Zhenbiancheng Great Wall Loop | Rough Great Wall in the hills above Zhenbiancheng
Rough Great Wall in the hills above Zhenbiancheng.

Zhenbiancheng Great Wall Loop Hike

A long hill climb takes us up on to a remote, rough, and seldom-visited stretch of unrestored Great Wall, with awesome views of the surrounding mountains.

Level 4
3–4 hours start to finish over 9km. (Can I do it?)

This hike is not currently scheduled

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On this hike we’ll head out to the border of Beijing Municipality and Hebei Province for a moderately difficult walk through peach orchards, up valleys, and along the Great Wall.

The Great Wall out here is rough and seldom-visited—choose this hike if you're interested in a visit to a section of wall very different to what you've seen on postcards.

In the Ming Dynasty, Zhenbiancheng was one of three important outposts on the border, along with Changyucheng and Hengling. Modern Zhenbiancheng has grown in and around the old city walls. Much of the town walls still remain, as well as archways, bricks, and stone carvings.

In more recent times, the area was the site of a major battle between the Chinese and Japanese armies, and it’s said that bullet holes can be seen in some of the walls.

A ruined round tower on the Great Wall at Zhenbiancheng
A ruined round tower on the Great Wall at Zhenbiancheng. (Click for larger image)

About the hiking trail

We’ve reworked this hike a little bit to avoid coming down a steep and tricky hill track, and we’ll add on an out-and-back section so you can see some more of the wall in the area. We’ll start the hike where we’d usually finish, and when we get to the wall we’ll hike up to a high point for a look before returning to continue along our regular trail, finally finishing where we’d usually begin the hike.

Hiking this way means the climb up to the Great Wall is shorter, but also a bit steeper.

We start out on a narrow dirt road that leads up into fields that were previously farmed but now lie fallow. The road narrows out into a track, and turns to a dirt trail as we get to the start of the hills and forest.

The track up through the forest takes us by terraces on its way up the valley. When the valley gets too narrow and steep for terracing, the track starts to zig-zag more on its way up to the Great Wall.

Just before reaching the wall we’ll go through an overgrown area, finally coming out on to the Great Wall up on the ridgeline.

From here we'll do an out-and-back hike up to a high point on the wall, aiming to arrive in time for lunch.

If we kept following that wall that way, we’d end up at Big Camp Plate, another part of the ‘wild ’wall we like to visit.

But today we’re heading back in the Zhenbiancheng direction, following rough and rocky Great Wall for another 2km (or so) on the spot where we came out of the brush to first reach the wall.

We’re aiming for the remains of the big round tower that commanded the gap in the hills between Shuitou Village, outside the wall, and the fort at Zhenbiancheng, back on the Beijing side.

It’s just the foundations of the round tower that remain, and, if you wanted to know where all its bricks went, a good place to look would be in Shuitou Village, where many of the older houses were built with Great Wall bricks.

From the round tower we’ll leave the wall, hiking down an easy track through forest to reach the fields behind Zhenbiancheng Village.

COVID-19 and participation precautions

The current precautions are minimal. Please read in full here: Operating hikes under COVID-19 precautions

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Photos and trip reports: Zhenbiancheng Great Wall Loop Hike

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