Walk a hill trail out of a tiny village, up and over a big hill and down into the ‘Long Dark Valley’, a huge canyon that’s in the process of being turned into a park via a six-hundred-million dollar investment.
The first part of the hike is rough and rugged, and the last section of it is an easy walk out through the canyon. Note: the last 5km of the hike is along a concrete road that’s been built up into the valley as part of the park development.
We’re going to start out with a stroll through the streets of Zhenbiancheng Village, where our local guide lives. This village used to be a fortress during the Ming Dynasty, and it’s still surrounded by big stone walls. These days, the inhabitants are farmers, not soldiers.
A trail out the back of the village leads up into the hills to the west, and we’ll make a long climb up to the ridge.
Atop the ridge is a short line of Great Wall that looks to be just a fragment, and not joined up to the other wall in the area. Rather mysterious! We’ll stop here for a lunch break, and to admire the view: the jagged peaks of Brushrest Mountain, and smaller hills all covered in green.
From the ridge we’ll head down into a leafy valley. Our local guide used to grow his potatoes down in here, so we’re going to call it Potato Valley. He said they grew nice and big. You’d hope they grew nice and big – it’s a very long walk from his house for a tiny potato!
Down in Potato Valley is where we got scratched up a bit, but we’ve organized a team of local friends to go through and chop back the brush a little, and it will be smoother going for our hike. Still, you’d better wear trousers and long sleeves.
At the bottom of Potato Valley we meet a gravel road that takes us down into the Long Dark Valley, passing below crags and cliffs.
We eventually meet the concrete road, and from there it’s a fast walk down and out to the entrance. There are a few little forks we can investigate – including quite a detour up a side canyon – but in the main we follow the road between the sides of the canyon, passing below tall cliffs and rocky outcrops.
The park development is said to be the result of a six-hundred-million dollar private investment, and we’re not sure how they will ever make that money back – it’s in an area that is really difficult to get to and we’re not sure how people will hear about the place.
Oh well! We’ll see how they do – the official opening date is in October!
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks
- Warm clothes in case it gets cold.
- 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
- Parts of the trail are a little bushy.
- The last 5km of this hike follows a concrete road built up into the canyon.
- Bad traffic can make it a long drive there and back.