In mid-June, some friends and I went camping along the Baihe River in Miyun County. Located just two hours’ drive from Beijing, this quiet valley is well-known among climbers for the many granite rock faces flanking the river. The paths and pebbled beaches along the river were flat and easy to walk, making this weekend trip suitable for even young kids.
Though we rented a mini-bus to carry all our camping equipment for the trip, Baihe is easily reachable through public transit. Take the 980 express bus from Dongzhimen, then hire a black car to where you want to go along the river.
We camped beside the river south of Shatuozi Village (沙坨子村), an area not easily accessible by car. You’ll have to get dropped off on the main road, then find an access point down to hike along the river and find a suitable campsite. Mention to your black car driver that you plan to go camping and they’ll usually be able to suggest an appropriate starting point.
Our driver dropped us off near Henglinggen (横岭根). We hiked along the river for a bit, picked up our equipment from the bus, and set up camp for the night. The next day, we visited Yunmeng Gorge (not to be confused with Yunmengshan) to hike and swim in the clear waters.
Part 1: Camping in Baihe
Our initial hike along the Baihe River was stunning. The hot and muggy weather didn’t detract from the towering rock faces, limpid waters, and lush greenery. We took frequent breaks to dip our feet in the water and examine curious plants and insects. There were many millipedes, which the South African in our group insisted on calling shongololos ("Chumbawumbas?" I thought).
At one point, we crossed a rickety foot bridge and shimmied along the rock face on the other side. One part was very low and narrow, requiring each of us to lie flat and crawl forward on our elbows and bellies. Chinese families pointed at us from below and across the river.
Eventually, we met up with our driver in Shatuozi and took our equipment from the minibus. We hiked along the river for another 1km or so through birch trees, wildflowers, and evergreens, then set up camp in a flat, sheltered area near an outcropping of rocks.
The we began preparations for dinner. I brought a chuanr grill and some ready-made vegetable skewers, while others contributed orzo salads, sausages, steaks, a small keg of beer, and more. We watched the sun set behind the mountains as we ate.
Around 9pm, we heard thunder in the distance and guessed we had about 15 minutes before it started pouring. We hurriedly packed up the food and rushed back to our tents. The rain started falling fast and hard right when we got there. All seven of us piled into one party’s two-person tent, laughing and listening to the sounds of the storm outside. It soon got too hot and still, so we each returned to our tents and fell asleep.
The next morning, we woke up to a calm day. We sat next to the river for a breakfast of cold cuts and cheese sandwiches. I waded to the other side to explore and sun on a rock for a while. We then packed up our things, hiked back to Shatuozi, piled into the bus, and headed to Yunmeng Gorge.
Part 2: Swimming in Yunmeng Gorge
Yunmeng Gorge (云蒙峡) was about 30 minutes’ drive from the village. The park has a single, straightforward hiking trail next to a shallow creek, with deeper pools on either side of the path. It took us around two hours of hiking to reach the peak, where we had a simple but satisfying meal at farmer’s house.
My favorite features were the many clear pools dotting the park, many of them deep enough to swim in. However, one of us had been to Yunmeng Gorge before and said that the water level seemed very low compared to last year. If you’re afraid of the cold, stay out! The water was freezing; we could only endure a short swim despite seeking relief from the heat.
A less rushed way to experience the park would be to camp overnight and take your time exploring the surroundings. We saw a mixed group of foreigners and locals who were doing just that, with several young children playing near the water.
If you’re interested in visiting either Beihe or Yunmeng Gorge, now is a good time. We went at a time when Beijing and its surroundings were experiencing frequent thunderstorms. Before long, the weather will turn and you’ll have to wait until next spring.
In a Nutshell
- Where? Baihe Valley and Yunmeng Gorge, Miyun County
- What? Hiking, camping, rock climbing, and swimming
- Who? All ages
- How much? Free for Baihe, RMB 20 for admission to Yunmeng Gorge
- What to bring? Good hiking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, comfortable clothes for hiking, cash, camping equipment, swimwear, flip-flops for wading in the water
Photos by Sijia Chen and Emily Anderson