Jiao Shan Great Wall

Top choice in Hebei

Although a heavily restored section of the Great Wall, Jiao Shan (角山, Jiǎo Shān) nevertheless offers an excellent opportunity to hike up the Wall’s first high peak – a telling vantage point over the narrow tongue of land below and one-time invasion route for northern armies. It’s a steep 30-minute clamber from the base, or else use the old chairlift (索道; suǒdào, one way/return ¥15/20).

To leave behind the crowds, continue beyond the chairlift station to Qixian Monastery (栖贤寺, Qīxián Sì) or even further to Sweet Nectar Pavilion (甘露亭, Gānlù Tíng). Better yet, climb up onto the closed section (accessed from paths on the side) and you'll be able to follow the crumbling Wall all the way up past several peaks. Explorers won't be able to resist – but use caution and don't go it alone.

You can get here on tourist bus 5 from Shanhaiguan train station (high season only) or hail a taxi (¥20 flat rate), but it's an easy 3km walk (or cycle) north of town; just follow the road straight on from Shanhaiguan's North Gate.

More fun than that, though, is to approach Jiao Shan on an original, overgrown stretch of Great Wall, which still creeps its way through farmland from Shanhaiguan to Jiao Shan. Most of its Ming brickwork has long since been pillaged, but there's still a scattering of bricks, including a couple of half-collapsed watchtowers. To take this route, walk straight on from North Gate then take the first right, along the main road, until you reach the Wall (you can't miss it). Turn left up a pathway by the wall and walk under the iron footbridge before clambering up onto the Wall by the footbridge. You can walk on this earthen Wall all the way to Jiao Shan (it takes about an hour; you'll need to walk across a small restored section over the highway at one point). Just before you reach Jiao Shan, there's a final footbridge that may be closed off. Either ignore the sign and cross the bridge anyway, before clambering down to the Jiao Shan entrance, or climb down to the Jiao Shan approach road from here.

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