A broad trail on a wide plateau
A broad trail leads to Vulture Rock ridge.

Vulture Rock Ridge and the old Pilgrim’s Trail

A variation of our Vulture Rock Ridge Loop hike, finishing on the Beijing side of the hills instead of completing the loop. Great views and hill climbing exercise.

Level 4+
5–6 hours start to finish over 16km. (Can I do it?)

This hike is not currently scheduled

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This is a variation of our regular Vulture Rock Ridge Loop hike where we follow an old pilgrim’s trail down the Beijing side of the mountains to finish the hike, instead of doing the loop. We’ll walk all of Vulture Rock Ridge and then follow what’s left of the old paved path down through the forested hills on the Beijing side of the ridge.

This hike starts from a village close by to Miaofeng Temple, in Beijing’s West Mountains. We’ll follow part of an old pilgrims’ trail along a ridge with excellent views, up to a plateau, then up and along the Vulture Rock Ridge.

We have other hikes in the same area that start or finish in this village, and we’ll cross some of those trails along the way.

From the carpark in the middle of the village we’ll follow the main road up towards their orchards and terraces, turning off to head up a steep and twisting mountainside trail. Halfway up we’ll join one of the many pilgrim trails in the area, a roughly paved path that heads up to a saddle above the village.

The trail winds on a flat path through taller hills
The trail winds on a flat path through taller hills. (Click for larger image)

From the saddle we’ll follow a trail along the hillside, enjoying the open view of the surrounding mountains, and perhaps meeting some donkeys and firewardens. The trail takes us all the way along the ridge, then down a valley and through a straggly pine forest, passing the house of the local firewarden boss.

The path through the pine forest will take us to a gently rising plateau, where we’ll stop for a snack, rest, and a look around.

A trail leads up the plateau and along Vulture Rock Ridge. At first it’s a broad gravelly trail along an old firebreak, which then meets a new road that was built up to the lookout point up top.

We’ll follow that road for a little while, and then get back on to hill trails to reach the highest point on the hike, at an altitude of 1,265m. The views are worth the climb – mountains all around, and views of the flat area that is slowly being filled by Beijing’s urban sprawl. 

From the peak we continue along the ridgeline, passing a marker on the intersection of three of Beijing’s districts.

Coming down a steep dirt trail we arrive at a fork in the trail– to the right, the trail down the Beijing side of the hills; to the left, the trail that would take us back to the village where we started.

Today we’re heading over to the Beijing side, following a great trail along the side of a larger peak, passing by crags and under rocky outcrops as we walk though deciduous forest.

High mountain views in the west of Beijing
High mountain views in the west of Beijing. (Click for larger image)

Just after we come out of the forest we’ll find another old teahouse, and just past that we’ll start the long descent down the Beijing side of the mountains, and from here it’s down all the way – a descent of nearly 900 metres while walking 5 kilometres.

The first part of the descent is down an open ridgelines, with views of the northwestern suburbs of Beijing city.

As we get lower, the trail takes us through a forested valley, crossing a little stream and passing the ruins of more teahouses. Some of these old teahouses look to have been quite big, judging by the height and thickness of the remaining walls.

Just before the end of the hike we cross a firebreak road, and then follow a dirt trail down to a small village where we’ll finish the hike.

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Photos and trip reports: Vulture Rock Ridge and the old Pilgrim’s Trail

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