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Huangyaguan Great Wall, Jiangjunguan “General’s Pass”, and in between

Photos from hikes along the line of Great Wall that runs from Huangyaguan in Tianjin through to Jiangjunguan in Beijing’s Pinggu District.

What’s in this post?

A mostly uninterrupted line of Great Wall runs westward through the mountains from the Huangyaguan Great Wall, ending up at Jiangjunguan, the “General’s Pass”.

This line of Great Wall blocks off some of the minor passes through the mountains between Beijing and Hebei, and at Huangyaguan it blocks a major pass.

Between Huangyaguan and Jiangjunguan is the Hongshimen part of the Great Wall, and the ‘Sanjiebei’, which is a tablet that marks the junction of Beijing Muncipality, Tianjin Municipality, and Hebei Province. This is where the Great Wall enters Beijing from the east, coming in from Shanhaiguan by the sea.

Huangyaguan was fortified as early as the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577 AD), with Tang Dynasty records from 747 AD mentioning a garrison. The Great Wall here was expanded during the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD, Yongle period 1403–1424 AD), with more work done in the late 1500s. Its current look is late Ming-era, with brickwork and large towers, fixed up and repaired in 1987.

The other repairs to the wall in this area were not done as tastefully. The 3km of Great Wall that runs down from the Sanjiebei, on the Beijing side of the border, is now an example of the cover-it-in-concrete style of repair work, and the earlier work done at Jiangjunguan was not a whole lot better.

In between the repaired parts, though, is a line of rocks and stones that runs along the ridgelines of wooded hills, disappearing into forests and dropping off at cliffs. The Great Wall here shares the look of the early Ming Dynasty Great Wall on Beijing’s west side—mostly made of fitted rocks and stones, with the blocky foundations of towers seen at semi-regular intervals along the way.

Hongshimen Great Wall and the ‘Sanjiebei’

From the western end of the Hongshimen Great Wall up to the Sanjiebei, then down to Hongshimen Village.

Photos (iPhone SE) from October 2018.

Repaired Great Wall on a ridgeline.
Just starting off, with views over the valley in the direction of Jiangjunguan.
Repaired Great Wall in hills
Looking southwest.
Repaired Great Wall and pine trees.
Repaired Great Wall
The Sanjiebei sits on top of the peak in the middle of the photo.
Hills covered in the colours of autumn
Autumn colours in the hills.
Looking back down along the Hongshimen Great Wall
Looking back down along the Hongshimen Great Wall, with the Jiangjunguan Great Wall seen on the ridge in the middle distance.
Long views from the top of the Hongshimen Great Wall.
Views from just below the Sanjiebei.
Signs for guesthouses in Hongshimen Village.
In Hongshimen Village.

(Didn’t get a good photo of the Sanjiebei on this visit.)

Beijing Hikers has a hike in this area called “On the Border Lines”.

Hongshimen Village, the ‘Sanjiebei’, Jiangjunguan “General’s Pass” Great Wall

From Hongshimen Village up to the Sanjiebei, back down to the Zhangzuo Village end, then up and over to Jiangjunguan. (17km / 1491m ascent / approx. 6 hours)

The Great Wall at either end of this part is repaired and fairly horrible to hike. At the Hongshimen end, it’s rocks all concreted together. On the way up from the valley by Zhangzuo Village, it’s also repaired with concrete, with the additional difficulty of having to hoist yourself (and your hiking pack) up steps that are more than a metre tall. At the Jiangjunguan end, the original rocks and stones are held together with concrete, with parts are extremely steep and not stepped at all.

In between the repaired sections the wall here is rough and wild—a low line of locally cut grey and red rocks that runs along a rocky ridgeline, interrupted by cliffs and crags.

Photos (iPhone SE) from a long day in April 2021.

A concrete path between stone walls and forest.
On the road up to the Hongshimen Great Wall.
Looking down a forested valley
Looking back down the valley.
Repaired Great Wall.
The old blocks of the wall here are now held together by concrete.
The ‘Sanjiebei’, the junction of Beijing Municipality, Tianjin Municipality, and Hebei Province
At the Sanjiebei, and standing in Tianjin Municipality.
Trees on either side of repaired Great Wall.
Back in Beijing, and hiking down from the Sanjiebei.
Repaired Great Wall, green hills.
Hebei Province is on the right-hand side of the Great Wall here, Beijing on the left.
Great Wall in green hills.
Foundations of Great Wall towers.
Foundations of towers.
Great Wall in green hills.
Looking back along the wall.
Great Wall in green hills, with stormy skies.
Great Wall on cliffs.
A dip, then cliffs.
The Great Wall runs by a cliff.
Closer to the cliffs.
Great Wall leads up to a peak.
On the other side of the dip, a steep climb topped by metre-high steps.
Rocky Great Wall on a ridge.
Rocky ‘wild’ Great Wall.
Hiking along rough and rocky Great Wall.
Rocky Great Wall.
Great Wall on a ridgeline
Looking back to the first peak on this part of the wall.
Green hills with a village below.
Great Wall in green hills.
Looking south.

