Embark on a fantastic 18km Great Wall trek from the picturesque Wild Gubeikou Great Wall to restored Jinshanling Great Wall all the way till the west section of the Simatai Great Wall. Camp overnight right next to the wild Jinshanling Great Wall and snap your best China picture while the sun rises over the rolling hills.
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Gubeikou – Jinshanling – Simatai Great Wall Camping 2 Days
Embark on a fantastic 18km Great Wall trek from the picturesque Wild Gubeikou Great Wall, hike over the Jinshanling Great Wall all the way till the west section of the Simatai Great Wall. We camp overnight right next to the wild Jinshanling Great Wall, where the views are excellent. In the end of day 2, you will feel the muscles you haven’t been exercised and you will think this is a very rewarding trip. The hike is enjoyable for everyone with an average physical condition.
Day 1: Hike from Gubeikou to Jinshanling Great Wall (10km, 4 hours hiking)
From our meeting point (Lama Temple Subway exit B), our driver will take 2-hour to reach at the border of Beijing and Hubei. Our first stop is meeting our friends living next to the Gubeikou Great Wall. They are local farmers than run a small homestay at the back of a valley surrounded by the Great Wall. With a view of the Crouching Tiger Great Wall, we will enjoy a delicious meal in their backyard. From here our adventure starts.
It takes us only a 15-minute hike up the hill behind the farmhouse before we get our first glimpse of the Gubeikou Great Wall. After a few turns on the little dirt trail, we will reach on top of the Great Wall. We hike from tower to tower and take breaks on top of a watchtower. During our break time, it is also a great chance to take some awesome pictures of this 1400 years old section of the Great Wall.
3 hours later we arrive at the highlight of today’s trail, the Gubeikou General Tower. From this tower, you can see the “whole Gubeikou-Jinshanling-Simatai Great Wall trek” from the start to the end. On a clear day, we can even see the highest tower at the end section of the Simatai Great Wall. Here we side track a bit from the Wall to get around the restricted military section of the wild Gubeikou and Jinshanling Great Wall. The side track is just as pretty as our hike on the hill ridges and through the farm fields next to the Great Wall. When we reach the camp site which is next to the wild Jinshanling Great Wall, we will be pitching our camp and relax.
Day 2: Hike from Jinshanling to the West Part of the Simatai Great Wall (9km, 4 hours hiking)
We get up early in the next morning, have a good breakfast and head straight to the Great Wall again. A small trail will bring us pass an excellent view point and we are on the Wild Jinshanling Great Wall after 15 minutes’ hike. The 10-km long Jinshanling Great Wall shows us some amazing defensive features like barrier walls, battlement walls, watchtowers, gun emplacements, shooting holes, horse holes, horse blocking walls.
We hike down the crumbled section of the wild Jinshanling for about 30 minutes till we reach at the most famous and best preserved section and partly restored section of the Great Wall. Here you can see how the Great Wall of China looked like during the Ming Dynasty.
The last part of our hike is all the way uphill again. We will pass the General Tower with its intoxicating views over miles and miles of Great Wall and we will head to the last of the 67 watchtowers of the Jinshanling Great Wall. Then we reach at the Simatai Great Wall. We visit 4 more towers of the Simatai Great Wall and take a last spectacular picture of the Fairy tower which is the highest tower on the Simatai Great wall.
A small trail through the forest will bring us to the end of the valley. An excellent lunch will fill our hungry stomachs and a few beers will quench our thirst. After lunch, we can have a nap in the van while our faithful driver brings us back to our meeting point in Beijing around 4pm.
Level 3: medium strong
The Gubeikou Jinshanling Simatai is a long trek but since we don’t have to cary any camping gear it is suitable for anybody with an average to good physical condition. On the first day there are no strong uphill section and there are shortcuts around the steepest section of the hike on the second day. nevertheless do prepare for some sore legs if you’re not used to climbing stairs 😉
Gubeikou was originally named “Beikou”, which literally means “Northern Pass”, during the Tang dynasty (618-907), since it is the northern defensive line of Beijing. Later generations added “Gu” (ancient) in the front of “Beikou”, and meant “Old Northern Pass”.
