Old Man Hill
Old Man Hill offers some of the most stunning views in Guilin, and given the epic beauty of the region's landscape, that's saying something. Even better, it is a quick climb and free of charge. We went in the early morning, which I highly recommend, and even halfway up its main path were able to see the layer upon layer of the dragon-tooth mountains that are so common to high spots in the city.
If you are in the city center, you can cross the short bridge leading to Luoshishanjiao Road, then take an immediate right at the Gui Hu (sounds like “gway hoo”) Hotel. Keep following the road along the narrow lake on your right (Xi Qing Lake), until you start strolling down what is clearly a park area by the hill. The spot itself is fairly relaxing, and like many parks in China, will be inhabited by elderly ladies and gentlemen, who go there to do Qigong, stretch out, and engage in a variety of truly unclassifiable activities.
The main path up Old Man Hill starts on your left, just above a platform, and is made of stairs for the first 50 feet or so. The disappearance of the stairs so quickly actually confused two young travelers we met later, and they turned around and left. When the path turns to dirt and rock, just keep going. You can reach the peak in fifteen minutes.
In Guilin, one only needs to rise a little bit above ground level before the view starts opening up. This is especially true for Old Man, and if you turn around and look about, even during the early portions of your hike, long chains of mountains will start appearing, the closest ones solid and the furthest mere apparitions. One section of path, less than halfway up, gave us the classic sight of a single, leafless tree, standing before rows of receding mountains, the morning mist still gradually fading.
The top of the Old Man is a long, narrow ridge, and on your left side coming up should be the huge stone outcrop, the one which allegedly resembles an old man (I have seen it from the west side and it does indeed look humanoid). While I've heard that some people climb the Old Man rocks, we just stayed along the top ridge, and snapped pictures all around. By the way, in case you are moving left and right to get a twig out of your camera's viewfinder, be careful where you step – the front face and the far right edge are very steep drop-offs.
Coming back down Old Man, we ran into an old couple who offered us slice after slice of fresh, juicy watermelon. Seeing as I was literally dripping with sweat, it was an enormous relief. On the way back into town, we enjoyed the paths, bridges, walkways and flowers along the side of Xi Qing Lake.
Believe it or not, there's an even better view next door to Old Man, tucked between it and the peak labeled Litou on the tourist map. Just cross Baoxian Bridge as if going to Old Man, but instead of turning right at the hotel, keep going along the winding Luoshishanjiao. After a few minutes you should start to see several peaks on your right. About halfway between the bridge and where the road ends, you should be able to get onto Litou's Neighbor through the gate of a building complex. It's just off the road and you'll see a set of stairs going up immediately past the paved area. If the guard asks you any questions, you can gesticulate that you plan to climb the hill. He shouldn't give you any problems.
The stairs you will start climbing on proceed only a short way, and then end at a rather dumpy pavilion. If you wish, you can scramble up the sharp rocks to the left of this area, and could even have a picnic out there, but this method will not get you to the top. Rather, there is a narrow, and rarely used path straight up which leads directly to the top. I'd advise bringing a walking stick to push the brush out of your.
This path proceeds basically straight up until just before the forested area. Then it cuts left and runs parallel to the trees for a while, before turning upward again. Hang a sharp right towards the top, and it will let you off on a narrow ridge at the summit. I doubt this hill gets more than a few climbers a week, but the view impressed me more than Old Man. Firstly, you have some peaks very close to you. Secondly, the view of the city is perfect – you can see a green strip of the Li River, the Mulong Tower, a perfect profile of Elephant Hill, as well as looking straight on at Crane Cave and another rotund cave about 20 degrees to its left. Beyond that, as always, you will see a plethora of jagged peaks going off into the horizon.
After descending Litou's Neighbor, you will likely be parched with thirst. Fear not, just to the right of the gate is a shop selling drinks and ice cream, where you can sit down in the shade. Not only that, but keep going down Luoshishanjiao for another few minutes, and you'll pass on the left a large gated cave, from which blasts cool air. Actually, this is a bomb shelter, but it is the dream refrigerator that every city needs during the summer. There are often locals hanging out by the entrance, as they enjoy the cool air as much as you do.
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