We begin this hike with a flat walk up a valley to reach 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.
One of the last houses in Hemp Village belongs to our local guide, and he’ll take us up to the Great Wall. If there’s time (and interest!), we might be able to have a look about his property—a good chance to see how folk survive in the freezing winter in the Chinese countryside.
Our local guide has made a trail from his house up to the Great Wall, and we’ll follow it up to a flat spot beside the wall on the ridgeline. This section of the wall borders a military area, and walking on it here is not permitted. We’ll first follow a trail beside the wall, scrambling up and down a few steep hills before we get to a lookout point.
Note: steep! The trail up to the lookout point goes up a fairly big hill. Take a break on the way up!
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.
After a little look over that way, we’ll leave the wall and head 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.
What to bring on this hike
- Snacks to eat
- Warm clothes, gloves, and a hat
- Good hiking boots
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- There are some steep and slippery sections of trail in the first third of the hike, with parts getting quite narrow.