Camping on the Great Wall of China will forever stay as one of the most incredible things we have ever done. I can’t wait for my son to grow up and tell him, hey you camped on the Great Wall when you were just a two-year-old kid.
During our journey from Hong Kong to France overland, we camped on the Great Wall of China independently, without any guide and we didn’t pay any fee. We decided to write this guide to help you do the same.
In this article you will find the equipment that you need and how to get it, where to go camping on the Great Wall of China, how to get there, hiking from Jiankou to Mutianyu, a brief summary of our experience at Jiankou and many tips to have a great experience.
This is how it looked like :
Camping on the Great Wall of China, is it legal ?
To be honest with you I have no idea if it’s actually legal or not. What I know is that many tour agencies offer the possibility of camping on the Wall. There’s no sign prohibiting camping up there and the following day during our hike, we met independent local Chinese who also did the same. I guess it’s kind of a grey area, where camping is tolerated as long as you respect a few unwritten rules.
I don’t know anyone who got into trouble for doing so. During our adventures traveling in China, we camped multiple times in other places around the country and we never ran into serious trouble.
Renting / buying equipment to go camping
If you want to buy equipment, I’ll strongly suggest going to a Decathlon store in Beijing. They offer tents, mattresses and sleeping bags at an affordable price for good quality. You might pay around 30 to 40$ for everything.
If, like us, you prefer to rent here’s what we did and how much it cost us :
We rented a 3-person tent for 80RMB, 3 sleeping pads for 10RMB each and one sleeping bag for 30RMB. The price included a 3-day rental, which seems to be the standard for this shop. They don’t speak any English, and we had to pay a deposit of 500RMB.
In total we paid 140RMB, which is the equivalent of slightly less than 20$. We were 3 adults + a two-year-old kid camping around the end of June.
Here is the address :
The name of the shop is Sanfo.
Renting only a sleeping bag and use it to selle under the stars could do the job, you can camp inside the towers where you would be protected from the rain and the cold.
The Great Wall is higher in altitude than Beijing, therefore it can be much colder. Keep that in mind, especially if you plan on camping in China during the winter ! It might be snowing up there.
Where to go camping on the Great Wall of China?
The Great Wall stretches for thousands of kilometers. Therefore there are many different locations to camp. The farther you are from Beijing, the less touristic the Wall usually is. But be aware that most parts of the Wall are in disrepair and some might not be suitable for camping. On the other hand, you won’t be able to camp at the most touristic areas such as Badaling, Mutianyu or Jinshanling, the guards won’t let you put your tent up there, even at night.
Therefore you need a place where the Great Wall of China is still in an acceptable condition and not too touristic so the authorities don’t bother patrolling. Multiple places near Beijing fit that description such as Gubeikou and Jiankou. The guy at the shop suggested us to go to Hebei province, but that is a long journey from Beijing.
In the end, we chose to go to Jiankou so the rest of the article will focus on this part of the wall.
The advantage of Jiankou is that it’s the closest spot you can get to from Beijing. It’s also known to be one of the most scenic areas of the Wall.
Hiking and camping in Jiankou
Jiankou is the name of a village located down from the wall. This part of the wall is confusingly also called Jiankou. Therefore we headed for the village of Jiankou, which was a big mistake. To get from the village to the Wall was an adventure that we will surely remember for ages. It took us almost 4 hours to get up there, and at time we thought we would never make it. Bear in mind that we were carrying provisions for a day and I was carrying a 2 year-old baby.
The best solution is to head to the other side of the valley, to a village named Xizhazi. Public transportation is even more limited on this side, since there’s only a few buses a day, but you can hike to the wall in about 30 minutes on a straightforward path.
How to get to the Jiankou part of the Great Wall of China ?
Step 1 : Bus 916快 (1 hours and 20 minutes)
From Dongzhimen Public Transport Hub, take “916快”(RMB12) Remember not 916, but 916快(=916 express) as 916 will take you about 1 hour more. Fare is 12RMB. It will be 50% cheaper if you have a Beijing transportation card, otherwise you need to bring the exact fare, no change will be given.
