Mao Zedong once famously proclaimed “不到长城非好汉” which means “He who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man."
Well, the weather is warming up and it's time to strap those boots on and become a true man.
I highly recommend heading out to this section of the Wall if you like hiking and are looking for a section that is more off the beaten path. This is the first part of the Wall I visited, and remains my favorite.
It's known as Jiankou 箭扣 (Jian4 Kou4), built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and one of the most photographed because of its dramatic drop-offs, steep stairways, and multiple towers.
When I went for the first time last year, I had never met anyone I went with in person before; I found them on the classifieds section of thebeijinger, a great forum to find people to explore Beijing with. Note: It’s definitely possible to run into sketchy personalities on any online forum, but with a little common sense it’s easy to identify solid people to meet up with.
You can go too!
Here’s the down low on hiking what is known as the Beijing Knot 北京结 (Bei3 Jing1 Jie2), a place where three sections of the Wall come in from different directions and intersect. It is a relatively easy hike and offers great views all around!
Make your way (metro, bus or taxi) to the Dongzhimen 东直门 Metro Stop, and take Exit B. From there, you will see the Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station 东直门长途站. You want to take Bus No. 916 (it’s clearly marked). Get off at Huairou Fangshan 怀柔仿膳 (Huai4 Rou2 Fang3 Shan4) (It will cost about CNY 15). From there, you can get a private car to Xizhazi Village 西栅子村 (Xi1 Zha4 Zi5 Cun1) from one of the many drivers hanging around waiting for people. When I went, we had a pre-arranged car, but there was no shortage of people asking if we needed a ride. For our car, we each paid CNY 35 (including the time our driver waited for us (about 4-5 hours). You will also need to pay an entrance fee of CNY 20 to get into Xizhazi.
Xizhazi is one of several small villages from where you can approach the Jiankou area. You can stop here and have lunch before you start hiking. There are a few small guesthouses that can prepare something for you for a small fee. No menu, no English. Delicious food. Most of the farmhouses receive guests in some capacity, with rooms ranging from CNY 20 – CNY 100 depending on time of year, amenities, and how many people are in your group.
The town is small, and you should be able to say Beijing Jie 北京结 to anyone and they can help point you in the right direction. The hike took us about four hours at a leisurely pace with time for some exploring.
Here is a map that gives you an aerial view of the hike (best I could find on the internet). You will be hiking the path that starts out heading almost directly West and then you reach a fork and bear right to reach the Beijing Knot.
- To get the most out of the day, start early. We boarded Bus No. 916 at 8:30 am and got back to Beijing in the evening around 6:00)
- The more people you have, the cheaper your private van to Xizhazi will be. First ask how much the van will be, then try to bargain the price down a bit
- Wear sneakers, or hiking boots if you have them
- Bring layers because it can get windy up top
- There aren’t really any stores in the village, so bring plenty of water for the day, and some snacks (my favorite: snickers and spicy peanuts)
- This off the beaten path section of the wall is good for exploring, but definitely be careful. There are parts where the wall is crumbling and it is easy to slip and seriously injure yourself