Hillwalking Challenge: Longevity Village to the Heavenly Lake
Start off with a stroll through a small village before heading for the hills on a long walk up through the countryside on the way to the huge hill we'll climb to get to the Heavenly Lake. 16km with more than 1,000m of elevation gain on the way to the end.
This is a good long hike in the Ming Tombs area in Changping District and we’re going to make it extra tough by tacking on the big climb up to the local Heavenly Lake, a reservoir built on top of a big hill. Your legs may not thank you the next day, but your effort will have been rewarded with with views of mountains, valleys, pine forests, rocky outcrops, and a the sight of the strangely-sited reservoir.
On the way to this hike we’ll drive by quite a few of the Ming Tombs that are closed to the public. On the way back from the hike we’ll stop at Chang Tomb and go inside for a look around. Chang Tomb was the first of the tombs built in Beijing after the Yongle Emperor moved his capital to Beijing from Nanjing.
We’ll start off with an easy walk down the sealed road that leads to Longevity Village, a tidy settlement in the Changping hills. It’s named Longevity Village because many of the villagers live to a ripe old age. If the weather is good, we often see many of the elderly inhabitants out for a walk and a chat with their neighbours.
The first part of the hike is on mostly flat ground, first on the road that leads through Longevity Village, and then on a dirt trail that heads up into the hills, passing through all the terraced chestnut fields that are a major source of income for the villagers.
We’re aiming to cross over the hills at a notch in a ridge on the southern side of the village.
As we get closer to the point where we cross over the ridge, the trail starts to zig-zag as it climbs up the hillside, eventually rising to the saddle between two peaks—a good place for a rest and a quick snack break!
From the saddle, we follow a largely disused trail down into the valley on the other side. This is perhaps the most scenic section of the hike, with steep hills on either side of the trail covered with plentiful greenery.
In some places the greenery is plentiful indeed, and overhanging branches and leaves make the trail narrow in places and somewhat scratchy. We recommend trousers and long sleeves for this hike.
Near the bottom of the valley, we pass through a nice narrow ravine before arriving at the village on the other side of the hill. Just before the village we walk along a narrow lane between brick buildings that are some sort of small factory. Depending on the mood of the workers, and the state of the gate, we might need to skirt around the buildings instead of strolling through.
A sealed road leads down into the village where we begin a hike called Tomb Raiders, and, after a sharp turn at the village square and exercise machine yard, we’re back into the hills, following another valley trail up on to a ridge.
It’s a slightly tougher climb this time, getting rather steep near the top. There are quite a few false peaks on the way up, but these provide a good opportunity for a rest! If you don’t think it’s tough enough, there’s an option to take a short detour to the highest hill in the area, where there’s a rusted trig and great 360° views of the area, including many of the Ming Tombs.
From there, it’s down for a long way, following a gravel trail that was blazed when power lines were put in. The path winds through scraggly pines, and takes us past a small dam on the way out to the Tomb Caretakers’ village.
Here’s where the hike gets tough: the village is at 152m above sea level, and the reservoir is at 562m. We will have walked about 12km already and now we’ve got a big climb to do, with an elevation gain of almost 450m over about 3km on a trail that is rather steep in places. There will be cold beer waiting for you at the top. Sound good? Sign yourself up!
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks to eat
- 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
- The climb up to the reservoir is going to be tough
- The middle section of the trail is brushy and scratchy in places