Xining running guide

NOTE: I am a huge dork when it comes to running. Beware.

Xining valley from Xishan 西山


Among large Chinese cities, Xining is one of the best and most interesting for running. This is due not only to the comparatively clean air and pleasant scenery, but also due to its location in a deep valley surrounded by mountains. Deemed too steep for development, the mountains rising above Xining and the plateau countryside beyond provide excellent country running terrain within minutes of the city.

I’ve classified the following runs into three types: runs in Xining proper, which are entirely within the city and do not venture above the valley floor; Xining mountain runs, which venture into the mountains directly above the city; and Adventure runs, which are entirely in the countryside outside of the city (though within 45 minutes or so of the city proper). Whenever embarking on any one of these runs, make sure you take into account the following:

1. Altitude – Xining lies at 2275 meters (about 7500 feet) above sea level, and while you won’t notice the altitude while wandering around the streets, you probably will notice it while running – especially if you’ve just arrived from a lower altitude. The first few days you are here, take it easy.

2. Pollution – While Xining is relatively unpolluted compared to other large Chinese cities (ahem, Lanzhou), it still has it’s bad days. The majority of these seem to come in winter, when smoke from the coal used for heating and cooking by many of the city’s inhabitants (not to mention the power plants) can cloud the air. On the bright side, the Huang Shui river is covered in ice at this time, significantly reducing its sometimes nauseating stench.

3. Dogs – this is only a major problem in the runs that enter the countryside, but be aware that nearly everywhere in the province the dogs are out to get you. I’m not talking about the little lapdogs that have recently become popular among the Xining elite, but rather the herds of stray dogs roaming freely in rural towns, the massive mastiffs chained up outside houses, barking furiously as you go by (of course they could get off their chain if they really wanted to), and pretty much any other dog you see in the countryside.  Dog attacks are more common than you may think; if you see one, yell loudly and pretend to throw a rock. If this doesn’t work, actually throw rocks. And if this doesn’t work, pray that a local will come by and help you out of your predicament.

4. Lack of trees – While the valley floors in this region are covered in fields and trees, true forests do not really exist around here due to the dry climate. Thus most of your runs will be undertaken under a mercilessly beating sun  – summer or winter. While it doesn’t really get hot, the high-altitude sun really bakes the moisture out of you. Be careful and drink a lot.

I have attached maps to these descriptions. Make sure you view them in satellite mode which is more reliable than the simple ‘map’ mode; you’ll actually be able to see the roads. Lastly, all distances given are roundtrip from Qinghai Normal University (Shida, 青海师大) unless stated.  Have fun exploring!


These runs do not venture out of the Xining valley and, while less scenically spectacular than the other runs listed here, they are the most convenient and good options if you have limited time (e.g., lunch break).

HuangShui river path 湟水滨河小路 – Distance: Haihu Lu bridge to Nanchuan He/Huangshui confluence: 2.8-ish miles. Confluence to train station: 2-ish miles

Though the scents emanating from this yellow trickle of a river are often less than appetizing (for no smell, go in the winter when it is frozen over), its two banks nevertheless provide a convenient running route through the heart of the city. Though in a few places discontinuous, forcing you to escape to surface arteries for short stretches, the walkways lining both sides of the river are not a bad place for a run. The most continuous stretches run from the Haihu Lu bridge (stairway at the southeast corner) past People’s Park and to the train station area, as well as up the Nanchuan He tributary (the river alongside Central Square) from the T-shaped river confluence to well past LiuYi Qiao. These runs also provide access to many of Xining’s parks and the mountains around town, saving you from having to brave the traffic of the surface roads.

