TIPS FOR HIKING THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

Hiking the Great Wall of China makes itself on many peoples bucket lists and for good reason. At 21,196.18 kmThe Great Wall of China is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the world. As a Wonder of the World, the Great Wall is visited by thousands every year and is starting to become a top choice for those exploring Asia.

In this guide, I will be sharing tips for hiking the Great Wall of China; we will look at the sections of the wall you can visit and hike, how easy or hard those sections are, how to get to each section, where you can stay on the great wall and some general tips for visiting the Great Wall from Beijing.

If we haven’t met before, my name is Katie and my husband and I live in a city called Tianjin – just 30 minutes outside of Beijing. We love China and all it has to offer which is why we choose to share our experience and knowledge of this incredible country. If you want to learn more about China, why not subscribe to our newsletter to receive free tips and travel guides for visiting and living in China.

Can you hike the Great Wall of China?

Of course, you can hike the Great Wall of China and the best part is – there are so many options for you to choose from depending on your time restrictions, fitness levels and needs. For those looking for a challenging and exhilarating hike, there are sections that are perfect for you! For those that want to see the wall and walk along the wall but perhaps don’t or can’t hike the steep and demanding climbs of the wall, that is fine too – the Great Wall offers incredible convenience for all times of travellers.

The Sections of the Great Wall 

Badaling

The most popular Great Wall section among Chinese tourists and often incredibly busy is Badaling. A 2-hour drive away from Beijing, this section of the wall includes cable cars to and from the Wall, a Great Wall Museum, a circular-screen cinema and some wheelchair access.

Most tour groups visit Badaling because it is the most completed and best-preserved section of the wall. Compared to other sections of the wall, this is by far the easiest – the stairs aren’t steep and have handrails to assist you, making the climb relatively simple. It is also easier to reach by public transport than other sections of the wall.

Cable car: You can get a cable car to the wall itself instead of walking up to the walk. This section is separated into two sections and cable cars are available in both sections, taking you from the parking lot/entrance to the wall and back again. From the north section, you can also get a Pulley up the mountain but this is not recommended for children or seniors. Round trips cost 140 RMB in a cable car and 100 RMB for the Pulley ride.

  • Distance: 7.5 miles
  • Getting there: There a few ways to get to the Badaling Great Wall from Beijing.

Bus 877 – Take subway line 2 to Jishuitan subway station and walk to Deshengmen. The bus is non-stop and takes around an hour. It costs 12 RMB and drops you near the Pulley car lower station. The last bus from Deshengmen leaves at 12.30pm. The last bus back leaves at 4.30pm.

Tourist bus line 1 – This is a slightly more comfortable bus and leaves from Qianmen Arrow Tower near Tiananmen Square. It runs from 5 am to 11 am, with buses leaving every 30 minutes. These buses take longer because of their departure from the city centre – the duration is around 1.5 hours. It costs 20 RMB per person and a tour guide is on the bus.

Private car/taxi/Didi – a private car can be arranged from your hotel, normally costing around 600 RMB. If you are staying in China for a while or you are living in China, download the Didi app and a driver can be arranged via this app. Read our post on apps you will need when in China to make your trip even easier.

  • Why: This is an easy Great Wall Hike, with good accessibility and great views. Try to visit on a weekday and avoid national holidays or summer holidays as this section is the busiest and most visited section of the Great Wall.
  • Badaling Great Wall of China Entrance Fee: 40 RMB (Apr 1 – Oct 31), 35 RMB (Nov 1 – Mar 31).
  • Where to stay: Delight Inn, The Great Wall Courtyard Hostel or Badaling Guest House.
  • Where to eat: Mcdonalds, KFC, Yonghe King, Great Wall Commune Restaurant and Jindian Friendship Resturant.

Mutianyu

Badaling maybe popular with local tourists but Mutianyu is popular with foreign travellers. It is the most resorted section of the Great Wall and is perfect for Great Wall of China holidays because of the nearby hotels and the Great Wall of China attractions.

