Great Wall: Gubeikou to Jinshanling (and a little Simatai)
The longest version of our Gubeikou to Jinshanling hike – walk a long stretch of wall in the northeast of Beijing, going from unrestored to restored wall with a nice detour through farmland midway. Note: there are a few slippery sections on this hike. Good boots required.
Updated hike plan
- We’ll do the hike in reverse direction (Jinshanling to Gubeikou) so we don’t have to go through border checkpoints on the way back.
- Large sections of the Jinshanling Great Wall are closed for repairs, so we can’t hike most of the wall there.
- The length of the hike is similar, but going backwards means less climbing – might be more of a Level 5 instead of 5+.
The hike begins at the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall in Miyun County, very close to the border of the Beijing and Hebei provinces. Even though it’s designated as a park, this section of the Great Wall is largely unrestored. It’s not often visited either, probably because it is so far away from central Beijing.
We’ll start the walk at Gubeikou’s old North Gate, a big arch in the Great Wall. From the North Gate it’s a short hike up to reach the wall. Once we’re up, we’ll be able to see the roofs of a small town; past those, the old highway to Chengde; and even further, a stretch of Great Wall climbing a steep ridge.
We’ll follow the wall all the way up to 24-Eyes Tower, a large, partially-destroyed tower that used to have six large windows on each of its four sides. We’ll pass through more towers on the way up, including several big towers that are mostly still intact.
This first part of the hike is the same as our Level 3 Gubeikou Great Wall Loop hike.
From 24-Eyes Tower we’ll make a detour off the wall. There’s a military area adjacent to the next part of the wall, and hiking it is forbidden.
The detour takes us down through ‘Spider Valley’. In summer it’s common to see spider webs hanging between the trees by the trail in this valley, with yellow-and-black spiders lurking. As well as summertime spiders and cobwebs, we’ll see abandoned farmhouses, wells, and water stores in the valley.
As we come out of the valley we’ll reach the fields that surround Hemp Village. There are about 100 people living in this area, 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 around as well.
Before we arrive at the main part of Hemp Village we’ll make a turn-off at the west gate of the Jinshanling scenic area and head back up towards the wall. The trail is steep in a few places, but soon enough you’ll be back up on the Great Wall and enjoying the sights—long views back towards the Gubeikou Great Wall, and a wide view of all the wall at Jinshanling.
Along the way to Jinshanling we’ll get a different view of the wall, walking a trail by the base of the Mongolia side, and making a few tricky ascents and descents on the way to the archway that will get us back on top. This section is the west side of the Jinshanling Great Wall.
We’ll be following the Jinshanling Great Wall from west to east, starting off on the unrestored western section before heading down into the main restored area.
The eastern side of Jinshanling is where the hike starts to get tough, with long climbs up and down steep stairs. It’s worth it, though—from the higher towers the views are amazing.
To get your (optional) ‘little bit of Simatai’, you can hike out-and-back from Jinshanling’s highest tower, heading out three more towers along before coming back. We used to be able to hike all the way over to Simatai, but the way through has been blocked (and watched by guards) ever since Simatai added the the Gubei Watertown resort area.
From Jinshanling’s highest tower we finish the hike with a 30-minute walk down a paved park trail, and not long after arriving at the bottom you’ll be enjoying a cold drink and a hot meal at a countryside restaurant.