On The Border Lines hike | Looking down a line of Great Wall in Pinggu District, Beijing
Looking down a line of Great Wall in Pinggu District, Beijing.

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.

Level 4
4 hours start to finish over 9–10km. (Can I do it?)

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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.

The hike

Might do it backwards? We’ve had a re-think on the hike route here, and we will probably go backwards on this visit. That will mean we’ll hike up to the tablet from Red Stone Gate Village, and then down the wall to finish. This gives us some shade on the ascent, and we’ll hike down the wall instead of struggling up it in the sun on a potentially hot day. We’ll see the first of the villages mentioned in the hike description, not the second.

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.

On the Border Lines hike photo #7
The Great Wall disappears over a nearby peak.

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.

Back in the day

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.

* This refers to the period of time between 2020-2022 when there were lockdowns and travel restrictions in Beijing, and we were dealing with rules that said (for e.g.) that if you’d been outside of Beijing in the preceding 72 hours you were not permitted to enter malls, offices, subway stations, etc., etc.

COVID-19 and participation precautions

The current precautions are minimal. Please read in full here: Operating hikes under COVID-19 precautions

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