How to Hike the Full Length of the Great Wall of China? 8,851.8 km!

The Great Wall of China spans a long distance in the vast land and many sections are on steep and dangerous terrains. For those who want to hike the full length of the Great Wall, it requires great physical strength, rich hiking experience, abundant knowledge and strong will power. Some hikers do have completed the great hiking of intact segments. This cannot be done without a thorough plan and full preparation. Here are 10 steps about how to plan a Great Wall hike and some Great Wall hiking tips are also provided to assist you.  
Great Wall of China

Step 1: Design a Hiking Route within One's Capacity

The total length of the Great Wall of China in different dynasties is 21,196.2 kilometers (13,170.7 miles) and the length built in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) is 8,851.8 kilometers (5,500.3 miles). If hiking the Ming Dynasty’s main line from Shanhaiguan to Jiayuguan, it takes at least 3-5 months. If you want to cover all the branch lines, theoretically it needs at least one and a half years; practically, the time may be even longer.
If you are scared or hesitated to finish the long hiking, never mind, just select a classic section to experience a Great Wall day hiking.
If you make up your mind for a long hiking or even a full-length hiking, plan a proper route according to your time, budget and physical condition. Decide the start point from Jiayuguan in western Gobi Desert or Shanhaiguan by the eastern Yellow Sea. In addition, study the terrain, landform and climate in advance to make a thorough Great Wall hiking preparation.

Step 2: Obtain Necessary Permit from the Chinese Government

No other permit is needed in common segments near Beijing like Badaling, Mutianyu, Juyongguan and Simatai. Just apply for a Chinese visa before your trip. If you plan to hike for a long trip, confirm with your visa agency about the visa process. In addition, some sections are near military zones and you may need to apply for a special permit before the trip. All the processes have to be done as early as possible to avoid delaying your trip. 

Step 3: Make Clear Month Plan, Week Plan & Day Plan

According to the route and your physical strength, make a thorough plan. Write down your plan as detailed as possible and do not just think in mind. Allocate your day hiking miles properly and arrange your rest points, accommodation points and supply points where you can buy water and food. On the way, it is suggested to follow your plan to hike. But make a review about your plan every week and adjust it based on physical strength and weather to suit reality. If necessary, prolong the hiking time in case of excessive physical exertion.

Step 4: Physical Preparation

It is suggested to take more exercise in advance to strengthen your body. What's more, take a full physical check-up before the trip and confirm with your doctor if you can handle long-distance hiking.

Step 5: Pack Hiking Gear and Halve its Weight

 Clothing: windproof clothes, suitable hiking shoes, caps, gloves, raincoat… 
 Hiking Gear: alpenstock, headlamp…
 Sleeping Gear: light tent, sleeping bag…
 Digital Devices: camera, smart phone, power bank…
 Maps & GPS devices.
 Food & Water: take with you 3-7 days’ quantity and you can supply it on the way.
 First Aid Kit: sun screen, Band-Aid and common medicine.
 Documents like passport and money - the MOST important!
 See more:
Great Wall Hiking Checklist: 15 Things that Expert Hikers Always Take 
15 Great Wall Hiking Tips
After all the packing gear above are packed, you'd better cut half of the weight, or you may not bear the load on the way. If you still cannot stand the load on the way, throw away unnecessary things and just keep yourself warm and the mobile phone with electricity. GPS devices, water, documents and money are also necessary. Others can be supplied in your rest points.  

Step 6: Find a Companion

You'd better not go hiking alone. This is a serious problem about safety. In Beijing Jiankou Great Wall, some hikers used to get lost or injured. Hiking with friends or a group is very essential, which can help a lot if you happen to meet some problems like getting lost.

Step 7: Contact at Regular Intervals

Before starting a long hike of the Great Wall, file your hiking route and detailed plan, and send them to a reliable friend. Make sure to contact regularly with your friend and let your friend know where you are and how you are. Any change in your hiking plan should be told timely to him or her. Thus, he or she can offer assistance if you happen to meet danger or emergency or you get lost.    

Step 8: Keep Good Internet Accessibility

Purchase a local SIM card. Top up it so that you can connect the internet to use Instagram or Facebook. Post your travel experience or photos on the social network to help you feel less lonely or hopeless and alleviate anxiety. Some sections of the Great Wall are pretty remote and they don't have a good telephone signal. So it is better for you to accommodate in the towns covered with the internet along the way, then you can contact friends and families. In addition, you can back up photos and record data in case of being lost.   

Step 9: Learn Basic Chinese and Enjoy Local Hospitality

Learn some basic Chinese words so that you can make simple conversations with local people. Get acquainted with local customs to have a better understanding and experience local life. In the remote mountain area, people mostly are authentic and hospitable. However, do exercise caution and take good care of your documents and money. In some sections, you may need to hire a local guide. Bargain a proper price in advance.  

Step 10: Be Cautious of Heatstroke and Dehydration

Long time walking is easy to cause heat loss and dehydration. Take regular breaks, eat frequent small meals, and replenish water and food timely. The temperature in summer is pretty high and tourists need to notice the heatstroke when hiking. Especially in the western area, the climate of the desert is dry and hot in summer. Avoid to hike at noon, and the best time is to travel before 11:00 and after 16:00 to escape the heat of the day. If you don't feel very well on the way, just stop to rest. Seek medical help in time if it is getting worse.   

 Further Reading:
Best Great Wall Hike: Top 5 Wild Hiking Routes
How Long to Walk the Great Wall of China?
Has anyone walked the Great Wall of China?

 Stories about Hiking the Entire Great Wall:
 William Edgar Geil - The First One Hiked the Entire Great Wall of China: He took 3 months and finished in 1908.
 Dong Yaohui Hiked the Entire Great Wall: He took 508 days and completed on September 24, 1985
 Liu Yutian – the First Person Hiked the Great Wall Alone: He took 2 years and finished on April 5, 1986.
 William Lindsay - Working on Great Wall Protection after Trekking: He took 8 months to hike in 1987.
 Sally - the Only Woman Walked the Entire Great Wall of China Alone: She took half a year to hike in 1990.
 Ren Erlin & Ren Zigeng – Chinese Father and Son Trekked the Great Wall: They took 89 days and finished the hiking in 2003.
 Jamie Bradish & Rob England - a US Pair Took 10 Months to Walk the Great Wall: They finished in 2007.
 Stephen Robert Loken – the First Person Walked to the East End of Hushan Great Wall: He took 601 days and completed in 2011.
- Last updated on Jan. 04, 2024 by Brenda Lian -
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