The village of Sancha is situated in the fork of three valleys and is a perfect starting and finishing point for a walk through an especially interesting piece of Beijing countryside.
This was once one of our favourite areas for a hike, but we hadn’t been able to hike here for nearly five years due to local situations that included the whole village being razed and rebuilt with little townhouses.
We did a scouting trip and met with our old village buddies to open up the trail again. While the village is totally different, the hiking trail is mostly the same. It looks like no one hikes across the top section anymore, and we’ve did a bit of trail clearing to clean that up. That part will still be a bit scratchy, though.
At this time of year this hike would more properly be named as the Winter Valley Loop – still a good one!
Our hike will start with a walk through the village and up one of the valleys, passing
small guesthouses and by the now-abandoned trout farm restaurant.
After we pass the restaurant we'll get on to the valley trail, following it up along a stream, past ruined farmhouses, through a forest, and up to a grassy plateau with cornfields and apricot trees. This plateau is on the border of three Beijing districts – Changping, Yangqing, and Huairou.
After a break at the plateau at the top of the valley we will walk up to the ridge, where we will find a remnant of Great Wall that is said to date back to the Northern Qi Dynasty (550–577). There's not much left of it now—just a line of piled-up rocks and stones.
The hike continues through the brambles beside that pile of rocks and stones, heading for a high point. This is the part of the hike that we found fairly hard-going, with much of the trail obscured by thorny branches and leaves.
On the high point we’ll stop for another break, at a ring of stones that locals say was made from the stones of nearby Great Wall by Japanese soldiers.
Depending on the state of the trail we’ll either follow hill trails or the rough line of Great Wall to a pass in the hills, then down into a valley on the other side, then back up another valley through pine forest to cross through the Great Wall again.
This brings us to the head of Sancha’s other valley, and we’ll hike down that valley to finish the hike. The trail is narrow and tricky to start with, but as the valley broadens we get on to a dirt road that takes us back down into the village.
Also interesting—this is the same Sancha Village mentioned in Peter Hessler’s book Country Driving. We never did figure out the location of Wei Ziqi’s leech farm, and, anyway, now the village is totally different, with all the old courtyard houses replaced by the little townhouses.