Wall hiking in Qinhuangdao City
Qinhuangdao is an ocean city 400km from
Beijing. The Great Wall
in this city runs about ??km, and includes some popular
Dragon's Head, Shanhaiguan
Pass (the First Pass Under Heaven), Jiaoshan
Great Wall, Dongjiakou
Great Wall, etc. The remaining Wall in this area is
generally 3-4 metres wide, 4-7 metres high faced with
bricks and based on huge stone slabs. Today most of the
structures of Sanhaiguan Pass are still well-preserved,
while others, such as Jiaoshan and the Laolongtou
Great Wall(where the Great Wall meets the sea) have
Wall Hiking from
Laolongtou(Old Dragon's Head) to Shanhaiguan Pass
Four kilometres south of Shanhaiguan Pass, Laolongtou,
once supposed to be the easternmost end of the
Great Wall, stretches 23 metres into the sea like
a dragon drinking water, hence its name. Standing at Laolongtou,
looking northwest you can see the Great
Wall as it zigzags over the rolling mountains like
a giant dragon to the north; looking south you can see
the vast expanse of sea stretching far to merge with the
sky. You can imagine the scene in this very spot more
than 2200 years ago. The story is told of Qinshihuang
(221-207 BC), the first emperor of China pushing people
into the sea right here to find a drug that would give
him immortality. Years later, in 1570, this portion of
the Great Wall was
constructed and in 1668 it was considerably enhanced .
Shanhaiguan Pass (a fortress) is located
15 km from Qinhuangdao (25-minute-drive away); it protects
the strategic passage between the north and northeast
China; it was renovated and consolidated several times
because of its strategic importance. It is connected with
the Great Wall which
stretches onto the rolling Yanshan Mountains in the north
and into the Bohai Sea in the south with fortresses and
battlements that form a strong and powerful defense system.
It was once considered the No.1 pass from the east end
of the Great
Wall during the time of the Ming Dynasty. In spite
of the fact that archaeological work has proven that Tiger
Mountain in Liaoning province is the real start of the
Great Wall in the
Ming Dynasty, Shanhaiguan Pass is still a popular national
The brick wall of the Pass is 14 metres high, 7 metres
wide, and 4 kilometres in circumference. The most imposing
tower in the Shanhaiguan Pass is the east gate, on which
is hanging a plaque, inscribed with the name of the fortress,
"First Pass Under Heaven". On the north and south, there
are another five gates with towers standing menacingly
like five tigers guarding the Pass. From the second floor
of the east gate, one can look down at the whole fortress
and the entire landscape surrounding this strategic Pass.
Tourists always find the following 3 tourist
attractions of interest: (1) Shanhaiguan
Great Wall Museum in the fortress (which has some interesting
pictures, relics and clothes depicting the life story
of this snaking construction), (2) a
temple in the vicinity dedicated to Meng Jiangnu, one
of China's devoted heroines, and (3) the
next spectacular section of the Great
Wall meandering along the Jiaoshan Mountain ridges.
a. Entrance fee: Shanhaiguan RMB40/person (including the
Museum), Laolongtou (Old Dragon's Head) RMB50/person,
and Meng Jiangnu Temple RMB25/person.
b. Moving about is easy in this area: transportation by
either bus, mini-van, or taxi is available between sections.
Shanhaiguan to Meng Jiangnu Temple is a 5-minute drive,
almost the same to Jiaoshan. Laolongtou is a ten-minute
c. If you arrive at Shanhaiguan in the afternoon and want
to hike westward on the wall, we suggest you first visit
Laolongtou (where the Wall meet the sea), secondly visit
the museum, and lastly visit the Shanhaiguan Pass. Leave
the Jiaoshan Great Wall for the second day.
d. Because this pass is a tourist site, the reader should
realize that food and accommodation is comparatively more
expensive here than in Qinhuangdao City.
