This is an excellent Great Wall hike for those looking to go beyond the touristy hikes they may have already completed. The starting and ending points are easily accessible. There are a couple of dangerous spots on the hike. In one place, the remains of the Great Wall are very narrow and balance and care are needed not to slip off as you walk across. In another place, a tower door must be entered by reaching out over the edge of the Great Wall and climbing up into a somewhat high doorway, and care is needed not to fall or slip down.
The final slope of the Great Wall down to Xishuiyu is in very bad condition. The surface is very crumbly and slippery, and the incline is long and steep. Therefore, you should exit the Great Wall before this final span and take paths through the woods down to Xishuiyu. There are many paths and branches and you need to have a good sense of direction not to get lost. Complicating this matter is the fact that Google Earth imagery is currently significantly misaligned in this area, so tracing paths for transfer to your GPS is useless.
Start this hike at Huanghuacheng and head west (left) towards Xishuiyu. You can either get picked up at Xishuiyu or you can walk back along the road to Huanghuacheng. It took us about 4.5 leisurely hours to complete the hike and just over an hour to walk back.
If you’re looking for a shorter hike, you can stop at Zhuangdaokouguan, hike south (left) to Zhuangdaokou, and then walk back to Huanghuacheng. This whole round trip can be completed in about two hours. Zhuangdaokou is the western end of the restored portion of the Great Wall here, so this is a relatively easy hike, although there are a few steep slopes that can be slippery, especially when wet.
The initial slope heading west from the road cannot be climbed. There are paths around this area on both the north and the south side.
Start of path to the south
Start of path to the north
Looking down from the first tower
Looking down from above the first tower
Tablet at the north exit of the second tower
Location of tablet
Horrible repair quality
Looking down the final slope to Zhuangdaokou
Zhuangdaokouguan is visible at the bottom
A view of Erdaoguan, an early Ming Dynasty stone wall
Here a branch of the Great Wall leads north to Erdaoguan
Another view towards Erdaoguan
Here we’re approaching Xiaoxihu lake at Xishuiyu
Here we see the final tower before the steep slope down to Xishuiyu
Overview of Xishuiyu from the tower
The slope down beyond the final tower is too steep and deteriorated to climb safely
Therefore, you should use this exit on the south (left) side of the wall just before the final tower
Elevation profile from Huanghuacheng to Zhuangdaokou
Elevation profile for the entire hike