Zhengbeilou

Chinese: 正北楼
Pinyin: Zhèng běi lóu
English: Sharp north tower
Coordinates: 40°27'16.64"N 116°32'10.38"E

Zhengbeilou is the high tower at the eastern end of the Jiankou Great Wall. The only place at Jiankou that has a higher elevation is the Jiuyanlou tower at the other end of Jiankou. The view from Zhengbeilou is wonderful. Looking west towards the Jiankou area, you can see the wall twisting, rising, and falling over the most dramatic and picturesque mountains both nearby and in the distance. The wall makes its way to the west and then turns right and heads north, creating a beautiful scene. The northbound wall catches the morning sunlight and is highly visible, as is the entire Jiankou Great Wall due to its light color among the thousands of trees. Looking over the entire Jiankou Great Wall, you are looking to the west, so the lighting at sunrise is ideal. It's no wonder that you see the traditional image of the Jiankou Great Wall from Zhengbeilou in books, videos, magazines, and calendars everywhere. Zhengbeilou is possibly the most popular spot for photographers anywhere on any Great Wall. The elevation of Zhengbeilou is 991 meters (3250 feet).

View of the Jiankou Great Wall looking west from Zhengbeilou
Xizhazi village in the valley on the right

Zhengbeilou is a part of the Jiankou Great Wall, but it's listed separately here for a good reason. There is a span of the wall in between Zhengbeilou and the rest of Jiankou that's among the most dangerous of the entire Great Wall. So visiting Zhengbeilou along with the rest of Jiankou is not as simple as following the wall between them. For most people, this zone must be avoided.

There are four ways to reach Zhengbeilou. You can reach it along the wall from east or west, and you can reach it via trails through the woods from the north or south.

As we've already mentioned, reaching Zhengbeilou from the west is dangerous and not advised. To the east of Zhengbeilou, however, the span of wall connecting to Niujiaobian and then Mutianyu is much more approachable and provides an excellent walking opportunity. We will look closely at this possibility in a moment.

You may also choose to approach Zhengbeilou by climbing a path up the mountain then hike from there to Mutianyu via Niujiaobian. There are trails from the south and from the north. As far as reaching the trail from Beijing, it's a much shorter drive to the south side. The road to the north side passes through the Great Wall to the east, at Lianhuachi. The road takes a circuitous and twisty route through the mountains to reach the village to the north of Jiankou, which is called Xizhazi. Additional driving time is about an hour. However, the elevation at the base of the mountain ridge on the north side is higher than it is on the south side. This makes climbing up to the wall easier from the north side. The difference is significant. The trail is also better on the north side; on the south side, there are some steep sections where you must climb over rocks to reach the top. For these reasons, most people use the trail on the north side if they aren't approaching Zhengbeilou via the wall.

Zhengbeilou is just to the west of Mutianyu and Niujiaobian. One good way to reach this iconic tower is to walk there along the Great Wall by passing the western end of the restored section of Mutianyu, passing through Niujiaobian, and then reaching Zhengbeilou tower. This gives you the added benefit of experiencing the fantastic views from the top of Niujiaobian. It's not an extremely long hike; you can make it between Mutianyu and Zhengbeilou in a few hours. For this reason, it's a nice out-and-back walk. You can also walk from Mutianyu to Zhengbeilou, spend a day or two exploring the Jiankou Great Wall area, and then walk back to Mutianyu.

Whichever direction you've chosen, the hike between Zhengbeilou and Mutianyu is not very dangerous or difficult although there are places where you must walk right along the edge of the wall and the thick brush threatens to push you over the side. There are also steep slopes with loose bricks and stones, as is the case in many places on the Great Wall. The eastern (Mutianyu) side of Niujiaobian can be slippery. There is one tower where you must climb from the bottom floor to the top. You should find a pile of bricks in the tower to help with this. It's also possible to find your way around the tower.

From Zhengbeilou, you probably won't want to hike very far to the west as it becomes quite dangerous. Serious and experienced rock climbers may want to try, especially if they have some climbing equipment, but most would do best to avoid this area. If you want to head west from Zhengbeilou you should take the path back down to the road on the north side, walk west to the next road that goes off to the left (south), and then follow that road to a small parking area to the left, at the end of which there is a path back up to the low point at Jiankou.

Zhengbeilou viewed from the east

Location summary: Zhengbeilou is about 62 kilometers (39 miles) north of downtown Beijing. It is about 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) west of Mutianyu, about 0.7 kilometers (0.4 miles) east of Niujiaobian, and about 0.9 kilometers (0.6 miles) east of Jiankou pass. The path of the Great Wall from Zhengbeilou to Jiankou pass is about 1.1 kilometers (0.7 miles).

Driving directions: From Kaifang Road in the Huairou urban area, go north on G111 for about 7 kilometers (4.35 miles). Turn left onto the Fanqi Highway and continue north for about 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) to Lianhuachi. Continue past Lianhuachi for 10.7 kilometers (6.65 miles) to Badaohe village. Turn left and drive for about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). Turn left towards Qianzhazi village and drive to the end of the road.

How to reach Zhengbeilou

There are four basic ways to reach Zhengbeilou: via the Great Wall from the east (Mutianyu), via the Great Wall from the west (Jiankou), via trail from the south (Shun Tong trout farm at Zhenzhuquan near Wofo shan zhuang), and via trail from the north (Xizhazi).

To get to Zhengbeilou from Xizhazi (Xizhaxi 5 dui), turn right here. It’s a left turn coming from Qianzhazi (Xizhazi 1 dui).

Head down this road until it ends, and you will find the trail by walking in the general direction of the tower, which you can clearly see here. The trail is easy to follow. There are two branches and both times you take the right branch.

If approaching from the south side, go to the Shun Tong hong zun yu yang zhi zhong xin (shōng hzūn yǎng zhí hōng xīn, 順通虹尊魚养殖中心, Shun Tong rainbow trout farm center).

Go to the right of this sign and through the parking lot and turn right to get to Zhengbeilou (or left to take the lower path to Jiankou).

Follow this sign to Zhengbeilou. Note that the path is steep and requires some rock climbing. The approach from the north (Xizhazi) is much easier.

View of Jiankou from Zhengbeilou

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