Being an extension of the Taihang mountain range from Hebei Province, the Western Hills cover about 17% of Beijing municipality including most of Mentougou and Fangshan Districts as well as parts of Changping, Haidian, and Shijingshan. The Western Hills range in elevation from 100 m to over 1900 m above sea level and are visible from the city on clear days. A mix of deciduous and coniferous forests and highland meadows cover much of the Western Hills. Mountain streams feed into the Yongding and Juma Rivers, which flow through the Western Hills to irrigate the plains of Beijing. Coal is mined in Fangshan and Mentougou Districts. The Western Hills are rich with natural and historical points of interest. They are known for cliffs, caves, river gorges, and hot springs, as well as temples, historic homes, secluded retreats and ancient ruins.
An area renowned for its scenery (it is sometimes also known as the Western Hills Scenic Area), the Western Hills have long been a retreat for Chinese scholars, religious men, and members of the government and civil service. Nearest to Beijing's Haidian District is the Fragrant Hills Park, most famous for its fall colors. Nearby is the Beijing Botanical Garden and Temple of Azure Clouds. The Wofo Temple, best known for its giant reclining Buddha statue, is located on the grounds of the botanical gardens. To the northwest of the Fragrant Hills Park are Jiufeng (Vulture Peak) Forest Park (鹫峰森林公园), Dajue Temple, and Fenghuanling (Phoenix Ridge) Scenic Area.
South of the Fragrant Hills Park is Badachu (八大处; literally "eight great sites") in Shijingshan District, which is known and named for eight Buddhist temples and monasteries. The Western Hills of Shijinghan are also home to the Laoshan Mountain Bike Course, where the mountain biking competition of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games were held.
The Western Hills also houses an underground command center of the Chinese military, a secret bunker-like underground facility built with the assistance of the USSR in the 1950s, and now serves a purpose similar to the United States Military's Pentagon. The Beijing Subway extends all the way to the Western Hills, though the last two stops are only used by the military, and are not open to the public.
Western Hills Group
The Kuomintang also had a secret group named Western Hills, which was set up in 1925 when Sun Yat-sen's coffin was kept there; the group's members, who were Buddhist, believed that the presence of Sun Yat-sen's body could bless them.