On this reasonably tough hike we follow part of the Great Wall Spur and Chinese Knot trails, and then use hill trails to get up to 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 walk down and out a long valley to finish with snacks and drinks at at our local guide's guesthouse.
Note: Good footwear required.
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, heading for the highest point.
The highest point is where the 'spur' begins. We're going to follow the main line of wall down into a valley, a steep and slippery stretch of unrestored Great 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!
We'll get up to the 'Big West' section of Great Wall by walking down into a valley, and then 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. From here you'll be able to see why we didn't go up that way: super steep!
The Chinese Knot is at the southern end of the Big West Wall; we'll be walking 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. Finally, it’s down and out a valley to get to the road where we'll finish the hike.
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks to eat during the hike
- Sun protection: long-sleeved shirt, hat
- 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 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.