Sewer Lateral/Drainage Ditch – East end (Xishan Yixiang) to west end (above Xichuan Nanlu): 3-ish miles

Named after the (in)famous, eponymous landmark and trail in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Park, this is another nice find in the city center, and thus a convenient place for a run. The smell is only bad during the spring break-up, when a winter’s worth of sewage surges along between broken chunks of ice. From Kunlun Xilu (in the western part of the city), find a road leading uphill and it will lead to this one-lane, tree-lined road approximately three miles long. Near the western end, you can descend to Kunlun Lu and, after passing a park on the left, ascend to rejoin the sewer lateral in a shady, pleasantly forested setting.

Chengxi (western Xining) loop  城西线路 – Distance: 8-8.5 miles (depending on routes taken in People’s Park area). Map here.

This takes in the HuangShui riverside and the Sewer Lateral, and is my most frequent lunchtime run due to its ease and convenience. From the main gate of Shida’s north campus on Wusi Xilu, go west to the corner of Haihu Lu, and run down its eastern side until you have crossed the red bridge over the river. Before the first apartment block, look for a narrow stairway heading down to the riverbank and cruise your way downriver (there are a couple of low bridges and minor obstacles, all easily passed). When you get to the People’s Park area (visible by the larger park area, orange railings, and islands connected by footbridges), take any footbridge (or explore the islands) and eventually continue downriver on the opposite (south) side. You can go along the street or the parallel riverside path. When you get to the confluence of the HuangShui and its Nanchuan He tributary, turn right to follow the Nanchuan He upstream along either bank. Pass by central square and under the distinctive Kunlun bridge until you reach the next bridge, Liuyi Qiao. Get onto Liuyi Qiao, turn right, and run uphill past a three-way intersection and an army base. At the second three-way intersection (only about 200-300 meters past Liuyi Qiao), cross to the west (uphill) side of the street and, immediately after passing a covered market, turn left on a narrow alleyway (only 100 meters or so after the three-way intersection). Merge to the right at the first intersection, then go under a highway overpass and follow the road uphill. It will eventually turn sharply to the right and start to follow a contour around the hillside. You will pass below the distinctive TV tower on Xishan; continue straight, as you are now on the sewer lateral. Continue until you reach Lenghu Lu (many pool tables outside) or Haihu Lu (a diagonal street crossing, the zoo is uphill from here) and descend either road to Wusi Xilu, where you can return to your starting place.


The mountains encircling the Xining valley provide an excellent – not to mention surprisingly quick – escape from the city. Ascending, you will go from coal fumes and heavy traffic to forests, grasslands, and open hillsides within minutes. But be warned: these runs all involve significant elevation gain; if you are not in shape or not acclimatized to the altitude do not do these runs. Also, be careful about running up these hills in sunny and hot weather (and do not go up Beishan or Nanyoushan in this weather); as there is little shade and no water, you will likely soon find yourself extremely dehydrated . While the mountains have all been planted with trees in recent years, only in the “forest mountain” past Xishan, the summit plateau of Xishan, and parts of Beishan have these grown to any significant height. Elsewhere the trees are spindly sticks that will not shelter you from the mercilessly beating sun.

on Xishan

Xishan 西山

Possibly the most convenient mountain to reach from the western part of the city (not to mention the most visible), Xishan is crisscrossed with a network of quiet, one-lane concrete roads that make for pretty great running. The best access is via the park leading up to the distinctive TV tower (from Kunlun Lu 昆仑路, ascend Xishan Yixiang 西山一巷), a cemetery accessed via the uphill end of Haihu Lu (turn right onto the narrow road ascending diagonally from the sewer lateral), or the western end of the sewer lateral (uphill, then at the junction turn left and uphill for the main part of Xishan or, for the backside, go straight and then right). Many runs are possible here:

