Train Tracks and Chestnut Orchards
A good long hill-walking ramble through the hills and valleys of Changping District, with plenty of climbing up and down to give your legs a good workout.
Bring your passport/ID card just in case we go through a One Belt One Road conference security checkpoint.
On this long countryside walk we’ll follow old service roads and terrace trails through fields and valleys, pay a brief visit to a tiny village, and finish up with a long walk through the chestnut orchards that fill the slopes of the hills opposite the Big Black Mountain.
This hike starts off in the Ming Tombs area, and we’ll drive past several of the tombs on the way to our starting point.
In the mountains that run along the Changping-Huairou border there are many old trails that lead between small villages. These old trails are still used by locals to get to the terraces where crops are grown, but are seldom followed further than necessary. With a bit of extra climbing and scrambling, we can get across the ridgelines and join all the little field trails into a nice ramble through the hills.
We’ll start off on a gravel access road that climbs steadily, passing the remains of a quarry on the way to terraced hills deeper in the valley. It’s mostly chestnut trees in this valley, but corn is also grown on the flat. Locals sometimes set snares along the path, so we need to watch our feet!
In the middle of the hills there is a bit more wildlife than usual - we’ve seen plenty of pheasants about, and the snares looked like they were targeting rabbits and badgers.
Near the top of the valley we make our first climb, heading up to the ridgeline. Once on the ridge, we’ll get great views of all the surrounding mountains – to the east, the Big Black Mountain; to the north, the ridges that lead to the Huanghuacheng Great Wall.
After a break to enjoy the view, we’ll have a short, tricky descent on a hill trail that leads to a valley with more terraces before continuing on to the next village, passing by the train tracks on the way.
We’ll make a short detour through the narrow streets of the village to reach the next of the hill trails. We’ll follow the trail up on to a ridge, passing between pines to get to the broad hillside that holds many well-kept orchards. The orchards are extensive, and have quite a bit of infrastructure to support watering and harvesting: a large reservoir, pipes and taps for watering, and a concrete road that leads from the reservoir to the main road.
We’ll walk past the reservoir and follow the road for a little while before heading up into the hills again. On this section of the hike we’ll be following narrow dirt trails through pines and through valleys – slippery in places, and there are a few steep descents on loose dirt.
Eventually we’ll start getting close to the small village where we begin our Big Black Mountain hike, but instead of finishing there we’ll follow another ridgeline trail through pine forests to get to take a look at a temple hidden in the hills. On our last visit, the temple was still under renovation and wasn’t really open to take a look at, but we were able to get a peek at an old, gnarled pine tree in the temple courtyard.
From the temple we’ll walk out to the main road, meet our bus, and have some snacks and drinks before heading back to the city.
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and plenty of snacks to eat along the way
- Sun protection: long-sleeved shirt, hat
- Trousers to protect yourself from scratches in bushy areas
- Good hiking boots
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- Some sections of the trail are quite bushy.
- There are a few descents on steep and slippery hill trails.