On this two day Great Wall adventure you'll camp out by a line of early Ming Dynasty Great Wall in a remote and rugged region of northwest Beijing.
On the first day we’ll do a shorter Great Wall hike, and set up a comfortable camp before seeing the sun set from the Great Wall.
On the second day, we’ll do a longer hike, following a line of wild wall up to a peak before following hill trails to finish.
Bad weather plan
We'll have a fairly good idea of the weather by about three days before the hike. If it's forecast to be dangerous or no fun – i.e. thunder and lightning, or heavy rain – we'd need to call off the hike.
The Great Wall in this area encircles a cliff-top plateau, and we’ll set up our tents on a comfortable grassy area right beside the wall. The Great Wall by the campsite is a rocky, low wall, but it is a short walk from a steeper section with a run down tower and stony battlements.
Sitting atop the wall, we’ll have broad views: mountains all around, and the Guanting Plain far below. You’ll be able to see the sun rise over distant mountains at about 6:07am.
Fire restrictions mean that we won’t be able to have a campfire here.
The sun will set around 6:00pm, and we’ll be able to watch as the sun slowly sinks below a tall ridge of mountains.
Moon phase: Just after the new moon, great for stargazing.
Lunch, day one: We'll supply a big sandwich, prepared by the Delicatessen at the Lido Hotel, as well as a banana and a Snickers bar. You might like to supplement this with extra snacks.
Dinner: We'll supply basic camp food: things like bread and rolls, ham and salami, pickles and cheese, and some cup noodles and soups. We’ll bring gas burners to boil water for hot drinks. We'll also bring a bottle of red wine! Dinner will be tasty but fairly basic, and we’re not able to have open fires.
Breakfast: We’ll bring bread and jam and fruit, tea and coffee.
Snacks: We’ll supply another Snickers bar, and nuts and things to make trail mix.
Lunch, day two: We’ll head to a local restaurant and celebrate with a big meal and plenty of cold beer.
Water: We’ll provide 4 litres of bottled water per person, plus an electrolyte drink.
We supply: one tent for each person, sleeping bag and liner, ground pad, hiking poles. Do you have your own camping gear? Let us know, and we’ll adjust the price for you.
What you need to bring
Wear standard hiking gear and boots, and bring a waterproof jacket just in case.
Bring a hiking pack in which you can comfortably carry the following essentials:
- Enough water for the first day and evening.
- Warm clothes for the evening, spare socks and underwear.
- Hat and gloves.
- Flashlight or head lamp.
- Toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
- Toothbrush, small towel.
- Personal medicine and basic first aid supplies.
- Entertainment: a book, cards, a bottle of something.
- Extra food and snacks ie chocolate.
The hiking trails
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 explore from our camp site.
Hiking, day one
Hike statistics: Day 1
Time: 2–3 hours
Start height: 984m
Total ascent: 340m
Total descent: 258m
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 – 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.
We’ll set up camp in the mid-afternoon, with the late afternoon free to explore the surrounding area. Dirt roads lead to a tiny village (a 30 minute walk from the campsite), and the nearby line of Great Wall leads up to a lookout point above a precipitous cliff – both well worth a look.
Hiking, day two
Hike statistics: Day 2
Time: 3–4 hours
Start height: 1,067m
Highest point: 1,278m
Finish height: 984m
Total ascent: 507m
Total descent: 597m
After we have breakfast and break camp, we’ll get an early start on a tougher hike, following a valley trail to get to a line of rugged Great Wall that leads up to the highest hill in the area.
Many of the towers in this area have tumbled down, but the foundation was built solidly with huge blocks of local stone, and a nearby stretch of wall was built as a model for further construction – basically, they said ‘Build it all like this’!
Some of the wall on the way to the top is steep and slippery, but for the most part it’s in reasonable condition. But it’s still quite a big climb, going up just about 300m over two kilometres.
After we get to the top, we’ll leave the wall – after taking a rest, of course! – and follow hill trails through the mountains to reach the road we walked up on the first day, and then head back down to finish the hike.
Maximum group size of 12 hikers; book early to make sure you get a spot!
Reasons you might not enjoy this trip
- There are a few places along the way that are narrow, steep, and slippery.
- We camp beside the wall, not on top or in a tower.