Code: GW12
Jiankou Great Wall Hiking Adventure

Jiankou Great Wall Map
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Jiankou in English is 'arrow nock'. Jiankou Great Wall is named after its peculiar shape, which is like a bent bow with an arrow ready to be released to the target. This section is very popular for the hiking and photography enthusiast. Unlike the Mutianyu in the east and Huanghuacheng in the west, Jiankou has more twists and turns as it wriggles up the mountain ridge. It has retained its original state without any restoration, and reveals beautiful imperfections, wildness and primitive simplicity. Thus it is regarded as the most precipitous and picturesque section of the Great Wall which was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644).

Jiankou Great Wall is located in the mountains of Huairou District, which is only about 73 kilometers (45 miles) from downtown, and can be reached either from the south near the Wofo Mountain Resort (Wo Fo Shan Zhuang), or the north at Xizhazi Village. The climbing route from the south side is very steep and takes longer. Also, this route will lead you to the lowest point of the wall, with few safe routes eastward. Therefore, most people choose to access from the north side.

You can take bus No. 867 or 936 from Dongzhimen bus station to Yujiayuan, changing at Hairou to bus No. 25 to its last station, Xizhazi. The bus-fare for bus No. 867 or 936 is CNY 13, and CNY 8 for the bus to Xizhazi. It takes about approximately three hours for the bus trip. Alternatively, you can take the express bus No. 916 from Dongzhimen to Yangjiayuan station, and on leaving turn right onto the Yujiayuan Road. Walk east along the road for about 500 meters to Yujiayuan bus stop where can connect a bus to Xizhazi. The bus trip takes about three hours.

Jiankou Section

Part of Jiankou

Please note that bus Nos. 867, 936, and 916 run regularly at an interval of 10 - 20 minutes, but there are only two buses from Yujiayuan to Xizhazi one at 11:30 and the other at 16:30, and returning at 06:30 and 13:15.

Xizhaizi Village is the base camp for those who intend to have two or three days trekking. Most of the farmhouses in the village offer cheap accommodation. The admission fee for Xizhaizi Village is CNY20 per person.

The Jiankou Great Wall has three main sections. From the west: Nine-eye Tower via Beijing Knot (Beijing Jie), to Arrow Nock (Jiankou) covers about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles). The middle section (3 kilometers, 1.9 miles) is Arrow Knot to Ox Horn Edge (Niujiao Bian); and the east: Ox Horn Edge to Mutianyu and is 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) long. Jiankou is about 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) log and has about 56 watchtowers. Most visitors choose to hike the middle part as it is comparatively easier to climb up and down than the other two sections. It is said by the locals that the first part should be the highlight as it is the most beautiful, adventurous and exciting of the three.

This is a very popular destination and at times there can be traffic jams. We suggest you arrive at Xizhazi Village in the afternoon and spend the night at a farmhouse of the 5th team in the village. The following hiking routes are those recommended by experienced hikers.

Route one (about 12 kilometers): Nine-eye Tower (Jiuyanlou) - Xidaqiang - Beijing Knot - Eagle Flies Facing Upward (Ying Fei Dao Yang) - Sky Stair (Tianti) - General Guarding Pass (Jiang Jun Shou Guan) - 38 Giant Steps (38 Deng) - Arrow Nock

You need to get up early to start this day's route. It takes about two hours to get to the Nine-eye Tower (N 40°28.914',E 116°30.126',Alt 1,194m) from the 5th team, Xizhazi Village. You can climb the hill by the trail at the back of the village. After crossing a few mountain passes, you will arrive at a watchtower. From there you need to turn right and continue north towards the Nine-eye Tower. You can hire a local guide to take you to the Nine-eye Tower as there are many branch trails on the way. The Nine-eye Tower is the largest watchtower along the wall. Originally having three levels and nine windows on each side, the watchtower was a significant command-post during ancient wars. Although only one floor of 7.8 meters (25.6 feet) high and 13 meters (14.2 yards) wide on each side remains today.

Tip: If you want to avoid hiring a local villager to guide you, you can follow the following route with GPS coordinates to get to the Nine-eye Tower.
1. Starting Point (hillside at the rear of the village): N 40°27.917', E 116°30.805', alt 850 m (approximate alt)
2. Fork No. 1 (left): N 40°28.074', E 116°30.838', alt 716 m
3. Fork No. 2 (right): N 40°28.182', E 116°30.678', alt 765 m
4. Fork No. 3 (middle one): N 40°28.343', E 116°30.524', alt 740 m
5. Fork No. 4 (left): N 40°28.362', E 116°30.559', alt 740 m
6. Fork No. 5 (left): N 40°28.505', E 116°30.479', alt 773 m
7. Fork No. 6 (left): N 40°28.594', E 116°30.225', alt 843 m
8. Fork No. 7 (left): N 40°28.610', E 116°30.173', alt 860 m
9. Fork No. 8 (right): N 40°28.612', E 116°30.168', alt 868 m
10. Fork No. 9 (right): N 40°28.626', E 116°30.152', alt 893 m
11. Fork No. 10 (right): N 40°28.636', E 116°30.146', alt 897m
12. Fork No. 11 (left): N 40°28.840', E 116°29.905', alt 1,015 m
13. Fork No. 12 (right): N 40°28.865', E 116°29.890', alt 1,023 m
14. Fork No. 13 (right): N 40°28.901', E 116°29.918', alt 1,105 m
15. Destination (Nine-eye Tower): N 40°28.914', E 116°30.126', alt 1,194m

Sky stairs of the wall

Distant view of the wall

Once you have reached the destination, you are advised to hike down by the same route to the small watchtower that you passed on the way up, and then go southward. This section is called Xidaqiang (Great Western Wall). The wall en route is badly damaged and almost vertical against the mountain. So you are advised to take the path along the wall moving carefully. Xidaqiang has an abrupt steep slope.

