We’re not in Beijing anymore, Toto, we’re in neighbouring Hebei province at the starting point of one of the Great Wall’s most popular hikes. Part-restored, part-wild, this section offers stellar views and an unmatched range of architectural features on an accessible hike, all away from the capital’s crowds and – fingers crossed – its smog.
What’s the story?
Initially constructed during the late 14th century and the early years of Ming, it was two centuries later that the Great Wall here at Jinshanling gained a magnificence that is still wonderfully preserved today, thanks to some tasteful restoration.
Between 1567 and 1586, celebrated Ming dynasty general Qi Jiguang oversaw the reinforcing of defences from Juyongguan all the way to the eastern coastal extremity of Shanhaiguan
, emphasising the importance of strong and plentiful watchtowers; more than 1,000 were constructed, with 67 of them densely dotted along Jinshanling’s 10.5 kilometre length.
As China opened up to the world in the ‘80s and tourist traffic (both domestic and international) began to boom, Jinshanling was just one of the sections to undergo restoration, and fortunately its treatment feels more like preservation than replication. As it finds itself on the popular Gubeikou
-Simatai hiking axis, wild wall is available in both directions beyond the limits of the park area.
Why choose this section?
Besides its offering of both restored and wild wall, Jinshanling shows off an impressive collection of watchtowers, fitted with an array of defences and distinctive architectural features not seen at other Great Wall sections.
Over the centuries, its ambitious design has gained it plenty of admirers, and it has long been regarded as perhaps the finest example of Great Wall architecture; an oft-quoted adage says that 'Wanli Changcheng Jinshan duxiu' (万里长城金山独秀) – ‘Of all the Great Wall built during the Wanli Emperor’s reign, Jinshanling stands out’.
From the front (west) gate, the top of the wall is accessible by cable car (40 RMB, one way).
Fun fact In 1992, Taiwanese stuntman Blackie ‘The Flying Man of Asia’ Ko successfully pulled off a motorbike jump over the Great Wall here at Jinshanling.
If you choose to hike towards Simatai, be aware that when you eventually reach the end of what is classed as Jinshanling, you will arrive at a guarded barrier where you will need to leave the wall; this section is controlled by the Gubei Water Town – or held hostage, its detractors may say – so you will need to head down to purchase your ticket. It’s only 40RMB, but you may need to book in advance
(up to ten days in advance; passport number required).
Hikers say ‘Jinshanling is postcard-perfect restored Great Wall, and its distance from the city means that it’s usually nice and quiet. Within the park area you can do a 6km hike on the wall, starting from either of the ticket offices. For a proper hike, though, walk out the west end of the park and find your way over to Gubeikou.’
Distance from the city 148km
Getting there By bus: During peak season (March-November), a dedicated direct bus service (32RMB) leaves from Wangjing West subway station (Lines 13 & 15) at 8am and takes around 2 hours to reach Jinshanling; the return bus departs at 3pm.
Alternatively, take a bus from Wangjing West station towards Luanping (滦平), and get off at the Jinshanling gas station (32RMB; around 2 hours; 6.30am-4pm; return, 7am-4.30pm); from there, a free shuttle bus will take you towards the entrance and ticket office.
Given its distance from Beijing, arranging private transport or an overnight stay may be your best bets for getting the most from a trip here. To cheapen the driver deal, you can take the 980 Express (980快) service from Dongzhimen Bus Terminal to its final stop at Miyun Bus Station (17RMB; 90 minutes; 6am-8pm; return, 4.30am-6.30pm), and take a ride onto Jinshanling with one of the many man-with-a-van drivers who’ll approach you there. Don’t pay more than 200RMB for a round trip.
Opening hours and tickets
Peak season (March 16-November 15): 6am-7pm. 65RMB; free for children under 1.2m.
Off-peak (November 1-March 31): 6am-7pm. 55RMB; free for children under 1.2m.