It was only a few months ago that I was standing on The Great Wall of China, looking out at the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen, and already it feels like it never happened. Hiking The Great Wall of China is something I have wanted to do since I can remember, but in a ‘that’ll never happen‘ kind of way. In what world was I ever going to find myself in China, let alone at one of the wonders of the world?

After a couple of well needed days to get settled into navigating Beijing, especially after my not so successful arrival, we headed off to meet Beijing Hikers – the tour company we chose to go with. The Middle Route of Switchback Great Wall is an easier version of one of their hikes. Still quite difficult due to some very steep sections but not long enough for them to class as difficult.  For price of 420¥ (£48) we were provided with transport from Beijing, bottled water, snacks, hiking gear as well as the beautiful meal that was waiting for us at the end of our trek.

Hike statistics
  • Distance: 7.5km
  • Time to complete: 3–4 hours
  • Total ascent: 414m
  • Total descent: 420m
  • Start height: 682m
  • Peak: 1,036m
  • Finish height: 686m
  • Location: Yanqing
  • Drive time: 2 hours each way

In keeping with my apparent trend of messing up everything, the beginning of our day did not go smoothly. We left our couchsurfers flat in plenty of time and headed straight to the meeting point (ish). We arrived about an hour early so headed to Starbucks for a pick me up and a snack. As we went out to wait we realised the street was pretty much empty and it was very likely we were in the wrong place. A very nice lady directed us to the correct road, parallel to where we were, and we found a long strip of about 30 coaches. Now just to find the right one (spoiler: we didn’t)

We eventually got in touch with the tour company only to be told they had already left, but there was a second meeting place and that they would wait for us if we could get there in time. So we jumped a taxi over to the Lido Hotel and in the end were – technically– only 5 minutes late.

hiking the great wall of china

Okay, I’m not as fit as I thought

The guides staggered themselves throughout the group. One at the front middle and back, marking the trail with little red flags to avoid anyone getting lost. The beginning of the trail was a slow climb through a winding valley before we reached The Great Wall. Eager Chiera was right up front marching away untill about 5 minutes in and I could no longer breathe. I eventually had to stop and let people pass!

I could hear people around me chatting and socialising but I was just focused on not keeling over. Once we made it to the wall we all stopped for a short break. This allowed me to regain my composure and finally introduce myself!

hiking the great wall of chinahiking the great wall of china

Perfect Time to Discover your Fear of Heights

This stretch of Great Wall in Yanqing County is extremely picturesque and seldom visited. We didn’t pass anyone else on the trail that wasn’t from our group! We made it to the highest point of the hike, The Generals Tower, about an hour and a half in. It was here, believe it or not, that I discovered I have a pretty severe fear of heights. If you climb up to the top of the tower you can see stunning 360° views of the amazing Yanquing County landscape. Of course, I climbed up and couldn’t seem to get back down. Every time someone walked past me to see the view I wanted to scream at them for ALMOST PUSHING ME OVER THE EDGE but had to refrain.

hiking the great wall of china hiking the great wall of china

After the General’s Tower, the hike got much easier. It was mostly downhill after that, though still very steep. Given the fact that the stairs were over 500 years old, the footing was a tad precarious. I clung to that wall for dear life!

hiking the great wall of china hiking the great wall of china As I started to relax I was able to chat to the other travellers more and met some really nice people, two of which were young solo female travellers – my gals – and really started to appreciate where I was. I was hiking The Great Wall of China!! This is not something that I ever thought I was going to experience and I’m here worried about slipping on a rock?

An Experience I’ll Never Forget

We stopped for another break just before we left The Great Wall to make our way back down the valley. It was a nice moment to just take in what I had just done. To look out at the green, jagged landscape and think “Fuck! I’m in China!”

As I didn’t read the website properly before booking, the meal at the end was a lovely surprise. Bearing in mind this was only my 2nd day in China. Being sat down in front of a spinning table full of food I couldn’t identify, armed only with a pair of chopsticks, was daunting to say the least. But there was also beer, and good people, and the food was actually amazing. And I hardly dropped anything!

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Hiking The Great Wall of China is by far one of the best experiences of my life. It wasnt easy, but Beijing Hikers made it seemless and so much fun

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43 thoughts on “Hiking The Great Wall of China”

  1. The landscape surrounding the Great Wall looks so photogenic! I think with hiking it’s always worth remembering that it’s a test of stamina, not speed. (Plus, going at a moderate pace rather than at breakneck speed means you can appreciate the views more as you hike!) Just incredible to see the wall stretching on and on, all the way to the horizon – and to think it’s hundreds of years old to boot and still in use.

  2. It sounds like you’ve had an incredible experience hiking that part of the Great Wall. I hope to visit it once as well, also, your photos are stunning!

  3. Your photos are absolutely beautiful! This has always been a dream of mine since watching The Amazing Panda Adventure as a kid (if you haven’t seen it, you should!). Thanks for encouraging me to give it a go, might have to book flights soon. 😉

  4. What an amazing experience! That ascent (and descent) sounds brutal, but at least there was beer and food waiting at the end!

  5. I didn’t realise they did half day hikes?! Definitely would have opted for that rather than what I did (take a bus, walk up, look at the views, walk back down, get on the bus again) had I known! Although I forget how much I hate hiking until I actually start hike, then I curse the views, the mountains, my companions, myself…
    I don’t understand how people can hike routes like this and chat away with each other as they go, making it seem like a walk in the part. I think I’m a bit like you – I basically keel over at the first sign of a hill.

    1. Yeah, I don’t know if I could have stomached any longer. I met a guy who spent a week on the wall! Intense. I love hiking, but only after the fact. The whole ordeal itself is very stressful and exhausting. I am definitely a silent hiker, I can’t say much more than the occaisonal ‘Dammit’ after tripping for the 1000th time!
      We seem to have a very similar approach to it!

  6. Wow! What an amazing adventure you went on! I’m sorry you were frightened, but I you took some amazing photos, and this seems like something worth conquering your fears for! #farawayfiles

  7. I think if I were to make it here, I would also hike the portion that seldom sees tourists. I’ve seen pictures of how crazy full it can get. Good thing you made the second group in time! #FarawayFiles

  8. What an amazing experience, Chiera. I hadn’t appreciated you could hike to the Great Wall and now, of course, I’m desperate to do it! I’d have been the same as you – wanting to prove myself by starting off at the beginning, then having to knuckle down and get properly into the groove. You’ve really inspired me today. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  9. I would love to do this but I know my fitness levels and mobility issues would make it hard for some of those sections, even though they are short. But wow, what an incredible experience!

  10. I really want to visit the Great Wall of China, but away from all the tourists, so I think this is a great way to do so 🙂 Thanks for the tips and inside info.

  11. I loved visiting the Great Wall, but I was there in the winter when it was freezing. Would love to go back and spend more time doing a hike like these. Seems like you found a great deal on the tour.

  12. Well done Chiera. I haven’t researched visiting the Great Wall but I’ll be sure to remember this option when I do. I much prefer a gentle amble and wander as a general rule but would make an exception for an experience like this. Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  13. Views look incredible and such an amazing experience to have done despite all the set backs. You hear stories of people going and it being awful with too many crowds but this sounds a great tour without all that.

  14. Whoa, this sounds like a really fun thing to do. I’ve gone to the Great Wall before I definitely want to try this now! How often does this Beijing hiking group meet?

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