China Great Wall Trail

China Great Wall Trail – Research for a +4000 miles / 6500km. long distance Chinese hiking trail

Hiking Trail Research Project by Frits Ahlefeldt, 

Watercolor of Chinese Great Wall
China Great Wall Trail hiking project – watercolor by Frits Ahlefeldt

The Great Wall of China stretches, according to the latest archaeological research, for more than 5.500 miles. Some even claim the Great Wall stretches much, much longer (Wikipedia’s measured length, with all arms and side walls combined is around 13.171 miles / 21.196 km. )

The Chinese Wall has most likely also been a foot-trail for as long as it has existed ( some claim more than 2000 – 3000 years, for the oldest parts.  All though most “modern” parts of the Great Wall are from the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 ) and those parts alone are around 5.500 Miles long.

The Great Wall Trail project is about creating a marked +4000 miles hiking trail along the Great Wall, making this hike a much more accessible global and cultural hiking experience

The Great Wall Trail has the potential to become one of the world’s longest and most demanding, cultural hiking trails

In the world there are a few +1500 miles / 2000km. long distance hiking trails. Most known are the Pacific Crest Trail  (2659 miles / 4279 km. ) and the Appalachian Trail, both in the USA ( 2200miles / 3500 km. ) The Great Wall trail could become good company for these, with a possible length of about the same ( or more).

More people hike the ultra long distance hiking trails

In the last ten years the amount of people through hiking the American trails has risen dramatically. And it seems like the world is ready for an even more demanding hiking challenge. Still though, the amount of people making a through-hike are only a few thousand a year on the two trails:  ( PCT around 700 – AP around 2700 )

The really huge benefits of these ultra long-distance hiking trails are for the locals, for wildlife and for identity. Long distance trails has lots of benefits – many locals will both be proud to be living along them, and will take day, weekend or week long trips along them, maybe even making a bit of income on restaurants, b&b etc.. ( a long distance trail like the Camino de Santiago has boosted local life and income in the villages along it dramatically ) But even more locals will often also enjoy the chance to meet hikers from all over the world.

One year of hiking on the Great Wall of China

To do a whole through-hike of the Great Wall Trail will possibly take around a year, and be an extreme and unique experience, both because of the 2000+ years of continuously cultural Chinese history along the wall, but also because of the changing cultures, villages, cities and landscapes the hikers will pass through along the trail. For international hikers, the trail will take them through worlds that have largely been too isolated and remote to experience up till now.

Map of the Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China Map – from Wikipedia CC-BY-SA license. Link

Links: Research:

The entire length of the Great Wall of China has most likely been walked countless times during it’s +2000 years of existence, but in the west ( and in English) it is hard to find much information about it.

Modern times – Great Wall walking projects

(1984-1985) Mr. Yaohui Dong, China – along with two friends, Yaohui Dong was possibly the first to walk the entire Great Wall in modern times: (May 4. 1984 – September 24 1985. Research hike. 508 days – no measured km. )  Yaihui Dong is today Vice Chairman, of the national China Great Wall Protection. And one of the absolute top Chinese experts on everything about the Great Wall of China. He Encourages people to follow in his footsteps, and walk the great wall.

Great Wall hikers: There is a few modern reports of (westerns ) hikers and runners taking on the entire length of the Great Wall:

  • Great Wall expert William Lindesay (UK) 30 years of Great wall walks, runs and research. First run 1987: 2470 km. / 67 days. Unaided. William is still walking the Great Wall: New: drone project: (2016 – 2017 ) Walking the Great wall with a drone.
  • Mark Scholintz Australia (2007) Is said to have GPS documented  his- non-aided 276 days hike – 4780 km. – Great walk of China article in Au. magazine ( Mark Scholintz’ website “” is unfortunately gone)
  • Emma Nicholas and Brendan Fletcher Couple Throu-hike 2006-2007 (13 months 3800km. ) Here is an article about their walk
  • British Couple: Tarka L’Herpiniere and Katie Cooper (167 days – 4800km).   BBC link (their own website about the hike “” is gone) but check this presentation text from a booking agency: Devon Couple talks about Great Wall Walk
  • Robert Loken, Norway (Finished Dec. 2. 2010 – 6000km. / 600 days ) Check Robert loken’s website about his Great Wall hike: Read an interview with him just after he finished here
  • Performance artists (1988) : Abramovic and Ulay walked from each end of the Great Wall and ended their 12 years relationship when they met in the middle after 90 days, as an art-performance, not to see each other again in many years
  • Globetrotter Braam Malherbe , South Africa.  Ultra run 4218 km. / 98 days in 2006, along the Great Wall. Check Braam Malherbe’s website for more details: Link
  • US friends Rob England and Jamie Bradish : (May 2006 to March 2007 ) Here is an article in Seattle Times Also check out the blog about their hike:

Youtube Films:

National Geographic film ( with William Lindesay ) Documentary about the Great Wall of China:

Performance artists and couple in (1988):  Abramovich and Ulay had been together for 12 years when they went to China and  walked from each end to break up when they met in the middle after 90 Days – and BBC documented it: YouTube:  Great wall walk – Lovers at the Brink

Research project and idea for a marked long distance hiking trail along the Great Wall of China – By Frits Ahlefeldt, Founder of

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