Best hiking in China: Huangshan mountain ultimate guide
I recently been traveling at Huangshan mountain (Anhui province). Huangshan has been the star and the highlight of my 10-day trip which also included Hangzhou, Wuzhen and Shanghai. Huangshan scenic area is awesome and surpassed my wildest dreams, a trip that I will remember for the many years to come.
Huangshan means Yellow mountain in Chinese, 黄山. Is a UNESCO world heritage site and has had a very important place in Chinese history and culture for over a thousand years, considered one of the loveliest mountains China. Also part of the 5 sacred mountains in China, the proverb says Huangshan beauty puts to shame all the other sacred mountains.
UNDERSTANDING THE HUANGSHAN PROVINCE
Is important to understand this little area to plan well ahead:
- Tunxi (Self named Huangshan city). 70 Km away for scenic area.
- Tangkou. Southern most-close-town to Huangshan scenic area. Few Km. away.
- Yungu cable-car. Park entrance, tickets should be bought here.
- Huangshan scenic area. After the cable-car there is about an hour of walking to the peak hotels.
Hongcun. This little town is located 25 Km away from Tangkou. Is a beautiful historic town with more than 1200 years of history. A well-worth visit, and if you don’t believe me it’s a UNESCO patrimonial site, take their word for it :).
The Huangshan scenic area is like a circle ( see map). So there is a West and East way. But West park peaks seem to be closed and is a very long way which would take around 10 hours to be completed. Hence I Very strongly recommend taking the East way only. Which is also the most beautiful and packs the majority of hotels,peaks, and best hiking.
The Cable car is possible to be skipped if one’s desire’s to do so, but I strongly recommend taking the cable-car. Cable car saves around 6,5 Km of hiking, either going up or going down ( legs hurt going down too after 2 days hiking). Also note that the nicest hiking is on the mountain top itself. Even the cable car fee is not cheap I would just take it as a grain of salt and assume the cost just as another trip cost.
So, the real Huangshan park begins on the cable-car station which is also where the bus stops.
Need to the download the above map?. You can download it from here in Chinese. As I said it was very useful during the trip.
LETS START!. FIRST STOP: HOT SPRINGS
I took a bus from Hangzhou that took me directly to Tangkou. At Tangkou I had to wait for about an hour for the bus that goes up the mountain, the last one at 7:30PM, and the bus was literary empty. They dropped us (by request) at the nice hot springs.
After a tedious 3 hour bus ride from Hangzhou and arriving this late (6pm) it made all the sense in the world to sleep comfortably first and start the hike the next day. What better than a hot springs rest? :).
Hot Spring’s rest is perfect when returning tired from the Huangshan scenic area. I however soaked myself before going up and had a great time there.
Hot Springs open from 10:30 to 23:30 and the hot spring fee is 298 RMB/per person. Around 40 USD, I would say it’s expensive, others might think is a bargain if there is no hot-springs at the country you come from, I guess is just perspective. The amazing this is I found a deal from the nearby Hot spring hotel, which is a nice 4 star hotel. I booked a room with them, and they included the 2 hot spring tickets and the breakfast for 2, for just 310 RMB total price. Now this is a bargain. I booked this room with Ctrip.com and I confirmed with them beforehand if the hot-spring tickets are being included.
Once in Tunxi (Huangshan city) a bus can be taken to Tangkou (still 10km away to the cable car).
I love hot springs. Another good reason to come to Huangshan.
Note: I took this photos with my phone at night so quality is so-so. Apologies.
The hot-springs SPA itself is surprisingly good, big and well-equipped. Super relaxing to soak in the hot water. Free tea and water is being offered by the staff while I was chilling in the hot water. The temperature of the water was great ( 37-41ºC most pools). So this hot-springs was an amazing find. The hot-spring itself was almost deserted and I suspect because the day I go there it was raining very hard.
HUANGSHAN RESORT & SPA ROOM:
This hotel name is Huangshan Resort & SPA, I add a link from Agoda which has more pictures of the hotel and hot springs. I believe they belong to the same property. Please note that the Springs itself is about 2 minute walking from the hotel. And the bus stop to continue to the Huangshan scenic area is about 3 minutes walking in other direction. You can book this hotel here.
