That’s what I would’ve figured. But there’s actually a way it can be done, and in this post, I’ll explain how you can camp on the Great Wall at the Jiankou-Mutianyu section.
WARNING: Sleeping on the great wall is totally illegal, and I definitely don’t condone it. All the information in this post is hypothetical 🙂
If you plan on hiking/camping on the Great Wall, please be respectful and follow leave no trace principles. By doing this, you help keep the Great Wall in good condition for those who visit after you.
The Jiankou-Mutianyu hike
To sleep on the Great Wall you need to visit an unrestored section that’s safe enough to hike on, and the Jiankou – Mutianyu section is perfect for this.
You’ll start at Jiankou, a wild, untouched, and overgrown section. About 8 kilometres from Jiankou is the restored Mutianyu section of the wall. This hike is done by travellers fairly frequently with hiking companies in Beijing, but it’s rare for people to spend the night.
Here’s a map of the Jiankou Great Wall route:
The map is probably a bit confusing, so let me explain. Coming from Beijing, your starting point will be the Team 2 Xizhazi Village location.
Where to stay in Beijing
You’ll be starting and ending your Great Wall hiking trip from Beijing, so you’ll want a nice place to stay while there.
I recommend the Leo Hostel – it’s located right downtown and has a nice common area to hang out in.
Getting to Xizhazi Village via public transport
Probably the most difficult part of this whole ordeal is actually getting to the trailhead. It’ll likely take you 3 hours or so.
In Beijing, take the subway to the Dongzhimen Outer bus station and take either bus 936 or 867 to Yujiayuan bus stop in Huairou. This will take around two hours and cost 12RMB.
To get to Xizhazi from the Yujiayuan stop, you can either take local bus H25 at 11:30 or 16:30, or take a taxi.
I chose to take a taxi because I didn’t want to wait for the bus, and was able to get one for around 100RMB. Via the bus or Taxi, the ride to Xizhazi takes about 1 hour. In the village, locals will point you to the mountain path trailhead.
Hiking on the Great Wall
The mountain path takes an hour or so and brings you right to the Zhengbeilou Tower. This tower has a ladder to climb up on the wall, and there’s often a local charging a 5RMB ($1) fee to use it. From the Zhengbeilou Tower, head east towards Mutianyu.
Overall, the hike should be pretty straightforward. As long as you follow the wall, it’s pretty hard to get lost. After you spend the night, it’s just a few more kilometres to the restored Mutianyu section where you’ll be able to descend.
Where to camp on the Great Wall?
Camping anywhere on the unrestored Jiankou section is likely fine, but I’d recommend moving away from the Zhengbeilou Tower (so the locals don’t bother you).
I made my way to the Ox Horn Ridge, the highest point on the route. The views from on the Ox Horn are incredible, so I highly recommend camping up here. The ascent/descent from the ridge is quite steep and on smooth rock, so if it’s raining or icy you might want to avoid going up. There’s a bypass path (marked on the map) that you can take instead.
Getting back to Beijing
Heading back to Beijing is much more straightforward. After finishing off your morning hike to the Mutianyu section of the wall, you can follow the paths down to the entrance area (or take the slide if you don’t mind paying a few extra RMB).
At the entrance area, there will be buses that can take you back to Beijing.
Tips and tricks
- If you don’t have any camping gear with you, check out Decathlon in Beijing. They’ve got decent quality gear for low prices. I purchased the tent I slept in for around 100 RMB.
- Bring warm clothes. I underestimated what the temperatures would be up high on the wall (it was 40 degrees in Beijing).
- Finding flat parts of the wall to set up camp on can be rather difficult, so keep an eye out as you hike.
- Be a bit careful as you leave the main entrance at Mutianyu. There was a security guard at around 8 am when I got there, but he just waved me by and didn’t seem to care.
- Bring all the food and water that you’ll need. There isn’t really anywhere to fill up water bottles after you’ve started hiking.
Let me know if you go ahead and decide to camp on the wall! I’d love to hear about your experience.
If you’re still planning your perfect China trip, check out my ultimate China backpacking itinerary for some inspiration!
Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this guide. If you book or buy something using my links, I’ll make a bit of money at no extra cost to you.