Fenghuangling is huge. Really. We could go back for several days and still not explore all the trails, at least not if we’re hiking with kids.
There are three major trail loops in Fenghuangling Nature Park (also known as Phoenix Mountain) that visitors can explore—the North Route, the Middle Route, and the South Route. At the entrance of the park there are signs that describe each loop and list the attractions that visitors can see on each one.
One of the maps inside the park lists the distance of each loop, but be careful when it comes to judging the difficulty of the loop based on distance alone. The map does not reflect the number of steps or steepness of the trails, and some of the trails (though clearly marked and well-maintained) are steep (which makes them challenging). Also, visitors who choose the North Route have about a two-kilometer walk to the start it. (Visitors who want to hike the North Route and don’t want to walk that initial two kilometers can pay for an open shuttle to take them to the start of the loop, but my family chose to walk it ourselves.) In addition to the main loops, there are additional side trails to explore.
This time around, when my family went, we had a lets-take-our-time-and-see-what-we-can-find type of attitude (we were not in a hurry). And after reading the descriptions for each route, we chose the northern one specifically because the first five words in the description were, “The easily accessible north route . . .” and so we thought an “easily accessible” trail would be a good route to try with the kids. The North Route also seemed to be the most popular one (that’s where everyone else was headed). We ended up taking a detour, though, and explored some side trails on our way to the beginning of the North Route rather than walk directly there on the main road.
In the end, we did not make it all the way around the loop. We reached the point when the kids were getting tired and we knew that trying to make it all the way around would be too much, so we turned around and headed back, this time not taking the detour, but instead sticking to the main trails and roads.
Perhaps the kids could have done the full loop on a day when it wasn’t so cold . . . hiking and climbing is much more difficult for my five-year-old when she’s fighting three layers of clothes and a winter coat and when her mitten-clad hands can’t really grip the railing. If it were warm and everyone had been wearing shorts and t-shirts, it would have been easier and we would have been able to go farther.
The key take-away from the trip, though, was that we really liked Fenghuangling Nature Park and want to go hiking there again. It’s pretty close to Beijing (only a one-hour drive from our house in Shunyi), but it’s far enough away and a big enough park that we could escape the crowds. Anyone who lives in Beijing knows the rule about not going out on Chinese National Holidays when the crowds are a bit overwhelming even for those accustomed to Asia. Well, my family broke this rule. We went to Fenghuangling Park on the Qing Ming Festival Holiday. We did leave early in the morning, but we were there half of the day and never had do deal with crowds. In fact, we often felt like we had the trails to ourselves.
It’s a great place to hike with kids because the trails are all well-marked (no worries about getting lost) and well-maintained. The park is clean and has many really gorgeous viewpoints. Tickets to get into the park are reasonable: It was 25 RMB for adults. Children under 1.2 meters were free.
Did the Kids Enjoy It?
Yes, they did. Even though it was cold, they were dressed for the cold. I had learned my lesson from when we went to Mutianyu and hadn’t dressed them (or myself) for the cold weather. When I decided it was time for us to turn around and head back, the kids actually wanted to keep going. But I also know my kids and I knew they would be reaching their limit soon and I didn’t want to them to reach it before we had gotten all the way back to the car. Of the other outings my family has taken so far this spring (Mutianyu and Tanzhe Temple), my seven-year-old son liked this one the best, and says he wants to go back again.
If you’d like to read more about the other adventures my family is doing for Spring 2018, check out my bucket list where I’ll add active links as I post about each trip.