In winter, in the valleys and canyons in Yanqing District, the streams, rivers, and any little trickles of water freeze up into slabs of ice.
As more water runs over the slabs of ice, it too freezes, and the ice expands to cover hiking trails and, in some cases, the entire valley floor. Boulders and rocks are encased in ice, and tree trunks are enveloped.
'Big Cloud' Valley is shaded by high cliffs, and it holds a small stream that flows from a spring, year-round.
In winter, that small stream freezes and expands to make something like a mini-glacier.
Shuiquan Canyon is wider, and the boulders and pools of water are larger—the pools of water freeze, and we're able to pick a path over and around boulders as we hike up.
On this hike, we'll head down 'Big Cloud' Valley, and then hike a short, steep stretch of the Longquanyu Great Wall before descending into Shuiquan Canyon.
At this time of the year, the streams might be just starting to ice up a little.
We'll start the hike by walking down into a small village.
The village is popular with weekend day trippers because it is right by the Longquanyu Great Wall, which we also love to visit for a day hike.
Out the back of the village we'll find the trail that leads down into 'Big Cloud' Valley. To start with, it's fairly easy going on a dirt road. As we get further down into the valley, we cross the frozen stream a few times and then descend on to the narrow floor of the valley, picking a path through the ice and rocks.
Near the end of the valley is the Little West Lake park area. Instead of hiking out through the park, we'll climb a steep section of Great Wall and head for Shuiquan Canyon.
We'll go up and over the wall, and then down to a dip where we’ll find the steep track that leads down into the Shuiquan Canyon.
Once we’re down into the canyon we’ll follow a short section of the Little West Lake park trail up to the Black Dragon Pool. We’ll use stepping stones to cross the first part of the pool, and then cross over large boulders and a rushing stream as we exit the park area.
It’s not far until the next big pool. Back in the day we used to have to use boats to cross this pool – it was either that or swim – but the boat team got kicked out for operating without permits and a little bridge was built instead. The little bridge isn’t in great shape, with some of the footboards missing. The frame of the bridge is solid, and you don’t need to worry about falling in the water.
Beyond that pool, the path continues over and around boulders as we hike up to the head of the canyon and out to the village where we finish the hike.