Added by Kyle Obermann
One of northern China's most accessible and best kept secrets, Mt. Xiaowutai is only a $10, 4 hour train ride from Beijing and throws you into a completely different world of stunning mixed beech and pine forest, raging river canyons, alpine meadows, and knife-edge mountain ridges. Avoid the summer and spring months, and you'll have the mountain to yourself to enjoy the stunning vistas of Hebei Province and from its highest peaks.
This trip makes a great extended weekend getaway from Beijing. Mt. Xiawutai lies in the neighboring province of Hebei and is Hebei's highest peak at 2882m. Getting to the mountain requires either taking a bus from the Beijing South Railway station to the town of Taohua (桃花镇) or train to Xiahuayuan (下花园). Either option is for under $15 and takes about 3-4 hours. If taking the train, you'll need to hire a driver for another 1-1.5 hours to get to the trailhead whereas Taohua is only about 30 minutes away. Driver "Li" (李师傅) is reliable and can be reached at 863-238-5587 but speaks no English.
Mt. Xiaowutai is comprised of a series of 5 peaks, the "East Peak" being the highest. The other peaks (North, South, West, and Middle) connect to each other through a series of narrow alpine ridges. There are multiple trailheads to the East Peak and the adjacent summits that start from three major river valleys, Jinhekou (金河口), Shanjiankou (山涧口), Chiyabao (赤崖堡). For foreigners, doing an out-and-back route from the main tourist entrance of Jinhekou is best as the other entrances often do not let foreigners enter. There will be a park entrance fee of about $15, but in the off season no one will be there.
The Jinhekou route to the East peak is the most challenging. It requires many river crossings and excellent navigation skills ascending from the valley to the ridge. During the steep and unrelenting ascent, the trail all but disappears and requires a good map and navigation skills. The trail clearly resumes on the ridge line. Descending this way requires extreme caution as well because only one ravine leads safely down to the river valley without leading to an impassible, rocky drop off.
Other things to note: The only reliable sources of flowing water come from the streams in the valleys leading up to the ridges so it is necessary to take all the water you will need with you up until you come down. Like all mountains, but especially in this geographical area with violent cold fronts coming from Mongolia, the weather can change quickly and fiercely. Wind is also an issue too, and since the majority of the hike takes place on exposed ridge lines having a sturdy tent is a must.
Finally, having a rudimentary to medium grasp of Mandarin Chinese is highly recommended. If you need help with finding maps or have other questions please feel free to reach out!
- Sturdy, 3-season tent (4-season recommended if winter)
- Below freezing sleeping bag
- Water carrying capacity for multiple days
- Food for 2-5 days
- Cell phone and cash for driver etc. (water protected)
- Waterproof maps
- Good rain gear
- Other gear for a 2-4 day backpacking trip
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