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Walk Down the Pilgrims’ Trail

In Brief: Follow an old pilgrims' trail over a mountain pass, starting near the temple at Miaofengshan, and finishing up with a look at a smaller temple on the other side of the ridge.

Hikers walk through tall, dried grass

The middle section of the hike follows a forested and grassy trail. View more photos »

Key information

  • 3–4 hours start to finish over 10km.

The highlights of this hike in the western district of Mentougou include ancient paved paths, wooded areas, and great views of high mountain scenery.

We begin the hike at the carpark of the village below Miaofeng Temple, one of the many temples in the hills west of Beijing.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) the various temples were active and often visited by pilgrims. Trails between temples were financed by donors, and it’s said that the trail we’ll be following today was constructed at the behest of a religious eunuch during the reign of Empress Cixi (1861-1908 AD). 

More modern development in the area has seen construction of a road that leads up to the temple, and that road covers part of the old trail. We’ll follow the old trail as far as possible up a valley, and walk the a 500-700m bit of road before we head back into the hills.

In their prime, the pilgrim trails were busy enough to support little teahouses along the way – a place for weary (or maybe lazy) walkers to take a break before continuing. They’re all ruins now, unfortunately – on a cold day it would be nice to stop for a cup of hot tea, and on a hot day we think they’d sell a lot of cold beer!

After our warm up we’ll head into the hills, following the old stone-paved path. We’ll soon arrive at our first ruined teahouse, and take a little break there before moving on.

At this point we’ll already be roughly as high up as we get on the hike – a benefit of starting on the Miaofengshan Temple side of the hills. It’s a big climb coming from the Beijing side.

In this middle section of the hike we’ll be following a great trail along the side of a larger peak, passing by crags and under rocky outcrops as we walk though deciduous forest.

Just after we come out of the forest we’ll find another old teahouse, and it’s here we’ll stop for our lunch break. On a clear day, the views of the surrounding countryside and mountains are broad and impressive; on a misty day we’re often above the clouds and can see them rolling up the valleys to the north.

After lunch we start heading down the Beijing side of the mountains, and from here it’s down all the way – a descent of nearly 900 metres while walking 5 kilometres.

The first part of the descent is down an open ridgelines, with views of the northwestern suburbs of Beijing city.

As we get lower, the trail takes us through a forested valley, crossing a little stream and passing the ruins of more teahouses. Some of these old teahouses look to have been quite big, judging by the height and thickness of the remaining walls.

Just before the end of the hike we cross a firebreak road, and then follow a dirt trail down to a small village. On the outskirts of this village is a small temple built in a cave – we’ll take a quick look before walking through the village to find our bus.

What to bring on this hike

Reasons you might not enjoy this hike

  • There’s a bit of road-walking to near the beginning and end of the hike.
  • The long downhill to finish the hike can be tough on the knees.

There are risks involved in hiking. Please read our Risk Acknowledgment and Waiver and inform yourself before participating.

Level3

Level of difficulty

Level 3 hikes are the type we do most often. Level 3 hikes will take around 3 hours, and can be either reasonably easy, or challenging, depending on how often you exercise.

Is the level of difficulty suitable for me?

Hike statistics

  • Distance: 10km
  • Time to complete: 3–4 hours
  • Total ascent: 519m
  • Total descent: 1,085m
  • Start height: 791m
  • Peak: 1,053m
  • Finish height: 225m
  • Location: Mentougou
  • Drive time: 2 hours each way

Hikes in Beijing

We publish our hike schedule month by month, with updates around the 10th of each month.

If you're interested in hikes and trips during a month that's not yet listed, use our contact form to let us know and we'll send you a quick email when the schedule is online.

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