Great Wall of China at Shixia Guan

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Opt for a Shixia Guan tour from Beijing or catch bus 919 at Deshengmen Station (Déshèngmén Zhàn, 德胜门站) and get off at Yanqing Dong Guan Station (Yánqìng Dōng Guān Zhàn, 延庆东关站), where you can take bus 876 to Shixia Guan Station (Shíxiá Guān Zhàn, 石峡关站) and walk from there.

Shixia Guan (Shíxiá Guān, 石峡关) or "Stone Gorge Pass" is located just 70 km (43.4 mi) from Beijing, about 10 km (6.2 mi) southwest of the Badaling stretch of the Great Wall, the renovated part of which is one of Beijing's best-known tourist traps.

A far cry from the crowds, photo stands and hawkers of the renovated Great Wall at Badaling, Shixia Guan offers a more remote, unspoiled and natural way to experience the ancient splendor of this monumental feat of engineering. The terrain is wild and rugged and the Great Wall here trails across ridges and drops down into steep canyons. Though relatively well preserved in places, much of it is crumbling and presents some challenging but rewarding hiking and some fabulous photo opportunities. 

Once a key strategic location, the Shixia Pass was home to a grand castle, and the clay and brick walls of the castle and a number of official residences can still be seen in Shixia Guan Village. This section of the Wall was originally built around 1600 AD during the reign of Ming Emperor Wanli and, according to legend, played a crucial part in the overthrowing of that same dynasty during the Li Zicheng Rebellion. The story goes that in 1644, Li Zicheng tricked the Ming army stationed at Badaling into thinking he was leading his rebel forces to the the pass at Shixia Guan. With the official army otherwise distracted, Li actually led his troops through the pass at Badaling and on to Beijing where they would successfully depose the emperor and unintentionally make way for the Manchu army that founded the Qing Dynasty. 

It's possible to hike from Shixia Guan to Badaling (the old, un-restored section known as "Ancient Badaling"). About 7.5 km (4.5 mi) away, it takes approximately 4-5 hours to make the trek. As paths from the road are poorly marked and there is no tourist infrastructure, it's advisable to explore this section of the Wall with a guide in on an off-the-beaten-path Great Wall tour.

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