The Great Wall Hiking at Jiaoshan-Sandaoguan
Jiaoshan (the Horn Mountain) is the first "mountain" peak (at 519 metres) of the Great Wall, about three kilometres north of the Shanghaiguan Pass(the First Pass Under Heaven). The Jiaoshan Great Wall is 1536 metres long from its entrance to Dapingding Peak (Flat Peak). As it is steep in some parts, it normally takes about one-and-a-half hours of hiking to reach the flat top (a good place for camping). Looking westward from the top of Dapingding offers a very beautiful view of the Yansai Lake with small islands scattered across its peaceful surface. Hiking partly on the wall and partly by following a wild mountain trail in a northeasterly direction for about three to four hours, you will find yourself in the beautiful valley overlooked by Mt. Longevity: huge stones, quiet forest and crystal creeks. In the shadow of Mt. Longevity sits the little village of Sandaoguan with about 35 families living in it.
Sandaoguan Pass of the Great Wall was built in 1569 (during the Ming Dynasty). The name means "a pass with three layers of Wall". From its name you can surmise that the pass must have been a very important place in history, if, by attacking here, the enemy must have had to pass through three defensive walls to enter. The first layer of the Wall, made of stone, served as the first layer of defense. The second layer of the Wall is the main body of the Great Wall; it connects the faces of two cliffs. With high cliffs on both ends, it is impossible to hike on this part of the wall. Therefore we recommend that hikers should take the trail north of the pass for about 2 kilometres to Wangjiayu Village. Shortly you will pass orchards and fields peacefully surrounding the village and arrive at the next section Jiumenkou, a very important Pass of the Great Wall in the history.
a. The entrance fee to the Jiaoshan section is RMB15/person. No entrance fee needed for Sandaoguan section.
b. Although we have previously said the top of Daoingding Peak supports camping, it should be noted that because many of the stones are either concave or convex; very few are flat. Therefore the camping area is only big enough for a maximum of 3-4 tents; it is not suitable for a big Great Wall hiking group.
c. Dapingding is a good place for the serious photographer to take pictures. In the early morning Yansai Lake is often misty, and the setting-sun turns the distant mountains a beautiful golden color.
d. Warning: The Great Wall hike from Jiaoshan to Sandaoguan is arduous. Many parts of the Great Wall are in poor condition and often craggy, forcing the hiker to use mountain trails to bypass dangerous parts. In the hiking season (summer, spring, and autumn), the trails are often overgrown with shrubs and bushes; one can easily get lost. Therefore this section of the Great Wall is considered extremely dangerous. Always have an experienced hiking leader for this part before going. Contact us for information in detail and/or to engage a hiking leader.
The Great Wall Hiking at Jiumenkou
The Jiumenkou Great Wall, also called the ?Nine Gate Pass", is located on the border shared by Funing County of Hebei Province and by Suizhong County of Liaoning Province. With a total length of 1704 meters, this section of the Great Wall was first built in the Northern Qi Dynasty (479-502 AD) and further expanded in 1381 during the Ming dynasty. It is 15 km from Shanghaiguan Pass of the Great Wall, and is known famously as "The First Pass East of Beijing."
In 1992, this spot was repaired and opened as a tourist resort. Today a nine-gate, 110-meter-long bridge sits astride the Jiujiang River, which was once used to both regulate the flow of the river and to hold off any invading enemy. Each gate is 5 metres wide and an encircled city protects each end of the bridge.
From the bridge, after hiking westward for half an hour, the wall ends directly in front of a high cliff, a strategic wall formed by nature. If one wishes to avoid paying and to see the wild wall, one can climb up the trail which starts in the village at the eastern end of the bridge. On the top, you will find the Great Wall extending in three directions ¨east, northeast, and west. The northeast one terminates on the very next hill overlooking the Pass. The one going east (recommended for a pleasant 4-5 hour hiking on the Great Wall) first goes down a steep valley, traverses a riverbed which has water only in the summer, then heads in a straight line directly to the base of the mountain range visible on the horizon, with broken watchtowers every 50-100 metres. The one to west is connected with Jiumenkou(Nine Gate Pass).
a. The entrance fee to the reconstructed portion of the Jiumenkou Great Wall is RMB50/person from May to October and RMB40/person for the rest of the time. During summer and autumn, local farmers sell their fresh fruit (apricots, apples, pears) at the entrance to this section of the Great Wall.
b. If one chooses to hike on the Wild Wall at the east end, one should always hike with friends for safety's sake:: this part of the wall is broken and without tourists at all.
