- 4–5 hours start to finish over approx. 12km.
Tomb-Sweeping Holiday hikes—We’re leaving early to get ahead of the holiday traffic, but we still may get stuck in a jam at some stage. Bring a book or something else to keep yourself entertained, just in case!
Most of this hike is easy, but we’ve rated it as a Level 4 because the section of the Great Wall we’ll climb is really steep and tricky. The Great Wall part of this hike will not be much fun if you are not good with heights or not confident in your balancing ability.
We’ll follow roads and hill trails in and around tiny villages northwest of Beijing, making easy climbs on hill trails and a really steep and tough climb on a rather rundown stretch of Great Wall, with fine views the whole way.
Besides the exercise, this hike also offers a good look at life in the isolated rural areas outside of Beijing.
Bricks in the Wall
It’s a somewhat strange name for a hike that’s not totally Great Wall-focused, but it’s an apt name.
The Great Wall bricks produced in this area are supposed to have been well known for their high quality, and have shown up in use at other sections of Great Wall in neighbouring Miyun District. This is known because of distinctive stamps or markings on the bricks, of which we’ll see plenty on this hike.
Another good clue is that we spotted some suspiciously similar looking bricks in an older house in one of the villages, and saw one building hidden up a valley that looked to have been built entirely out of Great Wall bricks. Cheeky!
The old dirt roads that connected the little villages in this area with the main road have been concreted over for the convenience of the villagers. They’re too narrow for our bus to use, though, so we’ll be using them to walk in and warm up.
There are several lines of Great Wall in the area, but most of the wall here is too steep or too rundown to be much fun for hiking on. We’ll still see plenty of wall, but for most of the hike we won’t actually be on top of it.
We’ll start at a small roadside settlement and walk in, following a narrow concrete road into the hills, passing small clumps of houses spread below a ridgeline.
After a little while we’ll leave the concrete road and head up a valley trail, crossing the ridge and heading down to another small village on the other side of the hill.
At the top of the ridge we’ll be able to see a steep line of Great Wall, which we’re aiming to climb.
We’ll get up on the wall by following a little trail out of the back of the village, and we’ll start the short wall section of this hike, some 1.5km in total, climbing 285m on crumbly and tricky footing.
Besides the great exercise, we’ll also spot a unique feature of the wall here: a sharp turn down into a valley and up out again that makes a very distinct “V” shape.
From the highest point of this stretch of wall we’ll take a steep and sometimes bushy hill trail down into a valley. The wall continues up the other side of the valley, but we’ll follow a concrete road down the valley, passing more small hamlets on the way down.
The concrete road takes us down towards another line of wall, and we’ll cross the ridge again following a trail beside the Great Wall, up through the villagers’ chestnut orchards and down the other side of the hill, back to the first concrete road we were on at the beginning of the hike.
We’re not following that road very far though, as there’s a nice trail that goes over the southern ridge, passing yet another line of Great Wall and a nice big tower before getting us over some train tracks and a river, and back to the main road where our bus will meet us.
What to bring on this hike
- Lunch and snacks
- Warm clothes in case it gets chilly
- Strong and comfortable hiking boots
- (Click here to read our full What to Bring on a Hike list)
Reasons you might not enjoy this hike
- The Great Wall isn’t the focus of this hike. If this is your only chance to see the Great Wall, we’d recommend a different hike – contact us for a recommendation!
- The stretch of Great Wall we walk on is steep, slippery, and in rather rough condition. You’ll need to be in good shape, with good balance and no fear of heights.
- Approximately 4km of this hike is on narrow concrete roads.