Famed for its Ming-era guard towers and excellent views, the 3km-long section of wall at Mutianyu, northeast of Beijing in Huairou County, is largely a Ming dynasty structure that was built upon an earlier Northern Qi dynasty edifice, and restored in the 1980s. Considered the ideal introduction for the Great Wall newbie, it's easy to reach from the city, less crowded than Badaling, and is well set up for families.
From the monolithic ticket office at Mutianyu, shuttle buses (¥15 return) ply the 3km up to the start of the cable car, where there are also three or four stepped pathways leading up to the Wall, plus a chairlift, called a 'ropeway' on the signs here, and a toboggan ride, making Mutianyu ideal for those who can’t manage too many steps, or who have kids in tow.
A seldom used but pleasant walking route up to the Wall is through the China Stone Museum (marked by a large engraved stone), just beside the exit to the toboggan ride. A canopied walkway winds uphill through gardens, rockeries and exhibition halls up to the battlements (note that there is a ticket barrier higher up).
A better bet than taking the public bus from Beijing (which necessitates a taxi add-on) is the private Mu Bus service, which has two daily departures from Dongsi Shitiao subway station (Line 2) to Mutianyu Great Wall (7.40am and noon, ¥80 return trip). Book online in advance at www.beijingmubus.com.