Yanqing Great Wall, Beijing

Head far out into the mountains of Yanqing County for a tough five-hour walk that follows a section of wall reconstructed in the early Ming Dynasty. 13km with some steep ascents and descents.

The majority of this stretch of the Great Wall was constructed early in the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD-1644 AD), perhaps on top of an older stretch.

It’s quite far away from Beijing city and fairly difficult to get to, which means it is seldom visited, and the views and sights make the long journey very worthwhile.

We will follow the Great Wall for approximately two-thirds of this hike, but we won’t walk on it the whole way – in places it is too steep and slippery to walk safely. To get around these dangerous places we will follow hillside trails. This works out quite well: we stay safe, and we get some great ‘surprise’ sightings of interesting Great Wall features as we climb out of valleys and on top of hills.

The wall in this part of the mountains is built on high ridges, and because we’ll be on some of the highest of these we’ll get great views of long stretches of Great Wall as we’re walking.

The toughest climbs on this hike are in the middle – we start up quite high, descend into a valley, climb up out of it, and then head down into and up out of another.

After climbing out of the first valley, we’ll get a glimpse of a Great Wall tower that’s approximately 1,440m above sea level – one of the highest in Beijing. Other interesting sights along the way include several round watch towers, a tower made from mud bricks, a ‘water pass’ with extremely steep sections of wall on either side, as well as mysterious valley paths, apricot orchards, a range of vegetation, and a radar station.

The radar station is guarded by dogs, and marks the end of the Great Wall portion of the hike. There’s still plenty of good walking to do: we’ll skirt around the radar station to get on the access road, follow it to the Beijing-Hebei border line, and then follow a path down a valley to a reservoir. This final part of the hike will take us approximately an hour, and we’ll pass through a forest with a lot of birch trees and walk past the reservoir on our way to the village where we’ll finish up with the traditional snacks and beer.

The village is called Changyucheng (Long Valley City) and served as an important military base during the 1520’s. The village was encircled by a big thick wall and some of the arched entries and exits still remain. The thickness of the remaining walls give some indication of the level of fortification, and the importance of securing this pass.

As well as the old city walls, the village has several other sights to see: an old shrine which is alleged to cause difficulties for cameras; a restored-but-closed temple with a large bell inside, and a giant old tree just outside the temple entrance.

What to bring on this hike

  • Lunch and plenty of snacks
  • Warm clothes, in case it gets chilly.