An intense but family friendly 20 km 3 day camping trip from the renovated staircases of Jinshanling Great Wall to the unrestored fortresses of the Gubeikou Great Wall. The scenery here is stunning and the photo opportunities are endless.
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Jinshanling Gubeikou Crouching Tiger Great Wall Camping
An intense 20-km hike from the renovated staircases of Jinshanling Great Wall to the authentic fortresses of the Gubeikou Great Wall. The scenery here is stunning and the photo opportunities are endless. You’ll need a good physical condition to hike this trail, but there is plenty of time for it. All camping gear will be delivered to the campsites, so you do not need to carry anything during the hike.
From the meeting point, our van will head northeast for about 2 hours to the border of Beijing and the Hebei province. Close to the Jinshanling Great Wall we stop at a local restaurant for a good lunch and make our way to the entrance of the Great Wall.
The hike starts with a climb on the infamous staircases of the Jinshanling Great Wall. The Jinshanling section has a total length of 10kms with intact watchtowers almost every 100 meter.
We hike on top of the Great Wall for 3 hours and as we walk south, the Great Wall becomes less renovated, tourists become sparse and new views unfold. Just before we reach the restricted military zone, we take a detour of the wall and up a hill top where you have a fantastic 360 degrees view of the Great Wall winding on the mountain ridges. We head down a small dirt trail that leads to a local farmer who will serve us an excellent dinner.
With a satisfied stomach we make the final ascend to our campsite. A one of a kind campsite with a view over the entire jinshanling Great Wall
After sunrise we head down for a healthy breakfast and hit the road again. With renewed strength, we follow a 5-km trail that curls alongside the Wall, over the hills, through a small forest and pops out of the bush at the General Tower of the Gubeikou Great Wall. Here we have reached the highest point of the day and this is another magical place for pictures.
The last part of the hike is entirely on top of the Great Wall again. It’s a 5-km walk on top of the wild Great Wall where we will go through and climb up numerous watchtowers. There are no steep climbs on this section but the trail can be slippery, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
By sunset we arrive at a flat field right next to the Great Wall where your bags and tents wait for you. Our friends from the local village will bring up a fantastic dinner accompanied by beers. Now it’s time to relax, watch the stars and grab some beers around the bonfire.
Next day we hike down and enjoy a good breakfast with our friends from the local village.. After breakfast, we walk out the valley and pass a small folk village and head for the Crouching Tiger Great Wall. This recently renovated section is build upon a steep mountain ridge and gives a fantastic view over the entire Gubeikou Great Wall.
We end the hike in a folk village with a healthy lunch and of course some beers to celebrate our journey.
Level 3: Medium-strong
A good physical condition is required for hiking in these designed trails. Hikes marked as level 3 are usually long day hikes or day hikes that include a steep uphill hike and/or trails where some balance is needed. Usually kids from age of 10 are all right with these trips.
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.
Gubeikou Great Wall
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 hiking map:
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