This is a looping walk over steep and rocky terrain, with a lot of scrambling and climbing required to arrive at the highest point on the hike, the impressive Nine-Eyes Tower.
On a clear day in this spot in the heart of the mountains it will be possible to see the towers of our Great Wall Spur and Chinese Knot hikes, and the Mutianyu Great Wall, with glimpses of other sections of the Great Wall that follow nearby mountain ridges. When it's really clear, you can see all the way back to the skyscrapers of Beijing's CBD
We start out on a trail out the back of the village at Jiankou, climbing up and over a ridge and down again into a forested valley.
We’ll gradually head up the valley, turning off to climb a steep trail that leads to 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.
The Great Wall that leads up to Nine-Eyes Tower is not in good condition. The first section is now just a pile of rocks that leads up into a forest. Further up into the forest, we'll find the foundations of towers, and then some battlements and side walls begin to appear out of the trees.
The Great Wall that leads up to Nine-Eyes Tower is also very steep. We'll be gaining 300m of altitude on the way up.
Nine-Eyes Tower is nearly 1,200m above sea level. In its original condition it had three levels, and the lower level had nine windows on each side. It would have been an impressive sight, and still is to some extent—it's an unusually large tower, and repairs made in 2014 show the layout of its lower level.
Around the back of the tower there are large stone tablets with carved calligraphy to look at. A spur of the wall – said to date back to the Northern Qi period (550-557 AD) – continues to head north; we’ll head west on another stretch, following repaired wall to a spot with a view of the walled army barracks and temple that was paired with the tower.
We'll follow a hill trail back down to Er Dao Bian Tower and then hike the wall south towards the Chinese Knot section, passing around and over ten towers on a stretch of wall known locally as the 'Big West Wall'.
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 more 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 AD) 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 of the Big West Wall, just below the Chinese Knot, 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.
Our bus will be waiting for us at the village carpark, and we'll unpack our picnic tables for snacks and cold drinks before we head back to Beijing.