When you climb over the third section of Xidaqiang, you will reach the Beijing Knot (N 40°27.772', E 116°29.669', alt 985 m). It is a smaller watchtower, with three walls coming from different directions to meet here. The cracked steps of this section are stable and easy to climb. The hike from Nine-eye Tower to Beijing Knot will take approximately five hours.

Continue to move eastward to the Eagle Flies Facing Upward (N 40°27.385', E 116°29.928', alt 1,013m). Known for its extremely steep steps up to the lofty peak it is an ideal place to take pictures. It is said even eagles have to fly facing upward to reach the summit, so the potential danger is self-evident. There are three cliffs in the west wing of the Eagle Flies Facing Upward, and you have to make a detour by taking the path beneath the cliffs to climb up to the watchtower. You should start climbing upward from the path under the first cliff. Two paths are there: one upper and one lower, but you are advised to take the lower one.

From the Eagle Flies Facing Upward, you can descend the mountain by walking along the wall to arrive at the Sky Stair (N 40°27.339', E 116°30.100', alt 912 m), here there are two watchtowers standing apart. Although climbing the first watchtower is easy, it is hard going down and you have to take the path from beneath that leads down the mountain. You will arrive at a fork in the path (N 40°27.360', E 116°30.031'), where you need to travel eastward to return to the wall at the foot of Sky Stair. Sky Stair stairs ascend almost vertically to the second watchtower and sometimes it is difficult to get a footing on the steep steps. The narrowest part of the wall only allows one person to get through and one has to climb the stairs on all fours. Please note that if you want to climb up the Sky Stair, you have to edge along to get down those stairs to move on from west to east.

Sky stairs

Sky stairs of the wall

Continuing on you will pass a small watchtower (N40°27.381', E 116°30.332', alt 862 m), and get to an easy climbing section; the General Guarding Pass (N40゜27.387', E116゜30.342', alt 874 m), which is a hidden gateway in the Wall. It fits the description that: 'if one man guards the pass, then a thousand are unable to get through'.

From here the route becomes easier. When you see the watchtower strays from the wall, take the path beneath it in order to avoid the landslide section ahead. Then after passing a few more smaller watchtowers, you will reach some steps - the so-called 38 Giant Steps. This is a steep slope, but it is not too hard to get through if you watch out your step.

About two hours later, you will arrive at the last destination; the Arrow Nock (N 40°27.333', E 116°31.476', alt 694 m). Arrow Nock is a watchtower that is located at the lowest point of the V-shaped wall along the mountain ridge. If you head northwards for about 30 minutes you will get back to the 5th team in Xizhazi Village where you can enjoy a well-deserved rest after almost 12 hours' trekking.

Route two: Arrow Nock - Western Oil Basket (Xi You Lou) - Shrinking Neck Tower (Suo Bo Lou) - Sharp North Tower (Zhengbei Lou) - the Ox Horn Edge (Niu Jiao Bian) - Mutianyu section (about 10 kilometers)

You are advised to climb up to the Arrow Nock by using the same route that you used to return to the village yesterday. Upon arrival at the Arrow Nock, you need to pass a difficult section, namely the Western Oil Basket. Please note that the steps are seriously damaged and access is gained by climbing little more than a wooden ladder which is leaning against the wall.

The next spot you need to pay attention to is the Shrinking Neck Tower (N 40°27.320', E 116°31.983', alt 876 m), which is a low watchtower between the two peaks. The path has a steep scent; the broken wall here is connected by a vertical iron ladder along the edge of the cliff. A safe and easy way is to detour the Shrinking Neck Tower by taking the trail to the left instead of climbing the ladder.

When you arrive at the Zhengbei Tower (N 40°27.289', E 116°32.159', alt 975 m) you would have been hiking for about four hours. This watchtower is the highest one of the east and middle sections, thus, it is the most popular spot for photographs. It stands to reason that photos taken from here are published in various books and magazines.

Further eastwards for about one hour, you will get to the Ox Horn Edge (N 40°27'17", E116°32'39"), which is a section of reverse U-shaped wall that connects the Mutianyu Great Wall to the south. It is about a 45-minute walk from the Ox Horn Edge to the wall at the front entrance of Mutianyu (N 40°25.976', E 116°33.513, alt 398 m). At the end or today's adventure we recommend you take a mini bus to Yujiayuan to catch the connecting bus No. 876, 916 or 936 back to the city.

 Tips for Jiankou Hiking:
1. We advise inexperienced hikers and climbers to try the easier sections.
2. If you can, join in a group instead of doing it alone.
3. A pair of gloves and nylon climbing rope are necessary.
4. Wear the appropriate clothing and suitable footwear.

Photos of Jiankou

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Simatai Exploration: One day hike tour to Simatai and Gubei Water Town
Gubeikou Hiking: with accommodation and transportation tips
Shanhaiguan with Laolongtou: itinerary to Laolongtou, Shanhaiguan and Jiaoshan
Juyongguan Hiking: itinerary and tips for Juyongguan section

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