Holiday traffic: We’re leaving early to get ahead of the holiday traffic, but we still may get stuck in a jam at some stage. Bring a book or something else to keep yourself entertained, just in case!
This hike starts at the restored Great Wall at Jinshanling and finishes at Gubeikou where the wall is mostly untouched. While hiking you’ll have superb views of the wall – from on top of the wall itself, and also close up views from alongside.
Much of the Jinshanling Great Wall is outside the Beijing Municipality, in Hebei Province. It’s a well-known part of the Great Wall that is in good condition after a lot of restoration work, and it is extremely picturesque, with large towers that are more closely-spaced than usual.
We’ll start our walk from the main gate of Jinshanling, and we’ll follow the middle path to the wall that goes up below the cable car line. It’s a fairly mellow trail that passes through forest, and it takes us up on to the wall right in the midst of all the big towers and the super-steep stairs. Perfect for photos!
From our local guide’s house we’ll follow a trail he made that will lead us up towards the Great Wall. On this part of the hike we’ll have excellent views of the wall, but we won’t be able to climb on top – this stretch of wall is closed to hikers because it borders a military area.
Instead of walking on the wall here – and running the risk of soldiers joining our hike – we’ll stick to the trails that run through the hills and valleys in this area, walking through some pretty farmland, with views of the Great Wall all the while.
Eventually the trail will take us up to the wall, and after a bit of a hill climb we’ll reach the 24-Eyes Tower, the tallest tower of the Gubeikou stretch of Great Wall. It used to be that there were six big windows on each side of the tower, adding up to twenty-four. But during the fighting between the Chinese and Japanese armies in the late ‘30s, two of the sides of the tower were destroyed by bombing. As well as a few destroyed towers, you can also spot bullet holes in the Great Wall in this area.
From the 24-Eyes Tower we’ll follow the wall to the west, passing through a lot of towers – some in good condition, some tumbled down to foundations only. For most of this last part of the hike we’ll be on the wall, except for a short detour along a trail through a small pine forest.
As we near the end of the hike, we’ll see the highway in the broad river valley below, with another line of Great Wall on the other side of the river. Our hike on the wall will end at the recently repaired (and huge) north gate of Gubeikou, and we’ll then follow the road down into the village where we’ll have a nice big meal of country-style Chinese cooking before we head back to the city.
What to bring on this hike
- Snacks to eat
- Sun protection: long-sleeved shirt, hat
- A bottle of sports drink with salt content (Gatorade, Pocari Sweat)
- Warm clothes in case it gets chilly
- 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 a few places along the way that are either narrow, steep, slippery, or all three at the same time.