High Rise hike to the Little West Lake
Follow a rugged and seldom-hiked hill trail over a big hill, and visit small villages on the way to a scenic stretch of unrestored Great Wall.
This first part of this hike follows a trail that connects two villages. Most trails like this are disappearing because villagers are starting to use gas rather than firewood, and they’re now also able to use cars or public transport to get to the next village instead of having to climb over the hill.
Following a trail out the back of the first village, we’ll hike up a big hill to an almost-800 metre peak. Our starting point is at around 300 metres above sea level, so this is a pretty good climb. Your breathtaking climb will be rewarded with breathtaking views.
In these hills it’s said there were gold mines, and some sections of our trail were made for the donkeys that serviced the mines. We don’t expect to see donkeys in the hills, but we’ve seen the tracks of wild pigs. Hopefully we don’t run into any of those!
We’ll skirt around a taller peak in the area, and then head down through terraced chestnut orchards to get to the second village, a tiny settlement of around 10 houses linked to a larger village by a concrete road.
We’ll follow the concrete road down to the largest village in the area, and at the back of that village is a narrow path that runs up through orchards to join the first section of Great Wall that we'll follow.
In this first section of Great Wall, it's just the climb to the second tower that is a little steep. After that, though, the ups and downs are a little more gradual. The wall follows the ridgeline, allowing views of mountains on one side, and the Longquanyu water canyon on the other. In places, it is overgrown and bushy, sometimes tumbled down.
The Great Wall is often built up and down incredibly steep hillsides; a highlight of this section is a special spot where the wall meets a cliff that forms a natural barrier, the steps of the wall leading up to a sheer cliff. It makes a good spot for a short break, but there's not much room for sitting. Quite obviously we cannot continue any further, so we'll backtrack a little and take a hillside detour, walking through chestnut orchards to get back on to our second section of wall for the day.
The second section of Great Wall continues much as the first, and a natural barrier will again force us off. This time, though, it's a valley that makes it difficult to continue, with the ruined wall making a steep descent into the valley. Instead of trying a dangerous descent over loose rocks and bricks dislodged by trees and weathering, we'll follow a thin dirt trail down the hill, into the valley, and then past the remnants of the wall as we head for the Little West Lake.
After getting on to the valley floor the walking is flat and easy, following park trails over a drawbridge and around the Little West Lake, actually a reservoir formed by a dam.
After making a circuit of the water, we'll head down to the carpark to meet our bus, and take a short drive to the restaurant where we'll have our late lunch.
Interesting: One of the first times we did the High Rise hike we got chatting to one of the old ladies in the first village after noticing her tiny feet. It turned out that when she was seven her mother had bound her feet, a painful process, following the fashion of the time (which would have been the 1920s). Apparently, without bound feet, she would have found it difficult to find a husband.
What to bring on this hike
- Snacks to eat while hiking
- Warm clothes, gloves, and a hat
- Good hiking boots
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- The first half of the hike follows a trail that could be overgrown, bushy, and a little scratchy.
- We're going to keep a fairly steady pace and take short breaks so we can stay warm while hiking.