Snaking its way across the Chinese countryside, the Great Wall stood before us, iconic and in a state of disrepair.
Only the sounds of birds accompanied the kaleidoscope of shimmering rays that beam their way across the evening sky.
Even though we found ourselves at the nation’s most spectacular attraction, we were completely alone. Seldom have we been so in awe of our good fortune.
With the sun setting and the historic barrier glowing, we were realising our dream of camping on the Great Wall of China
On our very first day in China we Couchsurfed with an American couple in the city of Kunming. Sasha and Rachel from the amazing blog The Grateful Gypsies welcomed us into their home and gave us a wonderful first introduction to China.
Over the following few days we shared stories and advice, laughed and joked and formed a great friendship. One evening they mentioned to us that one of their ultimate highlights of living over five years in the country was camping on the Great Wall of China.
Our mouths dropped. We didn’t even know that this was possible! In a matter of moments we formed our very first (and suddenly most important) goal for China – Camp on the Great Wall!
Fast forward three months, and we were bouncing along a winding road towards the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall. Our dreams were soon about to become a reality and we couldn’t be more excited.
Armed with directions from Rachel and Sasha we were edging closer to the epic symbol of China.
Some things don’t live up to expectations, and some things surpass them. Tiger Leaping Gorge was great, but Lijiang sucked, for example.
One of the few problems of living a life on the road is that it gets harder and harder to be impressed. In this case, camping on the Great Wall of China was better than we ever could have imagined. Armed with some snacks, our tent, sleeping gear and a bottle of rice wine, we set off from Beijing.
There are many different areas you can visit on the Great Wall of China. The Badaling section, with its restored façade and built-up tourist infrastructure, is by far the most popular.
This also means it is the busiest, and a place that we desperately wanted to avoid. We opted for the Gubeikou section, which was the same part our friends visited. It proved to be a wise choice.
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How To Get To The Gubeikou Section Of The Great Wall
We followed the advice of our good friends Sasha and Rachel and headed to the Gubeikou (古北口) section of the Great Wall of China to experience our camping adventure.
Getting there isn’t exactly hard, but it does take time. From leaving Beijing to arriving at the Great Wall took us about four hours on public transport. Costs are cheaper if you have a metro card.
- First head to the Dongzhimen (东直门枢纽站) transport station in Beijing. If you are taking the subway, it is on Line 2 and Line 13. Once you are there walk to the bus station and look for bus 980 heading to Miyun (密云) The cost is 15RMB and will take around two hours.
- Ask the driver to drop you off at the Drum Tower (密云古楼). When you get off try and find a nice local to point you towards the local bus station where you can head to Gubeikou. It is just around the corner from the Drum Tower, so won’t take too long to walk.
- Bus number 25 is the one that goes to Gubeikou. It will take about one and a half hours and cost 13RMB (give or take a few yuan).
- The driver will likely know where to drop you off at, but if not just tell him you want to go to the Great Wall (长城) and he will stop at the entrance gate. You will start to see the Great Wall before you get there, so you will know you are close.
- Once at the entrance gate, pay the fee (25RMB when we went in June 2015) and then walk through the village. This ‘ancient village’ is being renovated for tourism, so expect it to be quite a tragic place in a few years when Gubeikou becomes popular. For now it is empty. There are a few restaurants and guest houses through here should you want to stop off for a meal.
- Follow the signs to the Great Wall. It is straightforward, but if you do get lost some of the locals will point you in the right direction.
Camping On The Great Wall Of China
When you follow the signs along the pathway and finally arrive at the Great Wall of China, you will have two options – head left or head right. We chose to turn right.
Climbing a set of stairs to get onto the actual wall we wandered along the top for about two hours, loving the views at every step. One of the first watch towers we reached had a new tiled floor, offering a decent place to throw our tent up and call a base.
While you weave between cracks and holes and examine the ancient watch towers, be careful not to trip and fall.
As the Gubeikou section is unrestored it can be a bit dangerous if you don’t watch your footing. While the landscape is marvellous from every corner, it is the high points that offer views that will stay with you for a lifetime.
At one point the top of the wall is barricaded and the path leads back down onto the ground. Our friends had told us that if you follow this path you will eventually reach another busier section of the Great Wall.