The Mutianyu section is 1.5 hours drive from Beijing and similarly to Badaling, it offers cable cars up and down the mountain. There are many watchtowers along this section of the Great Wall that with styles that are unique to the wall.

The Mutianyu Village isn’t too far from the entrance, making an interesting stop on your Great Wall of China trip.

Cable car: If you don’t fancy climbing the 4000+ steps to the wall itself, then you are in luck as this section has lots of options for you. You can choose to take a two-person chairlift or a cable car both ways or, for those looking for a bit of fun, you can even get on a toboggan down the mountain.

  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Getting there: Again, there are a few different options.

From Beijing, you need to get to Dongzhimen Bus Station – there are many buses that can take you here or you can catch subway line 2 or 13. From the station, you can catch the bus line 916 Express for 12 RMB – this bus will get you to Mutianyu in 60-70 minutes.

Private car/taxi/Didi – a private car can be arranged from your hotel, normally costing around 700 RMB. If you are staying in China for a while or you are living in China, download the Didi app and a driver can be arranged via this app. Read our post on apps you will need when in China to make your trip even easier.

Because of the location, you may prefer to either take an organised tour or hire a driver for your trip.

  • Why: This hike again, is a fairly easy hike. There are some steep sections of the walk but the steps have smooth and restored. The scenery around the wall is arguably the best you will find along the Great Wall of China.
  • Mutianyu Great Wall of China Entrance Fee: 40 RMB
  • Where to stay: Hejia Yard Beijing and Brickyard retreat – great for couples!
  • Where to eat: Subway, Xinshuangquan Restaurant, local hotels all have restaurants attached and are pretty good and often very cheap.

Note: To walk from Mutianyu to Jiankou, the journey will take around 5-6 hours. However, Jiakou is a harder walk so we suggest you walk from Jiankou to Mutianyu. 

Jiankou

Jiankou is a completely wild section of the Wall, offering the original Great Wall, with steep and challenging climbs – also known as the most dangerous section of the Great Wall. For those that love a challenging hike, this is for you. This section is particularly popular with photographers because of its stunning greenery and wild nature.

  • Distance: 12 miles – there are some great places to stay along this section of the wall, so you can explore the wall fully at your own leisure.
  • Getting there: Again, there are a few different options.

There are no cable cars or means of accessing the wall other than hiking, which you can do from Xishanzi village or Wofo Mountain Villa. To get to these locations, you need to catch bus 936 from Dongzhimen Wai Station. Get off as Yujiayuan Station then, for Xizhazi village, get the H25 bus or catch bus H26 to Xinying Station and walk to Mountain Village.

  • Why: This hike is for those serious about hiking. Proper hiking boots are essential and a walking stick is advised but it is worth it because not only are the views stunning but you have parts of the Great Wall of China all to yourself!
  • Jiankou Great Wall of China Entrance Fee: 45 RMB
  • Where to stay: Head to Xishanzi village and use the village as a base.
  • Where to eat: Stock up on snacks from the village and use the hotels and guest homes for food during your visit.

Jinshanling

Jinshanling is a popular for Great Wall hike for those that love to hike but don’t want the tough challenge of Jinakou. This section of the wall is half restored and half wild yet still offers an experience to see the beautiful nature and views available. This section is 2-3 hours’ drive from Beijing and a cable car is available to transport you to the wall.

Jiankou is a completely wild section of the Wall, offering the original Great Wall, with steep and challenging climbs – also known as the most dangerous section of the Great Wall. For those that love a challenging hike, this is for you. This section is particularly popular with photographers because of its stunning greenery and wild nature.

  • Distance: 80 miles
  • Getting there: This section has a great bus route. You can take a direct bus from Wanjing West Station in Beijing directing to the ticket office. These 2 hour direct buses have the following pick up and return times:

Pick up: 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:30 pm.

