Great Wall Travel BlogToday is August 29, 2008, the first day on my 5-day trip to the Great Wall in Beijing covering the six sections of the Great Wall in Beijing - Badaling Great Wall, Juyongguan Pass Great Wall, Huanghuacheng Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall and Simatai Great Wall. Actually I follow a two-person small hiking group ( Mr. Julian and Mrs. Gaby ) from Britain organized by our own tour company. They are on a trip to China to celeberate their 20 years' wedding anniversary.
Badaling Great Wall Key Words:
Features: firm and magnificent, well preserved and original
Hiking Area: east and west sections
Hiking Time: 2 - 3 hours for each section
Hiking Level: biginner - intermediate
Distance: 80km from downtown Beijing
Cable car: available at the east section of the Great Wall
At 10:30am we start from their lodging hotel in downtown Beijig, it is raining and overcast. I'm a little worried about the visibility on the great wall. Our first Great Wall stop is Badaling Great Wall. Badaling Great Wall is about 80km north-west of Beijing. It is a 1.5-hour's smooth drive along the Badaling Highway. When we get to the Badaling Great Wall, there is no rain at all, but a little overcast. It is foggy and misty. So we expect to see the Great Wall in the mist. In summer, we do have a changeable weather.
Juyongguan Great Wall Key Words:
Features: spectacular pass, steep, slender and circular wall, less original
Hiking Area: east and west sections (two semicircles)
Hiking Time: 2 - 3 hours for each section (one semicircle )
Hiking Level: biginner-intermediate
Distance: 60km from the downtown Beijing
Cable car: not available
At 7:00am I get up and walk out of the courtyard hotel. Taking in the fresh air, I raise my head to look at the Great Wall up there in the slight mist.
I'm still excited that I'm now in a famous ancient Pass of the Great Wall in Beijing. The Juyongguan Pass is located in the valley sandwiched by the Jundu Mountains and the ending of the Taihang Mountains. It used to be a stronghold, difficult of access dating back to the Spring and Autumn, the Warring States period ( 5000-6000 years ago). Later the Pass was extended to be linked up with the Great Wall. The Pass we see today was planned by General Xuda and completed in the first year of the reign of the Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty ( 1368 ) and the years that followed, it was renovated again and again. The Great Wall around the Pass extends over 4 km snaking the ridge of the mountains forming the valley. The natural landscape surrounding the Pass is extremely beautiful.
Huanghuacheng Great Wall Key Words:
Features: wild, uncleared, original
Officially not permitted to hike (at the time of writing)
Hiking Area: Jintang Lake Sections and Huanghuacheng Reservoire Section
Hiking Time: 2 - 3 hours Hiking Level: intermediate Distance: 80km from the downtown Beijing Cable car: not available
After lunch, we go on with our 5-day Great Wall hike trip to our third stop - the Huanghuacheng Great Wall. The 40km mountain road drive takes 40 minutes from Changping County to the Jiuduhe Township where the main section of the Huanghuacheng Great Wall is located.
Actually the Huanghuacheng Great Wall is officially banned for the tourist hike either to protect the wild section of the Great Wall or prevent possible risk of hiking the uncleared section. This is the situation at the time of my writing. I'm sure it will be officially open to the public in due time. People tend to taste"a forbidden fruit". So still some brave tourists, led by local farmers or tour organizors, come to the Huanghuacheng Great Wall for a wild hike. Now it is a time for the Olympic Games. The local government poses strict control over the trek on the wild Great Wall. There are some public security guys on the Great Wall to wade off the potential tourists. So our aim for coming here is only focused on seeing the Huanghuacheng Great Wall instead of hiking.
Mutianyu Great Wall Key Words:
Features: natural landscape, green, smooth, towers at close intervals, well preserved and original
Hiking Area: 4-10 towers of the 20 towers on the wall
Hiking Time: 2 - 3 hours
Hiking Level: beginner
Distance: 85km from the downtown Beijing
Cable car, chairlift, speed slide: available
There are 20 towers on the Mutianyu Great Wall snaking the ridge for about 3000 meters. The watch towers at the Mutianyu Great Wall are distributed at short intervals. The 20 watch towers are numbered from right to left, or from east to west. The 20th tower is highest point of the Mutianyu Great Wall. In any Great Wall hike, it is good for your legs to hike up than to hike down. So we suggest you hike the Mutianyu Great Wall from the left to the right - from the east to the west. You have three ways of getting to the Great Wall:
1) Walking up the Great Wall along the stone steps (like a mountain hike - 40 minute hike ) - to the 10th Watch Tower
2) Taking a cable car up to the Great Wall -to the 14th Watch Tower
3) Taking a chairlift to the Great Wall - to the 6th Watch Tower
Hike from Jinshanling Great Wall to Simatai Great Wall:
Features: wild, ruined, preserved and original
Hiking Area: East Jinshanling and west Simatai ( 30 towers, 2 passes, 12 km)
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Hiking Level: intermediate
Cable car: available
The hike from the east Jinshanling Great Wall to the west Simatai Great Wall is the most challenging part of our 5-day Great Wall hike trip. During the 12-km hike, we will pass over 30 buildings (towers) - east Jinshanling 15 tower and west Simatai 15 towers, and two of the three passes on the Jinshanling Great Wall.