We weren’t interested in this, and instead headed back to the tiled watch tower. With no one around we pitched our tent and cracked open the bottle of rice wine.
Hours passed and we didn’t see a single soul. We were slightly on edge in case a ranger or police officer arrived and forced us back into the village. But we needn’t have worried.
As the sun started to set we saw the odd farmer returning to his pastures far below, but no one came anywhere near us.
Nightfall came and with no more rice wine left to drink, we called it a night.
Waking at sunrise the views were equally astonishing, but the clouds had crept over and obstructed the morning light. We hiked around in the brisk and cool air for an hour and then went back to sleep.
At 10am we rose, still with no one around. We packed our campsite up and headed back to the village. Still no one seemed to care that we had slept on the Great Wall.
Reaching the road we waiting for 20 minutes or so before a shared mini-van offered to give us a ride into Miyun for 15RMB. Rather than wait around for the bus we took him up on his offer.
Tips and Advice
- It is best to have your own tent and sleeping bag. If you do not have any there are a few companies in Beijing who rent them out.
- Bring enough food and water from Beijing to get you through the day and night, as outside of the Gubeikou village there are no shops to buy anything.
- If you do camp on the Great Wall of China, make sure you take all your trash back with you. There are bins in the village.
45 thoughts on “Camping on the Great Wall of China (The Complete Guide)”
Thanks so much for the tips. Really loved hearing your adventure.
I am planning on making this trip in the coming months (I will be prepared for the cold/snow). I was wondering where the entrance was specifically. I am traveling with a couple friends and we will be driving up to the village, but was curious exactly where the entrance is and which direction to hike the “coiling dragon mountain” section. Thanks!!
Hi Dalton, we only went there by public transport. We did not take any GPS coordinates. Sorry, we can not help you. All the best and have a great time.
My boyfriend really wants to do this but I’m nervous about being caught and fined? I know China can be dry strict about certain things. Does anyone or the blogger know of any experiences that have gone poorly?
Thanks in advance!
first off: for everybody who is planing on camping on the wall, it is still possible exactly as described in this article (June 2019). We just came back from Gubeikou and slept in the same watchtower as mentionend in this blog.
Before going there I read the comments about this part of the wall being closed and we were a bit worried going there. Luckely there was only a small part of the wall blocked by blue metal walls and “secrurity guards”, but there is a well paved way arround it, which was like a 45min detour.
We entered the wall close to the main road, after walking a bit through the village. It surely was not the main entrance, but was a nice trail through the bushes and we were not asked to pay a fee at any point. The village of Gubeikou looked kind of renovated, ready for more tourist to come, but there was NOBODY on the wall, when we spend our day and night on it.
We did not bring a tent or sleeping bags, just some air-matraces and slept well (almost no mosquitos there). It was our best experience in China we had and we are very thankful for the provided information on this side. I hope my notes are useful for everybody who wants to experience this awsome adventure 🙂
Were your worried about the security guards finding you? Do you know anyone who has been caught and fined?
Hey-a question from a first time China traveller/Great Wall camper wanna-be: How good is your Mandarin? I’m traveling by myself and my Mandarin is rough on a good day, but really want to wake up next to the Great Wall in my camp hammock.
Our mandarin was near nothing without a guidebook. You can rent tents from Beijing or if you have a hammock you can camp below the wall where the trees are. If you have the directions and know where you want to go and have it written in Mandarin you will not have a problem.
We will share our fresh experience from camping on the Great Wall (14/15 August 2018), maybe it is useful for someone 🙂
So we read first about the possibility to camp on the wall in a guidebook and were opting for Jiankou or Gubeikou section but we found your post and chose Gubeikou. The way there went very smoothly and we were super excited (especially as it was our wedding anniversary and we imagined to celebrate it with this adventure on the wall). Imagine our surprise when we came to the gate in Gubeikou and the tickets lady informed us through phone translator that… the Great Wall is CLOSED due to the weather conditions. “WTF?” we thought, as there were few clouds but generally it was hot and sunny. After a few minutes she wrote via translator again that because of the rain the previous day, a part of the wall in Gubeikou section collapsed and it was closed for visitors. We couldn’t believe our bad luck and we continued towards the entrance to see if she tells the truth. We met a couple of another foreigners that were coming back from the entrance and they stopped to tell us that it really was closed with a security tape and there were few security guys and no option to enter anywhere around, even illegally.
