Badaling is the closest part of the Great Wall and thus the most visited. It was the first section to be open to tourists after the reconstruction of the Wall in 1957. For travelers limited on time, going to Badaling would be the most efficient way of seeing the Wall. Cable cars run up and down its length to save time and effort in hiking uphill. This section of the Wall is fully restored and very crowded, making the experience not as relaxing as desirable. One possible way of avoiding the crowds is arriving later in the afternoon, but even then it’s a gamble, and time at the area will be limited.
Mutianyu is further away than Badaling but is also fully restored and equipped with cable cars for easy access and a toboggan for a fun descent. It will take around an hour and a half to arrive at Mutianyu, but the crowd won’t be as significant a barrier to enjoying the beautiful scenery.
This section of the Great Wall is not commonly visited by tourists, but appreciated by locals. In this area, the Wall meets the water and is partially submerged, providing a stunning view. This part of the wall is not officially open to the public, and the only guardian of the entrance is an elderly man with a cardboard sign. It is also not restored and not safe to climb in bad weather conditions. Still, the view is stunning and the hike not too challenging.
This section of the wall is completely wild and unrestored, which makes for a risky, but exciting hike. Definitely not the best option for inexperienced hikers, as the steps are withering and can be outright dangerous to climb. The section is not officially open to the public and the entrance is controlled by locals. Appropriate footwear and comfortable clothing are recommended.