It has been said that if you haven’t been to Walk the Great Wall from Beijing, then you have not truly been to China. Hiking the Great Wall should be on the “to-do” list of every traveler. It’s a truly rewarding experience that does not disappoint.
One of the best places to explore the Great Wall is from Beijing, as there are many sections of the wall one can easily get to in a day-trip from the city. The most popular section of the wall to visit is Badaling. It was the first section of the wall opened to tourists and is located only 70km from Beijing. However, the section has been heavily restored, and has been reported as being very commercialized and crowded. Regardless of the crowds and commercialization, it’s still the Great Wall.
Getting Some Fresh Air
A less popular section of the wall is the focus of this article, the Jinshanling and Simatai sections of the wall.
Jinshanling is one of the best preserved parts of the Great Wall with many of its original features still intact. Simatai is also well preserved and because of its steepness offers amazing photo opportunities. They are both fairly close to Beijing and typically not crowded. The best way to experience these sections to walk the Great Wall of China from Jinshanling to Simatai.
The hike between Jinshanling and Simatai is about 10.5km. If you’re of average fitness level, take a good amount of pictures and a lunch break, the hike should take about 5 hours. There are numerous tour companies offering this hike as part of a tour, and your hotel/hostel could probably arrange a trip as well, but why pay the extra money when you can do the hike easily on your own for less money.
Getting to Jinshanling
Start your day early and plan on this being an entire day’s activity. You’ll start at the Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station (东直门长途站) – on Subway lines 2 & 13. I’d recommend trying to get to the bus station by 8:00AM (if not earlier).
Bus No. 980 is the bus you will take to and from Beijing. The bus drops you off in Miyun County and the fare is 15RMB.
Warning: You may be the only person on the bus that gets off at the Miyun County stop. When I went, I was. It feels wrong, but this was the correct stop.
Once at Miyun, you can hire a taxi to bring you to the foot of Jinshanling. The price should be around 50-100RMB per car. If the price is much higher than this, please respectfully bargain.
Bargaining tip: If they’re recommending a large (unnecessary) van, see if they’ll take you in a smaller car for less.
Because you will actually be hiking through 2 different sections of the wall, you’ll need to pay admission fees for both Jinshanling and Simatai.
Jinshanling admission fee: 50RMB (Mar. 15 – Nov. 15); 40RM (Nov. 16 – Mar. 14)
Simatai admission fee: 40RMB
Upon arriving at Jinshanling via taxi, you’ll pay the admission fee immediately. The Simatai ticket, however, will be paid during the middle of the hike. You won’t realize you’re entering a new section, you’ll just suddenly be confronted with a person selling tickets. This is normal and not someone trying to rip you off .
Walking the Great Walk of China is gorgeous and full of innumerable amounts of photo opportunities. When you first step on to the wall, it will be difficult to put down your camera — try though, as you’ve got a long hike ahead! There will be plenty of great photo opportunities ahead.
The hike offers varied terrain. There will be a little bit of climbing at some points, walking over loose gravel, as well as through parts that have been completely restored. There will also be some serious uphill and downhill as well. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes!
Towards the end of the hike, you’ll reach a beautiful green reservoir. You’ll need to cross a bridge over the reservoir, which will cost another 5RMB per person. This is the beginning of the east section of Simatai.
Completing the Hike
Once you’ve crossed the bridge and entered the east section of Simatai, it’s time to begin thinking about how to get down to the Simatai parking lot.
Option 1: After crossing the reservoir, you’ll arrive to the 2nd watchtower. There, you’ll find a footpath back to the parking lot. This is the least expensive (but most tiresome) option.
Option 2: Also from the 2nd watchtower, there’s an exciting zip-line down to the parking lot. The zip-line runs 35RMB per person.
Option 3: If you’re up for it, you can continue climbing to the 8th watchtower after the reservoir, where there is a cable car to take you down to the parking lot. The cable car will cost 30RMB per person.
Option 4: If you’re really still full of energy, after reaching the 8th watchtower, you can climb 4 more watchtowers. However, there’s no way to get down to the parking lot from the 12th watchtower, so you’ll need to return back to the 8th watchtower and take the cable car.
Getting Back to Beijing
Once arriving to the Simatai parking lot, you can again hire a taxi back to Miyun county. The price should be around 50-100RMB per car again. Remember to politely bargain to reach a reasonable price.
Once back to Miyun county, you can finally relax on the same bus no. 980 back to Beijing’s Dongzhimen Long Distance bus station. Again the fare will be 15RMB to return.
- If neither of these sections seem interesting to you, you may also want to check out Juyongguan and Mutianyu. Both sections are also close enough to Beijing to see in a day-trip.
- Bring a backpack and pack it with water and snacks. The wall is deserted at most points and there are not many opportunities to buy food and water.
Final note: Just to set the argument straight, no you cannot see the Great Wall from space.
Note from the Editor: Reports are conflicting on whether portions of the hike mentioned here are open. Regardless of your chosen route, be sure to check with your travel agent, tour guide or local accommodation to confirm your plans before setting out to walk the Great Wall of China.