Day One Time: 6¼ hours Distance: 8 miles Day Two Time: 6¼ hours Distance: 9 miles Start: Temple by Jianxi Bridge Difficulty: medium
This hike out of Jianmenguan is one of my favorites because it leaves the highway far behind and cuts deep into the mountains. The first day you travel over a flagstone road in fairly good repair with some long spectacular stretches of stone steps. Most of the road is through fields or woods of cypress and smaller trees. You pass through some traditional villages, as well, with wooden houses whose slightly saggy tile roofs slope down over porches supported by wooden pillars on stone bases. Baskets hang on the walls, yellow corn from the eaves, and once quite elegant lattice windows hang askew on their hinges. There are views down into the valley as you climb, and, looking back, you can clearly see the break in the 72 peaks of the Daba Mountains where the highway passes through the Sword Gate Pass (right bottom). You can stay the night in the very small town of Dachao and continue on the next day to Zhaohua. The old road on the second day has been partly paved over, but otherwise the hike is still nice with the Tianxiong Pass and views of the Jialing River the highlights.