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Jiankou ('Nock') is a "wild" (unrepaired) section of the Great Wall. It was built on ridges with steep cliffs on each side, which makes it one of the most dangerous sections. It's only recommended for experienced and sure-footed mountain hikers.
Jiankou is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Beijing. It connects the Great Wall at Mutianyu to the east with Huanghuacheng, via a lower section of wall that winds west through about 15 km of villages and valleys, passing 'Nine Sacrifices Mountain' (Jiugongshan) .
It's hard to find out when this section was first built, though most began with the Ming Dynasty in 1368. It's said that General Qi Jiguang was responsible for restoring this section. Qi Jiguang (1528–1588) was a famous hero for protecting China's coast from Japanese pirates.
Dimensions: The Great Wall at Jiankou stretches over 20 kilometers (12 miles) long from Huanghuacheng to Mutianyu.
(The famous east part of) Jiankou's section was built along a mountain ridge with particularly steep cliffs, and looks like an elongated 'W' from above, which is similar to the shape of a bow. One steep v-shaped notch between two peaks in the middle of the "bow" reminded the builders of the groove at the butt of an arrow, hence the name 'Nock'.
The Great Wall at Jiankou retains its original appearance. It is wild, uniquely made of large white rocks, and has been out of repair since the Qing conquest of China in 1644. It is higher and steeper than the adjacent Mutianyu section, and more winding and varied than the Great Wall at Simatai.
The "Sky Stairs" go practically straight up, and they are so narrow that it is almost impossible to obtain a foothold.
"The Eagles Flies Facing Upward" is the highest section of Jiankou, so called because when an eagle flies there, it can only do so facing upwards before reaching the top of the tower. Most towers are unnamed, but they don't need names to amaze, clinging to the steepest of ridges as they do.
"Beijing Knot" marks the connection with the Huanghuacheng Section. There is a famous pine tree there.
Jiankou's Great Wall is not only an ideal place for adventurous and experienced hikers, but also a beautiful place for photographers. It has perhaps the most frequent appearance on picture books and post cards of the Great Wall.
Jiankou's wall adjacent to Mutianyu surrounds the northern valley containing 'Old Water Hole' (Jiushuikeng) Village. The short 'Nine Eye Tower' (Jiuyanlou) section to the north goes part way up 1,500+m-tall Heituo Mountain, and seals the valley. The west branch continues from 2.5 km south of Nine Eye Tower towards Huanghuacheng.
Jiankou hiking routes are usually divided into two directions: south or north from the 'Nock', a steep v-shaped notch between two peaks, with an access path from the south, and wall up either side and towers on the tops.
The 4-hour south route (to Mutianyu) is said to be the most dangerous by boastful hikers, but it's not really. Lots of people have hiked it to the Mutianyu Section. Though many people have accomplished this route, it's not easy, with sharp rises and steep descents. There's about 10 km of highly-varied wall between the Nock and the path down from Mutianyu's Tower 10.
The north route (to Huanghuacheng) has the most dangerous lengths of wall: "Sky Ladder", "The Eagles Flies Facing Upward", and "Beijing Knot". The 4-km roundtrip detour up to Nine Eye Tower is worth it. Walking to Huanghuacheng in a day would be quite a marathon, with over 20 km of wild wall to cover (not counting the detours)!
Branch walls: There's also a branch wall going 3 km out along a ridge southwest of the Nock. And it's not the only ridge-top branch wall: apart from Nine Eye Tower's, there are others commanding the high ground to the south.
Jiankou is in a mountain area, and there are no clear road signs. When you arrive at Xizhazi Village, or Shuntong Rainbow Trout Fishing Base, you still need to spend 1–2 hours to climb up on a narrow path through a forest. Travelers who don't know the area well could get lost. It's almost impossible to get there alone without your own vehicle, good maps and navigational skills, and good Chinese. So we suggest you travel with a tour guide.
If you are looking for a hassle free and flexible trip to Jiankou, China Highlights can help you create a Jiankou Tour according to you interests and requirements. China Highlights use high-quality, air-conditioned private transport to take the hassle out of getting to the wall. Our guide will make sure you're well equipped and safe. We have 24-7 customer service, providing backup support.
Recommended tour: One-Day Jiankou to Mutianyu Great Wall Hiking Tour
Hiking gear: This section is steep and in disrepair. In some places the wall stops abrubtly and you will need to climb down, ridge walk, and climb up onto the next bit of wall. Please wear good mountaineering boots with ankle support, and take trekking poles if you find them helpful.
What to bring: Bring breathable waterproofs for protection from rain and wind. Bring snacks and water if you want to walk a long portion of the wall. If you are traveling with friends, you could take walkie-talkies, because in some places cell phone signals are weak.
Hotel and restaurants: There are many family inns and local restaurants on the way to Jiankou, and at Mutianyu and Huanghuacheng.
Environmental protection: Because this section has not been developed as a tourist area, there is no trash collector on the wall. So take your empty bottles and other garbage away with you. "Take nothing but photographs. Leave nothing but footprints. Keep the wall wild and wonderful!"