Everyone who comes to China has to visit the Great Wall, but few visitors get to see the real deal — the Wild Wall. 野城, as it’s called in Chinese, literally translates to “wild wall,” meaning sections of the Great Wall that have yet to be restored and commercialized for profit. The outskirts of Beijing have tons of wild wall sections accessible by moderately to extremely challenging and dangerous hikes, but the climb is worth it for sure.
It’s important for tourists to realize that unlike other tourist sites, you can’t just visit one part of the Great Wall and check it off your list. There are thousands of kilometers of the wall, and each section has something special to offer. I’ve been hiking to the Great Wall many times, visiting the most wild of the wilds and the most commercial of the commercial sites. Badaling is the easiest section to get to from Beijing, and also one of the most commercial sections. Jinshanling, though commercially opened, is a lovely hike, and features some wild sections. The Shanhaiguan （山海关) section is neat because it extends into the ocean. Gubeikou (古北口） is probably the most wild section I’ve been to, with perilous rubble-covered tracks over staggering cliff sides, and it’s located above a small, remote village. This weekend I visited the Changyu Cheng （长裕城）section in Changping.
The drive to the wall took about two-and-a-half hours due to traffic, and wound through gorgeous green mountains. The hike started from a small village and rose to 1400 meters above sea level, about a 700 vertical-meter hike. The tower we hiked to is the highest Great Wall tower in Beijing.
From the top we could see the wall extending out for miles around us:
In addition, this area has a round tower, which are quite rare:
This section was not only beautiful, but it also has an interesting history. During World War II, this section of the wall was the site of a battle against the Japanese, which China lost with a great number of casualties. Though there aren’t any placards proclaiming this history, the locals still remember it, and the wall still bears the bullet holes from that era.
There is so much to gain from hiking the wild wall sections. They are harder to get to, but most wild wall areas in the outskirts of Beijing are accessible by public bus. Alternatively, go with a tour group, or rent a small mini-bus for the day. Tours usually range from 150 to 200 kuai per person, including a guide, transportation and a meal. We went with our friend Heidi, who takes folks just about every weekend to see the wild wall. Heidi has made hiking her life, and has personal relationships with people at every site she goes to. She always manages to find remote and lovely hikes, and rewards her hikers with mouth-watering country-style meals in traditional village inns. Another hiking group that’s recieved praise is Beijing Hikers, though I haven’t gone with them yet.