Gubeikou Great Wall is located in Miyun county, 140 kilometers away from downtown Beijing.
Gubeikou was first built during the Northern Qi dynasty (550-557). In the early Ming dynasty (1368-1644), General Xuda was ordered to rebuild it. To enhance its defensive capability, more stones were add. Unfortunately, not many can be found today. The best-preserved is called the Big Flower Watchtower (Dahualou), because of its square shape with 12-arrowed windows, which resembles a blossoming flower when seen from afar.
When Qi Jiguang was appointed the chief commanding officer of the Ji Garrison (one of the eleven garrisons during the Ming dynasty), he ordered to lay another layer of bricks standing side by side the original one, forming the unique double-layered Great Wall.
It goes for over 20 kilometers and comprises of the four parts: Wohushan, Panlongshan, Jinshanling and Simatai. Gubeikou was a strategic pass of the Great Wall in ancient times, and Panlong Mountain and Wohu Mountain are connected by it with the Chao River flowing across Gubeikou Great Wall, offering an important access to Inner Mongolia and northeast of China. This section is the most intact and well preserved, original section of all the sections in Beijing.
“Wohushan” literally means a mountain resembling crouching tigers, as it looks like two tigers: one lying on its back and the other on its stomach. The Wohushan section features the unique “Sister Towers”. The Elder Sister Tower to the north is higher than the Younger Sister Tower to the south. Seen from afar, they are like two pretty ladies hand in hand. The Sister Towers were used to station troops, store weapons and foodstuffs during the wartime.
The Panlongshan section features the General Tower and 24-Window Tower:
The two-storey General Tower was the commanding office. It is square in shape, with a side length of about 11 yards (10 meters) and a door on each side. There are four windows on the eastern and western sides respectively, and three windows on the northern and southern sides. The tower is pretty symmetrical. However, the crenels on the top were seriously damaged during the war. Hence, the top has been exposed to the substance ever since.
The 24-window Tower is the last watch-tower at Panlongshan section. It has three storeys, which is unique. There are three windows on each side on the first and second storey and teeth-shaped crenels on the third storey. The 24-window Tower worked as a partner with the General Tower during the wartime. However, the northwestern side of the tower has now collapsed, leaving behind the eastern and southwestern walls standing firm and still.
This section has 143 beacon towers. The inside of these towers has different designs. Some towers have a flat ceiling. Some have an arched ceiling, a domed ceiling, or an octagonal. Each tower consists of two floors, six archways, and ten arched doors, allowing garrisoned soldiers to advance and retreat freely.
Jinshanling Great Wall
It was said that 3,000 soldiers from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces built two watchtowers, under the command of famous Ming general Qi Jiguang. They named this part of the Wall after the Great Jinshan Island and Small Jinshan Island in their hometown to show their sentimental feelings.
The Great Wall at Jinshanling is about 155 kilometers away from downtown Beijing and stretches from Miyun county of Beijing to Luanping county of Hebei province. Jinshanling connects to the Great Wall at Simatai in the east and Great Wall at Gubeikou in the west.
The Jinshanling Great Wall was first constructed in Northern Qi dynasty (550-577), with the wall, fortresses and passes. When the Ming dynasty was established in 1368, the famous general, Xu Da supervised and directed the construction of the Great Wall between the Shanhaiguan in the east and Juyongguan in the west. Again in 1567, General Tan Lun and Qi Jiguang were appointed to guard the northern frontier of the capital in this area. Qi Jiguang spent 16 years to repair and reconstruct the Wall of a total length more than 1,200 kilometers in the northern frontier.
