As with the Great Wall at Badaling, this stretch of the wall, behind the tiny village of Zhuang Dao Kou, is another which can be reached using public transport, allowing costly cab rides or pre-organised tours to be taken out of the equation.
The wall at Badaling is the easy option, and the one most tourists take. This one, however, is for the more adventurous.
You need to take two buses to get here, and then scramble up a rocky pathway that leads out through the back of a village, but you’ll be rewarded for your persistence with a wonderfully remote stretch of the Great Wall, most of which is completely unrestored. And the chances are you’ll have the whole wall to yourself!
Also, unlike most other stretches of the Great Wall near Beijing, including Badaling, this stretch hasn’t been officially opened to tourists, so carries no entrance fee.
Once you reach the archway at the top of the rocky pathway, you’ll have two choices. The wall rising up to your right is a restored section, and so easier to walk along (although still very steep). It runs up and over a hill, passing four watchtowers en route, before descending to the road and a reservoir on the other side of the hill from Zhuang Dao Kou Village. If you turn right at the road here, you’ll soon find a small bus stop from where you can pick up any bus back to Huairou (??), although ask the driver, just to be sure. It takes about an hour to walk this stretch.
The wall rising up to your left also looks like a restored section, but once you climb past the first watchtower, you’ll reach the start of a wonderfully genuine stretch of old crumbling wall. Watch your step as you clamber over shrubs and thickets, now growing on the wall. And take extra care near the edge as, in most parts, there are no sides to the wall; only sheer drops.
This section of the wall stretches two or three times further than the opposite, restored stretch, and passes 10 dilapidated watchtowers before eventually descending towards another reservoir at a section of the wall called Shui Chang Cheng, or ‘Water Great Wall’, which has been opened up for tourists.
Note, you cannot follow the Wall the whole way. It crumbles away as you descend, and becomes far too dangerous to follow. Instead, you’ll have to scramble off the Wall, down to you left, then follow a dusty trail down to the car park of the ‘Water Great Wall’ complex. There are two car parks here. The bus which you took to get to Zhuang Dao Kou Village terminates at the lower one of the two, so you could catch it from here back to Huairou . Alternatively retrace your steps back the way you came.
This part of the wall is also great for camping, although officially you’re not allowed to camp on the wall. If you do camp, do not light fires and make sure you take away everything you brought with you. If you need to buy camping or hiking equipment in Beijing, Sanfo is your best bet.
If you want to stay in Zhuang Dao Kou Village, a number of villagers have converted their homes into small guesthouses known as nong jia yuan.
If all that sounds like too much trouble, try the easier Great Wall trip to Badaling.
Zhuang Dao Kou Village, Huairou County