Luckily, I remembered that there should be another parts of the wild wall around Gubeikou and we saw more watchtowers on the other side of the road and river. So we went there (this is this “Croaching Tiger Mountain” part). There was nobody to sell tickets so we entered for free and we managed to hike the wall and camp in a watchtower too, watch the sunset and sunrise and it was an awesome adventure 🙂
Regarding this part of wall: you reach the first watchtower which is in good state and from there you can go down by the wall for a very short walk on a part in good state, but it is short. So we went up, but there at first the wall is not walkable at all, but there is a path next to it all the way up – the wall goes up very steep there but the path is safe. We continued by the path for around 2 hours, we met just few Chinese locals smiling to us. At the top the wall started being possible to walk on, so we continued for a while and it was possible to go further but all the watchtowers were in bad conditions so we decided to go back and slept in the first one. We had mattresses and sleeping bags. The tower is high above the town, but unfortunately you can see lights and hear the sounds of the road and rail traffic. You can see from there the other side of Gubeikou wall, the one that you described. Probably it would be better there, but we are still happy that we could realize this dream in this way at least and it was still a great and memorable adventure with beautiful views and nice parts of the unrestored wall to see.
I wrote a lot, but I thought it may be useful if someone gets there too just to see, like us, that the wall is closed.
What an adventure. Thank you for sharing. We are glad it worked out for you and you did get to camp. This information is great for other travellers. 🙂
The same story here! Everything what you wrote! Unbelievable.
Hey guys, Thanks so much for this amazing post. A friend and I were in Beijing in June (2018) and followed your Great Wall camping itinerary. Needless to say, it was a breathtaking experience (because of the great view and hike but also because it took us one hour to get to the first watch tower). We had a hard time renting a camping gear and tent in Beijing but finally managed to borrow sleeping bags from friends. The weather was pleasant June but a tent would have been nice since there were some drizzles. Anyways, it was the most memorable experience of my China trip so thank you!
We are so stoked you had a great time. It was the best experience we had in China. Glad you found some camping gear to be able to do it. 🙂
Hey I was curious about what you guys did for food. Aside from the stuff you first pack. Are their places like mini stores where you can restock your supply I was planning a trip here this summer an wanted to walk ruffly 2500-3000 miles of it so would take 2-4 months once again ruffly lol. Just wanted a idea if their are stores every so many miles or such. Since i was planning on covering 30 miles a day do you think I would have trouble finding food/water. The exact part I would be covering would be northern side of the Wei, Zhao, Qin, Yan . “Their is a image on Wikipedia an its the top yellow”
Hi Stephen, what an adventure. We wish you all the best. I am sure there will be towns along the way to stock up but not too far how much extra your’ll have to walk to get to them. We took everything in with us. Please keep in touch. We’d love to hear how your journey goes.
Hello! I am planning trip this summer and would love to do something similar to this. I do not have my own camping gear, but I’m not opposed to carrying it. You mentioned that there were places in Beijing where I could rent a tent/sleeping bag? Do you know of somewhere I could rent something affordable? Thanks!
Hi Sav, we had all our own gear and are not too sure about rental places in Beijing. Sorry we can’t help.
I never even thought of camping on the Great Wall, it looks amazing!
Another great blog post ! I’ve been reading through your blog for 2-3 hours now and really enjoyed many of the posts .. and after commenting on your Kyrgyzstan post I now come across this one !
As fate would have it I have planned, and am just waiting for the right photographic conditions (there must be snow – should be good in late February or early March I’ve been told) before traveling up from Shanghai for a week’s hiking and camping on the Wall, starting at Gubeikou and finishing at Simitai.
It was -6C last week in Shanghai which gave me the chance to test my sleeping bag & bivy in the garden (no tent) in preparation :)))
Reading your blog I feel that, despite the 30-40 years between us age-wise, our spirits are in the same place. My Instagram that I mentioned in my last comment is thedragonsfather BTW.