Return: 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 3:00 pm

  • Why: Great for those who love hiking and want some challenge. Again, this section is popular with photographers.
  • Jinshanling Great Wall of China Entrance Fee: 65 RMB
  • Where to stay: For 150 RMB, you can camp in a campsite at the foot of the mountain – a popular choice for many, especially in the summer months. AVOID November through to March; it is bitterly cold.
  • Where to eat: There are a collection of restaurants near the ticket office, serving some fantastic Chinese local foods. One of our favourites is the Jinshan Restaurant just outside the ticket gate.

Note: A hiking route that is recommended is the 4-hour walk along the Great Wall from Jinshanling to Simatai. 

Simatai

Representing all the greatness of the Great Wall, this section of the Great Wall of China from Beijing is 2-3 hours’ drive. The Simatai section offers steep hikes alongside built up architectural towers. This section became a World Heritage Site in 1987 and is just stunning in the Autumn. Cable cars, battery cars and zip-lines are all offered to transport you to and from the Wall, making it accessible for all. It gains moderate levels of tourists and is the only section of the wall that you can visit at night. Near the wall is the Gubei Water Town; giving visitors an opportunity to visit a gorgeous water town during their visit to the Great Wall of China.

Note: Because of some of the wall damage, tourist numbers are limited for each hour. You can head to the website to reserve a time slot for the day you intend to visit.

  • Distance: 3.4 miles
  • Getting there: You can take a tourist bus from Dongzhiment to Gubei Water Town directly – the water town is the entrance to the wall. The bus takes 2 hours and costs 48 RMB. If you don’t wish to visit the water town, you can change to a minibus that will take you straight through to the ticket office.
  • Why: Great for those looking to make a day out of visiting the water town and wall. The walk itself is fairly easy, with a few challenging climbs but walkers can save energy by taking the cable car to the top.
  • Simatai Great Wall of China Entrance Fee: 40 RMB
  • Where to stay: There are a selection of good hotels in Gubei Water Town such as the Chengtao Xiaozhu Folk Inn or the Dhawa Jinshanling Hotel.
  • Where to eat: There are a collection of restaurants near the ticket office, serving some fantastic Chinese local foods. One of our favourites is the Jinshan Restaurant just outside the ticket gate.

Other sections to visit

Above are the main sections of the Great Wall of China but there are a few others that a rarely visited but are interesting places to visit during your time in China – ideal for those that want to experience and see the whole Great Wall of China.

  • Huanghuacheng – This section is one of my favourites because it is so picturesque. It is the only section near Beijing that is by a lake – you can take a boat along the Great Wall to see it from a different view. It is also not far from Tianjin, the city I live in.
  • Gubeikou – This area has never been reconstructed, making it very difficult to walk along. Because of previous battles many many years ago, some of the Wall isn’t standing in its entirety but this section does give you a real sense of how old and strong this Great Wall once was.
  • Panlongshan – This section is near Gubeikou and makes for great photographs. Here you can find a broken watchtower that is fascinating. You can walk to this section from Gubeikou but be careful – this hike of the Great Wall of China requires a lot of energy; the path is uneven and fallen away in some parts.
  • Shanhaiguan – This section is often overlooked because of its distance from Beijing. From Beijing South Station, you can get a speed train to Shanhaiguan Statin, taking around 2.5 – 3 hours. The entrance is a short walk from the station. This section is referred to as the “First Pass Under Heaven” because it is the First Pass of the Great Wall of China in the East and is surrounded by beautifully restored Drum and Bell towers and offers a great insight into Chinese history.
  • Laolongtou – For this section of the wall, it is best to stay in the seaside town of Qinhuangdao; this is the section of the Great Wall that meets the sea. Similar to Shanhaiguan, here you can see temples and towers around the Wall too, plus Qinhuangdao offers a lovely seaside to enjoy on a warm spring day.

BEST TIME TO VISIT?

Those photographic shots and your experience of the Great Wall will change with the seasons but I suggest spring or autumn to visit the Wall. This means that the weather is fairly sunny and the sky is clear without the heat and tourists that arrive from June to August. April and September are great times to visit because it is warm but not too hot and the sky is clear.

AVOID the National Holidays in China:

Golden Week: First week of October

Chinese New Year

May Day (1st-2nd May)

We recommend getting a private driver to take you to and from the Great Wall section of your choice, meaning you can leave as early as 6am to beat the crowds of tour buses that arrive between 9am-10am.

