Overnight: Great Wall Spur and Jiankou ‘Big West’ Great Wall
Two days of hiking in the Beijing hills, with an overnight stay in a countryside guesthouse. Dinner and bonfire included!
Escape the city and see Beijing’s countryside for two days on this overnighter, seeing some lovely scenery as well as the Great Wall.
On the first day we’ll do one of our favourite hikes, the Great Wall Spur. After the hike we’ll settle in a countryside guesthouse in a deep valley, with a bonfire to come after dinner.
We’ll wake up early on the second day and walk over towards the Jiankou Great Wall, hiking up to the ‘Big West’ wall and following a tricky trail to finish at a small village.
Accommodation is basic but comfortable, and won’t it be great to have a night away from the noise and heat of big Beijing city?
Read on for more information about the hiking trails, the accommodation, and the arrangements for food, plus the packing list and trip itinerary.
Day 1 hike: The Great Wall Spur
Hike statistics: Day 1
Time: 3–4 hours
Start height: 311m
Finish height: 337m
Total ascent: 543m
Total descent: 532m
This one is short, but steep!
The hike begins with a short walk up a valley road, followed by a climb up a hillside path to reach the Great Wall. This steep climb will take about forty minutes, and is the most difficult part of the hike.
After reaching the top we’ll follow the Great Wall as it winds along and up a ridge. The Great Wall was designed as a defensive fortification, so we will get excellent views, with mountains, villages, and other stretches of the Great Wall all in sight as we walk. We will pass through towers along the way, and stop for a snack break at the highest point.
Our walk on the Wall will finish at a big tower – from there we’ll follow a trail down another valley, finally arriving at the countryside guesthouse with a distinctive red roof. We may have been able to spot the red roof from up on the wall!
After finishing the hike, we’ll collect our luggage from the bus, organise all the rooms, and relax until dinner time.
In the evening
After we collect our luggage from the bus and check in at the guesthouse, there will be time to relax before dinner. Happy hour for beer begins at 5:30pm, we'll have dinner at 6:30pm, and when the sun goes down we'll light up a little bonfire.
In the morning
We'll wake up early for breakfast, a mixture of Chinese- and western-style breakfast food: soupy zhou with salted vegetables, plus toast and jam, as well as coffee and tea. After breakfast we'll check out of the guesthouse, and set off on another great hike.
Day 2 hike: Moyashike Valley and Jiankou’s ‘Big West’ Wall
Hike statistics: Day 2
Level 4 / Level 3+
Distance: 10km / 8.5km
Time: 4 hours / 3.5 hours
Start height: 337m
Finish height: 636m
Total ascent: 957m / 878m
Total descent: 657m / 551m
This hike is a bit tougher than the hike on the first day, but we'll get started nice and early and will be able to take our time.
We begin from the guesthouse, following a mostly flat trail up a valley. 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.
Instead of heading for the Chinese Knot we’ll head down into the valley on the other side of the wall, and we’ll follow a concrete road further up into the hills. After about thirty minutes we’ll be at the end of the road, and on to a hill trail that takes us up to the Great Wall again.
Today’s walk has an easy option, and a tougher option.
On the easy option you won’t follow the wall, instead heading down into a valley, and then up and over a ridge to finish at a small village.
We recommend you take the tougher option! You’ll follow a rough line of Great Wall, using hill trails to skirt around a few impassable sections. On a clear day, the views from this line of Great Wall are really good: the Chinese Knot, 'Upside Down Flying Eagle', and Heavenly Stairs (all Jiankou landmarks) in front of us, the Nine-Eyes Tower behind us, and the eastern side of Jiankou off to our left. 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!
Just before we get to the really steep section below the Chinese Knot, we’ll finish our hike along the wall, following a hill trail through a forest down to the small village below.
After the hike
After we're all done hiking, we'll drive to a local restaurant for a big meal before heading back to the city.
Saturday lunch: a muesli bar, a banana, and a tasty sandwich from the Lido Hotel Deli. Bring some extra snacks.
Saturday dinner: Chinese food cooked by our host.
Sunday breakfast: Toast, cornmeal porridge, cornbread, jam, honey, fruit, coffee and tea.
Sunday snacks: An apple, a muesli bar, nuts, water.
Sunday lunch: Chinese food in a local restaurant.
The Great Wall Spur guesthouse was fixed up last year, and is comfortable but basic. Each room has a private bathroom with a western-style toilet, which shares a space with a simple shower head.
Included in the price
- Accommodation (two hikers per room).
- Main meals: dinner on day 1, breakfast on day 2, lunch on day 2.
- Drinks included with meals.
- Bottled water
- Snacks: banana and muesli bar for day two, an apple, muesli bar, and nuts and raisins for day two, coffee and milk for breakfast.
- Drinks outside of meal times or happy hour. We can organise ‘beer drinking club’ if you’d like to continue after dinner.
What to bring
- A hiking bag to carry the things you need while hiking.
- A small duffle bag to hold the things you need for the overnight stay (can be left on the bus while hiking).
- A change of clothes, including something warm for night time.
- Waterproof jacket, just in case.
- Light shoes or sandals to wear around the guesthouse.
- Flashlight optional but handy for midnight toilet trips.
- Washbag, toothbrush, toothpaste, towel.
- Sunglasses and suncream.
- Camera and chargers.
- Footwear: while sports shoes would be fine, hiking boots would be most comfortable.
- Bring a bottle of something if you’d like. (And leave it on the bus while we hike!)
- A hairdryer, if that's part of your daily routine.
09:30 – Bus leaves from Liangmaqiao Subway
10:00 – Depart from Lido Hotel
11:30 – Arrive at start of hike
12:00 – follow the dirt trail to the Great Wall
13:30 – Arrive at the highest point of the Great Wall (825m)
14:30 – Arrive at the last tower, start heading down the hill
16:00 – Finish the hike
16:10 – Check in at guesthouse
17:30 – Happy hour for beer
18:30 – Dinner time
20:30 – Bonfire
07:30 – Up for breakfast
08:30 – Check out of guesthouse, begin the hike
12:30 – Finish the hike
13:00 – Lunch at local restaurant
14:00 – Start heading back to Beijing
16:00 – Arriver at Lido Hotel
16:30 – Arrive at Liangmaqiao Subway (Line 10)
These times are approximate and depend on things like traffic and the speed of the hiking group.