Jinshanling Great Wall has high density of watchtowers and Barrier Wall. The Wall is about 10.5 kilometers long with 67 watchtowers, 2 beacon towers and 5 main passes. The general interval of the watchtowers on the wall is about 100 meters, but in some places with more complex terrain, the interval is only 50 to 60 meters. Such density of the watchtowers is rarely seen on the entire length of the Great Wall. The Barrier Wall was built on the top inside the Great Wall, vertical and parallel to the battlements. It is 2.5 meters high with peep holes and arrow holes in it. It served as the second barrier when the enemy succeeded climbing up the Great Wall.
The Great Wall at the Jinshanling is about 7 meters high, 6 meters wide, and built of rectangular slabs of stone. The brick-paved walkway along the top of the wall is 4 meters wide and the crenellated openings 2 meters wide.There are small holes in the merlons for watching and shooting arrows. There are also special openings between the crenels to insert flags for display or signal transmission.
The elevation in Jinshanling is about 700 meters above sea level. It is said that standing at the tower, one can catch sight of Beijing’s lights at autumn nights and the scene seems that there is a shimmering starriver far away. The Wangjinglou Watchtower is built on one of the Jinshanling hills, 980 meters above sea level, like a great dragon holding up its head and swaying its tail, the Jinshanling Wall is loftily meandering among the hills, ridges and mountains forever.
Based on huge stone bars, the Great Wall was then made by huge bricks, each of which weighed about 12 kilograms. Featuring various structures and having various functions, the watchtowers in Jinshanling are either one-story or two-story. On the first floor there are some windows for shooting arrows.
There are many and varied types of the roofs of the towers, flat, arched, quadrangular or octagonal. Some are used to store weapons and hay. Others are used as soldiers’ bedrooms. Among them, the most famous two are the Big and Small Jinshan Watchtowers.
The Big Jinshan Watchtower has two stories which are connected by stone stairs. There is a small room used as the soldiers’ retiring room on the top of the tower. The structure of the small room is unique. The rafters and eaves of the room are all made from polished bricks.
The General Tower, the Black Tower and the Taochun Tower are also must-sees on the Jinshanling Great Wall. Each tower has its legend. The general tower was named to commemorate Wu Guihua, a heroine who sacrificed herself to resist northern invasion in the Ming dynasty. The Black Tower and the Taochun Tower were dedicated to commemorate two girls, Heigu and Taochun, who made great contributions to the construction of the Great Wall.
Simatai Great Wall
There was a general passing by this section of the Great Wall with his beloved horse for his duty. Due to the hardship of the journey, the horse died on this part of the Wall. In order to remember the horse and its loyalty, the general named this part of the Great Wall “simatai”(死马台), which literally meant “dead horse platform”. The Chinese character “死” (si) meant “dead”, people changed the Chinese character to “司” (si), because (死) has an ominous meaning.
The Simatai section of the Great Wall is located in the northeast of Miyun county,120 kilometers from downtown Beijing, holds the access to Gubeikou. It is cutted into two parts by the Simatai Reservoir, over which there is a chain bridge running through east to west.
It was first built under the supervision of general Qi Jiguang in the early Hongwu years (1368-1398) of the Ming dynasty. It is one of the few stretches of the Wall that still preserve the original look of that period.
The Simatai Great Wall is 5 km long with all together 35 watchtowers with its unique features that cannot be found nowhere. To the west there are 20 watchtowers snaking on the sloping hills which are all well preserved. To the east there are 15 watchtowers atop peaks up to 1,000 meters high.
The watchtowers on the Simatai Great Wall show a elegant design and different structures, among which the most famous are the Wangjinglou (Watching Beijing Tower), where you can have a bird’s’ view of the lights of Beijing at night in the distance.
Simatai Great Wall is a fantastic site for sightseeing, hiking and exploration. It has been listed by the UNESCO as one of the World Cultural Heritages.
Detailed hiking route:
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