Shunyi Hikers: We’ll be picking up people from the Starbucks at Pinnacle Plaza in Shunyi for this hike. If you’re not based in Shunyi but fancy a walk around the Perfect Loop, we can still make it work – write us a note when you make your booking.
The Perfect Loop hike is one of our older trails, and reviving it gives us a good chance to show you some of the changes taking place in Beijing’s countryside.
This hike doesn’t include lunch, and is more expensive because our trail takes us through part of a park with rather expensive tickets.
We start off on the outskirts of a little village in the hills in Pinggu District. Much of the land in this area is given over to farming, with corn and peaches grown on the flat land, and chestnuts grown on terraces carved out of the hills.
We think it’s the farming that’s mainly responsible for the changes to the old trails in the area – while dirt trails are very nice for hiking, putting down concrete makes it much easier to get your loads of chestnuts out to sell at harvest time.
The concrete roads make the trails feel different underfoot, but we’ll still see all the scenery that makes this hike a lovely stroll in the hills.
The beginning of the hike is – for now, at least! – still on a dirt and gravel track that takes us up and over a ridgeline. It’s a fairly gentle rise until just before the top, where the trail gets a bit steeper just before crossing over.
On the other side of the ridge we’ll find the first of the small villages on our trail. These villages are all fairly well hidden in the hills here, and before some of the old trails were concreted it must have been tough to get in and out.
After passing through the village we’ll follow one of the concreted roads along to the next village, and then we’ll get back on to a dirt trail.
This dirt trail will take us up to yet another village, one with an interesting back story. The village is named Paomachang, which roughly translates as ‘horse running field’, as in a racecourse.
It’s said that this area was used for roughly that purpose during the Jin and Liao Dynasties (between 900-1200 AD), a place for the war horses to run about.
This is one of Beijing Hiker’s apocryphal stories, and we’re now not sure whom we heard it from! It’s an interesting story though, and as we walk by we’ll see if we think the area would have worked well for racing horses.
Continuing along the dirt trail, we’ll walk on into part of a park that seems to have fallen into disuse. We’ll pass a small reservoir and get on to a narrow hill trail that will take us along the side of steep hills and down into another park area.
The next park seems to be doing better business, and sometimes they have a chairlift working. Sometimes, in summer, they even have visitors! The park road leads down a canyon to another larger reservoir, where we plan to stop for our lunch break.
After lunch we’ll head on, walking out through the main gates of the park, out down a road, and then up a concrete road to find the last of the villages along our trail, a tiny ten-house village on a plateau. This is the biggest climb of the day, and we make it a bit tougher by using some steep old hill trails as a shortcut.
Previously lacking in residents, the village has seen a little development. It is certainly not lacking in views of the surrounding scenery. The older houses of the village are mainly constructed from the flat stones found on the plateau; newer houses have used bricks.
We once met an old man at the foot of the hill, and he invited us to his house and told us some tales of the village – how the village was originally settled so far from a water source because of a lack of better choice for their poor ancestors, and how the villagers used to have to take their donkeys to fetch water from a distant spring before the construction of a water-pipe.
The new concrete road comes all the way up to the village, and goes a bit further as well. We’ll follow it a short way, and then turn off on to a hill trail that takes us down through terraced valleys and past pine trees, finishing up just a few minute’s walk from where we started off and completing our perfect loop!
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks to eat while hiking
- Sun protection: long-sleeved shirt, hat
- A bottle of sports drink with salt content (Gatorade, Pocari Sweat)
- Good hiking boots
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- Some of our old trails have been paved, and we’ll be walking on concrete roads the hills for a while on this hike.