The autumn colours in the parks in Beijing’s West Mountains are famous throughout China, and the area is correspondingly crowded when the colours are at their peak.
We usually avoid hiking here for that reason. But during the lockdowns in early 2020 the hills here were one of the few places to go for a hike, and we got to know all the little trails in between the most popular areas.
On this visit we’ll use those little trails and firebreak roads to skirt the crowds, traversing hill sides and hiking gullies filled with all the fiery colours of the fall season.
We’ll start off with a warm up walk along the roadside before hitting a steep trail that takes us up on to the ridgeline above the Badachu park area.
The trail goes up through low brush and rocky areas passing Little Tiger Peak and Big Tiger Peak, two hilltops with views of the Badachu park area far below.
Past the Big Tiger Peak we’ll turn down on to a forest track that takes us over to a firebreak road.
We’ll follow the firebreak road a short distance before turning off on to a narrow hill track, and after a short climb to a crest we’ll have views of the Nanmuchang Reservoir in the valley below.
We’ll take the scenic route down to the reservoir, staying higher up on a trail that slowly descends through the hills.
After a break at the reservoir we continue along a utility road that passes a disused dam. It’s a gentle way to start again after our break, and that’s good—we’ll soon be on to another of those steep trails, this time hiking up a terraced valley to reach a rocky trail that leads up to another of the firebreak roads.
As we reach that firebreak road we’ll be very close to the south side of the Xiangshan park area—we’ll be able to spot the top of the chairlift and one of the main lookout points.
We’ll follow the firebreak road to the top side of the Western Hills Forest Park and squeeze through the little gate to get in. Here there’s a little shop that sells snacks and drinks, if you need a refill.
From the top of the Forest Park we’ll hike by the ‘Laughing Ghost Rock’ viewpoint, and if it’s a clear day we’ll have great views of Beijing in front of us as we hike the stairs down to finish at the East Gate of the park area.
If the park is very busy on the day we visit our bus might not be able to get all the way into the carpark, in which case we’d need to hike out a bit further. This might affect our post-hike picnic location, too.