When considering natural places to hike and explore in Beijing, our thoughts and eyes turn westward, toward the mountains of Mentougou District. Cloaked in purple-blue shadows in the evening, the mountains’ jagged peaks form a part of Beijing’s magnificent sunsets on clear days. Still, the casual viewer can only imagine the wonders that lie in those mountains such as Ling Shan, Baihua Shan, Longmen Gully, the ancient, intact Ming village of Cuandixia, the meandering Yongding River and numerous other sites along National Highway 109 (G109).

With snow still on the ground in high elevations and shadowed valleys in the early spring, and with the sun still low in the sky, the contrast in shadows and highlights of bare and budding plants and trees is unlike any other time of the year. Though the same might be said of areas along G109 and G112 to the south or other areas near the Great Wall to the north, the accessibility of G109 makes it a favourite of weekend adventurers from Beijing, whether travelling in a car, via motorcycle or bicycle or walking through the hills around ancient villages such as Cuandixia. Here is a perfect place for a weekend mountain outing, where stillness and quiet allows you to hear the chatter of squirrels, the melodious singing birds, water lapping at a lake shore or a gurgling snow-fed stream, all the while breathing fresh air, viewing emerging new plants and flowers and enjoying nature’s bounty.

Mount Ling Shan

Mount Ling Shan is located near the western border of Mentougou District with Hebei Province, about 125 kilometres from Central Beijing. In the past, travellers to Ling Shan could easily spend five hours just getting to the road heading up the mountain. Now, the trip on G109 takes between 2.5–3 hours by car, depending on how often you stop to take in scenic views and old villages along the way. Buses from Pingguoyuan in Westcentral Beijing serve the area.

Ling Shan is special and different. Unlike other mountains, such as Xiang Shan or Baihua Shan, which have twisting lanes, paths, temples and historical sites, Ling Shan is like a giant dome and awaits you with the tempting scenery of alpine meadows, numerous smaller peaks, flowers and sometimes even domestic and wild animals. Expect larger crowds as the weather warms in spring into summer.

Ling Shan is an ideal summer retreat. It has an alpine climate and typical landform of a plateau with gentle slopes. The average temperature on Ling Shan can be 12 degrees Celsius cooler than in Central Beijing. A coat can be needed even in August to stay comfortable and safe. When Beijing is experiencing the extreme summer heat in July and August, Ling Shan is like springtime with dozens of wild flowers in bloom. Wreath goldenrods grow luxuriantly, alongside wild poppies, bristle grass and bright nasturtium on the mountain slope. In autumn, its 18 squares kilometres of mostly birch forests and seven square kilometres of wild grass yield a explosion of late-evening colour.

A Hint of Things Tibetan

In July and August, when flowers bloom on the mountain, a special Tibetan folklore festival is held. During this period, tourists can enjoy Tibetan-style songs and dances, campfires, shooting, yak races and other sports. You may even get a chance to taste  original Tibetan butter tea and barbecue.

Some hikers who have been there said they did not see any kind of Tibetan scene, such as the Tibetan-style village or yaks, the “boat of the plateau” here. But some say they did see it. Therefore, take time to ask around and explore more deeply into this wonder.

Wildlife experts say that more than 700 animal species inhabit this natural environment, including foxes, eagles, squirrels and hares. An alpine meadow at an elevation of more than 1,900 metres is the only farm in Beijing for yaks.

To save time or for a quick view from a height, take Ling Shan’s chair lift to the 430 metre mark on the east side of the mountain. Built in 1997, the cableway is 1,548 metres long. Viewing the mountain from the suspended cable car, you’ll have a chance to experience the mountain’s majesty. Alas, some climbing is needed to get a view of the peak. Guided horses are available for children and those who can’t make the climb, for a price.

Plan a trip to Ling Shan that takes at least two days. It is possible to make a day trip of it from Central Beijing, but you’ll be in a rush. Stay in one of the area’s many new “mom and pop” family hotels or camp in a soft meadow to enjoy a sweet sleep rarely available in the city during the long, hot summer. A dark blue sky stubbed with shining stars may come as a bonus. Wear appropriate clothes for the season, and bring a good sleeping bag to ensure your slumber before waking to take in a sunrise like no other. Bring mosquito repellent during summer.

Post source from: btmbeijing.com