The Great Wall of China…one of the world’s most iconic sights and one of the ‘new seven wonders of the world’. We couldn’t come to China without seeing this amazing place.
The Great Wall of China spans thousands of kilometres, stretching from the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Some of the most accessible sections are found near Beijing. From Beijing, Badaling and Mutianyu are the most accessible sections of Great Wall. Further out lie the unrestored sections of Jiankou, Jinshanling, Simatai, and Huangyaguan. For us, the section from Simatai West to Jinshanling seemed the most interesting. This section offers amazing views of the wall snaking across the mountain peaks, plenty of watchtowers (23 in total), and few visitors. It is a 6 kilometre hike taking 3/3.5 hours in total.
For this hike we hired a guide, using the tour company Great Wall Hiking. Their perfect reviews on Trip Advisor caught our attention and booking was simple.
At 8 am we met our guide for the day, Robert, at our hotel. By minivan we were driven out to the Great Wall and two and a half hours later our hike began. We had beautiful blue skies and a bright sunny day, perfect for those amazing views of the wall and the surrounding mountains.
Robert led us on a forty five minute hike uphill through forests and shrubs to the Simatai West section of the Great Wall. Apparently there are 1400 steps to get up tot he wall here…the boys started off counting but stopped after a couple of hundred! It was hot, hard work but worth it once we got to the Great Wall.
From the top, at one of the many watchtowers, we had our first panoramic views of the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall snaked off in either direction following the mountain tops. It is a truly spectacular sight.
For three and a half hours we hiked along the Great Wall of China….firstly on the crumbling, unrestored sections close to Simatai West and later on the more restored sections closer to Jinshanling. This was great fun for our whole family. For kids, this really was an adventure, and the boys all preferred the unrestored section of the wall as it was more challenging with steep slippery slopes, crumbling steps and steep drops from the wall where the stone railings had fallen away into the valley far below.
Robert had snacks in his backpack which we gobbled up, hungry from our hike. We all loved the snickers bars, beef jerky and cashew nuts.
The section of wall closer to Jinshanling is more restored. Here we were walking on smooth paved wall with the uprights all intact. There are two walking routes down from the Jinshanling Wall, we choose the longer hike on the Great Wall and had an easy fifteen minute walk down from the wall on a paved road.
Now it was time for a very late lunch, as it was 2pm by now. We all ate at a local Chinese restaurant. Here we ate beef and sweet and sour chicken dishes, several plates of vegetables, noodles and rice. Lunch was good and we didn’t realise how much of an appetite we worked up until we started eating.
We had booked our hike for a Sunday, also the last Sunday before school goes back in China, so getting back to Beijing took four and a half hours as we had to contend with huge amounts of traffic..! We made it back to our hotel by 7.30pm. It was a fabulous day and without a doubt will be one of the highlights of China for our family.
Read Also: Five Days in Beijing
For two different perspectives of hiking the Great Wall of China read:
Parenthood and Passports – The Great Wall of China with Kids
Off With The Kids – Our Crazy Adventure to the Great Wall of China
MORE ABOUT HIKING SIMATAI WEST TO JINSHANLING WITH KIDS
We hired the company Great Wall Hiking. They run a variety of tours to the Great Wall, most of them to the unrestored sections. The service they provided was very professional. Everything ran like clockwork, with our guide meeting us on time at our hotel and with transportation provided to and from the Great Wall. Our guide, Robert, was excellent. He spoke very good English and was great with the boys, always making sure that they were safe and having a good time.
The hike from Simatai West to Jinshanling is 6 kms. The entire journey, from pick up to drop off at our hotel, took a total of eleven and a half hours, partly because of the long trip back to Beijing. It was a long, adventurous day but very worthwhile.
At the time of hiking, our kids were 8, 10 and 12 years old. If your kids have the energy, seeing the unrestored sections are much more exciting for children than the restored areas. Prepare yourself for lots of climbing and some slippery sections. By taking the route from Simatai West to Jinshanling, you get the best of both worlds: the crumbling, ancient wall, and the more restored sections. For adventurous, fun-loving families, this is a great way to see the Great Wall of China.