Cheers ! Kevin
Hi Kevin, Great to see you again. Wow it is cold there right now. I am glad you have some great gear for your adventure. I am so glad you left your IG. We would love to follow you. We believe anyone who travels and sees the world are all on the same page no matter what age difference. This world is massive and we love talking travel. 🙂
I used Great Wall Adventure Club for our family’s camping last August. I paid them some fees but they made our camp possible with no worries. We are two parents and 5, 7 years son and daughter. Certainly, the adventure was brilliant. We had a tour guide of his 30’s.
Hi Jonathan. Thank you for sharing your information. We are so glad you had a great time and it was an amazing adventure for you and your family. 🙂
We are very glad you had a good time with Great Wall Adventure Cloub! The fact that you have put both time and energy into planning, researching, and hiring us to be your China travel agency means the world to us. The trust you have put in us means that we met your standards to make your China experience both an enjoyable and unforgettable one. We are working hard to improve our service and look forward to serve more worldwide Great Wall purists.
Literally just read about this in LP and put it straight on my must do list! Your photos look epic : )
That’s awesome! Does it say you can camp on the Great Wall in the LP?
Nice pictures. So camping is allowed on the Great Wall? Good reading for a person intending to hike the Great Wall for the first time.
we went today 23.9.2017 here and it’s turned to a huge resort for rich people. tickets for the wall had to be reserved one day in advance, security was strict and it was impossible to sneak in. I don’t recommend going there for camping.
Which area did you go to? Sounds like you went to the busy main section. The wall is very big and there are many entrances to hike along the wall. The one close to Beijing is popular and does have resorts and you need to reserve your tickets (which are overpriced). Where we explored was over 4 hours out of Beijing, unrestored, no resorts and you don’t need to reserve your ticket. 🙂
Do you think it is possible to do the hammock instead of a tent?,
There is no where to hang the hammock in the towers. Please don’t try as it many not be 100% stable. There are a lot of trees down below where you could definitely hang one. Happy travels
Since you can camp in the tower, do you really need a tent?
You can go without one for sure but we liked having a tent.. There is a lot animal poo and rubbish in the towers. It is totally up to you.
Way cool, however on our 3 day hike on the great wall. The Chinese military was out fining people for camping on the wall. We had to camp with farmers. One group of campers got fined 1,000 USD for sleeping on the wall. They were pretty sad about it but they were lucky considering it was the Chinese military.
Oh no that sucks. Poor things. Maybe they are cracking down now. What part of the wall were you / they camping on?
Wonderful article, very useful and well explanation. Thanks a lot for offering this unique post with us. I really enjoyed by reading your blog post.
Thank you so much. We really appreciate it. 🙂
I have looked into this, but this time we are coming with our 5 kids in winter, which would probably be a disaster. Here is my question, though. Do you think that you could visit this part of the wall in winter for just a day visit?
Yes you definitely can. I wouldn’t camp though. 🙂 Have fun and enjoy
Nice post dear, you have added here very nice images and video. To visit the Great Wall is like a dream come true but if one doesn’t know about which sections to visit or, which are the less crowded areas, or where to get proper accommodation, then one should always book in with a local travel agency; get Great Wall Beijing Tours. Greatwall Trekclub is so popular in China.
The local tours take you to the crowded places and are way over priced. It can be easily done independently and with a lot of articles out there you can find the right information on accommodation, sections of the wall, transport, etc. Thanks for your comment darling.
Holy jumpin. We never thought of this either. In fact, we sent our tent back before we even headed into China. I would love to do this – looks fantastic. You two always amaze us with the great adventures you get up to. Don’t stop inspiring us.
We went to the Jinshanling area of the wall and it was partly renovated, partly crumbling, so wasn’t too tourist crazy. There was a campground at the bottom of the wall – it seemed closed in October when we were there, and I have no idea if foreigners would be allowed to stay there. I think it was the only campground we ever saw in China… https://www.myfiveacres.com/bike-touring/actually-pretty-great-wall/
We heard good things about the Jinshanling section as well. The only places we camped in China was there on the Great Wall and in a Tibetan monastery in Ganzi. You would think that country would be full of sick spots to pitch a tent!
What an amazing experience! Your pictures are other-worldly!
Thanks Sarah! Glad you enjoyed our pictures 🙂
Ok that is very cool. I lived in China for a year and never thought of doing that. Loving you’re work
Thanks Iain! We never thought of it either til we met The Grateful Gypsies. Glad they put the thought in our heads. Hope you get to do it next time you visit 🙂