Although officially part of neighbouring Tianjin, Huangyaguan is a restored section still within reach of Beijing. It’s a bit further out, but great if you’re looking to rack up some serious steps without crowds or the crumbly peril of the wild wall. You could even run a marathon here.
Part of the original Northern Qi dynasty fortification, Huangyaguan dates all the way back to the 550s, though like much of what we recognise today as ‘the Great Wall’, it wasn’t until 1569 during the Ming dynasty that it gained its current scale and layout, under the direction of General Qi Jiguang.
With the establishment of the Qing dynasty in 1644, and with it relative stability, the Great Wall’s importance as a defence became much less significant – particularly as they controlled most of the area north of it, including Manchuria and Mongolia.
As a result, over the following 470 odd years, the construction began to fall into disrepair, and it was not until the mid-1980s that it received a bit of restoration TLC. What stands now is a pleasant and accessible pass that that remains relatively quiet throughout the year.
While mainly offering restored wall, Huangyaguan has a few slightly rougher-round-the-edges segments, and makes for a pleasant, if short, ramble from end to end.
The main draw for visitors these days is the annual Great Wall Marathon
, or the chance to recreate it, at least. A variety of running events are now held at different sections, but with accreditation from the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS), Huangyaguan’s is the big one, bringing in more and more fitness freaks each year since its beginnings in 1999.
Only a small portion is actually run upon the wall – including 5,164 steps of stairs – with the rest passing through nearby villages and surrounding countryside, but that doesn’t take away from the toughness – it’s got a reputation as one of the most challenging races around, with the current records standing at 3:09:18 (men's) and 3:32:12 (women's). Let the games begin.
Fun fact At the eastern entrance of Huangyaguan is Taipingzhai, where there stands a giant statue built in memory of General Qi Jiguang, the man largely responsible for the Great Wall as we know it today.
Be warned Not to sound like your worried mother, but if you’re going to attempt your own Great Wall marathon, do come prepared – there isn’t exactly a 7 Eleven on every corner round here, so bring enough water and provisions, and take care on the roads.
Hikers say ‘This is a section of Great Wall you might wish to visit if you’ve already “collected” all the other sections in Beijing. The wall here runs for just a short distance, but what you could do for extra exercise to is recreate the route used by the Great Wall Marathon.’
Distance from the city 113km
Getting there You’ll first need to get to Sihui station (Subway Line 1) in east Beijing; from there, you’ll need to head to the Sihui Long Distance Bus Station across the road, and take a coach to Jixian Bus Station (蓟县客运站; 40RMB; around 2 hours; 6.30am-7.30pm), where your only option is to take a driver – you will not be short of offers, but don’t pay more that 200RMB for a round trip.
Opening hours and tickets
7.30am-6.30pm, year round. 70RMB; 40RMB (students); free for children under 1.2m