Hiking the Great Wall is probably on everyones bucket list. I know it was on mine and I’ve been blessed enough to have done it…TWICE! The first time I hiked it was 10 years ago back in 2008 and I went on a guided tour. I must say, that experience has been a highlight of my travel career until this time around as I topped it!
This time when I hiked the Great Wall I did not go on a guided tour but found my own transportation there, which gave me the ability to do whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to catch a bus at a certain time or eat at the one restaurant that they took you to. It seems a bit intimidating at first to try it yourself but trust me when you do, it’ll be the best decision you’ll make that day.
I went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall about 40 miles north of Beijing city center or about an hour and half ride. I used the ride share app DiDi, which is China’s version of Uber. *Just a side note in order to be able to use DiDi you must have a phone with service, either an international plan or buy a Chinese sim card that costs about $15-$20. Anyways use the app and the driver will drop you right off at Mutianyu where the tour buses would. Plus since you’re using the app you don’t have to worry about the driver inflating the prices or having a misunderstanding of where your’e going cause its all done electronically through the app. Walk to the ticket office and buy your ticket. You have the option of just ‘the wall admission’ which is 60 RMB or the ‘wall/cable car combo’ which adds another 120 RMB if you’re riding it round trip.
Depending on how good of shape you are in will depend on which ticket you buy because the hike up to the wall is pretty strenuous. I obviously bought only ‘the wall’ ticket because I’m that one friend who always says, “we can walk there!” It took about a half hour of straight uphill steps to get to the wall but it beat waiting in line for the cable car for two hours and I always enjoy a good sweat. Mutianyu Great Wall is one of the best preserved and best-know Great Wall sections. Compared to the popular Badaling section, Mutianyu is a bit steeper, thus less crowded making it the obvious part to visit.
Once you’ve reached the top of the wall you can go left or right, head left towards the signs of the cable car. You can hike for miles up the steep steps of the Great Wall and the views are out of this world. If you keep hiking you’ll hit the part where the Great Wall starts to become unrestored. It is “blocked” but you can easily hop over the “blockage” and continue walking on the rundown part. With Mutianyu you get miles of restored wall without the crowds and also the unrestored part with hardly anyone around. The group that I was with and I got rained out before we made it back off the wall. Since we weren’t on a tour schedule, we were able to wait out the storm in an old watch tower for about a half hour or so.
Once the storm blew over and we continued the hike, we had the wall all to ourselves! To date this is one of my most memorable travel moments! The feeling of standing on the Great Wall looking from side to side and not seeing anyone but your friends around was priceless.
If you’re on a budget use these travel tips to keep the price down:
- Share the DiDi ride with someone or someones. I split the ride with my boyfriend and another couple costings us only 130 RMB per person round trip!
- Take public transportation to and from the wall. Starting from Dongzhimen Bus Station take the 916 express bus to the Huairou North Avenue Station. It takes about 60-70 minutes. Then transfer to bus line h23, h24, h35, or h36 to Mutianyu roundabout.
- Only buy the ticket to access the Great Wall and hike up.
- Also bring plenty of water, snacks, and a victory beer!
Drop me a comment and Aloha!