The Great Wall Hiking at Dongjiakou-Chengzhiyu-Xiaohekou
The Dongjiakou (sometimes called Jizhen) Great Wall was initially built in 1381 AD, In 1571AD, Qijiguang, a famous general in the Ming Dynasty transformed it into a first-class border wall. With a length of 8.9 kilometers, this portion of the Great Wall winds its way up and down the Stone Step Mountain, the Damao Mountain, and (finally) the Rock Mountain. It has 2 strategic passes, 31 Watchtowers, 14 Beacon Towers, and three Fortresses: the Pochengzi Fortress, the Dongjiakou Fortress, and Damao Fortress. (Today, only the ruins of the Damao Fortress can be found , south of Dongjiakou village). Although the Dongjiakou Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty is more than 620 years old , it has remained one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall of the Ming Dynasty.
This accomplishment can be attributed to the inhabitants of Dongjiakou village. The villagers of Dongjiakou are the descendants of the builders and guards of the Great Wall. Therefore, the villagers have taken it upon themselves to maintain this section of the Wall as original as possible. Due to lack of personal money, they have been able to restore only a small section, but have done a remarkable job none-the-less. Old bricks were collected and re-deployed to repair broken sections. The original arch-stone, displaying a beautiful sculpture of two lions playing with a ball of silk, was re-installed onto the Watchtower's Gate, although other arch-stones with elegant Chinese characters in relief are still lying in the corner for future renovations. It is interesting to note that a local villager, Mr. Sun, has taken it upon himself to make a voluntary daily inspection of the Great Wall to ensure its safety.
Visiters to this part of the Great Wall are privileged to see a rare sight - the Cihou Tower. Cihou is a solid command post with no roof, giving the defenders a 360-degree-view of the whole area. This 4-sided structure has 24 observation holes(6 on each side). This structure can not be found anywhere else. It is interesting to notice that there are quite a few watchtowers named after the surnames of various historical commanders: the Sun's Watchtower, the Gen's Watchtower, the Wang's Watchtower, etc. And one will find the Sun, Gen, Wang are the three most-common surnames of the villagers.
a. The entrance to this part is RMB15/person, partly of whicht is used to help fund repairs planned for the remaining, un-restored part of the Great Wall.
b. Offering pristine forest and graceful mountains, Dongjiakou is not only a good place for Great Wall hiking and seeing the ruins of old fortresses, but it is also a nice place to visit for its natural beauty. Planning for extra time in this area is recommended.
c. Hiking from Dongjiakou westward to Xiaohekou takes about six hours, passing the Chengzhiyu village and the ruins of its fortress on the way. It is a very pleasant hike. However as this area is not well-mapped, to avoid wasting time trying to find the right way, it is better to have an ex perienced hiking leader with you. Contact us for information in detail and/or to engage a hiking leader.
Wall Hiking in Tianjin and Beijing
The Great Wall Hiking at Huangyaguan
Huangyaguan (Yellow-Crag Pass), is about 130 kilometres east of Beijing. Originally constructed in the 6th century and rebuilt by the Ming Dynasty during the 15th and 16th century, this section of the wall was considered strategically important, and the heavily fortified Huangya (Yellow Crag) Pass was described as "the eastern gate" of the capital city. Thus a variety of fortifications has been constructed, including walls, beacon towers, and a walled fortress attached with an above-water wall. On either side the Great Wall winds its way through rugged hills and over dangerously steep cliffs which descend almost vertically. The scenery is fantastic, a clear blue stream running through the old fortress, which is flanked by high steep hills and overlooked by sheer crags to the west.
The old fortress was carefully restored in 1980s. From a bird's-eye view it's like a specially designed labyrinth. In fact it was built according to a so-called Baguan pattern (an ancient cleverly laid out design). If the enemy attacked, they would get lost within the fortress. Some new features have been added to the original structures, including the Great Wall Museum, the Garden of Longevity and Forest of Steles. The Forest of Steles is usually a collection of engraved stone tablets, inscribed with beautiful writing to convey some kind of culture, like Chinese calligraphy, classical poetry, records of historical events etc. Here on display is also the Chinese calligraphy, but the content is a collection of Mao's poetry. Chairman Mao, the late Chinese leader, was actually a very talented poet as well.
The Huangyaguan International Marathon is annually held here, and a part of the race is on the Great Wall. In addition, hiking along this section of the wall is an exhilarating experience, as the walls here vary in size, shape and building material.
