Accessing closed sections of Simatai

Simatai Great Wall

The Simatai Great Wall is famous not only for its challenge and danger, but also for its fantastic views. Many people wish to try to reach the summit at tower number 16, the famous Wang Jing tower, or tower for viewing the capital. But the Wall is closed to the public beyond tower 12, and there are guards present to prohibit you from passing.

Guard on Simatai Ridge

In 2004, I was prohibited from proceeding beyond tower 12, and time did not allow me to explore other options. At least, not in 2004. But during the following year I did some research, which was furthered by talking with local villagers once I arrived at Simatai in 2005 with the goal of reaching Tower 16.

I found that there are actually three viable options for accessing the closed section of the Wall, and of course I tried them all. Please read the following posts for details.

Please note that Simatai is very dangerous and climbing the Great Wall here should be done at your own risk. Many people have died here over the years and many more have suffered serious injuries.

The first option for reaching Wang Jing tower is to arrive at tower 12 early enough in the morning. Contrary to advertised warnings, the guards are not present at the end point very early. I would guess they do not arrive until the cable car begins operation, but I am not sure. By arriving at around 7 AM I was completely alone.

The second option is to walk along a path from the upper cable car station towards the Heavenly Ladder. Behind the cable car station is a small restaurant, and if you walk to the right side of this restaurant and behind, you will find the path leading towards the left and towards the Heavenly Ladder. Note that in places this path passes close by areas of steep dropoff, so be very careful. The path is very overgrown and not easy to follow. It's nice to have a GPS receiver with you, so if you lose the path, you can retrace your steps until you find it again. At the end of the path and shortly before you reach the base of the Heavenly Ladder, you must climb some large rock faces and again you should be very careful.

Looking down at the cable car station from near tower 8.

View from behind upper cable car station

The path is overgrown, steeply up and down, and not easy to follow.

Heavenly Ladder

Simatai Heavenly Ladder

Bottom of the Heavenly Ladder (Tianti)
Cat's eyes tower (tower 14) on the left

I also tried walking from the lower cable car station, and while it was interesting, it became apparent after about two hours that this was not the right way to reach the Great Wall. The terrain is very difficult and the distance is much further than I had imagined.

The third option is to approach from Tangjiazhai (唐家寨 – Táng jiā zhài) village via Bagezhuang (巴各庄 – Bā gè zhuāng) village. These villages are about a twenty-minute drive from Simatai. Tangjiazhai is located near Wangjinglou at 40°38'49"N 117°18'26"E. You can easily find a driver to take you from the Simatai parking lot. Find someone who has been there before. Much of the distance is on unpaved roads. This is by far the safest way to reach Wangjinglou if you aren't trying to climb the Heavenly Ladder or Sky Bridge or to reach the Fairy Tower (tower 15).

The path through the village towards the mountain.

Here is the path to the top

Ju Xian tower from near the top of the path

Ju Xian tower

Wang Jing tower

It's a steep, slippery climb up from Ju Xian tower to Wang Jing tower.

I have finally reached Wangjinglou!

View from Wang Jing tower left side towards Fairy Tower

Sky Bridge and Fairy Maid tower, Jinshanling in the distance

Note exit from Ju Xian tower towards Wang Jing tower is very precarious.

If you want to proceed from Wangjinglou to the Fairy Tower, but you don't like the idea of crossing the Sky Bridge (and who could blame you?), you will find a path off to the right, on the north side of the Sky Bridge but lower down. This is a much safer alternative.