Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong are without a doubt the centers of modern Chinese culture and the focal points around which most travelers will plan their trips to the Middle Kingdom. But these mega-cities represent only one view of the country; for a more balanced look at the whole of China, consider venturing out into the rural areas as well. Luckily, there are great options for nature and hiking within just a few hours of each of the major cities. Shake up your next trip to China by embarking on one of these hikes:
Hiking the Great Wall – Near Beijing
Perhaps the most obvious choice on the list, what traveler wants to leave China without experiencing the Great Wall? Rather than visiting the overcrowded sections like Badaling and Juyongguan, though, go further away from Beijing.The easiest of these outer sections to reach is Jinshalaing, and from there you can walk for several hours along partially restored sections of the wall and through abandoned guard towers to reach the Simatai area. This hike involves a lot of ascent and descent as the Great Wall traces the rolling hills of the terrain, but offers an enlightening look at what it might have been like to patrol this military fortification for Chinese soldiers long ago.
Hiking the Great Wall – Shanhaiguan
If you have time to leave Beijing even further behind, consider a trip to Shanhaiguan. Site of the famous “Old Dragon’s Head” where the Great Wall ends at the Bohai Sea, from there you can follow the wall across a huge inhabited plain to the point where it first enters the mountains. Climbing into the Jiaoshan Scenic Area, the views back towards the sea and inland towards the ShiHe reservoir are excellent.
Sunrise from Taishan
On the way from Beijing to Shanghai, stop for a day or two to climb Mount Tai. As well as being an important religious site to both Buddhism and Taoism, Taishan is famous for its incredible sunrises. From the bottom of a staircase that stretches from the town of Tai’An and climbs all the way to the peak of Mount Tai, pilgrims slowly make their way up 6600 steps through the course of the night to arrive at the panoramic lookout at the top just as the sun comes up.
Hong Kong Trail(s)
Although central Hong Kong is incredibly dense and packed with people, the mountains just above the city offer plenty of options for hikers and outdoorsmen. The Hong Kong Trail itself starts from tourist favorite Victoria Peak and winds for 50km eastwards across Hong Kong Islands. While the Hong Kong Trail is easy to hike as a series of day trips, the Wilson Trail is much better as one long-distance trip. Nearly 80km long from the bottom of Hong Kong Island to the tip of the New Territories near the Chinese city of Shenzhen, this trail gives an overview of all of HK.