If you live in Shanghai and you’re looking for a quiet place to escape from the busy city on the weekend, you may consider spending a day in nature and hiking the Shangqing Ancient Trail!
Located in Shaoxing County, the Shangqing Ancient Caravan Trail is also known as Huiji Ancient Caravan Trail and it is one of the classic hiking roads in Zhejiang Province.
It gets its name from the two villages the road was connecting in the past: from Shangkang Village to Qinglian Village. Back in the days, this was the only road connecting Shaoxing County to Shengzhou County. Today, there are many “modern” roads between the two counties, and the Shangqing Caravan Trail is not used anymore. One section of the road, the part from Suosiqiao Village to Xinlian Village is still untouched and had become a popular spot for nature lovers and hikers.
The history of the Shangqing Ancient Trail
The Shangqing Ancient Path is an ancient road that dates back more than 1,000 years. Some say this was the only official road leading to Shaoxing city (in Zhengzhou) in ancient times. Some people also called it the Kuaiji Ancient Road. Starting from Shangzao Village and ending at Qingtan Village, the road consists of three sections: Rizhuling, Wanshoushan, and Taoyanling.
The most popular section of the path (from Suosiqiao Village to Xinlian Village) is still preserved in an old-style and this is where I went. It has more than 1,400 stone steps and a winding road more than two meters wide. I believe this section is called Taoyanling Ancient Road (marked in yellow below).
During the Tang Dynasty this area was well-developed and this was a popular trading road for tea, bamboo, wood and other mounting products.
It is said that Tao Hongjing, a Taoist thinker and medical scientist, lived here in seclusion during the Qi and Liang Dynasties. Other famous Chinese poets and thinkers are also linked to the history of the road.
Where is it located?
The trail is around 200 km away from Shanghai and it’s a bit tricky (but not impossible) to get there by public transportation only. After doing some research I realized that the most convenient option is to go with an organized tour group or to rent a car for a day. No matter which option you choose you won’t be disappointed and you’ll enjoy the tranquillity and the untouched nature.
To find the trail on Baidu maps, you should look for 上青古道 (Shangqing Gudao), or you can simply copy this link to you Baidu maps.
What to expect?
One part of the path (from Suosiqiao Village to Xinlian Village) is still preserved in an old-style and this is where I went.
We started at Shangkang village which was nothing special or unseen but the surrounding nature is beautiful. Be prepared to do some hiking “Chinese style”, meaning rather than hiking a mountain you’ll be climbing interminable stairs. Indeed, most of the path is covered by stone pavements and stairs.
The path is around 2 meters wide and the trail is around 11 km long. Most of the trail goes through the beautiful bamboo forest, but you’ll also see some old houses and shelters that were constructed back in the days, for the merchants to rest.
The path also goes by a big water reservoir. If you visit in the summer, you can be sneaky and have a quick swim in this man-made lake (it’s not allowed, however).
This reservoir was built in 1956. Legend has it that there is a temple here called Lanruo Temple. This temple was the scene of a famous love story between a young woman and a ghost …
The end of the Shangqing Ancient Trail is in Xinlian Village: also a very small village with just a few restaurants and old houses. You will see some farm animals and cornfields.
Overall, the hike was really nice, and not very difficult. There are, however, a few sections of the path that are more demanding and shouldn’t be underestimated. You should be prepared with enough water, good hiking shoes, mosquito repellent, and a waterproof jacket (just in case).
How to get to the Shangqing Trail from Shanghai
As I said, I visited the trail with an organized tour group, so I didn’t have to worry about transportation. If you travel alone and you don’t speak Chinese I would recommend you do the same. There are several tourist agencies in Shanghai that organize excursions to the ancient Shangqing Trail, once or even twice per month.
But, in case you want to go on your own, it is completely doable and, if you speak some Chinese, it shouldn’t be a problem.
First, you need to take the train from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway to Shaoxing city – Shaoxing North Station. From the train station, you can take a taxi or a Didi to Suosiqiao, which is one of the places to start the trail. When you finish the trail and arrive in Xinlian Village, you’ll need to figure a way to get back to Shaoxing North train station. Based on my research, this is the trickiest part and the reason why I opted for an organized tour group instead of going on my own.
Probably the easiest way would be to order in advance a Didi car to pick you up from the endpoint of the trail. You can also see the instructions in this article on how to get to the Shangqing trail by public transport.
My Itinerary (with an organized tour group and a private mini-van)
Here’s how my one-day trip to the Shangqing Ancient Caravan Trail was organized.
07:30-08:00 – We departed early from Shanghai.
Fun fact: if you go by car, you will cross the Jiashao Sea Bridge (嘉绍大桥), which is the widest and longest multi-tower and cable-stayed bridge in the world! Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the bridge, because, at the time, I didn’t know it was a special bridge 😀
11:00-11:30 We arrived at Shangkang Village and started hiking.
Normally the drive should take you around 2,5 – 3 hours max.
12:00-13:00 We stopped for a quick lunch. You need to prepare your own lunch in advance. There are no places to buy food once you take the path through the mountains.
16:30 We arrived at Xinlian village and immediately left from the trail and headed back to Shanghai.
20:00-20:30 We arrived back in Shanghai and finished this daily trip.
Suggested Itinerary by train
In case you speak good Chinese, you can try to go on your own by leaving early in the morning. Another travel agency I got in touch with was organizing the exact same trip but by train. Their itinerary was as follows:
08:00-08:30 – Take a train to Shaoxing from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station
09:50-10:00 – Arrive at Shaoxing North station 绍兴北站. From there, you can take a Didi (taxi) to the trail entrance. I presume the drivers in the area should all know about 上青古道 (Shangqing Gudao).
The trail starting point is near Shangkang village that’s located 1h drive away from Shaoxing. The total distance is 32 km, as shown on the map below:
According to Baidu maps, there are some public busses that stop near, but you’ll need to change 3 different lines and the trip will take you at least 2 hours (assuming the schedules on Baidu Maps are correct). This is really not an option if you’re planning to do the entire trip from Shanghai in one day.
11:00 – Start your hike and enjoy the nature
17:00-17:30 – You need to make sure to arrive at Xinlian village and leave the trail by 17:00-17:30 because you’ll need at least 1.5 hours to return to Shaoxing train station by taxi.
At this point, you’ll definitely need to use a taxi application and call a taxi or a Didi with your phone. The village is very small. Alternatively, you can try to go back to the train station by public transport.
You’ll also need to check in advance at what time the last train from Shaoxing leaves, but according to my research, there should be trains till at least 21:30.
18:30-19:00 Take the train from Shaoxing North station 绍兴北站 back to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway station.