Hiking the Great Wall of China 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 I went on a guided tour, the second time I opted out of a tour and forged it myself. If you’ve ever traveled to China, you know that it can be intimidating with the language barrier. Don’t let that deter you as the reward is far greater than the struggle.
Which Section of the Wall should I Visit?
The Great Wall of China is great for a reason, its huge and there are several different sections to choose from. We chose the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall which is 40 miles north of Beijing city center. This part of the wall starts refurbished and after a couple miles of hiking turns into a ‘wild’ section. Meaning no restoration as been done and you get a real feel of what the wall was like. With Mutianyu you get miles of restored wall without the crowds and also the unrestored part with hardly anyone around. This gives you the best of both worlds and is slightly less crowded, which is why we chose this section. For more sections take a look here.
The easiest way to get there would be to take a cab or an Uber. The Uber of China is called a DiDi. A DiDi is cheaper than a cab and organizing it through the app is easy and it doubles as a translator. We used this app frequently as we traveled around because we were able to communicate with our driver through the app eliminating the language barrier. You type in your destination or something you wanted to say to the driver and the app would translate it into mandarin for you. Voila, no getting lost in China for you! The driver will drop you 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. My boyfriend and I split a DiDi with another couple and it cost us 130 RMB per person round trip! *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.
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.
Getting Up to the Wall
Walk to the ticket office and buy your ticket. You have the option of only ‘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 bought ‘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.
On The Wall
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.
On this particular day we got rained out before we made it back off the wall. We waited out the storm in an old watch tower and ate some snacks and drank a victory beer. Since we weren’t on a guided tour we had nothing but time, an experience we wouldn’t of had if we were with a tour group. Once the storm blew over, we continued the hike and 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 of China looking from side to side and not seeing anyone but your friends around was priceless.