Scaling the Great Wall of China (Huang Hua Cheng) Itinerary

Climbing the Great Wall of China is on many people’s bucket lists - it is likely to be on yours too! It is known to be one of the greatest wonders of the world for its grandeur and historical significance in China’s history. The Great Wall was built over several centuries to protect the territories of many Chinese empires across the span of Chinese history against external invaders. By its nature, the Great Wall is built across nearly 9000km of mountainous terrain, with broken parts in between, and therefore impossible to “complete” an entire tour of it.

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot see the Great Wall of China from space. There are some wider and narrower parts to it, some that are not larger than a two-laned road.

Hiking the Great Wall of China - what are my options?

Other than Beijing, you can also access popular hiking trails of it from Qinhuangdao (300km east of Beijing), Jiayuguan (Gansu) and Hushan (Liaoning, very close to the North Korean border). From Beijing city, the available trails, according to descending order of popularity, are: Badaling, Mutianyu and Huanghuacheng.

Although I have not personally scaled the Badaling and Mutianyu’s trail of the Great Wall, I love my experience to Huanghuacheng so much that I actually went twice on two different trips. Huanghuacheng is famous for having a certain section of the Great Wall being submerged underwater due to rising water levels from a nearby dam. In midsummer, small yellow flowers will also blossom across the hills, giving its name “Huanghuacheng” (literally Yellow Flowers City).

The reasons that I recommend Huanghuacheng are:
  • Relative obscurity (yay, no crowds - major plus)
  • Uniqueness of the scenery with lakes and rivers
  • Three trails of varying difficulty levels for different types of visitors
  • Cable car access to the top with top-notch views of generous stretches of the Great Wall

Access for wheelchair users and people with children
It is not wheelchair friendly because there are stretches of continuous stairs (as pictured below) to reach the location with cable car access. If you are coming with a child and a baby pram, it is possible if you take the less strenuous route - manage your expectations with my guide below.

How do I reach Great Wall Huanghuacheng via Beijing city?
1. Public transport
Start from Dongzhimen Public Transport Hub (东直门公交枢纽大厅)
Take Bus 916 from Dongzhimen Public Transport Hub to Huairou Nanhuayuan 3rd (怀柔南华园三区)
Walk in the same direction about 100m to Huairou Nanhuayuan 4th (怀柔南华园四区)
Take ’Huairou–Huanghuacheng-Great-Wall Direct Bus' (怀柔水长城专线车), a blue minibus, from Huairou Nanhuayuan 4th (怀柔南华园四区) to Huanghuacheng

Duration (from Dongzhimen to Huanghuacheng): ~2.5 hours

Bus Timetable for Huairou–Huanghuacheng-Great-Wall Direct Bus

Huairou-Huanghuacheng: [5:35/6:25/7:06/7:45/8:25/9:05/10:05/10:45/11:25/12:05/13:05/14:05/15:0515:25/16:05/16:45/ 17:35/18:20]
Huanghuacheng-Huairou: [6:10/6:55/7:55/8:35/9:15/9:55/10:35/11:35/12:15/12:55/13:35/14:35/15:35/16:35/17:00/17:35/18:15/19:05]

2. Tourist bus (Only available between April-October, Saturdays,Sundays and Public Holidays)
Available at 8.30am - Dongzhimen Public Transport Hub (东直门公交枢纽大厅) at Bus 418
Price: 35 RMB - one way / 70 RMB - return
Note: Payment on the bus
Edit: Online reviews mentioned that this bus service is unreliable; I have not taken it before.

3. Hiring a driver in Beijing
Available via WeChat +86 13683685865 (赵海瑞) Zhao Hai Rui is a manager for a driver company in Beijing. He is not the driver, he will assign you one depending on your needs. There are options for normal car sedans (3 passengers) or vans (7 or 12 or 17 or 18 passengers), at different prices. Different car brands (comfort-level) will also cost differently. They do not really care where you are going as long as they return to Beijing city within the stipulated time frame. So you can maximize this option by dropping off at a breakfast place in the morning, going to the Great Wall, and then request a drop off at a specific location thereafter.

Pasaat - 900 RMB/car/day (~8 hours)

Information you need to let him know: location, date and time of pickup
Information he will send you: driver name, car plate number, WeChat contact
Duration (Sanyuanqiao to Huanghuacheng): ~1.5 hours
Disclaimer: I have personally used this driver manager contact before and he has been polite and trustworthy, therefore I am recommending him. I do not gain a profit cut from this recommendation.