WHAT TO WEAR?

Layers are important for most trips, particularly for the Great Wall. Because of the height you are climbing up, the temperature maybe fairly warm at the base but rather chilly as you head higher up. Bring a cardigan or jacket to stay warm during your visit. Wear comfortable shoes, as the wall can be steep with some areas being uneven. Trainers are perfect for your trip to the Great Wall.

The air around the Great Wall of China is fairly dry throughout the year so pop on some moisturiser before your trip to avoid drying up your skin.

FOOD AND DRINK

Some areas of the wall offer food and drink stalls and even restaurants at the base of the wall. However, make sure you bring a bottle of water and perhaps a snack or two for your time on the wall as some hikes can be 2-3 hours and keeping hydrating is essential.

Recommended tours

Depending on how long you have in China, you may choose to hike sections over a few days or stay in a hotel near the Wall itself. However, most visitors seeing the Great Wall opt for a tour – perhaps the easiest and most convenient way to see the wall. If you are travelling by yourself or as a couple, it often works out cheaper to opt for a tour than a driver.

So, these are some of our favourite tours to take that either we have taken or friends that live with us China have taken.

Resources for visiting China:

Have you visited the Great Wall? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

Romantic Budget Hotels Click The Image Below to Pin
Great Wall of China
Romantic Budget Hotels Click The Image Above to Pin
Romantic Budget Hotels Click The Image Below to Pin
Hiking the Great Wall of China
Romantic Budget Hotels Click The Image Above to Pin
Romantic Budget Hotels Click The Image Below to Pin
Hiking the Great Wall of China
Romantic Budget Hotels Click The Image Above to Pin
Showing 35 comments
  • Anisa
    Reply

    I was just blown away by my visit to the Great Wall, so agree this is something everything must do. I did it 12 years ago and it was part of a day tour so I actually am not sure what part we went to. It was the winter and we climbed the steps. The views were amazing but it was freezing. I would love to go back and explore more.

    • Makaila
      Reply

      An inglleitent point of view, well expressed! Thanks!

  • Katie @ The Budget Backpack
    Reply

    I wish this had existed when I visited! Other than trainers, I think I was super unprepared (probably partially because China was my first major trip). The snack/hydration tip is huge!

  • Mihaela
    Reply

    This was also a bucket list for me and it came true 5 years ago! good post and love the creative tips!!!

  • elisa martinez
    Reply

    Great to know! Been on my bucketlist for awhile, just didnt know whens the right time to go. Glad you shared!

  • Diana - MVMT Blog
    Reply

    I haven’t been to the Great Wall since April 2008, and your post makes me want to visit again! The weather was great in April, and I’d definitely recommend that as a time to go. We went with family, which included our elderly grandparents, so we didn’t end up doing much hiking there, but I would love to go back and hike as much of the wall as I can. Great photos 🙂

  • CHERENE SARADAR
    Reply

    I was looking for information just like this. I definitely plan to visit sometime in next couple years. I hate crowds so finding a more wild section sounds great. Thanks for all the great tips!!! Bookmarking this and will pin it!

    • Katie
      Reply

      Thanks so much Cherene!

  • Goni
    Reply

    Great resource! The great wall is definitely on my bucket list, love your advice to know when and where to go. Will use this to plan my trip there. Thanks!

  • Zoe
    Reply

    Great post! The Great Wall is on my bucket list for when I go to China and this guide will come in really useful! I love all the info about the different sections of the wall 🙂

  • Daphne from Girlswanderlust
    Reply

    I have never visited the Great Wall of China, but would love to do it one day! I will follow your advice and visit the wall around spring time. The cable car to mutianyu looks fun!

  • Noemi of Pinay Flying High
    Reply

    This is a great post! I’ve seen quite a few photos of the Great Wall with soooo many people on it. It’s very rare that I see photos like the ones you’ve posted. Lol.