* The Great Wall Hiking at Jiankou
Located in the district of Huairou, 80 kilometres north-east of Beijing, the Great Wall at Jiankou is completely in its original state, dating from the Ming period (late 14th century). Exploring these more authentic fragments of the wall is a great experience, however, it could be dangerous, as a lot of steep steps are crumbling. Although this section of the wall is well worth seeing, it's not open to tourists and hiking along the wall at Jiankou is banned to ensure its preservation.
Many people learn about the Jiankou section from illustrated books about the Great Wall. One scene is known as "Ying Fei Dao Yang" (the eagles have to fly upwards over a high tower), so named because a watchtower was erected on the highest peak, and eagles/hawks often perched on it. Another one is "Heavenly Ladder" - a flight of steps ascending almost vertically. These steps are so narrow that only one person can climb up at a time. The massive and well preserved watchtower is the best spot for taking photos and watching the sunrise. At the foot of the wall a couple of quiet and peaceful villages lie in the valley.
* The Great Wall Hiking at Simatai
Located in Miyun county, 110 kilometers north-east of the city, the Great Wall at Simatai is the best preserved section of the wall around Beijing. Most of this section is autentic, dating back to the Ming dynasty, around the 15th and 16th century. This section of the wall has some unusual features, like "obstacle-walls" (or "walls-within-walls") - used for fighting back the enemy who had already scaled the wall. Bricks, engraved with Chinese characters give record of their manufacturing date and maker and are hardly ever seen in other sections of the wall, mirroring a part of history.
At a small reservoir most visitors turn to the right to see the eastern part of the wall. Evenly spaced watchtowers allow to keep count of one's progress uphill along the ridge (the less energetic can take the cable car to the eighth tower). The walk gets increasingly perilous after about the tenth tower. A long slope, known as "the heavenly ladder", has a 70-degree incline and both hands are needed. After that the wall narrows further including one of the narrowest crossings over a one metre wide ridge, known as "the heavenly bridge". It has a 500m drop on both sides. A stunning scene comes into view near the highest peak. There is only a thin wall as the narrow ridge didn't allow the construction of a proper wall.
The west section of Simatai connects with Jinshanling, the other section of the wall. It has nineteen well-preserved watchtowers. Engraved bricks can be easily found as well. One of such engravings reads - "Made by the Left Camp of Shandong in the 6th Year of the Reign of Wanli".
The Simatai section is notable for its varied walls and towers, not to mention its unspoiled character. It's also an UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
* The Great Wall Hiking at Jinshanling
Located in Luanping county, Hebei province, 130 km north-east of Beijing, the Great Wall at Jinshanling is one of the least visited and best preserved parts of the wall. Thanks to skillful renovation, it was able to retain its original appearance to a large extent.
The Jinshanling section is notable for its diversity, like "obstacle-walls", "branch-walls" and "horse-blocking walls". Moreover, it has much more watchtowers and beacon towers than any of the other sections of the wall. In the middle of the Ming period, when Qi Jiguang, a famous Ming general, was appointed as front-line commanding officer, he realized early on that the defences here were very weak, so he directed his men to rebuild the wall. His troops, mainly from southeastern China, all worked very hard. When the project was finally accomplished, they named the biggest watchtower "Jinshan" after a famous island in their home town.
Hiking the wall from Jinshanling to Simatai is probably the most exhilarating Great Wall experience. In recent years, this activity has become increasingly popular.
* The Great Wall Hiking at Gubeikou
Located in Miyun county near the town of Gubeikou, 110 kilometres from the city, this section of the wall was a famous ancient battlefield.
In former times, a heavily fortified fortress blocked the strategical passage leading to the capital city. Unfortunately, the original fortress was severely damaged, and the former gate, called "The Iron Gate", and a part of the above-water wall were distroyed. Across the river, the wall rises alongside the water. Remarcable twin towers form the starting point of the wall, built to connect the Great Wall with the former above-water wall. Not far from the wall, a big mound marks a martyr's cemetery. A monument was built to commemorate soldiers killed in battle. The Battle of Gubeikou took place in 1933. The ancient defences helped the Chinese troops to bravely resist the Japanese onslaught. Those soldiers who perished in this battle were hastily buried beneath the mound. The event is known in Chinese history as "The War of the Great Wall Resistance".
