Summer in Beijing is mild compared to many places, and a short drive into the mountains offers both fresh air and breathtaking views. Walking is also good for the soul, as exemplified by the 1,100-mile hike of Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild.
We’ve collected several hiking routes that blend walking with a dash of nature, history or spirituality. You can go alone, with friends or with a hiking group.
There’s still time to try them all out before summer ends, so grab your hiking boots and head out.
Adventure Mode: The ‘Wild’ Great Wall
You might have already been to the Great Wall if you’ve lived in Beijing for a while, but probably not to its unrestored, visitor-free stretches.
Lonely Planet recommends five stretches of the “Wild” Great Wall to adventurous travelers. Two are close to Beijing. The first starts at Ox Horn and ends at Mutianyu, and it’s a strenuous, 7-kilometer hike along a crumbling wall and through lovely pine forests.
The second starts at Zhuangdaokou Village and ends at the Waterside Great Wall. The hike starts on a steep, shrub-covered section of the wall, but the effort is rewarded at the Waterside Great Wall, a restored section of the wall with gorgeous views of a water reservoir.
Nature Mode: Lingshan Mountain
Lingshan is the highest mountain in Beijing, reaching 2,300 meters in elevation. Its vast alpine meadows resemble a lush green carpet, occasionally dotted with white sheep.
The mountain is a haven for vegetation and animals. As you hike up the mountain, the vegetation changes from cloves, azaleas, hazels and birch trees to Siberian-type tundra. Expect to spot foxes, squirrels, hares, wild goats and brown-eared pheasants.
Temperatures on the mountaintop are 12 C lower than in downtown Beijing.
A Tibetan folklore festival takes place on the mountain every July and August. Visitors can taste traditional Tibetan food and enjoy songs and dances.
Mangshan National Forest Park
If you want a challenging hike that includes nature, history and spirituality, try Mangshan National Forest Park. Time Out Beijing called it “arguably the most beautiful” national forest park in Beijing.
It’s also the largest.
The park was named for the adjoining mountain range, which snakes across the landscape like a python. Next to the park entrance is a massive Maitreya Buddha statue, standing 10 meters tall and containing 1,500 tons of granite. A thin trail behind the courtyard cuts through the Health Forest, among wild flowers and shrubs.
Follow the signs to the climbing steps for a 1,299-step trek – the longest in Beijing. If you make it to the top, you’ll be rewarded by a magnificent view of the mountain.
Cuandixia and Baiyu
Cuandixia and Baiyu are two villages from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) on the west side of Beijing. History lovers can explore the ancient villages and their surroundings on a day trip or spend the night at a guesthouse and sleep on a traditional kang bed.
Of the two, Cuandixia is the best preserved, and it is sometimes referred to as a “living museum.” Surrounding villages, including Baiyu, were destroyed almost completely during the Japanese war. Cuandixia Village, Baiyu Village and Tianjin Pass used to be part of an important military area.
From Cuandixia Village, visitors can walk about 5 kilometers north to Baiyu Village, named for cypress trees that used to grow in the area.
Huangcaoliang Mountain is located north of the village and is a great place for hiking and camping.
Silver Mountain and Pagoda Forest
Nearly 1,400 years ago during the Tang dynasty, a Buddhist temple was built on Silver Mountain, some 48 kilometers north of Beijing’s city center. Now, the temple is a romantic ruin, overlooked by seven pagodas that date back to the Jin dynasty some 900 years ago.
In 1125, the area was expanded to include 72 temples, 72 pagodas, 72 wells, 72 stonerollers and 72 stone mills, but few survived both World War II and the Cultural Revolution.
Silver Mountain Pagoda Forest is framed by Silver Mountain. The mountain got its name from the color frost gives its moss-blackened, granite peaks during winter.
Behind the ruins, several flights of stairs take visitors on trails leading to the summit, which can be reached after an intense hour-long hike. About halfway up the mountain is a Preaching Platform. There is also a waterfall along with a boulder called Ancient Buddha Rock.