TAKING THE BUS AND THE CABLE CAR
The next morning we checked out of the hotel, and walked out of the hotel for about 3 minutes and crossed a huge bridge ( Thousand feet waterfall, check map). So there we bought again the bus ticket to go up the mountain.
Pack light when going up to the scenic area. And if for whatever reason you carry a big bulky luggage you can store it up in one of the cheap Tangkou hotels.
PARK FEES STRUCTURE
- Shuttle bus: from Tangkou to Yungu cable-car. 19 RMB per way.
- Entry ticket: 230 RMB (off-season 150 RMB). 50% discount for students with ID and seniors. The fee is paid inside the scenic area near where the shuttle bus drops off.
- Cable-car: to the top costs 80 RMB per way (65 off-season).
- Funicular: from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to near Baiyun Hotel is about 100 RMB.
After going down of the cable car we walked for about 1 hour going to the hotel. Mostly going down for my relief. The day was rainy and the fog was very thick. So we didn’t did many sightseeing just yet. I had booked 2 nights at the mountain top the best idea was to check-in first and just drop the bag’s first. It is highly advised to book 1 or 2 nights at the Mountain top. In order to watch the sunset/sunrise.
Walking is the name of the game, after the cable-car you can only rely on your legs.
HUANGSHAN MOUNTAIN HOTEL’S
Choosing hotel?, Spoiler Alert!: ALL hotels at the Huangshan scenic area mountain top belong to the same chain and are constructed and managed by the same owner’s. So they are copycats, basically. This means that there is no necessity in scrambling one’s brain when booking. They all look-alike. Choices:
- Double room. 700-1000+ RMB.
- Hostel bed in a 8 beds room. 150 RMB.
- Camping tent outside. 90 RMB.
The double rooms go for 700 RMB or more, up to 1000 RMB or even more. Then there is the hostel type rooms that go for around 150 RMB. I booked this type of room at Shilin hotel because i felt the double rooms were so expensive.
The hostels rooms are divided in male/Female and host 8 guests. For whatever the reason, I noticed the female rooms are much more modern and clean… heh. Book in advance, because the rooms might be full.
The last and cheapest choice is to rent a camping tent for like 80 RMB per night. I don’t recommend this as the weather might be either cold or humid.
At the front of Beihai hotel there is a little open-air basketball court. A Bank of China ATM (the only one in the mountain), and a mini store and a little police station.
HIKING TIME, BABY
So after checking-in at the hotel room, dropping off my bag in the room and setting-up my day bag i went hiking, slightly after lunch time. Our first goal was to reach Bright top, around 3 km. away from our hotel.
Weather conditions change extremely fast. A couple of minutes is enough for a completely different weather scenario.
Bright top is a popular peak, sadly i didn’t get to see much of it because of the rain conditions. It was surprising how cold it was even at summer, July. I believe because of the heavy winds. The way to bright top was over 2 KM, mostly going up.
TOP OF PEAKS, FLYING OVER-ROCK, CLOUD DISPELLING PAVILION
Next we headed to the cloud dispelling pavilion trail. A long 3 KM hike going forward, mostly going down.
TOP OF PEAKS
Top of peaks was incredible. And after a slightly disappointment at Bright top, this made our Huangshan trip instantly worth-it. The wind was still very strong, but the wind was cleaning the mist and clouds from the valley. And in the middle I could see the top of peaks. I unconsciously stayed here well over half hour, taking pictures, laughing, and admiring the view. The vertigo sensation was strong, at least for me. But this is an absolute-must see that I recommend to everyone.
CLOUD DISPELLING PAVILION
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO AT HUANGSHAN MOUNTAIN
- Hiking. Beautiful scenery all around, sightseeing is obviously the top thing to do here.
- Wake up at 5 AM to watch the sunrise.
- Watch a hard to believe amazing sunset.
- Photographing. Huangshan is pure eye-candy, lots of great photography opportunities everywhere. Tip: Bring your tripod if you shoot with a SLR.