(a) Xishan Beginner – Distance: XXX miles

The simplest Xishan run leads from the TV tower park over the mountaintop and back down to the sewer lateral on its western edge. Run up the road to the the TV tower, and find a narrow path on the left (southern) side of the tower leading down about thirty or forty feet to another concrete road below. Turn right and continue around the valley until you reach a three-way intersection, at which you should turn sharply right uphill on a switchback (almost a 300-degree turn). Follow this road uphill, over a narrow pass to a junction with excellent views of the city, where you turn left and continue uphill. Eventually you reach another junction, where you can either turn right (for a more direct route) or left (to reach the summit of the mountain). Turning left, you will soon reach a dirt parking area, where there is a clear path to the prayer-flag bedecked summit. The peak offers awesome views, especially when the pollution levels are low, of the Xining valley and the rows of mountains beyond. Returning to the parking lot, find a narrow path leading downhill to the right, which meets a dirt road which in turn links up with the road from the junction below the peak. Take this road to a wider road, and turn uphill. Immediately before passing through the massive traditionally-styled gate, turn right on another road which contours around the mountainside before eventually dropping steeply back to the valley below (there are dirt trails which bypass some steeper sections of concrete). You will end up next to a small factory; continue until you see the main road leading downhill to the right, and after turning right you will find yourself at the sewer lateral in less than 400 meters.

(b)Xishan Intermediate – Distance: 12.4 miles. Map here.

Follow the directions above until you reach the three-way intersection after the TV tower; instead of turning sharply right, continue straight. The road will continue around the end of the ridge and past the entrance to a park; continue along the contour (sharp right) and follow the road as it drops into another valley. You will eventually reach another junction at the bottom; turn right, and follow the road as it goes up and down roller-coaster style over ridges and into valleys. When you reach a junction with a prominent concrete road leading uphill, turn right and follow this road upwards all the way to the dirt parking lot at the peak (see above), from which you can follow the directions above to return to the city. This is a long and steep uphill; take your time.

(c)Xishan Advanced – Distance: 14.8 miles. Map here.

From the junction described immediately above (where you turn sharply uphill for the peak), continue straight, careening over hill and dale until you drop sharply into a valley. Turn right up a winding paved road which will lead you past a factory with some worrying signs indicating radioactivity, and when the road forks merge to the right. This road will take you up a beautiful, peaceful valley with little traffic which feels miles away from the city. Take any of the dirt roads leading uphill; they will all lead you to the Xishan ridge (one goes directly into the cemetery), from which you can easily follow paths back to the mountain’s front side and down to the sewer lateral.

(d) Xishan Backside – distance: 13 miles. Map here.

From the western end of the sewer lateral, turn uphill and, at the junction, continue straight and then turn right. Follow the road as it continues around a large valley and then eventually turns to dirt. Continue along the hillside; several paths lead uphill to the ridge above, all of which provide a good hill workout (and are shortcuts to the ‘water-channel’ path later in this run). After crossing another side valley (continue right, contouring around the hillside instead of going up), the road leads steeply uphill above a gorge dotted with abandoned homes; at a junction, merge left (next to a compound of buildings) and continue uphill until you reach a surprisingly wide, flat road with a water channel running alongside. Turn left (at the angle, you basically continue straight) and follow the main road (on the left side of the ridge) past side roads crossing the ridgeline until you reach its end, where you can descend to a path visible below. Follow this path into a narrow pass and up the other side to a second, higher pass, from where the path contours around the hillside of a steep valley before rejoining the main Xishan road on the hillside above the sewer lateral’s western edge (to return to your starting point, just run down the paved road). This run has many possible variations; you can easily run up different paths or into the valley described on the Xishan “Advanced” run.

On Nanshan 南山

Nanshan 南山 – distance: variable

This low mountain rises immediately above the city center, and is accessible (by runners) from two points: the narrow Nanyoushan 南酉山 road leading off of Nanchuan Donglu (the road which leads towards the Kumbum monastery; the intersection is at a point directly below a large cemetery on the hillside) and from Nan Dajie 南大街 leading steeply uphill from Nanshan Lu 南山路 and Fenghuangshan Lu 凤凰山路. The mountain covers a relatively small area, making it good for quick runs but not as good for longer runs as the other peaks described (unless you are going up Nanyoushan). The right fork of the Nan Dajie access point leads up a switchbacking road to the mountaintop park, where you are charged for entrance to a small area which is not great for running. The left fork leads up another switchbacking road and past a cemetery (turn right), into a small valley and over a hill to the top of the Nanyoushan road, just below Nanyoushan village.

