Planning Your Adventure on the Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China winds about 5,500.3 miles from Shanhai Pass in Hebei to Jiayu Pass in Gansu. Adventurous folks who hike the Wall from end to end – take months to make the trek. Parts of the hike are level and easy, but since the Wall closely follows the mountain ridge in Beijing region, most of it requires some climbing.
People often ask how long it takes to walk across the Great Wall of China. But as with many simple questions, the answer to this one is, “Well, it depends.”
A walk across the the Great Wall depends upon which parts of the Great Wall you would like to hike, how fast you can walk a mile, how long do you have? how fit and how experienced are you? etc.
The average hiker’s pace is about 1–2 miles per hour. This pace may be slower at the beginning of the trail, and become faster as you gain muscle strength and confidence. Most hikers begin at Jinshanling, Jiankou or Gubeikou. Here are some pearls of wisdom that can prepare you for the challenges ahead.
601 Days by Stephen Robert Loken
In modern times one person claims to have made the hike from Jiayuguan, in Gansu Province all the way to Dandong located in Liaoning Province. Stephen Robert Loken, a 42-year-old Norwegian, spent 601 days trekking the entire span of the Great Wall of China.
This total span spreads for 3,728 miles (6,000 km) and is quite an amazing feat. If you want to see if you can handle the Great Wall of China in individual stints rather than all at once, here is a breakdown of the various sections for hiking.
Jinshanling to Jinshanling East: 3-5 hours
The total distance from Jinshanling to Jinshanling East is 3 to 4.5 miles. To reach the end milestone in sufficient time, expect this hike to take you 3 to 5 hours. Overall you will gain a maximum altitude of 2,001 feet.
At the Jinshanling Great Wall, you will experience partially restored paths coupled with some slippery sections. Distance hiked: 3 -4.5 miles. Hiking time: 3-5 hours. Maximum altitude:2,001 feet.
Gubeikou to Jinshanling: 4.5-5.5 hours
The Gubeikou to Jinshanling expanse of the Great Wall will take somewhat longer at a total mileage of 6 to 7 miles. Here you get a lower altitude climb of 1,410 feet compared to the Jinshanling hike.
As a result, this hike will take moderately in-shape individuals 4.5 to 5.5 hours. Most of this section of the route is not restored so take note when preparing for this trek. Distance hiked: 6-7 miles. Hiking time: 4.5-5.5 hours. Maximum altitude: 1,410 feet.
Jiankou (Zhengbeilou Tower) to Mutinayu: 4-5 hours
For hikers looking at the Jiankou to Mutinayu stretch of the wall, this is another 5.5 to 6-mile hike. Here you are hiking for 4 to 5 hours at a max altitude of 1,410 feet.
Starting at Jiankou’s Zhengbeilou Tower, you are in for quite the treat on this zigzagging section of the Great Wall. Views of the Jiankou basin make it well worth it. Distance hiked: 5.5-6 miles. Hiking time:4-5 hours. Maximum altitude: 2,001 feet
Mutianyu: 2-3 hours
Mutianyu is a shorter hike for those who are ready for a steeper challenge. With an altitude climb of up to 2,067 feet, this area reaches the highest peaks. However, the hike itself is only 2 to 3 miles in length, which accounts for the 2 to 3 hour hiking time.
The wall was restored in 1960 and includes a chairlift with a Toboggan slide. Distance hiked: 2-3 miles. Hiking time: 2-3 hours. Maximum altitude: 1,980 feet.
Huanghuacheng to Xishuiyu: 3-4 hours
Another shorter hike takes you from Huanghuacheng and Xishuiyu along the Great Wall. The naming has actually been updated to Huanghuacheng Water Great Wall Scenic Area, so you may see this hike listed both ways in your research and trip planning.
Here you are traversing 3.5 to 4.5 miles of pretty rugged terrain with a maximum altitude reaching 2,001 feet. Along the hike plan on seeing hikers as the Great Wall towers along the hike are large and accommodating. Distance hiked: 3.5-4.5 miles. Hiking time: 3-4 hours. Maximum altitude: 1,880 feet.
Overall Hiking Times for Longer Sections
If you were to hike each of these sections in pairs the following is a breakdown of how long it would take you:
- Gubeikou to Jinshanling and then Jinshanling to Jinshanling East—9-10 hours
- Jinshanling to Jinshanling East then Jainkou to Mutinayu—8-9 hours
- Huanghuacheng and Xishuiyu then Mutianyu —6-7 hours
If you calculate these section times accordingly, you could spend two and a half days hiking the Great Wall of China easily and still only cover a small stretch.
Plan Carefully and Leave No Trace
Do plan carefully. A well planned Great Wall hike will be much safer and much more enjoyable so make sure that you take the time to plan your hike properly. Select clothing you can layer for cool mornings and warm afternoons, but leave the cotton at home. It gets wet and heavy in inclement weather.