Walk Down the Pilgrims’ Trail

Follow an old pilgrims' trail over a mountain pass, starting near the temple at Miaofengshan, and finishing up with a look at a smaller temple on the other side of the ridge.

Level 3
3–4 hours start to finish over 10km. (Can I do it?)

This hike is not currently scheduled

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The view from the crossing on the Pilgrim’s Trail
The middle section of the hike follows a forested and grassy trail.

Had to cancel this one, sorry.

The highlights of this hike in the western district of Mentougou include ancient paved paths, wooded areas, and great views of high mountain scenery.

We begin the hike at the carpark of the village below Miaofeng Temple, one of the many temples in the hills west of Beijing.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) the various temples were active and often visited by pilgrims. Trails between temples were financed by donors, and it’s said that the trail we’ll be following today was constructed at the behest of a religious eunuch during the reign of Empress Cixi (1861-1908 AD). 

More modern development in the area has seen construction of a road that leads up to the temple, and that road covers part of the old trail. We’ll follow the old trail as far as possible up a valley, and walk the a 500-700m bit of road before we head back into the hills.

In their prime, the pilgrim trails were busy enough to support little teahouses along the way – a place for weary (or maybe lazy) walkers to take a break before continuing. They’re all ruins now, unfortunately – on a cold day it would be nice to stop for a cup of hot tea, and on a hot day we think they’d sell a lot of cold beer!

After our warm up we’ll head into the hills, following the old stone-paved path. We’ll soon arrive at our first ruined teahouse, and take a little break there before moving on.

At this point we’ll already be roughly as high up as we get on the hike – a benefit of starting on the Miaofengshan Temple side of the hills. It’s a big climb coming from the Beijing side.

In this middle section of the hike we’ll be following a great trail along the side of a larger peak, passing by crags and under rocky outcrops as we walk though deciduous forest.

Just after we come out of the forest we’ll find another old teahouse, and a short walk around the corner takes us to a grassy meadow, where we’ll stop for a lunch break. On a clear day, the views of the surrounding countryside and mountains are broad and impressive; on a misty day we’re often above the clouds and can see them rolling up the valleys to the north.

After lunch we start heading down the Beijing side of the mountains, and from here it’s down all the way – a descent of nearly 900 metres while walking 5 kilometres.

The first part of the descent is down an open ridgeline, with views of the northwestern suburbs of Beijing city.

As we get lower, the trail takes us through a forested valley, crossing a little stream and passing the ruins of more teahouses. Some of these old teahouses look to have been quite big, judging by the height and thickness of the remaining walls.

Just before the end of the hike we cross a firebreak road, and then follow a dirt trail down to a small village. On the outskirts of this village is a small temple built in a cave – we’ll take a quick look before walking through the village to find our bus.

What to bring on this hike

Reasons you might not enjoy this hike

  • There’s a bit of road-walking to near the beginning and end of the hike.
  • The long downhill to finish the hike can be tough on the knees.

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 Down the Pilgrims’ Trail

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