Whether you’re planning a holiday to one of the country’s bustling megalopolises or a tour through its lush countryside, there is no shortage of dynamic landscapes in China. On running trails through invigorating mountain paths, easy-going forest trails, and striking skylines, you can lose yourself in living history to the rhythm of your footsteps on the ground. Consider making one of these ten trails a part of your next trip!
1. The Great Wall
Also known as the Long Wall of Ten-Thousand Li, the 2,000 year old, 8,850km long wall is the home to one of the most challenging marathons in the world. For a shorter run, the Mutianyu section is much less crowded than the touristy Bandaling section. A glance over the wall offers views straight down the mountainside. Nothing compares to running on millennia-old stone structure for yourself.
Location: Huairou District, Beijing
Terrain: Hilly stone brick path
2. The Bund
A run through this symbol of Shanghai will take you along the city’s most famous waterfront. The Zhongshan Road path hugs the Huangpu River, which divides the city’s architecture in two. On the west side, you’ll see towering modern skyscrapers, while on the east side, you’ll see gothic, baroque, and other western style buildings that have been called ‘a museum of international architecture’.
Location: City of Shanghai
Terrain: Concrete sidewalk
3. Li River
There are golden rice paddies, bamboo groves, and limestone mountains to be seen along the majestic Li River. The entire trail is 22km long, with two sections that are about 10km each. Most people choose to travel on foot from either Yangdi to the stunning Nine Horse Fresco Hill, or from Nine Horse Fresco Hill to Xingping. If you get tired anywhere along the way, a local farmer will gladly guide you down the river on a peaceful bamboo raft.
Location: Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Terrain: Cobblestone and dirt roads
4. Fragrant Hills
This park is best known for its fall foliage, when the park erupts in a fiery display of autumn colours. For the best views, run on the north path past the Bright Temple. The large Tibetan-style monastery complex is one of relics damaged by foreign troops. It’s a solemn reminder that history has not always been kind, but the bells still chime in the breeze and there are great views of the city where incense once burned on the peaks.
Location: City of Beijing
Terrain: Concrete and dirt pathways with stairs
5. Tiger Leaping Gorge
One of the deepest gorges in the world, Tiger Leaping Gorge is a part of the UNESCO Three Parallel Rivers World Heritage Site, which is a wildlife preservation area for three of China’s largest rivers. On the lower trail, you’ll enjoy a mostly paved run along the rapids and waterfalls. The higher trail is better suited for hiking as it can get very narrow and rocky, but it has astonishing views of the river, terraced farming villages, and rare plant and animal species.
Location: Lijiang City, Yunnan Province
Terrain: Stone pavers, concrete roads, and dirt trails
6. Golden Whip Stream
Golden Whip Stream winds along the edge of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, where you can see the finger-like Avatar Hallelujah Mountains in the distance, so named for their appearance in the James Cameron film. A run on this path by the wildflowers and crystal clear, undulating stream will bring you to Golden Whip Rock, where at sunset you can see the cliff illuminated like a long golden whip.
Location: Zhangjiajie City, Hunan Province
Terrain: Dirt path with grassy patches
7. Shuzheng Valley
For a serene run through gently sloping hills, past a series of lakes, you might want to try Shuzheng Valley. Highlights on this trail include Lotus Leaf Village, constructed with Tibetan-style architecture. Nuorilang Falls is also a popular attraction, flowing out of the trees and surrounding shrubs into a large ravine, best viewed from the trail. All the while, you can enjoy the convenience of running on a well-maintained asphalt path alongside a stream.
Location: Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan Province
Terrain: Asphalt road
8. Lantau Trail
The Lantau Trail, which is over 70km long, will take you to the second-highest peak in Hong Kong. It’s divided into 12 stages, and the ones with the highest views are better suited for hiking than running. However, if you’d like to run a portion of the trail, try Stage 12 for the calming views of the ferry dock, secluded beaches, and distant islands against a sea-view backdrop.
Location: Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Terrain: Dirt path
9. Jiuxi Scenic Trail
The Jiuxi Scenic trail begins in the village of Longjing, where Hangzhou’s famous green tea is grown. When brewed with the water from Hupao Shan, the tea is said to be the second wonder of Hangzhou. This jaunty path winds through marshes, rows of tea plants, and even streams on stepping stones. If you’d like to venture off the trail a bit, jog down a staircase to see Buddhist monasteries.
Location: Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province
Terrain: Dirt and stepping stone path
10. Bowen Road
On this trail, you’ll find an escape from the city on your visit to Hong Kong. After a short trip up the hill, the road gradually transitions into a vehicle-free zone and winds through the mountain side’s sleepy canopy of trees. Small waterfalls trickle down the rocky face of the mountain. All the while, you can catch glimpses of the city bellow.
Location: Wanchai District, Hong Kong
Terrain: Paved road and dirt trail
Every runner is familiar with that uplifting feeling from completing a run. Running through a beautiful landscape only elevates that sensation. By choosing a scenic trail, you can bring greater clarity to your body and spirit as your mind is quietened by the beauty around it. What other sensations might come over you on a run through these incredible places? Let us know in the comments below!