In the vicinity, the ruins of the walls have been partially renovated and made accessible to tourists. Two Great Wall Parks are named "Panlong (coiling dragon)Hills and "Wohu (crouching tiger) Hills".
* The Great Wall Hiking at Badaling and the Juyongguan Fortress
Located in the district of Yanqing, 75 kilometers northwest of the city, the Great Wall at Badaling was the first section to be restored (in 1957) and opened up to tourists. It's the most popular place to visit the wall, and of course also the most crowded.
Described as "the northern gate" of the capital city, the wall here was particularly solid. On average it's 6 metres wide and 8 metres high, originally built to allow five horsemen to ride abreast on the top. The formidable fortress guards the way to Juyong Pass. It's alleged the Badaling Fortress was invaded by the enemy only once in its history. From its highest point at about 800m, the view is magnificent. In the distance the pristine wall follows the hill ridge, streching as far as the eye can see.
Apart from the wall and fortress, the Great Wall Museum is well worth seeing. Plenty of aerial photos, models and construction tools are on display. At the Great Wall Circle Vision Theatre, a film about the Great Wall recreates its long history. In the vicinity, souvenir stalls sell a variety of T-shirts and little trinkets. The writing printed on T-shirts usually says "I Climbed the Great Wall", or "Bu Dao Changcheng Fei Haohan", a famous Chinese saying first said by Chairman Mao.
On the way to Badaling, one can make a quick visit to the Juyongguan Fortress if not in a hurry. The Juyongguan section of the wall is probably the closest to Beijing (65 km), though the wall here is mostly renovated. The Juyong Pass, secured by the Juyongguan Fortress, was described in a text that dates from the 2nd century BC as one of the country's nine great passes. Unfortunately, the original fortress was completely destroyed. The most interesting structure, one of the few genuinely old ones, is the Cloud Terrace (Yuntai), the base of a long-vanished Buddhist pagoda. It was built around 1340 and renovated in 1448, and it has changed very little since that time. The reliefs on the arches, mostly Buddhist, display depth, descriptive and expressive power. The inscriptions are shown in six languages (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Tangut, Uighur, Chinese and Mongol). The architectural mixture of Indian, Tibetan and Chinese stylistic features are of particular interest.
* The Great Wall Hiking at Mutianyu
Located in the district of Huairou, 90 km northeast of Beijing, this section of the wall is notable for its numerous watchtowers and natural scenery. Carefully restored in 1980s, as an alternative to Badaling, Mutianyu is even more appealing, though not as steep as the former. The atmosphere here is comparatively quite and peathful, packed with tourists only on weekends.
Originally built around the 5th century (period of the Northern and Southern dynasties), and reconstructed twice in the Ming period, the Mutianyu section is a good example of the Ming Great Wall. One of its unusual features are battlements at both ends of this section of the Great Wall. Besides, "branching walls" were built to allow soldiers to shoot at the enemy in two directions. To intensify its defence force, more watchtowers were added when it was reconstructed for the second time around 1570.
Although this stretch of wall is not an genuinely old one, it does recreate a complete appearance of the Ming Great Wall. The walk along the renovated wall is not so strenuous, covering as far as 2.5km, passing about 20 watchtowers until barriers block both ends.
* The Great Wall Hiking at Huanghua Cheng
65km north of Beijing, 30 kilometers west of the district of Huairou, the Huanghua (Yellow Flowers) section is completely unreconstructed. Here the genuinely old wall is semi-eroded but a few fragments remained almost intact.
It's alleged that Lord Cai masterminded this section, applying meticulous quality control. Each inch of the masonry represented one labourer's whole day's work. When the Ministry of War got wind of the extravagance, Cai was beheaded omit for his efforts. Years later, a general judged Lord Cai's wall to be exemplary and he was posthumously rehabilitated. No matter how much truth is in this amazing story, strategically, this was an important stretch, guarding a branch way leading to the capital.
From a little reservoir, the wall climbs in both directions. The section to the east, across the dam, is comparatively easy to climb. The section to the west is in bad shape, accessible only to thoserisking to scramble up the steep slope. In theory, hiking along this part of the wall is prohibited.