Nanyoushan 南酉山 from Nanshan

Nanyoushan 南酉山 – distance: 16.5 miles (from Shida to the summit and back to Liuyi Qiao). Map here.

This high peak, easily distinguished by the towering pagoda atop its summit, is no easy climb. The summit always looks close, but long eludes your reach as the road winds ever-upwards. But those courageous souls who finish the climb are rewarded with perhaps the most spectacular views of the region: in one direction, an up-close view of the towering snowflecked Laji Shan mountains over the hills of Huangzhong county; in the other, the Xining valley below the Beishan mountains, beyond which the snowy peaks of the Huzhu Beishan range rear up in the distant hazy background. To reach this mountain, follow the Chengxi Loop run to Liuyi Qiao 六一桥 (or just find your way there) and continue north (away from downtown) along the main road. After a mile or so, you will see a narrow alleyway leading off to your left (this is actually the first “official” street to the left since Liuyi Qiao); this is Nanyoushan Lu 南酉山路, the beginning of the climb. You pass through a small residential neighborhood and climb up a narrow, eroded gully (combination roadcut and stream-eroded valley) to the village of Nanyoushan 南酉山. At the junction immediately before entering the village through a pailou (ornamental gate), you can turn sharply left for Nanshan 南山 or, if continuing up Nanyoushan, continue straight and go through the village. As the houses thin out near the far end of the village, the climb starts in earnest, with the road switchbacking mercilessly up a bare shoulder. Finally the road levels out and you reach a junction at the head of a narrow valley. Turn left to continue contouring around the valley, and when you reach another junction turn right to resume your climb. The road goes around the backside and switchbacks towards the front before ascending a ridge to the summit pagoda, where you are rewarded with suitably magnificent views. Return the way you came, or attempt a shortcut down to the village.

mighty Beishan from about a third of the way up

Beishan 北山 – Distance: 16.5 miles (roundtrip from Shida), 13.5 miles (from Shida to the summit and back down to the Huangshui confluence). Map here.

The most obviously prominent of peaks immediately surrounding Xining, Beishan summit sits a cool 9,100 feet high and is ascended by a 13 (ish)-kilometer loop road. From the confluence of the Huang Shui and the Nanchuan He rivers, cross the Nanchuan He bridge and continue about fifty meters until you reach the next bridge over the Huang Shui. Cross this bridge and, 100 meters later, the major surface street. Pass under the railroad tunnel, turn left, and follow the main road uphill as it turns sharply to the right through a completely chaotic furniture market. Soon before the main road turns softly left to cross under the highway, turn to the right along a quieter road leading through a residential neighborhood. Then turn uphill along the main road, crossing a water-channel and passing under the highway before running through a tree farm to the base of the mountain. At the gate, the road forks; take either (I will describe from the right fork) as they are the two ends of the Beishan loop. Going uphill on switchbacks to the right, you will eventually pass an impressive chorten and wind your way up the mountain’s east side above a rural valley. After a long climb, you will find yourself at a small parking area near the summit. To access the summit, which is a public park, pay the three kuai and run uphill through fake-roman ruins to a lookout platform. To complete the loop, continue along the road, which descends above the Beichuan valley in one giant switchback, until you reach a junction at a ridgetop. Turn left to return down a narrow gorge to the park gate, and to the river using the same roads by which you came in.

the high plateau above Dayoushan 大有山

Dayoushan 大有山 – Distance: 18 miles (shorter out-and-backs available). Map here.

