The Yellow Grass Plateau to Dragon Gate Gorge trail is one of our best hikes, and it’s the longest one we’ve got in our repertoire.
We’ll head out on Saturday afternoon, aiming to arrive just as all the tour buses are carrying away the scores of visitors to this picturesque and popular place to visit. After checking in at our guesthouse, we’ll have time to explore the village and to take a short hike up to a lookout point in the hills opposite to the village.
We’ll set the alarms for an early start on Sunday for our 27km* hike through the hills and varied scenery of west Beijing’s Mentougou District.
We think this is one of the best hikes in Beijing, and if you can handle a long day in the hills then don’t miss this one!
(* It’s about 27km. Maybe a little shorter, maybe a little longer—our GPS always loses signal in the last section of the hike.)
To begin the hike we’ll jump on the bus and head up the old road that used to join Beijing with Xi’an, collecting our local guide along the way.
The first part of the hike is a two hour walk uphill along a road, up park steps, and through rocky crags along a mountain trail to a plateau at 1,700m above sea level.
It’s a big climb, and it gets steeper just before we reach the plateau.
The plateau has a lot of nice flora, including ferns, bracken, flowers, and long grass. Dong Ling Shan – at 2,303m above sea level the highest mountain in the Beijing area – is visible to the west.
At this point, most of the uphill for the hike is done, but we’ve still got a long way to go before we finish!
The next quarter of the hike is very scenic: first following an open trail across the plateau, and then dipping down into a forest atop rocky crags.
After about an hour and a half of walking we’ll arrive at an isolated stretch of Great Wall, a good place for a lunch break, and a great place to get some photos.
We walk on by the Great Wall and then head down a long valley, following a forest trail out into a more open area where we’ll see an isolated settlement surrounded by mountains, cornfields, sometimes a few sheep, and even a few yak-like beasts.
From the small settlement we’ll follow a dirt road up for a while before turning off on to the path that leads to the head of Dragon Gate Gorge.
Arrival at the gorge is sometimes taken as a sign that the hike is almost over … but there’s still another 3 hours of walking!
As we head down into the gorge its walls become steeper and steeper, and the forests on the slopes give way to rocks and tall cliffs.
Partway down the gorge there is a short – but very steep – descent down a rock face. If you have any trouble with heights then this part of the hike will be very difficult, as the descent is at a sharp angle and the bottom of the gorge far below is clearly visible. This descent is not technically difficult - there are plenty of good footholds and branches to get a solid grip on, but we’ll need to take it easy.
The lower section of the gorge has been turned into a park, and the appearance of small pavilions, basic toilets, and signs that point out the weird names of rock formations signify our return to civilization.
After everyone has finished the hike, we’ll get on the bus and drive to a nearby restaurant for a late lunch (or early dinner) before heading back to Beijing.
We will stay in shared rooms in a courtyard guesthouse, sleeping on the big platform beds. Bedding will be provided. There are taps and washing bowls for washing, but the shower is not reliable.
Saturday dinner: Chinese food cooked by our host.
Sunday breakfast: Toast, cornbread, omelets, jam, honey, fruit, coffee and tea.
Sunday snacks: A banana, an apple, one Snickers bar, nuts, water, and a sandwich (ingredients provided).
Sunday late lunch: Chinese food in a local restaurant.
12:30 – Bus leaves from Liangmaqiao Subway.
13:00 – Bus leaves from Lido Hotel Starbucks.
15:00 – Check in at guesthouse in countryside.
16:00 – Option for walk/hike before dinner.
18:30 – Dinner at guesthouse.
19:30 – Free time, beer club, bedtime.
06:00 – Up for breakfast, make lunch, check out.
07:00 – Drive up to the trail head.
07:30 – Begin the hike.
16:00 – Finish the hike, late lunch / early dinner at a countryside restaurant.
19:30 – Back in Beijing (approx.)
Things to bring
- A change of clothes, including something warm for night time.
- Waterproof jacket.
- Washbag, toothbrush, toothpaste, small towel
- Flashlight optional but handy for midnight toilet trips
- Bedding and pillows provided
- Main meals provided, bring extra snacks for the big hike!
With 10 people signed up, this trip is all go!
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- There’s a tricky descent down a rock face which will not be much fun if you are not good with heights.
- Once you start the hike, you’re fully committed!
- The toilet facilities in the village and guesthouse are rather basic, and you’ll need to wait til you get home before you can shower.
- Our guest house is comfortable but small, and you’ll be sharing a kang bed with one or two other hikers.