We’ve done the hike up to the Tianmenshan rock arch by itself as a Level 2 hike, and even then it’s tough on the legs, with 1.5km of stairs and steps to climb on the way up to the arch and reservoir lookout.
Add that stair climb at the end of an already-difficult hike along 14km of tricky hill trails, and you’ve definitely got a solid Level 5 hike.
We’ll start off at the lower carpark of the Tianmenshan Scenic area, and walk up a narrow concrete road to get to the ticket office.
The narrow concrete road continues past the ticket office to the upper carpark, and just past there we’re on to the farm tracks and hiking trails in the forested hills and valleys on the west side of the scenic area.
We follow a streambed up through a narrow valley that eventually opens up. We’ll see traces of farmed areas—stone terraces, old chestnut and walnut trees, and piles of stones and rocks that used to be little farm houses.
Past the farmed area, the trail follows the stream up into a re-wilding forest, passing boulders, mossy rocks and stones, and flat slabs of rock wetted by trickles of rainwater caught by the hills and mountains.
We’re aiming for a pass in the high cliffs, and it will feel like it takes forever to get there, hopping across the stream, picking a path around boulders, dodging nettles, and zig-zagging up towards the top.
After crossing the pass we’ll head down into the valley on the other side, and then take a turn up a rocky cut to cross over at another pass. This time it’s not quite as long a climb.
On the way down from that second pass, gaps in the foliage reveal views of the Miyun Reservoir far below.
A well-formed trail down from the pass forks at a barbed wire fence. If we ducked under the fence and kept going straight we’d end up at Heilongtan, another popular Miyun-area scenic attraction.
But we’re going to do our third hill, following the barbed wire fence up to another pass in the mountains.
The barbed wire fence is the major annoyance on this hike. It’s been strung right on top of the old trail over the hills, and we’ll need to be careful to avoid scratches.
And then it’s back down to the Tianmenshan scenic area, following dirt tracks and a bouldery riverbed back to that upper carpark.
And then … the 1.5km of stairs, with 300m of ascent up to the rock arch, . At this point you may like to weigh up the effort versus the reward of that big climb. If it’s a clear day, then definitely go for it. If you want to test out your calf muscles, then definitely go for it. If you’re already tired, or it’s not such a clear day … maybe go for it?
Either way, sooner or later, we’ll end up back at that lower carpark to finish the hike.