Hiking the Great Wall – Jiankou to Mutianyu

The Great Wall

You can’t visit Beijing and not go to The Great Wall! I mean, come on!
The question is, how much time do you have? And how much do you love crowds?

I’ve read a lot about how crowded some parts of the Wall are and decided to do the 4-5h hike from wild part to the restored part.
The hike started from the Jiankou – wild part of the wall to Mutianyu– the restored section.
That was the best decision ever!

For most of the hike I was all alone, no one was pushing me, the weather was great, and I could just enjoy the sights. The second I got to the restored part, I got hit with the crowds! And from the photos from some other travelers I met on the way, I can tell you, my crowds were nothing compared to some other parts.

So what is the deal with the wild part?

Well, it is semi-legal. On the one hand, many companies specialize in guided or self-guided tours, on the other, there is a huge sign saying you can’t climb that part. But don’t worry, couple meters later those signs got changed into “enjoy the sights, take only pictures.” That’s why I said it’s semi-legal. Also, no one will stop you. When I reached the restored part, there were guards, but they sold me a ticket to the renovated part and then directed to the 1.2m wall and told me to jump:D

The tour

As I mentioned before, you can organize it yourself, get a self-guided tour or guided one — many choices.
I went with a self-guided tour from Wild Great Wall.
I didn’t want to bother with getting there myself. I would need to take a bus from Beijing and then a taxi or another bus. And then I would need to hike for an hour to find a correct tower. Too many things that could go wrong and I was on a tight schedule.
However, it’s the cheapest option. A guy I met on the Wall did it and paid below 100 ¥. But he also departed from Beijing at 5.30 am and arrived at the same time as I did, at 10am.

In my case, the guy came to pick me up in my hotel at 7.30, drove me to the village and then hiked with me until the Wall 🙂 He was even kind enough and carried my heavy backpack up the hill. (He could see it will take me forever to get there otherwise. I promise I will hit the gym as soon as I’m back!!!)
Afterward, he waited for me at the bottom of the restored part. I was given a cell phone to call them if there would be any need so that they could assist me. Got also some water bottles. They were so nice that they printed the permit for my drone!! And even checked in which parts it’s legal to fly it! The owner was also really flexible in changing the day of the tour when I found out a day before I couldn’t make it! So yeah, I have just prizes for them (No they don’t pay me for writing this). The overall fun was 1100 ¥ but was entirely worth the comfort. It would have been cheaper if I was in a group, but I weren’t 🙂

Last option is to go with a guide. It’s, of course, the most expensive one. Especially for one person. I guess, it depends on what kind of person you are. I didn’t want to be restricted by anyone and take it in my own pace. Far away from crowds! But if you would prefer someone telling you stories while you walk, that’s an option for you. I got a comprehensive document about the history of the Wall to read in my spare time, so I did not feel like I was missing on anything.

The hike

The hike was not hard, except one part- Ox Horn Edge, where it was pretty steep. There is a choice to skip this part, but I felt adventurous 🙂 Plus, I had walking sticks which were the best item I brought on a wall except for my drone! Knee savers!

Worry not, even on the wild part of the wall you can still buy a beer or a t-shirt 🙂 As I said before, you are never truly alone in China.

The second you get to the restored part you will know it. Missing the crowds is hard. I was super glad I did the wild part because I was walking down most of the time. All the guys in the restored part had to hike up the stairs a lot! I was doing a victory dance in my heart because I could skip stairs up at least once:D Plus I got all the inquiring looks of “where the hell did you come from? Why are you jumping over the wall.”

Getting down

To get down from the wall there are three ways:

Hike down from tower 10. It takes a while, and after all that hiking, I did not feel like doing it.

Take a chairlift down. There are 2 chairlifts/cable cars at different towers( 6 – chairlift and 14 – cablecar). The towers have no signs or numbers. So have fun:D Don’t walk too much before you realize you are way off. There is a massive amount of stairs difference! You’ve been warned!

Take a toboggan. It is also located at tower 6, and is fantastic! There is nothing better than sliding down the hill after all that walking! Unless you are behind of veeeery scared Chinese person. But then you just have to wait a while before you can accelerate:D

Overall, I was in my hotel around 6-7pm. I will definitely do a similar hike again. It was an awesome day. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the pictures!


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