The Brecon Beacons National Park is one of three national parks in Wales, and is centred on the Brecon Beacons range of hills in southern Wales. It includes the Black Mountain in the west, Fforest Fawr (Great Forest) and the Brecon Beacons in the centre and the Black Mountains in the east.
The Brecon Beacons National Park was established in 1957, the third of the three Welsh parks after Snowdonia in 1951 and the Pembrokeshire Coast in 1952. It stretches from Llandeilo in the west to Hay-on-Wye in the northeast and Pontypool in the southeast, covering 519 square miles (1344 km², 332 100 acres) and encompassing four main regions - the Black Mountain in the west, Fforest Fawr and the Brecon Beacons in the centre, and the confusingly named Black Mountains in the east. The western half gained European and Global status in 2005 as Fforest Fawr Geopark. This includes the Black Mountain, the historic extent of Fforest Fawr, and much of the Brecon Beacons and surrounding lowlands.
The entire National Park achieved the status of being an International Dark Sky Reserve in February 2013.
Most of the National Park is bare, grassy moorland grazed by Welsh mountain ponies and Welsh mountain sheep, with scattered forestry plantations, and pasture in the valleys. It is known for its remote reservoirs, waterfalls including the 90 foot (or 27 metre) Henrhyd Waterfall and the falls at Ystradfellte, and its caves, such as Ogof Ffynnon Ddu. The Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre was opened in 1966 to help visitors understand and enjoy the area.
Activities in the Park include walking, cycling, mountain biking, horse riding, as well as sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and fishing, rock climbing, hang-gliding, caravanning, camping and caving. A long-distance cycling route, the Taff Trail, passes over the Beacons on its way from Brecon to Cardiff, and in 2005 the first walk to span the entire length of the Brecon Beacons National Park was opened. The 100-mile (160 km) route, called the Beacons Way, runs from the foot of Ysgyryd Fawr east of Abergavenny and ends in the village of Bethlehem in Carmarthenshire.
Due to the relative remoteness and harsh weather of some of its uplands, the Park is used for military training. UK Special Forces, including the SAS and SBS hold demanding selection training exercises here, such as an exercise called the Fan dance. The infantry regiments of the British Army train at Sennybridge, where NCO selection also takes place.
In 2006 and 2007, controversy surrounded the government decision to build the South Wales Gas Pipeline through the Park, the National Park Authority calling the decision a “huge blow”.
The Brecon Beacons National Park attracts many visitors due to the range and quality of outdoor activities the park offers. These include hill walking, climbing, gorge-walking, caving, horse-riding and mountain biking.