UPDATE 2013/05/10: Because of tough fire restrictions we’re starting this hike a little further down the road, at our local guide’s village. The overall scenery, length, and difficulty remain the same. Bonus: it’s a trail not commonly followed by other hikers.
Dahaituo Mountain sits on the border of Yanqing and Hebei province, and is the second-highest mountain in the Beijing area. The mountain has three main peaks and itself forms the main peak of the Yanshan mountain range that runs across the north of the Beijing municipality.
The mountain and the surrounding area is part of the Songshan National Nature Reserve. It’s quite far away from central Beijing, so we need to leave early to have enough time to enjoy the hike and still get back to Beijing at a reasonable hour. We’re also hoping an early departure will help us avoid getting mixed up with any other hiking groups on the trail.
It’s a long climb up to the top, especially if it’s a hot sunny day, so this is a hike best suited to fit, regular hikers.
After arriving in the area, we’ll switch from the bus to cars driven by local drivers – the road up to the start of the hike is narrow and steep, no good for large vehicles. The road we’ll follow was once the main conduit for traffic between Beijing and that part of Hebei. The road is only open to light traffic now, and is not used so much anymore.
Just after we cross over to the Hebei side of the border we’ll start the climb, following a winding path up the side of the mountain, passing through meadows, stands of pines and firs on the way up to the lower peak of Dahaituo (approx. 2,198 metres). There is a lot of variety in the flora and fauna, and in the right season we’ll see a lot of flowers, butterflies, moths, and other insects. This is an excellent hike for nature fans and plant spotters. Of particular interest are the different bands of vegetation on the way up.
The mountain flattens out a little at the top, with broad grassy meadows and forested slopes. We’ll take a break at the lookout on top to enjoy the view, take some photos, have our lunch, and rest the legs before heading down the other side, walking down through the meadows to a saddle before following a dirt trail through a pine forest on our way down to our meeting point with the local taxis that will take us back to our bus.
This is one of our favourite hikes—the scenery is amazing—but because it’s quite difficult to organise we only visit a few times each year.
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and plenty of snacks to keep your energy up
- A waterproof jacket in case the weather changes
- Strong and comfortable hiking boots
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- Improvements to the roads have made it easier to access the trailhead, and we have noticed more and more people on the trail. Not all of them have a good sense of trail etiquette.
- Further ‘improvements’ to the trail on the Hebei side have resulted in the last few kilometers of the trail being made into a concrete path. Great if you are worried about getting your feet dirty, not so great otherwise.