Jinshanling Section, May 2010. I’ll never forget my first ever Great Wall experience, back during my maiden year in China. I was living in Beijing at the time, which meant there were a bunch of routes to choose from. While I had no desire whatsoever to subject myself to the overcrowded Disney circus act of Badaling, I also figured It might be wise to leave some of the more wild stretches for later on. In the end the Jinshanling section fit the bill perfectly, a ten-kilometer trek that took in some of the country’s most stunning Great Wall scenery.
Jinshanling Section, May 2010. Located one hundred and thirty kilometres northeast of Beijing, I had to get up at the crack of dawn that day to make the minibus. But boy oh boy was I rewarded on arrival, with no crowds, blues skies and sweeping mountainous views! And the hike itself was a great adventure, with steep, crumbling staircases and lofty lookout towers. For more on my experiences on Jinshanling, check out my short story Goodness Gracious, Great Wall of China!
Mùtiányù Section, June 2014. For my second year in Beijing a friend and I plumped for an afternoon tackling the Mùtiányù route, located just seventy kilometres northeast of the city. Described by Great Wall historians as “a masterpiece of restoration”, the hike itself was very comfortable and much more manageable than Jinshanling, which is perhaps why a visiting Bill Clinton was brought here in 1998, along with Hilary and Chelsea. Those looking for a fun way to get back down can take a toboggan ride from Watchtower 6!
Hushan Section, August 2014. My third Great Wall experience was a real treat! I was in the middle of a two-week trip around China’s northeast when my friend and I landed in the riverside city of Dandong. The Hushan section of wall lies just fifteen kilometers outside the centre and runs for just over 1,200 meters over Tiger Mountain. We didn’t see any other westerns during our walk, while those Chinese and Korean tourists we did bump into into all stopped to say hello or ask for photos with us!
Hushan Section, August 2014. Fascinatingly, the Hushan trail sits right beside the China-North Korea border! At some point the path winds precariously around a narrow section of the mountain and we were suddenly hit with these gorgeous views of North Korea, nothing separating the two countries but a thin section of river and a rickety wooden fence.