Ancient Horse Hoofprints Hike
Walk through an all-but abandoned village and up to see the indentations made in solid rock that allowed horses to cross a slippery spot, and walk a section of an ancient trail in Beijing’s west.
Old favourite! We’re revived our old Horse Hoofprints hike for the Year of the Horse, having finally found a new spot to start from after the trail was ruined by a new road built right through the middle.
The new version is a little shorter, but we still see the main highlights of the old hike: high hills, all-but abandoned villages, the old paved pilgrim’s trail, and the the indentations made in solid rock that allowed horses to cross a slippery spot as they transported goods and people from one side of the mountain to the other.
We start off near a partially-abandoned village in the hills west of Beijing, following paved steps up through terraced orchards, over a concreted path, and then up an old mountain trail that will take us on to and over a tall ridge.
At the top of the ridge we’ll find the new road – built right on top of a really nice dirt trail that meandered through the hills and below cliffs.
After a quick walk along the new road, we’ll head down into a valley where we’ll find an abandoned village. Last time we walked through, it was inhabited only by a horde of chickens. This time, we’ll see if the chickens have further multiplied, or if other developments have occurred in the village.
From this village we’ll be on our old trail. It used to take us about two hours to walk up to this point, but now it’s shorter – little more an hour should get us to the village.
We’ll stop for a break at the village, and then head up a valley trail that quickly turns into a step climb up to another ridge, where we’ll find an old stone archway that’s part of the “West Beijing Ancient Path”, a paved pilgrim‘s path through the hills.
A short walk from the archway are the horse hoofprints – we’ll make a little detour to take a look at those, and then head back to the archway. From the hoofprints we’ll be able to spot the dome of a radar station. We won’t get too close to that though – the time we did walk that way for a closer look we received a friendly greeting from some men with big dogs and guns.
On the other side of the archway we’ll find the paved trail, and we’ll follow it down towards an abandoned hotel development. The hike occasionally gets a little interesting as we get close to the abandoned hotel – on previous visits we have encountered yaks roaming about, and, one time, an angry camel held us up for a little while.
Just past the hotel we’ll take a sharp turn and head down a valley, following a nice trail past a few old mines, reservoirs, old brick buildings with faded socialist slogans, finally finishing up with a long walk out along a concrete road to a bustling village on the outskirts of Beijing.
We haven’t done this hike for quite a while, and we’re not totally sure what we’re going to find along the way. Join up, and find out!
(Below there’s a link to a trip report with photos from this trail – that’s the old version of the hike, and we won’t be visiting the village seen in the first few photos.)
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks
- Warm clothes, gloves, and a hat
- Good hiking boots
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- Parts of the trail might be bushy and overgrown, and we expect that there will be thorn bushes in some areas.
- We haven’t walked the last section of this hike for quite some time, and the trail might be a bit different than the one we remember.
- The last part of the hike takes us out along a concrete road, walking about 3km through villages that were modernised around the time of the Olympics in 2008.