After 14 stops and around 1hr 20 mins, exit at Yang Jia Yuan 楊家園
Step 2 : Walk 10 minutes, or take a taxi/bus for a short ride
Walk 10 minutes and arrive at Yu Jia Yuan 于家园 bus stop. To get there, you have to keep going the same way as the bus you just went down for 300 meters, and then turn right at the first main intersection. The bus stop is on the right hand side 250 meters later. This is how it looks like on Baidu Map. A taxi should be really cheap, definitely less than 1US$, or you can take the bus H62.
If you need to buy provisions or eat it would be a good idea to do it here.
Step 3 : Bus H25 at 11:30 and 16:30, or take a taxi (~1 hour)
From 于家园一区 Yu Jia Yuan Yi Qu, take bus H25 (RMB8) to Xizhazi 西栅子 (note that there are only 2 buses a day: 11:30, 16:30) The ride takes about 1 hour.
There are 3 stops around Xizhazi village. Xizhazi dong (East), Xizhazi and Xizhazi xi (West) in sequence. If you choose to hike up from the middle part of the Jiankou Wall e.g. Zheng Bei Lou, you can get off at Xizhazi.
Since there are only 2 buses at this stop, you may not find much information about the time of the bus. In case of snowing, the bus service of H25 may be cancelled. You can call the district bus station at 69619132 for more information, but they definitely won’t speak any English.
There are some private cars waiting around the H25 bus stop. A good fare should be around RMB80-100 to Xizhazi.
In total, it should take 2 hours and a half by bus from Dongzhimen and 20RMB (less than 3$US).
And don’t miss our new article on how to visit the iconic Shaolin Temple, located not too far from Beijing !
Hiking from Jiankou to Mutianyu
Mutianyu is one of the most popular areas of the Great Wall of China. This part of the Wall has been restored, many tourists are flocking every day to see the result. You can even find a cable car to get up and down the Wall. It’s also a popular hike from Jiankou and you’ll find tour agencies organizing it with and without the camping option.
From Xizhazi you can hike directly to Zhengbeilou (Zhengbei Tower), and then carry on to Mutianyu. This is an easy hike.
The other option is to hike from Xizhazi to Jiankou. From there you can also hike to Zhengbeilou and then Mutianyu. The part from Jiankou to Zhengbeilou is quite steep and can be very challenging. Each year some people die doing this hike so you’d better be fit if you want to attempt it.
To understand, nothing is better than the map, so I’ll put it here one more time :
Tip : Before arriving at the Ox Horn Edge, there’s a shortcut on the right that will save you around an hour of walk if you feel tired.
Once you arrive to Mutianyu, you’ll need to get a ticket if you want to explore the restored part of the Wall. A guard will be there unless you arrive early enough, before 7am should do the job. It was the middle of the afternoon when we arrived this point and many tourists were looking at us. We just continued on a path on the right hand side and went down along the Wall.
Getting out of Mutianyu
If you pay for a ticket or you manage to sneak into the Mutianyu Great Wall, you’ll just have to follow the other tourists or ask the information center to get back to Beijing. The fastest solution is to take the H23 and once again the 916快 to Dongzhimen.
If you don’t enter the Mutianyu Great Wall, you’ll follow a parallel path that will lead you to a village. There’s only one road until you arrive to the main square where both roads are actually going outside of the village towards the same road. From there, the bus stop is named Bei Kou Cun 北沟, note that there are only three buses running the H36 route at 07:05, 12:15 & 18:30. If you miss them, you will have to hitch a ride or walk 1.9km to arrive at the Xin Ying 辛营 bus stop. The H36 is stopping near the place where you can directly catch the 916快 to Dongzhimen. Have a look on Baidu.
In our situation we passed by the main square and barely missed the midday bus, we walked on the right hand side road until someone offered us a lift. We weren’t even hitchhiking. He dropped us at the Mutianyu bus stop. While waiting there a car stopped to pick up one of his friends at the bus stop and also offered a free lift to Huairou, the town where we could catch the 916快 to Dongzhimen. As you can see locals are quite friendly !
If you’re interested to read about other thrilling experiences near China, check our article on how to hike the Yushan Mountain in Taiwan at almost 4.000 meters !
If you’re planning to head towards Mongolia after Beijing, here’s a guide on the cheapest way to get from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar !
Let us know if this post was helpful and share your experience camping on the Great Wall of China by leaving us a comment underneath this post ! Have a great time traveling in China !