    I didn’t know that you have to wear layers as it’s going to be cold from up there but it does make sense. 🙂

    • Katie
      Reply

      Hey Noemi, yeah we were fortunate it was fairly quiet. We arranged a private driver from our hotel and left at 7am to beat the tourist. By 11/12ish, it began to get busier.

  • Reply

    I love the tips you’ve included! I visited the Great Wall over a decade ago (I was 9?) so I barely remember the logistics behind it all… Been thinking about going back and seeing it as an adult so this will definitely be very useful 😀

    Thanks for including the different sections of the wall as well! Brilliant.

    • Katie
      Reply

      Hey Caroline, the different sections offer such a varied experience of The Great Wall – I am determined to see all the sections!

  • Lydia@LifeUntraveled
    Reply

    Thanks for sharing the different parts of the wall to visit. I wouldn’t want to go where there are hoards of tourists. Hope to make it there one day though!

  • Marli
    Reply

    Thanks, this is super helpful. Any suggestions for a private English speaking driver/ guide? Also what should the price range for this be?

    • Katie
      Reply

      Hi Marli, we spoke to our hotel (Courtyard 7) about a private driver and they arranged a great deal for us – leaving at whatever time we want! I would suggest you wait until you get to Beijing and ask around at your hotel or nearby hotel/hostels. Failing that, you can always check out Viator tours?

  • Reply

    A lot of good information. I didn’t know that there were so many sections to start from, thanks for sharing.

    • Katie
      Reply

      Yeah there are some great spots, my aim is to see them all one day!

  • Suz
    Reply

    I walked Jinshaling to Simatai in 2002. It was wild and felt remote. Would love to return now, but not sure if it will have the same feel as it sounds busier and more commercial than when we were there…

  • Rebecca
    Reply

    Great post, very informative! I visited the Jinshanling section of the wall in September and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

  • Suewherewhywhat
    Reply

    Really useful post – Great Wall is on my list so this will be invaluable. Thank you for sharing!

  • shakil
    Reply

    Oh my gosh, so many interesting facts here. wow, such a stunning place & you photograph it so well. Thanks for the creative post!

  • Natalee
    Reply

    Great tips! Is it 600RMB one way to the wall? Or would that be round trip?
    .

    • Katie
      Reply

      That’s a roundtrip!

pingbacks / trackbacks
  • […] ourselves retelling stories of our time around the world. But we aren’t talking about Angkor Wat, climbing the Great Wall or walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. We are talking about the little things, like the […]

  • […] 50. The Great Wall in China: I’ve heard reviews that actually visiting the wall is a bit hokey and crowded, depending on where you see it. And I gotta admit, I’m not super into giant walls right now. But how can you love Mulan as much as I do and not see it at some point, right? More: The Great Wall of China: Travel Tips, Best Sections and Times to Visit […]

  • […] to the north and explore the capital of Beijing, with it’s Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of heaven and every unusual insect you can think of on a stick. Or pop on a […]

  • […] There are several spots around Beijing that offer different perspectives of the Great Wall. From the fully restored Mutianyu to the wild and challenging Jiankou, check out the different options for those wanted to experience the Great Wall of China. We wrote a post about the best way to visit the great wall >> Everything you need to know about visiting the Great Wall of China. […]

  • […] Courtyard 7 private room $56 Breakfast: Snacks we had purchased the day before Great Wall Private tour including entrance: $65 Lunch: Subway at the Great Wall $4.50 per person Bar: 2 beers and 2 wines […]

  • […] travel and some of their destinations are probably on your list as well.  The forbidden city and the Chinese wall are just a few of them.  The Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) is also popular with Chinese.  As a […]

  • […] Spend time with the adorable pandas in Chengdu, take a cruise along the Yangzte River together, visit the Great Wall and even head to the seaside in Qingdao; home to China’s most popular bear Tsing Tao – you can […]

  • […] good reason. However, did you know there are several sections to the Great Wall? We wrote a full guide to visiting the Great Wall, which talks you through each of the sections, how to get there and what prices to expect. […]

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Us

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search

Jet boat Niagara Falls