To say China is vast and varied in all respects, is nothing less than an understatement. Climate varies from continental to temperate to subtropical. Landscapes range from relatively low plains and ranges in the east and southeast, to high mountains and plateaus as you move west, culminating in the Tibetan Himalaya and the world's highest: Mount Everest (8848 m). Further to the north and northwest you will encounter merciless deserts like the Gobi and Taklamakan, and more high mountain ranges such as the remote Kunlun, Tianshan and Pamir.
Mighty rivers like the Yangtze (Chang Jiang) and Yellow River (Huang He) flow down from the west through ever more populated areas to find their way into the East and South China Seas. Other famous rivers such as the Mekong (known in China as Lancang), the Brahmaputra and the Indus rivers originate on the Tibetan plateau, and eventually flow south towards the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Without exception these rivers have helped create spectacular mountain landscapes, gorges and isolated valleys, making for wonderful hiking and exploring.
Is hiking a popular Chinese passtime? Long distance hiking as such may not be, but pilgrimages up the so-called Sacred Mountains, be it Taoist or Buddhist, definitely are a Chinese favorite. Countless Chinese, old and young alike, are seen scrambling up the slopes of mountains such as Emeishan, Taishan and Huashan. The same goes for mountains famed as inspiration for poets and painters, such as Huangshan. Hiking famous Chinese mountains often means climbing seemingly endless flights of stairs. Be prepared to share the paths with many, many others, and if lucky you are rewarded with breathtaking views.
A challenge popular with foreigners is hiking the Great Wall, usually as a 1- to 7-day hike along more or less intact Great Wall sections near Beijing. Others go for what is considered full length, all the way from Jiayuguan in the west to Laolongtou, the Old Dragon's Head sticking out into the Yellow Sea in the east near Shanhaiguan pass. Completing this full length hike will take you many months, covering a distance of at least 4000 km. With no real provisions for hikers along the way, it requires serious planning and preparation. Not nearly as popular, but a nonetheless interesting venture is retracing the legendary Long March by Mao Zedong and his Red Army. We have included the Great Wall and the Long March under Trails.
Several regions deserve special mention for hiking: the reasonably accessible mountains and valleys of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, and likewise the minority areas of Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. For the more tough and adventurous: the remote Kunlun and Muztag Ata mountains of Xinjiang province near Kashgar and Kalakuli lake, the Pamir (Congling) mountains in the west of Xinjiang on the border with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Tianshan (Heavenly) mountains in the northwest of Xinjiang province, and last but not least: Tibet with it's most famous hike and pilgrimage trail around Mount Kailash, and so much more...