, well before the Normans as before the castle was built, it housed an Iron Age hillfort.

Remains of an old wall. The remains are of Castell Dinas in the Brecon Beacons.

There is a steep incline up to the castle ruins from the flat section at the end of Y Grib (the Dragon’s Back).

All that remains of the castle is a small section of stone wall. Although, outlines of ditches give you an idea of where other structures once stood.

The hike trail runs directly through the site of the castle ruins. At the far end of the site it bends to the right and downhill. From this point you can see the Dinas Castle Inn.

Back to Pengenffordd to complete the Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacon hike

Leave Castell Dinas ruins by heading down the steep field towards the inn. You’ll pass through a metal gate and then descend another steep hill to the stream you crossed earlier.

Cross the stream and hop the style (the one I mentioned at the start of the guide) and you’re back at the start of the walk.

More hiking and adventure travel inspiration on A World Over

The Dragon’s Back Brecon Beacons walk is a must-do if you’re exploring the eastern Brecon Beacons region of South Wales. I hope my guide helps you to tackle it and would love for you to let me know in the comments if you found it useful and to share  your experience of doing the hike.

I’ve got lots of guides to Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains hikes on A World Over and have linked to some of the best ones below. For all my adventure travel content, head to the blog.

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