On this reasonably tough hike we follow hills trails and climb up and down valleys on the way to the Great Wall on the west side of the Jiankou basin. We’ll follow that stretch of Great Wall towards Nine-Eyes Tower, and then follow hill trails to finish with snacks and drinks at Xizhazi Village at Jiankou.
Note: Good footwear required—several sections of this trail are steep and slippery.
The first half of this hike is all on hill trails, briefly crossing the stretch of Great Wall above Zhuanghu Village. The second half takes us up a valley to get on to the wall at Jiankou, which we’ll follow for about an hour before heading down to the main village in the area.
We begin at the same place that we start our Great Wall Spur hike, and follow the road up to the recently reopened hotel. Instead of taking our regular path up to the wall, we follow the trail that leads up the valley behind the hotel. In this valley there are supposed to be ancient rock carvings, although we’ve never managed to spot them. Keep an eye out!
The walk up the valley starts out mostly flat, but after a while we’ll begin the climb up to a stretch of Great Wall on the ridge at the end of the valley. The trail gets gradually steeper and steeper, but soon enough we’ll be up on the wall. This stretch of wall connects the Great Wall Spur to the Chinese Knot, and if you’ve done the Chinese Knot hike you’ll recognise it.
Our aim today is not the Chinese Knot, but the ‘Big West Wall.’ The two are linked, but not by any sort of trail that we’d like to walk—that trail would be best done with ropes, and when we reach the Big West Wall we’ll see why!
To get safely to the Big West Wall we’ll head down the other side, into a valley, and after a short walk on a paved road we’ll be back into the hill climbing, with a steeper climb up to the wall at the foot of the Chinese Knot. The Chinese Knot is at the southern end of the Big West Wall; we’ll be hiking towards the Nine-Eyes Tower at the northern end.
To get there we follow the wall, using hill trails to skirt around a few impassable sections. On a clear day, the views from the Big West Wall are really good: the Chinese Knot, ‘Upside Down Flying Eagle’, and Heavenly Stairs (all Jiankou landmarks) behind us, the Nine-Eyes Tower in front, and the eastern side of Jiankou off to our right. Sometimes you can see all the way to Mutianyu, a restored section of wall.
The hill trails we follow for this part of the hike are a little tricky—sometimes steep, sometimes narrow, sometimes both!
From the foot of the Chinese Knot we get to the foot of the Nine-Eyes Tower. Again, we’re not climbing up – save that for another day! After passing the last tower of the Big West Wall, we’ll follow a hill trail down into a valley. On the way down, we’ll pass an old kiln and the remains of the old stone walls of cattle pens.
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks to eat during the hike
- Warm clothes, gloves, and a hat
- Rain jacket or poncho just in case
- 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 on this hike, particularly while on the Great Wall.
- We cross a few parts of the trail where bricks and gravel are very loose underfoot.