Beijing gets hot in summer. Really hot. So where do you go to stay cool if you’re tired of popping champagne pool-side, or prefer to swim where there’s still more water than people in the pool? Beijing Hikers dished out some expert insight into the city’s best spots to run to the hills and cool down.
Back in the day, the flow of water down the Yunmeng Gorge was fast enough to wash out the only road into Dujiahe Village. These days it is not quite so torrential, but the trickle that does make it to the end of the gorge helps keep Miyun Reservoir full. Hike up the gravel road by the riverbed to find pools of clear and clean water amidst the boulders. Tickets are RMB 25 per person.
Pro-tip: If you eat a meal at the restaurant right by the car park the owners usually don’t mind if you have a swim at their private beach.
Bonus: About 4km up the valley is a side road that leads into a broadly terraced and mostly empty farming area. Keep an eye out for the semi-wild pigs that roam about crunching walnuts.
Once pristine and natural, the upper reaches of Baihe, known in English as White River, have been colonized by commercial rafting operators. It’s still a great place to get your feet wet, and you can take a short (and very tame) float downstream on a rubber raft before walking back up past the pebbly beaches and big canyon walls.
Pro-tip: Bring some small change to pay the trolls who have staked claim to certain bends of the canyon – RMB 5 per person at each spot is a reasonable price.
Bonus: Hike further down the river to find a quiet spot under the trees, or go even further down to reach the big bridge at Sihetang.
Additional note: Some of the crossings run fast and it’s not a good idea to hike down the river after a heavy fall of rain.
Sihetang and Longyun Mountain
Drive up the west side of the Miyun Reservoir, past Heilongtan, and you’ll eventually arrive at the big bridge at Sihetang. Explore upstream or downstream to find a picnic spot. There are a lot of wooded areas on the east side of the river north of the bridge. As is the case with Baihe, bring some small change for the troll fees.
Pro-tip: Keep an eye out for the family of herons that nest high in the cliffs.
Bonus: Hike upstream and cross over the river, then hike back downstream on the east side to find the stairs to the top of Longyun Mountain.
Shentangyu and Intelligence Valley
A little stream runs down to Shentangyu, forming pools and beaches that are shaded by trees. Start your walk at the park at Shentangyu, which is 30 minutes’ drive further into the hills past the conference center at Yanqi Lake. Tickets at Shentangyu cost about RMB 25 per person, and you can expect to pay a little more money if you want to swim in the Dragon Pool halfway up the valley.
Bonus: Start from the other end of the valley, and visit the fancy library at Jiaojiehe before hiking downstream.
The Pool by the Pagodas
At the fork in the road between Humen Village and Huaguoshan Village, near the Silver Pagodas, is a small hotel with a 25m outdoor swimming pool. A favourite with cyclists, the pool is only filled with water during summer and occasionally turns a bit green after a rainfall.
Pro-tip: The barbecue trout at the hotel restaurant is awesome.
Bonus: Keep heading up the left fork of the road, past the hotel, and see if you can sneak into the Silver Pagoda Park. The park has officially been closed for over two years as a result of a land-use dispute. Beijing Hikers makes it easy for you to get out of the city and into nature.
For more information on upcoming hikes and trips, check out their website www.beijinghikers.com.
This article first appeared in our magazine. Read the rest of the Beijinger July/August issue here.
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