Over the Hills from Moss Mountain
Take a long ramble through bouldery valleys and along hill trails and farmers’ roads, starting at Moss Mountain, passing a carved Buddha in an old quarry, dipping into the Water Great Wall park area, and finishing with a climb over a large hill just to make sure you’re feeling your legs.
Moss Mountain is the local name for the granite peaks behind a little park area north of Huanghuacheng, and you can see the cliffs and crags of the mountain from the high parts of a lot of our hikes in this part of Beijing.
It’s a funny little park – sometimes open, sometimes closed – and we’ll start the hike from the ‘back door’ to be sure we can get on the trail.
The back door trail gets us on to the main park trail just before all the steep steps and stairs up through the most bouldery and scenic part of the park.
Behind all the boulders a flatter trail leads up a washed out valley towards terraced chestnut orchards that were farmed by locals in previous years. We’re not sure if they are still farmed—with the valley tracks washed out it must be difficult to get the loads of chestnuts out to the main road.
We’ll be following the valley up to cross over at a gap in the cliffs. On the way up we’ll offer the option to take a detour up a side valley to a small waterfall—usually just a trickle of water down the cliffs, but in winter that trickle freezes into what looks like a frozen version of the torrent that washed out the valley.
After crossing over at the gap, a well-formed track will take us down through old-growth forest, passing a giant pine tree and coming out the back of the remains of a rock quarry.
In the rock quarry we’ll spot a huge boulder with a Buddha carved into it, and if the timing has worked out, this is where we’ll stop for a lunch break.
The hike then continues down a dirt road, passing another optional detour—this time, a short walk up to the restored (and closed, and not super-interesting) White Cloud Temple—and then on to another hill climb, coming over a piney hill before hiking down a long valley to arrive at the shores of the Xishuiyu Reservoir and the Water Great Wall park area.
We’ll take a stroll around the reservoir and over the suspension bridge, and then we’ll head off into the last part of the hike.
The last part of the hike is a slow climb up a concrete road that leads out the back of the park area and just kind of dead-ends in the middle of the hills. Maybe it’s used by farmers who still hold a lease on the land in there? It looks to be a quiet valley in any case.
Just before that road dead-ends we’ll turn off for a climb up a nice open valley and over a saddle in the hills, then we’ll descend quickly into the valley on the other side and hike out to finish near the restaurants and guesthouses near the entrance of the Water Great Wall park area.