Visiting Waterfall Country
The sound of water rushing, gurgling and dripping over stone fills the ears. This is a place of movement, colour and sound, our Celtic rainforest.
Nestled into the southern slopes of the Fforest Fawr massif, west of Merthyr Tydfil, Waterfall Country is one of the most beautiful and popular parts of the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Fforest Fawr Geopark, with steep, tree-lined gorges and an abundance of tumbling water.
Known in Welsh as Coed-y-Rhaeadr (Wood of the Water), Waterfall Country lies within the triangle formed by the villages of Hirwaun, Ystradfellte, and Pontneddfechan. Here, old red sandstone and a long belt of outcrop limestone have created a highly distinctive environment of wooded gorges, caves, swallow holes and waterfalls.
The Rivers Mellte, Hepste, Pyrddin and Nedd-Fechan, tributaries of the River Neath, have their headwaters in the Fans, the old red sandstone mountains further north, and wind their way south through Waterfall Country via steep-sided, tree-lined gorges.
The area contains two Sites of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation with fine specimens of sessile oak and ash trees and over 200 species of mosses, liverworts, and ferns. It is also of historical significance, as it contains the legacy of man’s attempts to make a living from this landscape. It receives around 300,000 visitors a year, including walkers, outdoor groups, photographers, climbers, cavers and canoeists.
The most famous waterfall is Sgwd-y-Eira, the Snow Waterfall, on the River Hepste, where a natural path leads right behind the curtain of water.
- Please note that all of the waterfalls are not close to the car parks.
- All car parks are cash only so please ensure you have change with you to pay for your parking - £4 for a car and £7 for a mini-bus.
- Make sure to follow one-way advisory signage where requested.
- Car parks get very busy, and are often full by midday.
- Keep an eye on our social media for any important announcements on the day you are visiting
Gwaun Hepste car park
From the South: From the A465 (Heads of the Valleys Road), follow the A4059 north through Penderyn. Once in open country, take the minor road on the left signposted ‘Ystradfellte’. Keep left at two junctions, following signs for Gwaun Hepste car park.
From the North: from the A470 at Beacons Reservoir, take the A4059 right and after 6.5 miles take the minor road on the right signposted ‘Ystradfellte’. Keep left at two junctions, following signs for Gwaun Hepste car park.
*** Please be aware the roads in this area are very narrow, and are often single track with little visibility and few passing places. Be prepared to give way and reverse on narrow lanes ***
There are other smaller car parks scattered around Waterfall Country but they fill up very quickly at peak times.
For the Sychryd gorge, Dinas Rock and Bwa Maen follow the road through Pontneddfechan, keeping right at the road fork by the Dinas Hotel and continue past the bus turning circle and over the narrow bridge into Dinas Rock car park.
For the cave at Porth-yr-ogof, follow advisory signs for the pay and display car park at Cwm Porth (Os grid ref SN928124). There is a basic shop open 10am – 4pm, seven days per week – closed Christmas day.
Top five things to do in Waterfall Country
Much of Waterfall Country is open access land, which means the general public is free to explore it on foot. However, for safety reasons and to minimise erosion, please stick to the paths – there are around 25 miles of them. You can enjoy the waterfalls, streams and the woodland scenery, spot plants, insects and birds, or discover the remains of mines, quarries, kilns and a gunpowder factory with the help of our audio guides.
The combination of rocky gorges and fast flowing water makes Waterfall Country an exciting and challenging location to explore. Adventurous activities like gorge-walking should only be undertaken as part of an organised group with suitable equipment and training. Groups require permission to operate in the area, and should follow a code of conduct to minimise the environmental impact of their activities. The South Wales Outdoor Activity Provider Group (www.swoapg.co.uk) can provide information.
Porth-yr-Ogof cave, a single cave with over 1.5 miles of passages under the valley floor of the River Mellte, can be accessed from Cwm Porth car park, where there are basic toilets, changing facilities and a small shop selling snacks and drinks. The Nedd Fechan caves and the silica mines near Craig-y-Ddinas are visited by more experienced cavers.
Canoeing and kayaking
The rivers in this area are accessible to all and offer some of the best whitewater canoeing in Wales. Conditions are usually grade 4 or grade 5 and are suitable for experienced paddlers only.
The Dinas Rock area is one of only two areas within the Park where rock outcrops suitable for sport climbing, top-roping and bouldering are to be found. The main face of Craig-y-Ddinas in the car park is suitable for learners, and there are several bolted sports routes for more experienced climbers to be found up the Sychryd.
Looking after yourself and the countryside
• Keep on the waymarked paths – they will offer you the safest route.
• If you bring it here, take it home – litter can spoil everyone’s visit.
• Watch where you step! – plants, especially mosses, are fragile and slow growing and easily trampled.
We care about you too, so please:
Remember to wear sturdy footwear; the walking trails can be steep and slippery underfoot. Be aware of unguarded steep drops, especially when taking photos.