Gubeikou West Circuit (Route 2)
Make a circuit of the west side of Gubeikou to check out some of the more obscure Great Wall in the area, including a rough line of rocks that is said to be wall built in 556 AD during the Northern Qi Dynasty.
This hike gives both long- and mid-range views of the line of Great Wall on Wohu Mountain, and you’ll see in a few places that there is an older wall encased within the wall – evidence of later dynasties using the older line of wall as a base for further construction.
A lot of this hike is fairly gentle, but we’re rating it a Level 4 because there are steep sections where the wall is narrow and tricky.
There has been a line of Great Wall at Gubeikou since 556 AD, and it is easy to see why – the pass here is one of the main routes through the mountains down to current-day Beijing. The Great Wall runs up into the mountains on either side of a narrowing in that pass, meaning that any attacking armies would be funnelled towards the fortifications.
The 556 AD wall was built during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577 AD) and it marked roughly the northern border of their state. There’s just a little bit of that older wall left to see in the area, as it has either tumbled down to nothing or was covered over by Great Wall built by succeeding dynasties. Most of the Great Wall seen nowadays at Gubeikou dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD).
We start off with a walk through Gubeikou Village, a highway-side settlement that has a mixture of recent and 60s-era buildings as well as temples and shrines that date back to the Ming Dynasty. The cobbled lanes of the village lead up the North Gate, a repaired arch and tower that allowed travellers through the Great Wall.
We’ll climb up on to the gate, and then hike past the few refurbished towers above the Gubeikou War Memorial Museum. As we hike further along the ridgeline you’ll see towers and wall off in the distance. Later on you’ll hike them!
As the ridgeline trail peters out we’ll walk down a valley and then through Chaoguan Village, a little settlement on a bend in the river. We’ll walk out across a bridge, and we’ll then make a scrambling climb up on to the line of rocks and rubble of the remaining Northern Qi-era (550-577) Great Wall.
The hike takes us up along the wall to a tower on a peak, which is where the Ming-era wall diverged from the Northern Qi. It looks like the Ming wanted to make it just a bit tougher for attackers, as their line of wall runs right along the top of tall cliffs.
We’ll be following the Ming wall the other way, heading for the impressive ridgeline of Wohu Mountain. The Northern Qi wall also went this way, but is now encased in the brickwork of the ‘newer’ Ming Dynasty wall.
The hike will take us to a second high point, where you’ll have a superb view of the towers atop Wohu Mountain. Like us, you’ll probably wonder why it was even necessary to build wall up there. It’s certainly too steep to hike up there.
Warning: narrow and steep. From the second high point the wall is not in good condition, and there are a few places where it gets narrow and steep, with quite a drop on one side. If you’re not good with heights, or if the weather has made the trail slippery, we’ll offer a shortcut for you.
There’s a trail that takes us down from the wall and out a long valley, passing below the train tracks just before we come out on to the main road and finish the hike.
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks to eat along the way.
- Sun protection: long-sleeved shirt, hat
- A bottle of sports drink with salt content (Gatorade, Pocari Sweat)
- Wind-breaker jacket if it is forecast to be breezy.
- Good hiking boots or sturdy shoes for walking.
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- There is some exposure to heights on this hike. This means that this hike is not suitable for younger children, or people who are not good with heights.