One of the oldest sections of the Great Wall, Gubeikou is beautifully unrestored, but with more moderate gradients, clearer paths and less potential peril than some of its counterparts, making it a great choice for self-guided wild wall hikes.
Gubeikou dates all the way back to 555 and the Northern Qi dynasty, though remnants of that era are largely lost. What you’ll see before you, like most of the Great Wall around Beijing, was constructed during the Ming dynasty (between 1368 and 1657 to be precise).
Hugely important strategically, over 130 battles were fought before this section and its surrounding region, as it sought to protect the capital from returning Mongols. As the story goes, it failed to so on more than one occasion, including in 1550, when Mongol leader Altan Khan and his forces broke through, rode to Beijing, set a few outer suburbs on fire then headed back to the exits. It was rebuilt in the aftermath, and not much has been touched since.
Although it’s a bit of a ride away from Beijing proper, Gubeikou is a rewarding trip for those looking for an authentic and wild hiking experience. The section is in fact divided into two parts by a river that runs through Gubeikou town; the Wohushan (Crouching Tiger Mountain) portion to the west provides a steeper and more challenging hike, while the eastern Panlongshan has a milder and clearer path that eventually begins to ramp up a few kilometres on.
Heading further east, it joins the much more challenging Jinshanling and, in the distance, Simatai, creating a route as long as 40 kilometres that is popular for extended expeditions, two-day (or more) hikes and camping trips.
Fun fact Given the former military importance of this stretch, you’ll find some of the most interesting and imposing watchtowers around along its length, including Panlongshan’s 24-Eyed Tower – a three-storey whopper with an impressive 24 windows.
While not as dangerous or steep as Jiankou
, for example, Gubeikou still has its moments, and is by no means a walk in the park; come prepared, wear appropriate clothing and footwear and take care when walking on the often dodgy terrain.
Hikers say ‘The Great Wall at Gubeikou doesn’t have a lot of steep climbs up or down, and it’s a good spot for a relatively easy walk. The wall here is mostly unrestored, with just a little repair work done to stop parts of it collapsing.’
Distance from the city 145km
Getting there Take the 980 Express bus from Dongzhimen Bus Terminal to its final stop at Miyun Bus Station (17RMB; 90 minutes; 6am-8pm; return, 4.30am-6.30pm), and change there onto the Mi 25 (密25) to Gubeikou town (8RMB; two hours; 6.10am-6.20pm; return, 6.20am-7.30pm).
Given the distance, leaving early is essential and you may even consider staying a night out in Gubeikou town or, weather-permitting, on the wall; guesthouses in the area are cheap and plentiful. In a day, hiring a driver is perhaps the only feasible option, though may set you back more that 1000RMB for a round trip.
Opening hours and tickets
Open all day, all year. Official entrance at Gubeikou town is 25RMB, though there are ways up without tickets just a little further along the wall.