This mountain provides an intensely rural experience on the western edge of the city. From Haihu Qiao 海湖桥 (the Haihu Lu bridge over the Huang Shui), run up Haihu Lu 海湖路 to the north through a steep roadcut until you reach the top of the hill. From here there are two ways to reach the mountain: for the first, turn as you reach the top of the hill onto a dirt road (one on either side of the roadcut) leading directly back the way you came  to the prominent bridge spanning the Haihu Lu roadcut. Turn right (cross the bridge if you are coming from the eastern side of Haihu Lu) and follow the main road uphill through a light-industry area until you reach the hilltop, where it abruptly changes to a pleasantly tree-lined concrete-paved road running through beautiful fields. Immediately before the road starts to run downhill (look for the ruins of an old fortress ahead), take a prominent dirt path heading directly uphill. At the top of the dirt path, turn left and follow the path uphill, across a pass, and then up the mountain beyond to the paved road (see description below). The second access point is about two hundred meters farther along Haihu Lu. Cross the road to the western side (close to the mountain) and, after passing a park, look for an intersection where two dirt roads lead uphill at angles away from Haihu Lu. Take the northernmost road (about a 10 o’clock angle from Haihu Lu) uphill through a dusty construction area and above the entrance to highway tunnels and finally onto an open grave-covered mountainside. The road leads up the mountainside on switchbacks, eventually passing the path from the second access point described above, and finally onto a plateau of open barley fields. Soon it enters the village of Dayoushan, where you must turn right through the brilliantly painted pailou gate. At the main square, turn left on the main road and follow it up an extremely steep hill. You will soon curve around a summit and reach a junction near a sign advertising an elevation of about 2860 meters. Turn right onto the narrow side-road and follow it along a beautiful open plateau with views reaching far into the distance. Just before the road drops slightly to the right side of a sharp ridge, look for a path leading straight ahead up the same ridge. Follow the path along the ridge, making a left above a village, until it eventually descends to a paved road (the same one you left; this is an alternate route but leads through a village). Cross the road onto another narrow dirt path which runs along the right side of the ridge, descending steeply. The path reaches a switchbacking path, which leads in more switchbacks to a wider path (road) below. Make your way down to the road, where you turn right and continue around a valley, through a village, and down into the gorge. Then the road runs a tightrope above a spectacularly dramatic section of gorge before entering another village and changing to a concrete surface. Continue downhill through the valley, crossing the creek one more time and passing by some factories, until it spills out into the Beichuan valley north of Xining. When you reach the main road, turn right. This is Haihu Lu, which you then follow through an industrial area for a few miles back to your starting place.

TV Tower peak 电视塔山 (this is OBVIOUSLY the real name…) – Distance (loop from Wuyi Lukou  五一路口 (Wuyi lu and Qiyi lu intersection): 17.5 miles (shorter distances available). Map here.

