Strung along an ancient chokepoint linking Northeastern China and Beijing, the Simatai Great Wall guards access to Gubeikou, a strategic pass which was vital to the safety of the ancient capital. Originally built during the Northern Qi dynasty, this section of the wall underwent extensive renovation during the Ming dynasty, as well as in more recent years. By virtue of its past defensive significance, Simatai is known for its steepness, and the sharp walls are separated by a valley into eastern and western sections, with its dozens of turrets perched like stone sentinels surveying the mottled landscape. According to some Great Wall specialists, Simatai best incorporates the varying characteristics of each section of the Great Wall, and due to its proximity to the city Simatai is arguably the most popular and well-traversed section of the Great Wall in modern times.
The Simatai section of the Great Wall stretches about five kilometers from the Wangjing Tower in the east to Chuanhoukou in the west, and the western and eastern sections are separated by the Mandarin Duck Lake, a semi-natural reservoir fed by two springs. Travelers will need to begin their journey at the Simatai Village Entrance, a newly-built launching spot located 1-2 km from the Wall, with a constant stream of free shuttle buses which will take you directly to the entrance of the Wall.
While hikers used to be able to head westward all the way to Jinshanling, these days only the eastern section is open to the public. Make your way eastward, passing through the Heavenly Ladder, a steep and narrow section of Wall which slopes precipitously along the mountain peak, with jagged cliffs on both sides of the pass. Eventually you will find yourself at the Sky Bridge, a short yet narrow crest which was a challenge to construct- back when this section was being erected, laborers relied heavily on mountain goats to transport bundles of bricks across the precipitous terrain all the way to the mountain top. As you reach the easternmost edge of the Wall, Simatai will gradually give way to increasingly steep buffs, and you will be stopped by guards if you wander too close to the edge. As with most sections of the Wall, there is a cable car which can expedite your journey, although Simatai also features a zip-line which can take you over Mandarin Duck Lake and back to the base of the Wall in less than a minute.