An alternative to the heavily-trafficked and paved Xishan Scenic Area, this hike starts from the southern end of Xishan mountain and climbs gradually up towards the same stunning views of Dianchi Lake and South Kunming, all along dirt roads and paths. This can be hiked as a loop, or you can start from the South and hike back through the tourist area to the subway station.
Moderately Strenuous--> Strenuous
RT: 13.4 km
One-Way: 8.8 km; 5.5 miles
+- 560 meters +- 1,837 feet
Narrow Dirt Trail to Dirt Road; Loop OR Point to Point
Alternate Routes: This GPX file is a loop/figure 8 starting from the South, heading North on mainly dirt trails, and walking back along mostly dirt roads.The main alternate that we think would be interesting would be to start from the South and just hike all the way the scenic area and out to the subway station. To the beginning of the scenic area would be around 8.8 km/5.5 miles, but then of course there would be walking inside of the scenic area, which we didn't calculate. To do this, follow the first half of the GPX track (which is 80% on dirt paths), past the main viewpoint (pictured above), and then continue on past the TV station to the scenic area gate and ticket office (https://j.map.baidu.com/f0/eZC). From there you can enter the scenic area (for a fee), or just head down the mountain on the paved road via taxi, bike, or walking.
Lastly, there are tons of trails and dirt roads crisscrossing the area, so you can take any that interest you, take your mountain bike, backtrack after the halfway point to stay on dirt paths most of the time, or just generally choose your own adventure.
Warning: Near the Northernmost point of the GPX route there is a TV/radio station. On maps.me this is called a "military zone", and once when we tried to approach this area of the mountain from the North we were turned around at the ticket office for that same reason. Exercise caution around this area of the trail, don't approach the station itself, and perhaps close your GPS apps while passing through.
Camping Options: There are lots of good places to camp in the southern half of the trail area (around all three areas where the trails "cross"). You may want to bring your own water, as the only available water sources were farmer's wells, which I would approach with skepticism but if properly treated should be fine. You could also drive to most of these spots with a 4WD vehicle.
Trail Description and Pictures
This area is quite beautiful, and there is a crazy number of forks, junctions, and otherwise confusing trail feeatures (paths turning into roads, roads turning into paths, paths disappearing, etc). This makes it great for exploration, but terrible for giving directions to other people. As such, I will only post general pictures below and explain important directions at the beginning and end. If you are interesting in doing this exact route, just follow the GPX. Otherwise, choose your own path in the general direction you want to go, or just have fun and get a little lost!
The parking area (pictured left) is about 1.5 kilometers above Xihua Village (西化村) along a bumpy road near this area called Qingshan Pass (青山垭口). You can park here, or keep driving if you have a 4WD vehicle, but an actual dirt trail starts about 300 meters up this road past the quarry (pictured right).
The trail is incredibly inconspicuous (pictured left), and starts off to the right 50 meters past the small road into the quarry (which I thought was the trail the first time). Check your GPS if confused. Follow this trail, which is a bit overgrown along the first part but then becomes more obvious and begins climbing past the quarry (pictured right) and through some pleasant deciduous forest.
This trail ascends somewhat steeply for about .7 kilometers before leveling off and opening up somewhat. From here on out, the elevation gain is very gradual for the rest of the hike.
After another couple of hundred meters to will join up with the dirt road from the bottom (pictured left, this is looking back, you come in from the trail on the left). You will pass a small farmhouse with some barking dogs, then come to a fork (pictured right). The right fork will lead you to more trails and the top of the mountain. After this point on the trail, there are so many forks and junctions that attempting to describe every one would simply confuse, so refer to the GPS and head North! General pictures and descriptions below.
Open areas suitable for camping (pictured left), and irrigation wells (pictured right) are common along this section.
The trail splits from the dirt road again after half a kilometer or so, and the GPX follows this nice path for a little over one kilometer.
The trail intersects another clustered junction of dirt roads and trails (not pictured), and the GPX takes the right fork. It follows the road towards a dead-end viewpoint about 400 meters away (option, obviously), then backtracks and takes another dirt/grass path up (pictured above left and right) towards the viewpoint near the Xishan summit! The actual summit is the TV/Radio station, and so is inaccessible.
The beautiful views of Kunming and Dianchi from the summit viewpoint! The rocks are great for humans to scramble around on, not so much for dogs. I also spotted a Siberian Weasel with a mouse on the rocks, so be mindful of wildlife--it does exist!
After enjoying the summit, continue along this trail (pictured) for about one kilometer until you're beneath the TV/Radio station (see warning above). From there, decide whether to backtrack towards the trailhead, continue onward towards the Xishan Scenic Area, or make it a loop and follow some of the dirt roads/other trails back to the trailhead. If you choose the latter, below are some pictures an idea of what to expect of the various dirt roads. Although they are roads, they are still nice for walking (I only saw one car) and would be great for biking.
Following the GPX and the dirt roads, it's about 6.5 kilometers back to where you started (if you choose to backtrack along the trails from the summit, it is about one kilometer less).
Getting to the Trail Head
The trailhead is located at Qingshan Pass (青山垭口) about 1.6 kilometers past Xihua Village (西化村), both of which you can reach by car, traveling south from the Xishan subway stop (西山公园) along the Gaohai Service Road (高海辅道). A Didi from the subway stop to the trailhead or Xihua Village should cost 40-50 RMB. Keep in mind, the 1.6 km from the village to the trailhead is kind of rough, and the Didi driver may not want to drive it, so you may need to walk that section. With a personal car, obviously, you can decide on your own.
Baidu Maps: Trailhead--https://j.map.baidu.com/4a/ZXC
Xishan Subway Stop--https://j.map.baidu.com/a4/f3t
Google Maps: Trailhead--https://goo.gl/maps/szAkWonxpqt98cVS9
Xishan Subway Stop--https://goo.gl/maps/mv22WTajhNXBmHgL6
GPS Coordinates: 24°53'36.01"N; 102°37'44.11"E (24.893336, 102.628919)