Walk Like A Pilgrim

Make a big climb up the paved pilgrims' trail that crosses Phoenix Ridge, and then walk on to Miaofengshan.

Level 4
4 hours start to finish over 10km (Can I do it?)

This hike is not currently scheduled

Contact us for schedule updates or set up a private hike

Hills and mountains on the Incense Trail hike
Hills and mountains on the Incense Trail hike.

On this hike we’ll make an arduous climb up a pilgrims’ trail that leads from temple to temple, starting on the Beijing side of the West Mountains and finishing at Miaofengshan.

The highlights of this hike in the western district of Mentougou include temples, ancient trails, forest, and great views of high mountain scenery. You’ll also get some excellent exercise for your legs!

We begin on the east side of the West Mountains, the side closest to Beijing City, walking through a small but modern village. Out the back of the village we’ll find a tiny temple, and will take a quick look before starting our big climb up the hill.

During the Qing Dynasty, the trails up over the hills were popular with pilgrims, who would follow them from temple to temple. Some of these trails were paved, with the cost of the work covered by wealthy donors. The trail we’re following on this hike is mostly unpaved, but in sections we’ll be following the big flagstones smoothed by many years of use.

From the tiny temple we follow a trail through fields, crossing a firebreak road before continuing up. It’s a long, steady climb up, and it will be fairly tough on a hot day – starting at about 235m above sealevel, we reach the first peak at an altitude of 1,037m after a walk of just under 5km, with 895m of climbing from the bottom to the top.

The views are worth it, though – mountains all around, and views of the flat area that is slowly being filled by Beijing’s urban sprawl. 

The path takes us past the remnants of several Qing Dynasty-era teahouses, with just walls and foundations remaining. No chance for us to take a refreshing tea break, like the pilgrims in days past were able to, sorry!

After that first peak, the climbing is mostly done and the path flattens out as we skirt the highest peak in the area. There’s still a little up and down, but the second peak is only a little bit higher than the first.

From the second peak we follow a trail down past another teahouse, arriving at the road that leads down to the village where we’ll finish the hike.

What to bring on this hike

Reasons you might not enjoy this hike

  • It’s a big climb, and will be tough on a hot day.
  • Parts of the trail between the first and second peaks might be a bit brushy and scratchy.

Because of the COVID-19 situation we have some extra terms and conditions for participation.

In particular:

  • DO NOT participate if you are sick or showing symptoms of fever and/or have an elevated temperature, or have been in close contact with someone who was.
  • DO NOT participate if you have not completed any required quarantine after your return to Beijing.
  • You MUST agree to the mitigation and prevention measures outlined here and that Beijing Hikers will not be held responsible if any participants become sick.

Please read in full here: Operating hikes under COVID-19 precautions

Related content

Photos and trip reports: Walk Like A Pilgrim

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