This section of the Great Wall is named Big Camp Plate, after the local settlement that provided this Ming Dynasty section of the Wall with provisions, supplies, labor, and other accommodations for a garrison. Parts of this section were intended to serve as a template for others, making it an exemplary site to learn about the Great Wall’s construction as we hike along it.
For today’s hike, we’ll be walking an abridged version that avoids the steepest, most difficult parts. We’ll drive out past Badaling into Hebei province to reach the trailhead, which begins on a lonely stretch of mountain highway. After a 30–40 minute walk up a road into the mountains, we’ll meet a section of the Great Wall that overlooks the Guanting Reservoir in the distance, and follow it as it heads west and then loops to the south.
Along the way, we’ll have expansive views of Hebei and Yanqing that we’ll be able to enjoy on the way to our lunch spot – to the south, tall mountain peaks; to the west, tall and sometimes snowy mountain peaks in the far distance, with the Great Wall in the foreground; to the north, the Guanting Reservoir; to the east, more mountains, and another stretch of Great Wall that eventually joins with the Badaling section.
After lunch, we’ll continue along the Great Wall, heading for a spot called the Water Pass, going far enough to enjoy the views before heading back the way we came. The Water Pass is an archway in the wall, built to allow water to flow out down a ravine. The hills and wall on either side of the archway are very steep, and dangerous to climb on, so we'll stop before reaching that point.
We’ll then backtrack to the orchards planted next to the Wall that mark the terminus of a road that leads to the village of Big Camp Plate. We leave the Great Wall and follow the dirt road, passing through the sleepy village along the way. After the village, we’ll follow a road back down to the highway to meet our bus which will take us to a flat spot to enjoy our post-hike refreshments.
The construction of Great Wall in this area took place in the Bei Qi and Ming Dynasties. You can tell the difference by the appearance of the wall – Bei Qi wall has a white-ish colour, while the more recent Ming Dynasty construction has a grey colour. Most of the wall in this area is well-preserved, but some has tumbled down into piles of bricks.
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks to eat
- Warm clothes in case it gets chilly
- Good hiking boots
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- Parts of the wall here are built right on the edge of cliffs, and if you're not good with heights you won't like those sections very much.
- The old dirt road up into the mountains has been concreted for the first two kilometres.