Winter wonderland at Yunmengshan, Beijing

Saturday, 16. January 2021



Up in the northern part of Beijing, some 90km or 1.5 hour drive from the city’s center, lies Yunmengshan, a scenic area very close to the Miyun reservoir. In summer, visitors can “hike” the stairs up the mountain, past waterfalls and steep mountain cliffs. In winter, it becomes a frozen fairytale land when the water turns to ice and creates fantastic shapes and natural sculptures.

When coming here during winter, visitors can access only the first quarter of the overall scenic area, making this destination suitable for a relaxed half-day trip. It is not a particularly strenuous climb, as you mostly walk up stairs and along the frozen pools. You can certainly take it slowly and not even break a sweat. The only time it does get a little tricky is when passing through a “cave”, but this can also be avoided by taking the steps to the right side up the mountain.

Within the Yunmengshan scenic area there are several areas with ice sculptures, frozen branches and hanging icicles. While most of the icy sights are man made the park is still a pretty place to visit, and it’s nice to explore Yunmeng mountain on a sunny day with a hot tea in a thermos to keep you warm.

We finished our exploration of this frozen winter wonderland in time to head for a late lunch in our favorite restaurant in Miyun. After five times going there I still don’t know its name, but their barbecued sauerkraut (or 酸菜 in Chinese) is incredible and if it wasn’t for the fact that it is located almost 80km outside the city we would come here much more often.

Wonder what Yunmengshan looks like in the summer? Take a look: https://riceisthenewbread.com/2016/07/17/heilongtan-national-scenic-area-beijings-black-dragon-pond/

Heilongtan National Scenic Area – Beijing’s Black Dragon Pond

Some 60 k out of Beijing one can visit the Black Dragon Pond, or Heilongtan, in Miyun district. The area is marked by a collection of small ponds of clear water, that are fed by a well somewhere in the mountains above. It is a nice change to the busy city life in Beijing proper, and absolutely suitable for a one day trip. We rented a car and made it a destination on our way to Inner Mongolia. Driving out of town and into the mountains took us about two to three hours, with about a third of the time spend in traffic jams out of Beijing. The street up the scenic area are steadily winding up to higher ground, passing through almost rural areas. Especially interessting on the way were the many bee farmers that sold their locally produced honey to passers-by. We might have had luck, but arriving at the entrance to the area we had no trouble finding a parking space on the comparatively small parking lot, which is located very close to the ticket office. The entrance fee is 60 RMB for adults, but if you manage to produce a valid student ID with a date printed on it, you can get a discount. A nice little extra with regards to the entrance ticket is that they come with a small postcard of the sight you are about to visit, with the postage fee already payed. In the park one walks past smaller and larger ponds of clear mountain water, and after only a few hundred meters you see the first waterfall. It hadn’t rained in some time so the water level was somewhat lower than it could have been, but the steady fall of water was still a very pretty sight to see. One small downer with all the surfaces of water is that the park administration decided to provide inflatable boats and “hamster wheels” for all of them, so it is pretty hard to take a nice picture of the beautiful surrounding nature without them spoiling the view. This is a trip for which you need a good physical condition if you plan to take the full tour. It starts unsuspiciously easy, with even surfaces to walk on and handrails to guide you over the more splippery parts. If you don’t feel your best I advise you to enjoy the sight aroud the entrance of the park and skip the rest, because it soon starts to become more adventurous, with my personal hightlight being a climb of a narrow ladder between to even narrower parts of rock. The closer you come to the top of the mountain, the more exhausting the climb becomes, naturally. In general I would say that this trip is best suited for spring or fall and not in the mids of summer, because the heat does take its toll during the climb. The reward is worth it though. Atop the trails lies a small Chinese temple that overlooks the stunning mountain tops nearby and gives a splendid look over the valley below. All in all the black dragon scenic area is perfect for a day spend in nature, with a well-balanced mix of sightseeing and physical activity.