Further along, the stones and rocks of the Great Wall started to show a red tint.

Red-tinted rocks form the base of the Great Wall here
Great Wall bordered by trees.
Pine trees by rocky Great Wall
The exposed red rocks, to the left of the Great Wall here, were quarried for blocks to build the wall.
The Great Wall runs up and down the ridgeline.
We’d hiked over those smaller peaks.
Pointing the way around a tower.
“We’ll probably need to go that way.”

We were expecting to find some cliffs around here. We continued past for a look anyway. Yep, cliffs.

The foundation of a Great Wall tower.
Coming back from the cliffs.
A concrete track.
A detour around the cliffs took us down into a terraced valley.
A concrete road winds up through terraced hills.
Up another valley …
One end of the cliffs section.
Cliffs and mountains.
Wide view of the cliffs and detour.
Great Wall on forested hills.
More cliffs ahead.
Great Wall leads up to a peak.
Long views of mountains.
On the other side of a second detour.
Holding on to crags.
The Great Wall continued on the other side of these crags.
Green mountains.
Atop the peak in the middle distance is the tallest tower on the Jiangjunguan Great Wall.
Great Wall leads towards a high peak.
Repaired Great Wall above the pass at Jiangjunguan.
Repaired Great Wall above the Jiangjunguan “General’s Pass”
The end is in sight.
A tablet reads (R-L) Jiang Jun Shi Guan.
The gate at the General’s Pass, with the rocky pillar named “General’s Stone” on the right. (October 2018)

Beijing Hikers has a hike along this part of the Great Wall called “General’s Pass Great Wall”.

From the Sanjiebei to Huangyaguan Great Wall

From the tiny (and maybe unofficial) ‘Sanjiebei Scenic Area’ in Hebei over to the wall, down to Qian Ganjian Village, up on to the wall and over to Huangyaguan via the Ganlushan Natural Scenic Area. (12km / 731m ascent / 4.5 hours)

We didn’t get on to the eastern part of the wall at Huangyaguan on this visit. (In the morning we spent too much time early on finding ways to sneak on to the Jiangjunguan Great Wall, and then during an off-piste excursion around a closed tower on Huangyaguan’s west side YS suffered an ankle sprain that swelled to handball size.)

Photos (Leica D-LUX 5) mostly from an extremely long day in September 2021.

The Hongshimen Great Wall is repaired up until the ‘Sanjiebei’, and turns rough and rocky as it enters Tianjin Municipality. (October 2018, iPhone SE)
Rocky, wild Great Wall.
Pointing to Great Wall
‘Huangyaguan is that way.’
A low line of rocks, part of the Great Wall in Tianjin Municipality
The Great Wall here is just a low line of rocks.
Apricot trees by the Great Wall.
The apricot trees and terraces belong to Qian Ganjian Village, in the valley below.
Slabs of rock.
These rocks were quarried for building materials.
Green hills and Great Wall
Over that peak, the wall disappears into forest. We took an off-wall detour through Qian Ganjian Village.
A low line of Great Wall disappears into forest.
A closer look at the wall over that peak, with more wall seen in the hills beyond.
Hiking on the stone foundations of old Great Wall.
Now hiking on the wall previously seen in the hills beyond.
Rocky Great Wall covered by trees and bushes.
Great Wall overgrown by trees and bushes.
Pine forest by the Great Wall.
Low Great Wall on a forested ridge

The Great Wall here eventually disappeared into a tangled mess of scrub and forest. We followed side trails around peaks and by cliffs, passing through the Ganlushan Natural Scenic Area on the way to the back door of the Huangyaguan Great Wall.

A trail below a cliff
An open gate in a fence.
Luckily the back door was open, or we would have been in for a bit of bushwhacking to get around the barbed wire.
A track through forest.
A tower on the west side of Huangyaguan
The top tower on the west side of the Huangyaguan Great Wall.
The sun sets behind a peak
We’d come through the gap in the mountains here, and then on a trail at the base of the cliffs.
A tower on the west side of Huangyaguan
The top tower on the west side of Huangyaguan.
Cliffs above Huangyaguan
The ‘Yellow Cliffs’ of Huangyaguan.

After detouring around a back door that wasn’t open we arrived at the ‘Heavenly Stairs’, 300+ steps at a ~60° angle.

Huangyaguan’s Heavenly Stairs
Repaired Great Wall at Huangyaguan
Coming down to the pass at Huangyaguan.

Almost at the end? Yes … but also no. The next tower down was locked tight. Would we need to go back up the 300+ Heavenly Stairs?

After backing up a few towers we found a gate to clamber over, and set off on the aforementioned off-piste excursion—crashing through bush, sliding down a chest-high cliff, and eventually stepping on the loose rock that spoiled the day.

Notes

Huangyaguan

Huángyáguān / 黄崖关 / Yellow Cliffs Pass

Huangyaguan info on Baidu (Chinese language)

Jiangjunguan

Jiāngjūnguān / 将军关 / General’s Pass

Jiangjunguan info on Baidu (Chinese language)

Hongshimen

Hóngshímén cūn / 红石门村 / Red Stone Gate Village