First built during the Northern Qi dynasty, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall was erected as a means of defending Beijing and the imperial tombs. As one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, Mutianyu is both strikingly photogenic and hike-able. The section’s granite foundations clash pleasantly with the surrounding woodland, and this section of the wall offers the greatest ambient variability as the seasons shift and flow. Mutianyu is connected with the untamed Jiankou section of the Wall to the west and Lianhuachi to the east, and as you stand atop a watch tower you will be able to catch spectacular views of the stone structure snaking over precipitous mountain ridges along both ends of the horizon. For the young and young of heart, Mutianyu also offers a toboggan ride to the bottom of the wall, which is a fast and fun route back down to the base, the toboggan ride won’t disappoint.
Hiking the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is relatively straightforward, and the section open to tourists feature 22 watchtowers, numbered from east to west. Unlike many other sections of the wall, Mutianyu’s paths are comprised completely of steps, and there are also battlements on both sides of the Wall, unlike other sections which usually only feature them on one side. While most visitors take the care car up to the Wall, surefooted hikers can instead opt for a hike up to Mutianyu. There are two main paths up- a southern passage and a northern passage, and both will take a little over half an hour to complete and deposit you in approximately the same part of the Wall. While there are typically throngs of tourists near tower 14, which is where the cable car connects with the Wall, the vast majority of Mutianyu’s hike-able trail is relatively peaceful, and visitors who are keen on putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the masses can opt to hike to the unadulterated Jiankou section of the Great Wall, which connects to the west for a challenging but rewarding 4-5 hour adventure.