Pen-pych and Blaenrhondda – Country Walking magazine

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Published in Country Walking magazine, March 2022


Start/parking: Pen Pych forestry car park, grid ref SS 924 991

OS Map: OS Explorer 166

Distance:  5 miles/ 8km

Time: 3 hours

Grade: Moderate 

Is it for me? Steep footpaths and gravel tracks. Some muddy ground and narrow paths

This stunning waterfall walk takes you high above the Rhondda Fawr Valley, which has the views to rival neighbouring (and uber popular) Waterfall Country yet somehow remains something of a local secret. With serene forested hillside and the site of an ill-fated American West theme park, it’s defintely one to add to the list before the Insta-hordes discover it!

Start: From the car park, follow the grassy path NE, into the trees and uphill. The climb to the falls takes about 20-30 minutes and is the most challenging part of the walk. The path can be muddy and slippery, and good trail shoes are needed – but the effort is rewarded!

1. 0.8 miles/1.3km: At around 60ft tall, Pen Pych waterfall is one of the jewels in the Rhondda Valleys’ crown. From the falls, rejoin the path to continue uphill. At the ‘Loops and Links’ waymarker (with a bird of prey symbol), bear R along the track then look for a thin footpath R and follow the plateau perimeter to the Welsh flag.

2. 1.2 miles/1.9km: The endless view stretching down the valley is iconic. From the flag, walk NW to the fenceline. Don’t stray R; this plateau has thigh-deep fissures hidden by the tufty grass that can be treacherous. Pick up the wide track next to the fence and continue ahead.


3. 1.6 miles/2.6km: Pass the ruins of a dry stone wall and bear R to leave the track at the Loops and Links waymarker, descending into the forest. After half a mile, leave the gravel track for a grassy path forking L, crossing a brook. Continue downhill along this path towards the River Rhondda.

4. 2.75 miles/4.4km: Cross the ford via the metal bridge and continue R, gradually climbing again. At the brow of the slope, ignore the footpaths L, keeping straight ahead. Cross a shallow brook and continue downhill, taking care on the steep, narrow path. This rounds another waterfall, smaller than Pen Pych but a secondary gem on this trail. 

5. 3 miles/5km: Continue to the tarmac track and bear S, passing the site of the former Fernhill Colliery. A number of doomed projects have been attempted here since its closure in 1982, including the ‘Western World’ theme park – which opened for just a few weeks! Follow the track until it joins a gravel road at a U-bend. Bear R and, as you round the next bend, follow the footpath L to Cross Brook Street in the village of Blaenrhondda. 

6. 4.1 miles/6.6km: Bear L and follow Brook Street, past Pen Pych school. As you enter Blaencwm, look for the footpath R, marked by a brown bridleway sign, and return to the car park.


Further info:


Nearest town: Treorchy

Refreshments: A range of cafes and pubs on Treorchy High Street

Public toilets: None

Public transport: Stagecoach 120/130 Pontypridd to Blaencwm

DON’T MISS: Treorchy’s vibrant high street, voted UK High Street of the Year 2019 for its independent shops and cafes

Pen Pych and Blaenrhondda hike

Family trails, Hiking, Quiet walks, South East Wales, Wales, Walking Routes, Walking Trails, Walks, Winter wellness