We get to the start point of this hike by driving in by Hemp Village, an isolated settlement in the hills on the border of Beijing and Hebei Province. There are about 100 people living in this valley, surrounded by hills on all sides. They mostly grow corn in this area, but in the right season you can spot hemp and tobacco, and there are donkeys, cows, chickens, and dogs about the place as well.
Up past Hemp Village we'll find the western gate of the Jinshanling Great Wall park area, where we'll start the hike. We'll follow the park trails through some farmland and up along a low ridgeline to reach a trail that runs beside the Great Wall, aiming for a great lookout point..
From the lookout point we can see all of the Jinshanling Great Wall, a partially-restored stretch with many intact and closely-spaced towers.
Much of the Jinshanling Great Wall is outside the Beijing Municipality, in Hebei Province. It’s a well-known part of the Great Wall that is in good condition after a lot of restoration work, and it is extremely picturesque, with large towers that are more closely-spaced that usual.
Not far from the lookout point, we’ll be able to pass through an archway in the wall, getting us back on to the south side. The south side is the Beijing side, and we’ll find a small door that allows access to the wall. From here we’ll be walking on top of the wall, following it to the main pass of Jinshanling.
We’ll follow the Great Wall towards Simatai. The walk is steep in places with a lot of steps – in one place it’s 107 steps up, then 120 steps down. This means it can get a bit tough on the knees, but the views make up for any temporary pains.
Once we reach the end of the Jinshanling section, we’ll be able to get good views of much of the Simatai Great Wall, including the steep eastern ridge where the famously hard-to-reach Sky Bridge and Fairy Tower are located.
We'll finish the hike by walking down a paved park trail. This trail leads down a valley, and after about thirty minutes we’ll arrive at the bottom and meet our bus.
Before heading back to the city, we’ll have a late lunch (perhaps after 2pm) at a local restaurant. The cost of food and drinks is included in the price of the hike.