The Badaling Great Wall is maybe the most famous part of the Great Wall, and it’s almost certainly the most visited. What we’ll see on this visit is the formidable look of top level Ming Dynasty-era Great Wall, originally built in the 1500s, and repaired before opening for tourism in 1957.
This won’t be a long hike – just about 7km – but we’ll be on the Great Wall for about 5km of that, and the steep stairs and climbs will burn some calories for sure.
Isn’t this a really touristy section of Great Wall?
Yes, it is. But!
This winter gives an opportunity to add this part of the Great Wall to your collection without experiencing extreme crowding. Normally there are fewer visitors in winter due to the cold, and this winter, the restrictions on entry to Beijing should mean there are not as many tour groups visiting. (We did a scouting trip here, and while it wasn’t empty, it certainly wasn’t packed like you’ve seen in the photos taken during national holidays.)
Why would you want to visit the Badaling Great Wall?
- Add the Badaling Great Wall to the list of Great Wall hikes you’ve done while here in Beijing
- Great chance to walk the most famous part of the Great Wall while it’s not likely to be crowded
- Add your footprints to the most visited part of the Great Wall
- Explore the towers further along the northern section—you might miss these on a regular tourist visit
We’ll start with a walk through an old fortified village a short distance outside the Great Wall. The walls of the fort have been partially repaired, and it looks like this would be a shopping stop during peak season—there are little stalls and guesthouses within the walls.
We’ll continue our warm up by walking along a closed road and passing through several tunnels on the way to the main part of the Badaling Great Wall. On the way to the big gate and the ticket office we’ll go by the train station and through a fairly strict security check. (Leave the lighters and pocket knives at home please.)
The Great Wall here has a south section and a north section. On our scouting trip we took a look at both ends to see if there might be a way to hike out or in—no such luck. What we found was fences, cameras, and fairly grouchy security guards.
So we’ll need to stick to a standard route.
We’ll first hike up the south section. It’s steep to start with, and then flattens out. We’ll follow the wall out to the end of the southern section, passing through large towers on the way. There are good views to be had from the wall here: wild Great Wall in the mountains further to the south, big mountains looming over a broad plain in the northwest, and a preview of our steep ascent to the peak of the north section of the Great Wall.
The walk out and back on the south section is just over 2km in total. We’ll end up back at the big gate, and then get started on the climb to the top of the north section.
On the way up the Great Wall on the north side we’ll go by eight towers, and they say the top tower (No. 8) is more than 1,000m above sea level. Our GPS said it was more like 850m. Still, it’s a constant climb that adds nearly 200m of elevation.
Tower No. 8 is usually as far as the regular tourists go – the cable car finishes there, and the tour buses will be waiting in the big car park down below.
We’ll explore more of the wall, though, continuing along the wall to pass by Towers No. 9-12.
The Great Wall descends steeply from Tower No. 8, twisting and turning along the ridge. This section offers some great angles for photography, and it’s quieter, too. We didn’t see anyone on this part when we did our scouting trip.
We’ll aim to go all the way to Tower No. 13, the last one we can get to before the path further along is blocked off. From there we’ll walk back a little way to find the exit from the wall, and then walk out to the bus stop to finish.
From the bus stop we’ll drive a short way to a nearby restaurant for a big lunch before we head back to Beijing.