This is the peak towering over the train station area in the eastern part of the city. While it appears barren from the valley below, a trek up the hill (and it’s a big hill – nearly 2000 feet of elevation gain) to see it’s northern side reveals a pleasant agricultural plateau – not to mention the requisite wide-ranging views over the valley and beyond. I recently did this run and got severely dehydrated…bring water, there’s not much shade (and no water) out there! I decided to plan this run from Wuyi Lukou 五一路口 as its the closest major bus stop to the area (while the train station is under construction) and, along with the nearby Wuyi Qiao (bridge), is an easily reached landmark. If you are starting from Shida, add about 7.5-8 miles onto this run; if starting from Da Shizi in the center of town, add 2 miles or so. From Wuyi Lukou run south along Wuyi Lu towards the river. Cross the river, then cross the Qilian Lu 祁连路 (the major street) and continue uphill, passing underneath the train tracks and entering a chaotic and dusty market area. At the intersection under the highway bridge, take the road leading straight ahead to the LEFT (the other roads will put you in wholesale-market-no-man’s-land). Follow the road as it starts to climb uphill in earnest along a wall topped with barbed wire, and then as it abruptly leaves the city and starts to switchback upwards below nearly scarlet-red cliffs. The road continues around the mountain, going through several small forested sections before coming out on the mountain’s north face, where it continues its climb, curving around several narrow gullies. At last, close to kilometer 9, you reach a junction; you can continue straight for a shortcut, or, for the route described, turn right and continue upwards under the blessed shade of a hardwood allee. Soon, you will see the massive TV towers ahead; they are within a gated compound that you cannot enter, which the road bypasses to the north. At the compound’s main gate (kilometer marker 10), turn LEFT to continue around the compound wall and then out into the open above the Xining and Huzhu valleys. The road traverses the steep mountainside, descending slightly as it curves around the sharp ridge to the north and back to the west, before long passing through a small village. Immediately after the village, you will climb to a low pass where a roadcut passes through a narrow ridge; immediately before the roadcut, you will see a gravel road going up to your right/north (the road straight ahead is the shortcut from below the TV tower; you can also choose to return to the valley by this route). If you so choose, take the gravel road, which curves around the hillside before crossing the ridge to its western side, descending, then ascending again to an altitude nearly that of the TV tower. The road will curve around to the west again; stick to the main road going west, another graveled road goes north but ignore it and all other turnoffs. You will go downhill, then uphill again before passing by another small village. Immediately after this village, you start to descend steeply along a dusty road (this will soon change; it is currently being surfaced, thank GOD!). You will bypass yet another small village before continuing your descent through a slope characterized by its red soil. Finally, reaching the valley bottom, continue along the main road, which runs down the valley floor. Immediately before you enter back into the main Xining valley, beware of a small compound of houses (which the road curves around) which has two unchained dogs; while they are small and not overly fierce, you don’t want to get bitten. Arm yourself with rocks beforehand. When the road curves to the right to cross a bridge, continue straight into a built-up Hui neighborhood and take any of the small streets going to the left back to the street on which you started. Make a right and continue straight until you get back to your starting point.

Forested Mountain out West (no name that I’m aware of…)- Distance: 10.7-plus miles. Map here.

A recent discovery, this mountain (the eastern half at least) is covered in an honest-to-goodness forest, trees enough to actually shade the switchbacking one-lane road which ascends the hillside. But if you run for any distance, you will soon discover that this forest has distinct edges; go to the mountain’s backside or western half and you will find an area where the trees, only recently planted, resemble more than anything sticks in the ground. But the forest area, I admit, is gloriously lush. To reach this comparative Eden, run down Wusi Xilu 五四西路 past Haihu Lu 海湖路 until you reach a strange bridge which I’ve dubbed the ceremonial “gateway to the West”. This bridge crosses over a park which runs along both sides of a Huang Shui tributary stream. Find your way to the stream’s banks and ascend until you reach the end of the park at Xichuan Nanlu 西川南路. Alternately, go west along Kunlun Lu until you reach this point (Kunlun Lu and Xichuan Nanlu are one and the same). Continue west along Xichuan Nanlu though an area under heavy construction, passing a traffic circle and eventually a pleasant park on your left. Immediately after the park, look for a narrow alleyway to your left. Ascend the alley, pass through a gate and you will find yourself in the forest! Climb up the switchbacking road, taking whatever branch you choose at the first junction (it is a loop) but continuing uphill at the second. You will soon find yourself at a four-way junction, where you can turn left along a short branch road to a Great-Wall-esque watchtower with nice views, turn right along a road which contours along the front slope of the mountain, or continue straight to reach the mountain’s backside. Continuing straight, you continue around a valley and, before the road starts to slope downhill, look for a road rising uphill to the right (do NOT take the road that contours around the mountainside; it is a dead-end). From this road you have two choices: you can make a right at the next junction to reach a narrow peak, from which you can run down the front side of the mountain to reach the contouring road below; or, you can continue straight and down to reach a small valley, from which you can descend to the main valley below or climb up the opposite hillside and over the ridgeline to reach the mountain’s front side. Either way, descend the way you came up and, if you so choose, make a quick left on Xichuan Nanlu and a right on the massive empty road leading down into the valley, and choose any east-leading street to run home through the massive new urban development that is under construction here.


