The lazy person’s guide to climbing a non-touristy Great Wall

It was the end of Autumn, the temperature at night had dropped to zero, and we heard it would be 5 degrees colder in the countryside. What exactly did we sign up for? Did we even have the appropriate gear for it? Despite having answers to neither of these questions, we braced it and found ourselves in the most beautiful place two hours away from Beijing city at Gubeikou Great Wall.

Unlike the most popular sections of the Great Wall, Badaling and Mutianyu, there were barely any tourists at Gubeikou. It was a gorgeous day and from where we were, we could see miles and miles of the Great Wall all the way to Jinshanling. Standing on an ancient structure like this and being able to see the rawness of it really fascinated me, and the bricks surrounding me were built as early as 550AD! We stopped frequently during the hike to absorb the greatness of the experience and took numerous photos to capture the moment. It was such a great day that I’d like to share it with anyone going to Beijing!

What is Gubeikou Great Wall?

Gubeikou is a section of the Great Wall that has never been reconstructed, but is still relatively flat with only a few steep but manageable climbs. Gubeikou was first built in 550-557 AD during the Northern Qi Dynasty and was built continuously through to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). It consists of numerous watch towers, with the best-preserved being the Big Flower Watchtower (Dahualou), named for its shape that resembles a blossoming flower from afar.

How did we get there?

This is the best part – we joined an organised tour by Beijing Hikers so we literally did zero planning! Beijing Hikers is a professional hikers group with English-speaking guides. Our tour was accompanied by 3 guides – one at the front leading the pack, one in the middle and one at the back. We went to the dedicated meet-up point at the Lido Hotel Starbucks at 8am and hopped on a coach organised by the group. On our way there, they gave us a detailed explanation of the trail and each of us received a bottle of water plus some snacks. The guide then proceeded to take payments – RMB450 (approx. USD65/ GBP50) per person which includes the transportation, snacks, and lunch. You can also become a member of Beijing Hikers for RMB300 a year and pay a discounted RMB405 for the hike.

Note: Beijing Hikers also do hiking tours to other Great Wall sections or hiking trails around Beijing.

How was the overall hike?

To be honest, I found this hike easier than most of the hikes I had done before in Hong Kong such as Violet Hill, the Twin Peaks, or Lion Rock. This was purely down to the fact that there weren’t many steep climbs or descents, so if you exercise regularly or walk enough steps each day this hike shouldn’t be too difficult for you. The hike took about 2-2.5 hours in total with short breaks in between. At the end of the hike, we were taken to a small restaurant at the bottom of the mountain for lunch. I really enjoyed it as we got to mingle with the other hikers who came to Beijing for their holidays.

What gear did we bring with us?

  • Shoes: hiking boots are recommended, although trainers are also fine
  • Supplies: we brought water and snacks with us, but a bottle is also provided by the tour
  • Clothing: sportswear for sure and make sure to layer up! It gets warmer as you hike so you would want to take some layers off
  • Camera: bring your camera with you, the trail is so beautiful you won’t want to miss the opportunity to capture it

Thanks Beijing Hikers for such a great day out – I will definitely join your other tours again for sure! Have you been to the Great Wall before and what was your experience? Leave a comment and let me know!

p.s The cover photo of this post was featured on Timeout Beijing as one of their favourite photos for a week! I was so happy about it.

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A thousand years young [📷: @_kathyldn]

A post shared by Time Out Beijing (@timeoutbeijing) on

Kathy xx

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