Note: When I was staying at Novotel Beijing (Sanyuanqiao), the hotel did offered a car+driver service of 800 RMB/day but specifically a return trip to Badaling Great Wall. Badaling Great Wall is approximately 20 minutes (by driving) nearer than Huanghuacheng Great Wall, so perhaps that may have made the difference. The Chinese are generally opportunistic and hardworking, so there is a possibility that your hotel may offer similar competitive options. Choose accordingly to your requirements!

Entry ticket price for Huanghuacheng:
Adults: 60 RMB
Students & Elderly (above 60), proof needed: 30 RMB
(If you buy online on Ctrip, it is 40 RMB for adults. No online option for students or elderly.)

Speedboat ticket price:
One-way: 30 RMB / pax
Return: 55 RMB / pax

Opening hours:
8.30am - 4.30pm

I recommend to reach when they open (i.e. 8.30am) so that you reach the top of the Great Wall by 9.30am. It can get scorching hot after 10am especially in the summer, because there is no shade except in the towers.

This is the map of Great Wall Huanghuacheng:

There are many mini attractions (“mini peninsula/ beach”, “jade pool”, “chestnut farm”, etc) along the hiking trail which makes it more interesting. My favourite part is definitely still the great wall itself! You can follow the obvious signages all around the park to stay on track.

Upon entering the park, you will first cross a bridge that oversees a dam.

This is the toughest flight of stairs in the entire trail, and you will encounter it almost immediately after the bridge. Don’t be afraid to take some rests in between, especially when you turn around, you will realize you are getting to a good vantage point to see the surrounding sights.

What a relaxing feeling of being in the cradle of nature as the mountains loom all around!

Most of the Great Wall in its entirety was built in the Ming Dynasty, and this was no exception. This section of the great wall was built in the 2nd year of Yongle Emperor’s reign in the Ming Dynasty (1404). It was served as the north gate to guard the capital of Beijing (therefore it is the most northern section as compared to Mutianyu or Badaling) and also, to guard the Ming tombs (Shisanling, one of Beijing’s attractions).

Obviously the “Ming” flags newly planted on the Great Wall here are for “historic” effect given how fresh they appear, and gives visitors the feeling of teleporting back in time. There are many sections that are broken due to wear and tear and a lack of maintenance.

You would see certain inaccessible sections that are blocked off - please do not scale them for your own safety. They will crumble with weight, and they are not maintained due to the difficulty of it being on the slopes. Just imagine how tough it must have been to built it in the past!

Climb the walls to get a great view of the mountains and lakes all in one single frame!

That’s me and Lexi happily climbing around the largest section of the wall - with nobody at all around the park! You would not get this “tourist-free” view at Badaling or Mutianyu. The wall goes on for miles, at some point, we turned back to get back onto the “path”.

A never-ending path to guard the mountains.

I did put the flag back afterwards.. ;)

A classic section of the Great Wall where it has collapsed and ends in the lake.

Breathtakingly quiet with a huge reserve of wildlife, Huanghuacheng proves that it is a natural wonder in itself, not just for the great wall.

Opened only newly in June 2019, I discovered the cable car service in Huanghuacheng that brings you straight to the top on my second trip with my parents in August 2019. Being in their mid 60s, it would be more advisable to conserve their energy for enjoying the sights rather than tire them out unnecessarily with extra climbing.

The cable car service is located next to the chestnut park (板栗园). Every June to July, you will even see the budding of chestnuts at the park.

The cable car service brought us directly to the highest and largest watch tower, also known as a fenghuolou (烽火楼). This is where soldiers keep a lookout for enemies. 

As each watch tower is very far apart from one another, they will communicate across the watch towers by means of lighting up the watch tower’s flame - the fastest way to deliver the warning message.

Being at the highest watch tower also means a 360 vantage point view of the entire region.

Small “windows” to look out at the landscape to imagine the work of the Ming soldiers.

The most spacious watch tower ever, especially at some a high point!

Great view from the top including the lakes and mountains!

After a great journey to the top, we decided to take the speedboat directly from the mini peninsula / shops area, to the entrance instead of walking the same way back. It saves a lot of time and gave us an alternative experience of Huanghuacheng.


On a separate journey, Lexi and I, together with our friends, were super adventurous in walking around randomly and we got super lost. In the end, we had to climb down a super steep flight of stairs with very narrow steps to get back to the entrance (we could also walk a long way back). Glad to know that there’s definitely a way to get back even if you have fun wandering, as this park is very well-maintained.

Please note that Huanghuacheng does have park closures from time to time. It could be due to heavy rains, the recent Covid-19 virus outbreak, et cetera. To avoid disappointment, so please check out their website before going (Google translate and look out for “水长城景区临时闭园” - the term for temporary closures and the timestamp of their update): Enjoy your time at Huanghuacheng Great Wall!

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a travel and food blogger with a constant longing to be somewhere to makes her feel alive ☆ life's an adventure

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