Qinghai Daxue 青海大学 – Distance (from Qinghai Daxue): 12 miles for the country loop described, variable distances for other runs (many options). Map here.

The New Frontier in Xining running (as if this was possible), Qinghai Daxue (Qinghai University) is not actually in Xining. Rather, it’s fifteen kilometers (give or take) north of the city in the valley leading towards Datong. But with its beautiful countryside setting, it’s an excellent place to escape for a run.

Xining to Huangzhong (Kumbum) high traverse  从西宁到湟中 (鲁沙尔) 的高峰穿越 – Distance from Shida (one-way): 20 miles. Map here.

The big monster of Xining runs (depending on how you do it), this one allows you to experience everything from idyllic fields of livestock to the tough streets of Xining (sarcasm) in one go. From Shida, take the route described in the “Xishan Backside” run until you get to the top of the long uphill at a remarkably wide, flat dirt road. Turn right/straight (away from Xining) and continue along the road as it loops around two wide side-valleys. Eventually, the road will fork with one option turning uphill to a large cleared area (water storage) and another, smaller road continuing around the mountainside on the same contour. Choose this last road and follow it as it turns south (left) through a cleft in the ridgeline and then wanders towards a village in a narrow mountain gap. When the paths fork, take the obvious path leading slightly downhill to the village. The path turns into a small road, which passes a dry pond; immediately after the pond, continue straight at the intersection (the main road goes L-R) up a small dirt leading steeply uphill between mud walls. You will soon find yourself at a narrow dirt road lined by a beautiful allee of trees, a small watercourse burbling by its side. Take this road as it contours around the mountainside, providing beautiful views of the valley below and blessed respite from the sun. At one point you have to descend slightly into a narrow gap but the allee continues on the other side. After a while, you will find the allee winding into and out of two narrow valleys in succession in sharp hairpin bends. In the second of these valleys (which has an abandoned house at one end and is nearly at the end of the main valley below), turn right on the second path leading uphill (there will be a path leading downhill at the same point, making a four-way intersection). This will take you over a pass and down the other side through a series of junctions; continue straight until you reach another allee of trees, a doppelganger for the one you just left. If you want to descend to the valley road below, continue straight along a narrow path that plunges steeply to the valley floor between ochre cliffs (to continue to Huangzhong, follow the main road upvalley). Otherwise, turn left and follow this beautiful allee to another gap in the mountainside where you will have a clear view of the valleys on both sides of this ridge leading to Huangzhong, as well as the Laji Shan behind. Paths drop steeply into both valleys; take the path which continues contouring around the eastern (leftmost) side of the mountain, overlooking the main roads to Huangzhong below. This narrow path will soon put you at yet another mountain gap, where you must turn right and follow the dirt path downhill towards yet another allee of trees with watercourse. Continue along until you reach a final gap in the mountains, from which a wider dirt road descends to the right towards a village in the quiet valley below. Take this road to its junction with the main road; turn left, and follow the main road as it wanders through wide-open pastures and fields of barley, as well as a few quiet villages, before steeply climbing to a lhatse (arrow-prayer flags) at a narrow gap where you suddenly find yourself on the main road at the edge of Huangzhong town. Continue straight/left to go into town and get yourself a well-deserved cold drink.

Perfect running terrain in Huangzhong

Huangzhong country run 在湟中的乡下里 – Distance: 13 miles (for the route described from Huanzhong to the main road), variable distances available depending on how far you wander into the countryside. Map here.

This beautiful run has you cruising along valleys, over low passes, through grassy fields and over gently rolling hills below the backdrop of the high Laji Shan 拉脊山 mountains.

Runnable valley in Huangzhong’s Laji Shan mountains


Outstanding (though hilly) running through terraced valleys of barley fields and along steep-sided ridges. More info to come.

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