Changed dates We’ve changed the dates after learning that Cuandixia will be
infested visited by 400 school kids on the dates we originally planned to visit.
For this overnight we’ll make a base in Cuandixia, a 500-year old Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644) village that is sometimes referred to as “a living museum”. We’ll be staying in a basic-but-comfortable courtyard guesthouse and sleeping on their big kang beds.
Earlier in the year we did the Yellow Grass Plateau Mini-Overnight. This is essentially the same itinerary, but with an added option on the second day for those who would like a more relaxed trip.
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 for a quick hike in the hills above the village. After dinner, we’ll have our now traditional Beijing Hikers Bonfire and Beer Club, and set the alarms for an early start the next day.
Hikers who are doing the 27km* hike will get an early start on Sunday – we aim to get going at 7:00am. Walkers taking the more relaxed option on the Sunday can wake up a little later!
The relaxed option for Sunday starts with a good look about the village, walking the paved lanes and stairs, investigating the courtyard houses, and visiting their hilltop temple for a bird’s-eye view.
Cuandixia is made up of many well-preserved stone buildings, including about 70 courtyards. The majority of these courtyards are now guesthouses, and the owners are usually happy enough to let people explore. In the village we’ll find much history, with old Cultural Revolution slogans slowly fading on some of the walls, and art, stone, and wood work from the Qing and Ming Dynasties. Cuandixia was lucky to escape destruction during the war, while some other villages in the area were destroyed almost completely.
After a good look about the village, the bus will then drive over to Dragon Gate Gorge, where the long hike finishes. Outside the gorge there is a cliff-top temple to take a look at, and then we’ll walk up and back down the gorge to get a good look at the superb scenery within the tall cliffs.
We think the tough option for Sunday 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!
The Yellow Grass Plateau to Dragon Gate Gorge 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 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 – First group up for breakfast, make lunch, check out.
07:00 – Drive up to the trail head.
07:30 – First group begins the long hike.
08:00 – Second group up for breakfast, make lunch, tour the village.
10:30 – Second group check out, drive to Dragon Gate Gorge.
11:15 – Second group explores Dragon Gate Gorge and surrounding area.
16:00 – First group finishes the hike and everyone meets up at the bus, then 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!
- Entertainment: pack of cards, book.
- Cameras, chargers.
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 long hike, you’re fully committed!
- If you’re in the second group, you may have to wait a little while for the long hike group to finish.