Switchback Great Wall | Hikers following the unrestored Great Wall in Yanqing District.
Hikers following the unrestored Great Wall in Yanqing District.

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. Note: this route features steep descents on loose footing—if you’re not good with heights and balancing, you will not enjoy this hike.

Level 4
Some tricky descents on loose footing. 4–5 hours start to finish over about 10km. (Can I do it?)

This hike is not currently scheduled

Contact us for schedule updates or set up a private hike

One Belt One Road special - this version of the Switchback Great Wall hike will finish on the Beijing side of the border so that we don’t have to go through the big checkpoint on the way home.

Bring your passport/ID card just in case we do go through a checkpoint.

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 10km walk. For much of the hike we’ll be quite high up, peaking at 1,200m near the midpoint where the wall curves in a sharp switchback. We have a shorter version of this hike – on this trip we’ll do the tougher, longer route, and we’re going to do it backwards!

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 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.

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.

From the switchback section we’ll take the long trail down to finish on the Beijing side of the ridgeline. That trail will take us to a carpark by the new tunnels coming through the mountain from Beijing, and we’ll walk out to Stone Valley village to finish the hike with some drinks and snacks.

What to bring on this hike

Reasons you might not enjoy this hike

  • There are a few tricky descents on loose footing that will not be much fun if you are scared of heights.
  • It’s quite a short hike for a Level 4, but there is a lot of climbing up and down.

COVID-19 and participation precautions

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

Related content

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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