Nicholas Eager

How to Hike the Wild Great Wall of China

Last updated: 09 January 2023

Backpacking through China was an unforgettable experience. Compared to traveling in the United States, Europe, or even Hong Kong, China is an entirely separate world. The natural side of China is breathtaking. From East to West, China has so much to offer. The Great Wall is no exception. If you do it right, you can make it an adventure of your own. Just like any touristy area in another country, hostels have tours available. But these don't necessarily show the true, local side of a country. They would put you in a chartered van with other foreigners, give you lunch, take you to a place where everyone else goes, and basically do everything for you. And this isn't bad for everyone; I'm sure some people would rather enjoy the experience. But it's not for me. I wanted to plan everything on my own. By doing so, I believe I have more of an adventure, meet locals, and try to survive on my own in a totally new world.

wild great wall at sunrise


The Great Wall is long. There are parts that are well-preserved and maintained as tourist attractions, but there are also sections that are in disrepair and are not maintained by the government. These sections of the Great Wall are often referred to as the 'wild' or 'unmaintained' sections. There are many wild sections of the Great Wall, such as Jiankou, Huanghuacheng, Gubeikou, Jinshanling, and Simatai. This guide will take you to a section close to Jiankou, but the same principles can be applied to other sections.

Best Time to Go

The weather in China can vary significantly depending on the region and the time of year. Generally, the best time to hike the Great Wall is in the fall (September to November) or spring (March to May), when the weather is cooler and more comfortable for outdoor activities. The summer months (June to August) can be very hot and humid, while the winter months (December to February) can be cold and dry, with temperatures often dropping below freezing at night. The Great Wall is a popular tourist destination, and some sections can get very crowded, especially during peak season. If you want to avoid crowds, you may want to consider visiting during the off-season or midweek.


Click to use the map

To better view the map, see it in full-screen. Learn how to download the map for your own offline use by reading how I navigate on the trail.


Brief Itinerary

Phase Itinerary Distance / Elevation
1 Beijing to Xizhazi - / -
2 Round trip to Explore the Wild Wall
15 km
9 miles
/ -
3 Dinner in Xizhazi - / -
4 Hike from Xizhazi to Mutianyu
25 km
15 miles
/ -
5 Mutianyu to Beijing - / -

Detailed Itinerary

Phase 1: Beijing to Xizhazi
bus station timetable
h25 bus
inside a bus
leave nothing but footprints

You will start your trip off in Beijing. To get to Xizhazi, you can take a couple of buses, or a taxi. However, buses are always more prone to adventure. But you will have to navigate your way around by signs all in Chinese. Catch the first bus to Huairou, a city north of Beijing. Then you can take a local bus (H25) to Xizhazi. You will most likely be the only foreigner on the bus. This section of wall you will hike is not popular with foreign tourists. So, the only people on the bus were locals of the village. You can see the bus stations in the map. If you leave from Beijing early, you can hike during the first day. You can find a few guest houses in Xizhazi to spend the night.

Phase 2: Round trip to Explore the Wild Wall
(15 km / m)
(9 miles / 0 ft)
window in the wild great wall
person climbing the wild great wall
many people climbing the wild great wall
wild great wall
hikers on the wild great wall
people climbing the wild great wall

There are many beautiful and ancient sections of the wild wall, such as the Beijing Knot, the The Eagle Flies Facing Upward, and the Sky Stairs. Explore around to your heart's content and then head back to Xizhazi for a huge dinner and a good night's rest.

Phase 3: Dinner in Xizhazi
group dinner table
group of people eating dinner cheers

At our guest house, there was an enormous table, with an equally as large lazy-suzan. The table fit eleven people, and the lazy-suzan fit all of the food. In China, it is customary for everyone to share the food. From the rotating lazy-suzan. All of the dining utensils, including plates, bowls, chopsticks, and teacups were individually wrapped in plastic. Apparently, many Chinese restaurants outsource dishwashing, and the outsourced company returns the dishes wrapped. When the food actually came, I was stunned by the intoxicating aromas of so many dishes. I can't remember any of the names, but all of the flavors were so vivid. Except when I accidentally took a bite of fermented tofu. As a toast to new friends, we drank Chinese rice wine. Once finished, we rested up for our big hike tomorrow.

Phase 4: Hike from Xizhazi to Mutianyu
(25 km / m)
(15 miles / 0 ft)
looking over the wild great wall
two people walking on the great wall
eight people sitting on the great wall
group of people hiking the wild great wall
wild great wall climbing
side of the wild great wall

In the morning, have a quick breakfast before starting your journey. Mutianyu is the the touristy and restored section of the wall. Once you arrive, you'll see the difference. The wall is completely restored, and there are hoards of people. It might be nice to see if you'd like to understand the impact of tourism.

Phase 5: Mutianyu to Beijing

You can catch one of the frequent tourist bus back to Beijing. There are several bus companies that operate regular bus service between Mutianyu and Beijing. The journey takes about two hours, depending on traffic. You can purchase tickets at the bus station or online.

Useful Info

Finding a Guide

Once you arrive in Xizhazi, you can hire a local guide to take you to the Great Wall and help you navigate the unmaintained section. Going without a guide is more adventurous. But guides will know the best routes to take and can provide helpful information about the history and culture of the area. Although I went without one, I met a group along the way and I was so happy I did.


The wild sections can be more challenging to hike due to the rough terrain and lack of facilities. It is important to be well-prepared and to take necessary precautions when hiking on the unmaintained section of the Great Wall, such as wearing proper clothing and shoes, carrying enough food and water, and being aware of your surroundings.


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Safety Disclosure This travel guide is intended for educational purposes only. Readers are urged to conduct their due diligence, verify current conditions, and research the most recent information independently. Conditions along trails and relevant details may change, necessitating the confirmation of accurate and updated information from reliable sources or local authorities before undertaking any travel or outdoor activities.

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