There is a cableway up to the Jinshanling Great Wall. If you take a cable car up, you will skip over 5 watch towers. I choose to climb up the mountain, so I can trek across 30 towers and 2 passes. I don't suggest you use the cable car since it is very slow and unnecessary. The fact is that it is very easy to walk up to the Great Wall.
Simatai Great Wall Key Words:
Features: ruined, precipitous, original, preserved
Hiking Area: east section 12 towers, west section 12 towers
Hiking Time: 2 - 3 hours for each section
Hiking Level: intermediate
Cable car: available
Distance: 140km from the downtown Beijing
After simple breakfast, we take a short break before we start our final trek on our 5-day Great Wall hike tour. Our last hike for this morning is focused on the east section of the Simatai Great Wall - 12 towers.
Actually there are totally 16 watch towers distributed on the Simatai Great Wall snaking the ridge of the steep mountain. The 13th-16th towers are forbidden to hike due to their steepness and treacherousness. If you don't have strong legs, you may take the cable car up to an open place close to the 8th tower ( White Cloud Tower ), then climb up or climb down the Great Wall, or again you may choose to take the cable car back to the ground. For most Simatai Great Wall lovers, people prefer to hike up the Great Wall, then take the cable car down.
Great Wall Hike FAQS:
Q:Which section of the Great Wall should I visit?
A:There are five sections of the Great Wall around Beijing which are officially opened to the public - Badaling Great Wall, Juyongguan Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall and Simatai Great Wall. The other three sections - Huanghuacheng, Jiankou and Gubeikou are not recommended due to safety reason.
Q: How far for each section of the Great Wall around Beijing?
Badaling: 80km northwest from Beijing, busy, popular, breathtaking veiw of the wall winding
Juyongguan: 60km northwest from Beijing, closest section, heavily renovated, steep
Mutianyu: 85km north of Beijing, green, wonderful scenery,
Simatai: 140km northeast of Beijing, rugged, steep and hazardous
Jinshanling: 160km northeast of Beijing, wild, rugged, steep and hazardous
Q: We are planning to be in Beijing in a couple of weeks and are interested in hiking 3 or more sections of the Great Wall. We are experienced hikers (but not mountain climbers!) Would we be able to hike and stay close to the wall in December or is this a time of the year when the hotels or accomodation near the wall are closed for the winter?
Are there sections of the wall that should not be hiked in winter? Or is road access to sections of the wall impassable or unsafe at this time of year due to snow or ice? What sections can be hiked in December?
Also are there any suggestions for clothing or equipment if we were interested in hiking at this time of the year. Looking forward to hearing from you and to hiking in your country. Thank you for responding to my questions. Valerie Ross.
A: The best season for the Great Wall hike falls between March and November. Winter Great Wall Hike is a bit challenging mainly due to the frozen weather in later December, January and early early February each year in Beijing.
But no matter how cold it is in Beijing, all the five officially opened sections of the Great Wall are open to the public - Badaling Great Wall, Juyongguan Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall and Simatai Great Wall.
The Great Wall hike is impossible only because the road access to sections is blocked due to the heavy snow. Beijing nowadays rarely snows. But if you plan to do the hike in winter, we do suggest you check the weather report.
Many of the inns and courtyard hotels are still open in winter by the Great Wall. It is freezing and windy on the Great Wall, you are advised to dress warmly - winter hat with ear flap, ear warmers, gloves, scarf, warm jackets and ther winter accessories.
Q: Can we take a cable car up to the Great Wall?
A: Yes, the cable car is optional. The cable car is available on Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling and Simatai. We suggest you hike up the Great Wall and take the cable car down the wall.
Q: Any tips on what dress to take for each of the seasons?
A: April, October, and Earlier November: long shorts, overcoat; May, June, July and August: Summer dress - many T-shirts shorts; December, January and early early February: winter hat with ear flap, ear warmers, gloves, scarf, warm jackets and ther Winter Accessories.
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