Holiday hike! It’s the Tomb-Sweeping Festival holiday weekend, and we might get stuck in traffic at some point on the way to or from the hike. We recommend you don’t make fixed plans for the evening, just in case.
Regular hikers: this is the longest version that we do of this hike, crossing all of the wall at Gubeikou and all of the wall at Jinshanling. (If time permits: we’d have to make the hike shorter if we weren’t going to make closing time at the eastern gate of Jinshanling.)
Tough hike! We’ll going to ask you some questions about your hiking experience as part of the reservation for this hike, just so we can be sure that it will be an enjoyable experience for you!
This hike is suitable for people who do a lot of physical exercise and have good hiking boots.
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 with a short climb up to a dirt trail 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.
Continuing along the wall, we’ll pass through a lot of towers - some in good condition, some tumbled down to foundations only. Excluding two main detours, we’ll be able to walk on the wall just about all the way to Jinshanling, and on to Simatai, following the wall as it climbs up, over, and down the hills and ridges.
The first detour comes about thirty minutes into the hike, and takes us along a trail through a pine forest and then up a dirt trail to get back to the wall – about twenty minutes all up.
The second detour comes as we arrive at a large tower and find the path along the wall bricked up because it borders a restricted area. This means we need to take a detour through Spider Valley!
When we first hiked this trail, the bushy path through Spider Valley was draped with cobwebs and we saw many a big fat spider sitting in the middle of their web. These days, there are fewer spiders. On the way through Spider Valley, we’ll walk by an abandoned house, wells, and water stores, as well as the occasional cobweb.
Once we’re out of Spider Valley we’ll start getting into the fields that surround Hemp Village. 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 around as well.
Before we arrive at the main part of Hemp Village we’ll make a turn-off and head back up towards the wall, following a trail up the valley. It will take about forty minutes to get up there, and parts of it get a bit steep.
Just before we get back on the wall, we’ll pass a spot that offers one of the best views of the Great Wall we’ve seen anywhere, with the whole of Jinshanling spread out across the hills in front.
From the photo spot we walk down towards a tower, and on the other side of the tower we’ll find an arch in the wall. We’ll walk through the arch to get back on the Beijing side of the wall, and climb up on to the wall through an old gate.
We’ll be following the Jinshanling Great Wall from west to east, starting off on the unrestored section before heading down into the main restored area. We’ll head straight through the restored area, and on towards the Simatai Great Wall.
The wall in this area is extremely picturesque, following steep ridgelines up and down, with many large, uncommonly closely-spaced towers. The wall here is mostly restored, but they’ve done a good job of it.
When we reach the end of the Jinshanling section, we’ll have the option to walk on a little further towards the Simatai Great Wall before heading back.
The Simatai Great Wall was redeveloped and they don’t let people hike through from Jinshanling. That means we can’t finish up there. But we can walk a few towers towards the point where Jinshanling turns into Simatai. After having a look, we’ll head back to the tower that marks the end of the Jinshanling Great Wall. From there we can head down a park trail to finish at one of the carparks at Jinshanling.
After we finish the hike we’ll have a late lunch (perhaps by the time we arrive it will be an early dinner) at a countryside restaurant - the cost of the food and drinks is included in the price of the hike.
What to bring on this hike
- Light lunch and plenty of snacks to keep yourself going
- Sun protection: long-sleeved shirt, hat
- Warm clothes in case it gets chilly
- A bottle of sports drink with salt content (Gatorade, Pocari Sweat)
- 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 a few tricky and slippery sections midway
- We need to keep a reasonably fast pace in order to finish in tie, so this trip will perhaps be a little more about exercise than it is about sightseeing.