Jiankou ‘Big West’ Great Wall
Follow hill trails through shaded valleys on the way up to the Great Wall on the west side of Jiankou.
Rain date: If the weather forecast is not looking good – i.e. heavy rain, lightning – we might need to change the plan for this hike. If necessary, we’d look at postponing the hike to Friday, July 15. (We’ll be in touch if this might happen.)
This hike is a shortened version of our Nine-Eyes Tower trail. We’ll see a lot of the same scenery, but we’ll skip the super-tough scramble up to the Nine-Eyes Tower.
Starting off at Xizhazi Village, we’ll warm up with a quick stroll through the village streets before starting a climb up into the hills behind the village. It’s a reasonably tough way to begin the hike: a 100m climb up a valley with the sun at our backs.
We’ll take a break at the ridge and then walk down into the valley on the other side. The trail takes us through a forested area, and through pastures that were used to farm cows. The stonewall cattle pens are still in evidence, although hidden in the undergrowth. There haven’t been any cows in here for quite a while!
Passing old stone walls and terraces, the trail starts to get steep again as the Great Wall comes into view on the ridgeline above.
This section of the hike is probably the toughest we’ll face today – a climb of about 150m over just under 1km. No big hurry though! We’ll take it slow.
This part of the trail is mostly shaded by the big trees, but it still gets hot and humid. On the way up, keep an eye out for an ancient charcoal kiln that was built at the same time as the Great Wall and was still being used in the ‘80s.
At the top of the trail is Er Dao Bian Tower, the start of the Nine-Eyes tower loop. Er Dao Bian roughly translates as ‘Two Roads On Each Side,’ and at this point in the hike we’ll be at approximately 900m above sea level.
From here, we’ll follow the wall south towards the Chinese Knot section, passing around and over ten towers. The first four towers are not in the best condition, and the trail we take sometimes skirts around sections that are too steep or too broken to walk on.
After a while we’ll be back on to solid footing, and we’ll get excellent views of the Big West Wall: solid and uncommonly tall foundations made of huge carved rocks topped with Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) brickwork and towers.
On a clear day we’ll be able to see how much Great Wall is in this area – rather a lot! – and we can sometimes see all the way over to Mutianyu, a famous tourist section of Great Wall.
At the tenth tower, we’ll leave the wall and follow a trail back to Xizhazi Village – steep and slippery at the beginning, flattening out as we pass through a lovely forested area and the villagers’ orchards and fields.
We’ll finish up our day by visiting our local guide’s guesthouse for a hot meal – and plenty of cold beer! – before we head back to the city.
What to bring on this hike
- Snacks to eat while hiking
- Sun protection: long-sleeved shirt, hat
- A bottle of sports drink with salt content (Gatorade, Pocari Sweat)
- A light rain coat 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 tricky ups and downs on quite loose footing that will not be enjoyable if you don’t like heights or don’t have shoes with good grip.
- The trail could be brushy and scratchy in places.
- The stretch of wall we follow is about 2km in length, out of a total 6km for the whole hike. You’ll see a lot of wall, but you’ll be on top of it for about 2km