Switchback Great Wall | The General’s Tower on the Switchback Great Wall
The General’s Tower on the Switchback Great Wall.

Switchback Great Wall

A tough Great Wall hike over tricky terrain in a remote area of northwest Beijing, with a lot of ups and downs on the way to the end.

Level 4
Some tricky descents on loose footing. 4–5 hours start to finish over about 9km. (Can I do it?)

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Travel right on past touristy Badaling on the way out to a difficult Great Wall hike in the mountains overlooking the Guanting Reservoir in Yanqing. The climbing is steep and tough and we’ll take 4–5 hours to complete the 9km walk. We have a shorter version of this hike – on this trip we’ll do the tougher, longer route.

The Switchback

Midway through this tough hike the wall doubles back on itself in a sharp switchback, and that’s why we named this area the Switchback Great Wall. The local name is a little different: the Hunchback Great Wall!

We’ll drive up into the hills and start the hike by climbing up on to a tall ridge to reach the Great Wall.

We then follow the wall up to the “General’s Tower”, one of the biggest towers in the area, and likely the location of the commander in the area back in the Ming Dynasty. From here we’ll be able to see why it made such a good command post – the views are amazing!

After the General’s Tower, the condition of the Great Wall here deteriorates, and as we continue we’ll have some tricky descents on slippery, broken down sections of the wall – not much fun if you’re not good with balance or don’t enjoy heights so much.

Exploring the Great Wall
Exploring the Great Wall. (Click for larger image)

The Great Wall leads up to towers that are even higher up than the General’s Tower, and just after the highest point we’ll reach the switchback section, repaired in 2015 in a restoration project.

Also nearby is a rundown radio tower, accompanied by a tiny hut – a short detour if you’re interested to take a look, and if the trail is not too overgrown!

After we pass the switchback section there are a few more steep ups and downs before a long descent along the wall – again, there are some tricky sections here, and we’ll need to be particularly careful right at the end as the path gets quite slippery.

The Great Wall dips down into a valley, and that’s the end of the hike. A short walk on flat ground takes us to a narrow road, where we’ll find our bus.

COVID-19 and participation precautions

The current precautions are minimal. Please read in full here: Operating hikes under COVID-19 precautions

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Photos and trip reports: Switchback Great Wall

  1. Switchback Great Wall, 2023/10/28

    Switchback Great Wall, 2023/10/28

    See a set of 16 shots from a mid-autumn hike up to the ‘switchback’, a special spot where the wall makes a hairpin turn on a bluff.
  2. Switchback Great Wall, 2023/09/30

    Switchback Great Wall, 2023/09/30

    We saw the start of the autumn colours high up in the hills on this walk along ‘wild’ Great Wall—see nineteen photos from the hike.
  3. Switchback Great Wall, 2021/06/02

    Switchback Great Wall, 2021/06/02

    On this hike we did the Stone Valley Great Wall trail and then added on a serious amount of stairclimbing to get up to the top section of the Great Wall here—see 23 photos from the Great Wall surrounded by green.
  4. Switchback Great Wall, 2020/11/21

    Switchback Great Wall, 2020/11/21

    Snow was falling as we started this hike, and it was still falling as we finished a fun – but tricky! – hike up to the Switchback Great Wall—see 22 photos.
  5. Switchback Great Wall, 2016/06/18

    Switchback Great Wall, 2016/06/18

    Photos from a long hike along a rough but pretty line of Great Wall in Beijing’s northwest—half recently repaired, the other half unrestored and wild.

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