Weather warning Dahaituo is at high altitude, and it’s fairly early in the season for climbing. We’re going to keep an eye on the weather, and if it’s not looking suitable we’ll switch to a different hike. Previous examples of unsuitable weather include powerful gales, whiteouts, and snowstorms. Book yourself in, and we’ll be in touch if there’s any change to the plan.
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.
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.
The cars will take us over the border into Hebei, and down into a valley in the midst of the mountains.
We’ll start the hike from the doorstep of our local guide’s house and follow the cowherders’ trail up into the hills.
After walking out through the village we start on a long climb up into the mountains, following a valley trail that leads by terraced fields and meadows. In some sections we follow rills that have exposed the rocks and gravel below the topsoil; in other sections we walk through meadows where cows graze.
The trail will eventually take us up on to one of the the big ridges that leads all the way to the top, and it’s here – about halfway to the top, in distance as well as altitude gain – where we join up with our old trail.
We follow an open trail through the hills, skirting around a few of the higher points. This section of the hike offers excellent views every which way: the peaks in front, the terraced fields of the villages in the valley behind, and more mountains in all other directions.
After some fairly gentle climbs and descents, the trail takes us through a pine forest. After we come out of the pine forest, the hike gets tough: we start the long climb up to the lower peak, a fairly tough workout of the legs and lungs that rises almost 300m over less than a kilometre, with an average slope of a little under 30°.
Up top, we’ll stop for a long lunch break and take our time to enjoy the views. There’s a cairn up top that we can add stones to, and a plaque that marks the height as 2,198m above sea level.
From the peak, we can see a broad plateau below. We’ll head down that way, and follow a path through forests down to Haituo Village, where we’ll finish the hike. It seems someone has had the bright idea to turn this area into a park, and it’s seeing significant development – a real shame in our opinion, because what once once a lovely little trail has been partially concreted and it looks as though they want to make a fairly broad path most of the way up to the plateau.
We’ll walk out to Haituo Village where we’ll be met by our cars, and then drive all the way back to the bus. At the bus we’ll have snacks and drinks ready, and after we’re finished our post-hike picnic we’ll head back to Beijing.
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and plenty of snacks to keep your energy up
- Sun protection: hat, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt
- Warm clothes and a waterproof jacket in case the weather changes
- A bottle of sports drink with salt content (Gatorade, Pocari Sweat)
- 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.