Change to the plan—the trailheads for this hike are shut down for fire prevention, so we’re doing the Stone Valley Great Wall loop instead.
This stretch of Great Wall in Yanqing County is extremely picturesque and seldom visited, but the steepness of it makes it difficult for casual hikers. On this visit we’ll do the ‘middle route,’ cutting out the toughest parts to make it a little easier. There are still some steep climbs to do, but overall this hike isn’t long enough to rate as difficult - we’ll take our time climbing up and down and make sure that we have a relaxed and enjoyable visit.
We’ll begin this hike with a slow climb up a winding valley, passing rocks and old terraces on the way to the dirt trail that will lead us to the Great Wall. On one side, the wall comes down a steep hill; we’ll follow it the other way, passing through a tower and taking our time to climb the steps of this section.
As we get to the top of that part, we’ll see the road we drove in on, far below, as well more of the Great Wall in the area, including the ‘General’s Tower’ that is the highest point of the hike. During peak season, the General’s Tower may double as a shop – we’ve yet to see it in service, but inside is a bench, and a sign that reads “1 yuan to use” the shaky ladder which is now the only way to enjoy the views from the top of the tower. To reach the General’s Tower, we will do a few more descents and ascents along the wall, climbing steps up and down.
From the General’s Tower the hike gets much easier, as the wall starts to follow a ridgeline instead of running up and down the sides of valleys. We’ll do some hillside detours around the steep and slippery parts until we reach the trail that will lead us back down to the valley and the bus, and the countryside restaurant where we’ll get our lunch.