The Great Hike of China’s Huge Wall

by Sharon -- March 3, 2010

I never thought I would have been so happy to have walked a teeny, miniscule portion of the Great Wall of China, but I was.  Partly because it was breathtaking in terms of its surroundings and history, and a much bigger part is because no one really tells you that it is a hardcore workout!  Clearly you don’t go into the Great Wall thinking it’s going to be a leisurely stroll down a perfectly paved sidewalk (although I somewhat did), but you also don’t think it will make you so sore that you can’t walk upright or with two straight legs.

Our recent trip to the Great Wall was quite lovely.  The sun was shining despite the snow on the ground, the tourists on the wall were few, and we had packed enough snacks to survive on for a week.  There had been many organized tours available for seeing the Great Wall, but being the budget travelers that we are, we decided to forgo paying the extra cost of having a group of people tagging along and wasting our flavor (aka “cramping our style”).  We, instead, organized our own personal tour of the wall that we had read about online.  It consisted of a 6.2 mile walk along the wall, starting at Jinshanling and ending at Simatai (for those of you who also want to do the hike yourself).  What is usually left out in the tourist information is the amount of uphill walking that this entails.  My hamhocks (thighs) were barking (sore) like crazy towards the end!

Apparently there are some portions of the wall that are in absolute shambles.  Unfortunately, we did not cross those sections.  The areas that we hiked were generally still paved, aside from many loose and broken stones.  The scary parts involved steep downhill/uphill treks. The problem with this was the fact that I am illogically paranoid of going downhill, mainly because as I age, I become extremely scared of injuring myself while doing such things as running (I could trip on my own feet and face plant, losing all my teeth and breaking my nose).  Or riding a bike downhill (I could accidentaly ride over a branch, causing the bike to throw me forward into the road).  And walking close to the edge of a tall height (I could lose my balance by turning around, thus causing a fall to my death).  And of course walking downhill (the tread on my shoes might be too thin and I’ll either fall onto my butt or slide down, skinning my hands).  Because of these safety anomalies that I have, I am already sympathetic towards my future children.

The scenery surrounding the wall was amazing; nothing but rolling hills, rice paddies, sky, and Chinese wall.  Walking on The Great Wall, I realized that it shows you just how ridiculous the Chinese are.  Who else would build a 5,500 mile wall made of STONE and EARTH along the tops of massive hills and mountains just to keep people out?  Crazy!  I also noticed that the Wall is very narrow.  All of those “you can see the Great Wall from the moon” beliefs are absolute garbage, and it was very apparent standing on the wall that the rumor was false.  In fact, the only way the Wall would be visible from the moon is if its color were completely different from its surroundings and only if it were 70 miles wide.  The widest section of the wall is 9.1 feet.  I always thought that the rumor seemed ridiculous, but now I REALLY sense a discrepancy in that belief.

Our friends Matt and McKenna told us of a friend of theirs who had actually walked the entire distance of the wall, all 5,500 miles of it.  Judging from how intense the minute portion of the wall was that we hiked (about 6 miles), this seemed like the craziest thing- and it was.  Apparently he had to take hospital breaks and had to rest for months at a time in between his hiking stints.  He also lost so much weight by the end that his bones were poking out of his face…  On second thought, maybe this can be my ‘Bikini Body by Summer’ plan.

To see our wonderful pictures of our day at The Great Wall, take a look at our Gallery!  As we stood on the wall, it was hard to imagine anybody taking a bad picture of the beautiful scenery.  Somehow we managed to take MANY bad pictures, so we only posted the decent ones for your sake.  You’re welcome.

Great Wall Quote of the Day: I just farted and it smells like hash browns.” (Courtesy of Matt)

Note: All facts about The Great Wall were found on Wikipedia, our favorite site that makes us wonder what we ever did without it.

Be awesome and help us share:

6 Responses to “The Great Hike of China’s Huge Wall”

  1. I would totally think that walking on the Wall would be a leisurely stroll too. There go all my misconceptions.

  2. I have the same fears as you! except on an average hike of 2 miles, I have managed to fall close to 20 times. This was the last hike I was on and it was in Washington, SO I was having a bella moment…. Anyways, this part of your trip is probably the part I am the most jealous of…. this is something I have always wanted to do!

  3. Also, after looking at your pictures, I cant tell you enough how hard I just laughed out loud(while spitting out my coffee onto my work computer) the pictue of you and your sparkler and 30 chins. I wish I could comment on your photos, I have many comments for all of them :)

  4. Holly: You can use our Facebook albums to comment if you’d like! Yeah, I think there’s something about sparklers that really bring out my hidden chins.

    Julie: There are some parts of the wall that are easy to walk, but for some reason we decided to pick a very strenuous section. Not my decision, obviously! But it was completely worth the next day’s shooting back pains- it was amazing!

  5. We’re just planning which section of the great wall to do, we are torn between this trek or Ba Da Ling as you can get there by train.

    Although just checked out your link and it says that the starting point is now closed for renovations for the next two years!

    Need a new plan!

  6. Hi Kirsty,

    I actually have a guest post going up in the next couple of days with a ton of detail on this hike. In doing research for it I learned that, while the wall is supposed to be closed, there are people that are apparently still doing this hike. I’ll send you the link when the guest post goes up (I think in the next 2 days). In the meantime, here’s my favorite site for information on the Great Wall: Good luck, let us know how it goes!


Leave a Reply