On the Border Lines hike
Follow the Great Wall up to a tablet that marks the junction of Beijing, Hebei, and Tianjin’s borders, and then visit valley villages on the way to the end of the hike.
At several times in the last year or so an attempt at this hike would have resulted in your Health Kit app producing a giant version of a frowning emoji instead of a green result—the trail takes us up to a high point on the Great Wall that also marks the junction of Beijing, Hebei, and Tianjin. A short circle around the marker and you will have crossed three borders.
For now crossing the border isn’t going to cause any problems, unless your employer is very strict about you leaving Beijing.
The wall here is mostly repaired, and unfortunately it was one of those cover-it-mostly-in-concrete repair jobs. Even though the other Great Wall in the area is mostly just piles of rocks, we’re not sure that the repair work was an improvement. It’s easy to walk on, though!
As well as the wall, we’ll see two tiny villages in the valleys. On this visit we should see the start of the blossoms in the hills here.
We’ll start the hike on the side of the road in Hebei, and after a bit of a climb up a hill you’ll be up onto the Great Wall and back in Beijing.
Once on the wall, we’ll follow it up to the high point where the borders meet up. Besides the three-sided tablet that tells you in which part of China you’re currently standing, you’ll see mountains all around, the blue water of Jinhai Lake off in the distance, and more of the Great Wall in the area.
The hike up to the top is reasonably difficult. There are steep sections, and the repaired wall is more like a ramp—no steps or stairs, just rough rocks kept in place with mortar. It’s not really a tricky hike, but it does go up quite high on the way to the border marker.
We’ll take a break at the marker for the semi-obligatory interprovincial selfies before heading on along on to an unrepaired section.
On this part of the hike we’ll see what kind of condition the wall here was in before the repairs: rough and rocky. The repaired section finishes right by the marker, which suggests that the repair budget only covered work done in Beijing.
We’ll have some steep ups and downs on the rocky Great Wall before stepping off on to a track that follows the course of the wall through the hills. This part of the wall eventually disappears into trees on a nearby peak, and before we get that far we’ll hike a hill down into a small mountain village in Tianjin Municipality.
The common version of this hike finishes near the village, and then we’d have to go through a border control checkpoint on the way back to Beijing.
But why not do a little bit more hiking, and finish back over the hill in Beijing?
At the other end of the village is a narrow path that goes back up towards the border marker. We can visit the marker again, or take a little shortcut across the face of the hill to find the long hill trail that leads down to Red Stone Gate* village, finishing the hike back in Beijing Municipality.
* We think the name ‘Red Stone Gate’ comes from the red rocks in the area, and we’ll get a good look at those just after we start the drive back, with the road cutting through a hill and showing red on both sides of the road.