Jiankou, The Wild Great Wall Trek
September 7, 2018
One of the most astounding man-made wonders in the world lies in Beijing, China. For those who want to avoid the noisy crowds, large tourist groups, and the perfectly modern-day reconstructed wall, the Wild Wall is the perfect place to experience ancient China for a weekend.
Directions from Beijing to Jiankou
There are several ways to get to Jiankou. Obviously, the cheapest option is via public transportation!
Head to the Dongzhemen Subway Station (东直门地铁站) in Beijing and get out at Exit B or E. There will be signs in the station that tells you the bus station is exit H, but that route is extra long and you’ll skip all fast food places (aka, your last burger for the weekend!)
Last Stop for Snacks and Food
As you can see from the map, you can get your last minute snacks and drinks from Family Mart as well as your lunch/dinner from KFC or McDonald’s (inside the bus station).
Long Distance Bus
Find bus 916 express (916 快). It departs every 5 minutes, so don’t worry! Make sure you don’t get on the regular 916 bus as that will take 2x as long. This ride will be between 40 minutes – 55 minutes long (depending on where you get off) and a one-way ticket is 12 RMB.
If you have plenty of time or are feeling adventurous, you can get off at Yangjiayuan station (杨家园站) and take the local bus H25. This will take an hour, but it is only 8 RMB and will take you directly into Xizhazi village. The bus station is across from a Sinopec Gas Station and departs at 11:30 am and 4:30 pm.
Hiring a Driver
There is a hostel right at the foot of the Jiankou Great Wall called Zhao’s Hostel. You can call the hostel and they will arrange a driver to pick you up at the terminal station of bus 916 fast. The hostel’s number is 6161-1762. They don’t all speak English, so it’s best to download Wechat and converse with them that way. You can also directly contact the driver at this number via Wechat: +86 135-8179-8086. He will quote you 150 RMB for the 35 to 40-minute ride, but you can negotiate it down to at least 110 RMB, especially if you are a solo traveler.
Camping on the Great Wall
This is a fun option! It’ll allow you to go a lot further since you won’t need to go back down the wall to the hostel. Also, no matter how far you go, there are at least 4-5 other paths that will bring you back down to the same Xizhazi village because the Jiankou wall essentially circles half of it. The plus side – you’ll have the wall all to yourselves for the whole night! The downside is you’ll have to carry all your water, food, and equipment with you until you find a nice tower to camp at.
Home Stay / Hostel at the Great Wall
The one and only hostel you can stay at is Zhao’s Hostel. I thought it was quite expensive, 400-600 RMB/room for the most simple room without a bathroom so I didn’t stay there. There are other more local places to stay at in the village, but prices will vary from 200 – 600 RMB since they aren’t used to hosting so it will all depend on their mood and on how good you are at bargaining! The plus side to this is you’ll be able to trek on the wall with just a small day pack! The downside is you won’t get to explore as much of the wall!
From the H25 bus stop, continue straight along the road until it ends. There should be a red building on the right-hand side. That is Zhao’s hostel. The trail to go up the Wild Great Wall is to the left of the driveway.
1 Day Trek
The first section is a thick foresty trail where you will definitely get mosquito bites. Then comes some slight up and down hills with a wider path. At last, after two very steep sections on the trail, you’ll start to see a clearing and some bricks! If you trek slower at this section, it should take you no more than 40 minutes.
The first sight of the broken wall really is breath-taking. At this point, you are at the furthest section of the Jiankou wall so you can either turn left and go up the very steep and crumbly wall to the guard tower, or you can turn left and continue through some bushy but a little bit less crumbly part of the wall and head towards a different section called Huanghuacheng.
2 Days Trek
You can either turn right and go to the 2nd or 3rd guard tower on the Huanghuacheng, camp there and head back down the same path the next day. Or, you can turn left, go up the steep wall, and continue on for about 4 hours towards the 16th Guard tower and camp there. There are no vendors along the way until the next day when you reach a lower section in between the 17th and 18th tower. You’ll know you are there when there’s a long flat strip of wall. From the long flat strip, you can climb down a ladder, and continue down a trail that will bring you back down to Xizhazi Village. There are definitely some parts of this trail that will be too crumbly to climb, so you can try to find a trail that goes around the guard tower instead. Bringing rope helps.
3 Days Trek
You will most definitely be able to reach the Mutianyu Great Wall after 3 days! Just continue on, but make sure you camp on the Jiankou section for your last night as camping is not allowed on the restored part of the wall. When you get to Mutianyu, there will be plenty of vendors. You can then walk down, take the cable car down, or toboggan down! From there, take the H23, H24, H35, or H36 bus to Huairou Beidajie Station and board 916 Express.
Directions from Jiangkou to Beijing
You can take bus H25 from Xizhazi village to 916 Terminal Station in Huairou. However, the bus will only come twice – at 6:00 am and 1:30 pm. If you miss it, you’ll have to hire a driver to drive you there. Be careful though, the villagers will know you are ‘stranded’ without them so they’ll charge you a hefty 400 RMB to get back to the station. If you know you won’t be able to catch the H25, make sure you pre-arrange a ride with a driver. Then, from the terminal station, you can take bus 916 express (916 快) to get back to Beijing, Dongzhemen Subway Station (东直门地铁站).