Surprisingly, Miley Cyrus’ hit song The Climb wasn’t constantly playing in the back of my head as I hiked up this mountain. Thank the gods for small mercies.

Work has been stressful in recent weeks, what with various work projects and training sessions and the mighty company head honcho deciding to visit from his throne in Shanghai (or Beijing?) all the way to my lil ol’ school. All the managers have been anxious, and the energy seemed to trickle down to us lower folks and so, given how dramatic I am, I decided to run away to the countryside once everything was over.

Despite being an up and coming city with tall skyscrapers and an exhaustive subway system, there’s a wonderful bit of countryside just half an hour away by train outside of Chengdu’s city centre limits.

Qingchengshan is a mountain located in Dujiangyan city and it is very, very beautiful. I would compare it to Emeishan since I’ve been to that city, too, but unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to climb that particular mountain. That story is reserved for another time where I’m less angry.

Anyway! This would be my second visit to Qingchengshan, since I spent some annual leave days relaxing around some hot springs and climbing the front of the mountain last February. This time, I’ve decided to tackle Qingchenghoushan, the back mountain. It’s said to be more natural and less tourist-y, and is aimed more towards hikers and nature-lovers alike.

a lush green mountain with clouds resting at the peak
a breathtaking morning view from the terrace at my hotel room

LiberaTarts Hikes 青城后山 and Tries Not to Slip and Fall

This entire trip was like a weekend getaway for me, given how my days off are not Saturday and Sunday but are in fact Monday and Tuesday. I left right after work on Sunday evening, took an hour-long subway from the middle of the city to the outskirts to Xipu Train Station, then stood in line for a very, very long time to purchase a ticket for a thirty-minute train to Qingchengshan Station.

The long waiting time was unanticipated and I missed the train I wanted to get, but all hope was not lost since the service from Xipu to Qingchengshan was pretty regular. Like twice or three times in an hour kind of regular.

After arriving at Qingchengshan, I called a Didi (the Uber of China) and we drove through the town up into the mountain and encountered some winding roads. It was dark. I was sitting in the front seat. I feared for my life because Didi drivers always seem to want to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. (I still gave the guy a hefty tip, since he was nice enough to accept a fare to the middle of nowhere mountains at like nine in the evening.)

The climb up Qingchenghoushan, the back mountain, was easy enough to begin with. I walked through Tai’an Ancient Town and found the nature trail entrance fairly quickly. Admittedly, I got lost once since this small ancient town had a fair number of twisting streets – not because I couldn’t read a map to save my life, of course not.

Tai'an Ancient Town entrance filled with people and a Qingchengmountain in the background
Tai’an Ancient Town

There was a rope bridge that took me by surprise. Little did I know that this was just the first out of several that I’ll encounter throughout the climb. When people said this hike would be natural, I didn’t think they’d be so gung-ho about it!

rope bridge in Tai'an Ancient Town leading to the Qingchenghoushan trail
it’s wide and easy to cross but it’s still a rope bridge!

The next few meters consisted of quaintly located restaurants, some poised above the mountain river for the peak ‘I Am One With Nature’ experience. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of that since I was in a rush to climb this bloody mountain already.

Amateur mistake.

My legs, ladies and gents and variations thereof, are still aching three days later. I blame DOMS and my lack of stretching and cooling down before and after I endeavoured this… endeavour.

During the hike / climb, however, I felt pretty good! It was invigorating to be surrounded by trees and to constantly hear the river and birdsong and yes, there were other hikers out there: a few families, a lot of senior citizens, the occasional college-aged friend groups that I henceforth will call barkadas. The physical exercise helped me relax, too. My mind wandered and slowly but surely, I became less anxious and more carefree.

Once I’ve satisfied any photography itches I had, I focused on the trail and overtook those families, senior citizens, and barkadas. My mind was less focused on looking for ‘the perfect shot’, so I queued up one of my audiobook reads and listened to that for the rest of the hike.

Do you know how amusing it is to listen to Wil Wheaton voice Mark Watney in Andy Weir’s The Martian ALL THE WHILE you are trying not to slip and fall through a very Chinese, very non-scifi nature trail?! The dichotomy was a pleasant one to think about. At the mention of Taiyang Shen, the secret Chinese probe that is essentially a deus ex machina in the story, I had to of course appreciate the irony: if I’m getting my nzì correct, tàiyáng means ‘sun’ and shén means ‘god’.

There certainly was no sun during my hike because it rained heavily, but there were plenty of gods if the number of Buddhas I saw on my journey was an indication. But despite the rain, the cold, the constant pestering of the service station staff for me to come and sample their wares, the entire day was amazing and I would so do it again.

Once my legs are recovered, of course.

Some Notes

I’m an amateur hiker at best and all my previous experiences climbing mountains / large hills were pure accidents, having followed the wrong walking trail and being too stubborn to turn back. Regardless, I know for sure to wear sensible shoes whenever I plan to walk longer than an hour, and I always make sure I have a way to charge my phone during any of my outings. I even had water and a raincoat because I knew it was going to rain!

But still, all my worries were baseless because China (and Japan, from my experience as a 留学生), took gentle care of its hikers.

Qingchenghoushan trail map

This was the trail I followed.

It took me about six hours to complete – yes, I was tempted to take the cable cars but no, I didn’t go on any in the end.


Over to you guys: Share you photos with me if you’ve ever gone hiking – in China or wherever else!

One thought on “Hiking Qingcheng Back Mountain 青城后山

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