Great Wall in Western
Part of Hebei Province
The Great Wall Hiking at Wulonggou(Back Dragon)-Meiyao(the Coal Kiln) village-Tangzhigou Section
The Great Wall Hiking at Zijingguan Pass
Zijingguan is on the banks of the Juma River in Heibei Province, vaunted as the first impregnable pass south of Beijing. From the Pass, the Great Wall extends northeast to another famous pass-- Juyongguan, northwest of Beijing. The pass was first fortified in the Western Han dynasty (206B.C.- 24 AD). A l,000-strong garrison was set up there early in the Ming dynasty. In 1491 an expansion project reinforced the fortifications. The remains we see today are mostly from that time.
The most important role of Zijingguan was in the security of Beijing. Anyone casting a covetous eye on the central plains from the north would have two choices - to penetrate the Great Wall either directly at Juyongguan Pass, or by a roundabout route here at Zijingguan. While Zijingguan was no less important than Juyongguan strategically, it was, however, much more difficult to defend because of the configuration of the terrain. Not only are there many open valleys on both sides of the pass, but the nearby Jumahe River flows between flat banks, and in the dry season it becomes easily fordable.
Zijingguan is now in ruins, but one can still picture the grandeur and magnificence of the fortress in its prime. It was four kilometres in circumference and founded on stone slabs. Its ten-metre-high walls were also built of stones, but faced with bricks. Once there were eight gates. The still-standing north gate has an inlaid white marble slab above its archway. The name of the Pass "Zijingguan" was carved into the marble slab in one-metre-tall Chinese characters. The inscription dates back to 1589.
a. In 2004, rather than restoration, a replica of the original structure of the Zijingguan Pass was built. Fortunately, the original marble with the name of Zijinguan is still well-preserved there to remind people of the grandeur and magnificence of the fortress in its prime.
b. A side tour to the Western Qing Tomb (first built in 1730 during Qing Dynasty) is recommended. The Tomb, where four emperors are buried, is located about 35km south of Zijinguan. It is now a very beautiful and quiet park. The entrance fee is RMB90/person.
Wulonggou Great Wall was built in the late Ming Dynasty (1573-1576). It is located in Laiyuan County 220km southwest of Beijing, and takes about four hours to reach. This part of the wall could be compared with the grand sight of the Badaling section of the Great Wall. While Badaling is rebuilt and is too crowded, this part is left wild but is still well-preserved, and is not visited by tourists except the Great Wall hikers.
Wulonggou Great Wall is connected with Zijingguan Pass on the east. There are all together 66 watchtowers in this section; about 40 of them are still in their original state, with different shapes, but averaging 12 metres in width and length, and 15 metres in height. The relics of the old fortress can still be found at the bottom of the mountain. This fortress has two gates, the south and the west, and both have a Wongcheng (a trap wall) encircling the entrances for defense. Inside the fortress today are only the simple houses of the locals, and some farm land.
Meiyao(the Coal Kiln)-Tangzhigou Great Wall
It is easy to take the small trail from Meiyao village up the mountain to the Great Wall on the top. The Meiyao(the Coal Kiln) Great Wall is separated by cliffs from the Wulonggou Great Wall. There are 27 well-protected watchtowers from Meiyao to Tangzhigou. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the Great Wall. Looking north gives a good bird's-eye view of the Wulonggou section. There is a short portion of the cliff incorporated as part of the wall on the way. Some watchtowers in this area have been annexed by the villagers to serve as private enclosures for their sheep.
a. Wulonggou section of the Wall is wild with no entrance fee. But as it is partly located in a military precinct, hiking on the east end of the section is prohibited.
b. Hiking on the wild broken wall is dangerous; therefore one should always hike with friends for safety's sake.
c. This part of the Great Wall is one of the best sections to take panoramic pictures of the seeming endless Wall (without the crowds always present at the Badaling section of the Great Wall).
d.The hike from Wulonggou to Tangzhigou section of the Great Wall takes two days. It is pleasant but strenuous. It should be noted that quite a few parts of the Wall are on the edge of a cliff. Therefore one must make frequent detours to avoid dangerous areas such as the craggy parts that are common in this area. Always have an experienced hiking leader for this part. Contact us for information in detail and/or to engage a hiking leader.