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The Pinnacle Tower Plus

In Brief: Hike hills and valleys to reach the Pinnacle Tower, a seldomly-visited Ming Dynasty lookout that sits on a peak at almost 1,000m above sea level. NOTE: Balancing skills and a good head for heights will be required.

The view from the top of the Pinnacle Tower

The view from the top of the Pinnacle Tower. View more photos »

Key information

  • 4–5 hours start to finish over 9km.

Postponed: this weekend most of the interesting hiking trails in Huairou District are being shut down due to the ‘One Belt One Road’ conference being held at the Yanqi Lake convention center. That includes the Pinnacle Tower hike. We’re working on a replacement.

NOTES: Balancing skills and a good head for heights will be required. Rain would make this hike dangerous, in which case we’d make a few changes to the hiking route.

This stretch of the Great Wall sits on the “Big Eastern Mountain” in Huairou, and it’s a hike we don’t do frequently. The view from the top of the Pinnacle Tower is stunning and well worth the tough climb.

We start at a disused park entrance, and head up the old park trails to get to the first stretch of Great Wall we’ll find on this hike. It’s about forty minutes of climbing, and not too tough.

This short stretch of Great Wall is a dead end, finishing against a fairly sheer block of rock, so we’ll just walk on by.

The next part of the hike is another long climb up a valley, passing through some nice leafy glades along the way. Once we get up on to the ridgeline, we follow a trail alongside the Great Wall that skirts a cliff-like section that we wouldn’t want to try climbing down. The wall in this area is tall, and makes quite a sight when seen through the leaves and limbs of the dense bush that covers the hills here.

The trail takes us to a gate in the wall, and then on to it and up all the way to the Pinnacle Tower, approximately 980 meters above sea level, and with a 360° view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The Great Wall on both sides of the Pinnacle Tower is very steep, and is not in great condition. If you’re not good at balancing or are not good with heights, you won’t enjoy this hike.

We’ll stop for a break up top, and then follow a steep and tricky path down the wall. Eventually the wall becomes too steep to walk on, so we’ll get out and on to a bushy hill trail that will take us down on to flat ground by a large holding pen of some sort. Nearby is a big gate in the wall.

This is where we’ll do the ‘plus’ section of our Pinnacle Tower hike – a steep climb back up the wall to a high point above the gate, and then down the other side. 

It’s not a really long climb – not even a kilometre in total – but we’ll be going up more than 250m. Going down the other side is more of the same. (We’ve done this part before, and it somehow ended up with the nickname “The Devil’s Staircase”.)

After making our way down from the wall, we’ll walk through a village to reach the main road, and follow it to the countryside restaurant where we’ll have cold beers and snacks before heading back to the city.

What to bring on this hike

Reasons you might not enjoy this hike

  • There are some very tricky sections with some exposure to heights. If you’re not okay with that sort of terrain, you won’t enjoy this hike very much.
  • The trail down from the wall goes through a section that gets quite brushy.

There are risks involved in hiking. Please read our Risk Acknowledgment and Waiver and inform yourself before participating.

Level4+

Level of difficulty

Level 4+ will be difficult for people who are not used to hiking or are out of shape. Some level 4+ hikes are shorter, but very steep.

Is the level of difficulty suitable for me?

Hike statistics

  • Distance: 9km
  • Time to complete: 4–5 hours
  • Total ascent: 947m
  • Total descent: 1012m
  • Start height: 371m
  • Peak: 921m
  • Finish height: 306m
  • Location: Huairou
  • Drive time: 2 hours each way

Hikes in Beijing

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