One of our top goals of the Beijing trip was to experience the Great Wall given that sections of it are only an hour away from the city. After quite a bit of research we decided to try a hike along the unrestored ‘wild’ part of the wall and contacted tour companies about a private guide. We ended up choosing Untouched Great Wall Hike to take us from Jiankou to Mutianyu, and both Joe (our driver) and Yaxin (our guide) were great.
Our day started early with a 7:00am pickup from the hotel. We were on highways for first third, then twisty mountain roads for the remainder, with a quick stop in a small village for a bathroom break. We didn’t hit any traffic on a Sunday morning, so around 8:30am we were at the base of the trail.
The initial ascent is steep with quite a few switchbacks, but the steepness paid off with pretty views across the fresh snow-covered hills. Eventually we climbed about 1 km to the first tower with fantastic views and surprisingly clear skies.
The views were simply amazing, and better yet, it was quiet and peaceful in the hills, a welcome change from the bustle of Beijing. After exploring the small fort we began our walk along the Great Wall itself.
We only saw two other groups along this part so it was very quiet and we marveled at the shrubs and small trees growing in the middle of the wall itself. Footing was a bit slick, especially on north side, but fresh snow helped.
The last third of our hike was through the improved part of Mutianyu. This section is very steep, made more difficult by the packed snow and more people. Also, the day was warming up, so combined with the physical activity of hundreds of stairs, we were shedding layers during the second half of the hike.
It was nice to see this section improved and maintained, but I’d stick to the purely wild wall if I did it again.
After making our way down the hill — in the very same cable car Bill Clinton during his visit — we met up with our driver and in about twenty minutes we were seated for lunch at a small local place.
Our guides ordered for the table: cauliflower hot pot (spicy!), General Tsao’s chicken, a beef and mushroom dish and a tofu wrap with spiced pork. Leandra and I also split a large lager that was light and refreshing.
Our return trip had a little more traffic, but we spent the time chatting about religion, pollution woes and how long someone has had their license plate. (If it starts with A, B, C… then a long time!) We arrived back to our hotel before 5:00pm, a bit sore but quite happy.
The hike along the Great Wall was our favorite activity in Beijing and we would highly recommend it others.