- Star-gazing. Stars are bright in Huangshan, a nice contrasts vs. the city.
- Feed the squirrels. I had a blast feeding the squirrels and the birds, they are so lovely.
- Socialize with other hikers. I was surprised how friendly and chatty everyone was. Approaching me to chit-chat in English.
- Soak in Japanese-style Hot-springs. I decided to book in the last-minute some hot-spring tickets, and this side-attraction ended up being one of the highlights of the trip.
- Get to see the sea of clouds dancing over the mountains under you is a rare sight.
- Walk till you drop :), and find your inner-self.
Cloud dispelling pavilion is a sunset spot, however the weather wasn’t collaborating on this particular day so i didn’t’ see any sunset. However the place is very beautiful and I still recommend it.
After his the night came and i headed to out hotel. Still 30 minutes away. The trail at night-time and some small lights that light the way. But I used the phone light because the path was very dark and the trail is mostly steps.
SECOND DAY, WAKING UP FOR SUNRISE
Now for sunrise I woke up at 4:30 ( and back to sleep at 6:30 ). Sunrise came out at 5:13 AM so I went out early and I was the first person to arrive. There are some sunset peaks just beside the hotel so it’s very convenient. At 5 am the place is empty but slightly after some people showed up and the place got slightly crowded.
Lion peak offers some nice views if the valley is clear of fog. The path is somewhat narrow so only a couple dozen people can be here at once.
STONE MONKEY WATCHING THE SEA OF CLOUDS
Also beside Lion peak and near the hotels. Check map.
REFRESHING TERRACE AND DAWN PAVILION
All these peaks are less than 1 hour away from the hotel. Pretty awesome.
LION PEAK PART 2, SUNRISE AND STAR GAZING
Lion peak is so close to my hotel (Shilin hotel) so I didn’t resist the temptation and I ventured out alone at around 12 PM, and then again at 5 AM for sunrise. The trail lights were off at midnight so I had to bring my light and be careful. Darkness is good for star-gazing and photographing, sadly some clouds and mist was still present so results were less than satisfactory. Still, I am sure here is a great spot for stars-photographing. A rare thing in China due to luminous pollution.
The next morning I woke up again for sunrise watching at Lion peak.
Sunrise and sunset watching is one of the highlight activities of Huangshan mountain, if weather allows, of-course.
Do your shopping at Tangkou before leaving for Huangshan scenic area. Including Food. A 1.5 L water bottle would cost 4 U$, 25 RMB at mountain top. Very expensive.
EASTERN STEPS – THE VERY BEST OF HUANGSHAN MOUNTAIN
On our last day i headed directly to the foremost eastern steps peaks when the weather was more favorable and I was impressed by the nice scenery.
BLACK TIGER PINE
HARP PINE AREA
BEGINNING TO BELIEVE PEAK
Eastern steps is around 2 KM walking from the hotels. Is a superb place.
MY TOTAL EXPENSES, 2 PEOPLE (RMB):
- 310 RMB: Hot spring hotel with resort SPA tickets included.
- 600 RMB: Hostel rooms 2 nights ( 150 RMB per night per person).
- 250 RMB: 2x Bus ticket from Hangzhou to Huangshan.
- 500 RMB: 2x Plane ticket to Shanghai.
- 560 RMB: 2x park ticket including the cable-way 4x single-trips.
- 365 RMB: Dinner/Lunch at Tangkou + food provisions for the mountain top + miscellaneous expense + bus tickets.
- 10 RMB: Ice cream at the scenic area. 🙂
Total : 2595 RMB. 400 U$ Dollar.
Huangshan scenic area mountain’s altitude is roughly 1800 Meters +. Very cold in seasons other than summer, even chilly in summer.
Huangshan is an amazing trip, that I recommend to everybody. Specially for those living in Shanghai, because there is 3 weekly flights going to Huangshan. Otherwise from Shanghai one can take a bus and reach Huangshan in roughly 10 hours.
I recommend not being lazy and both plan well ahead to watch the amazing sunset and sunrise’s.
Very important info:
Huangshan refers to the Huangshan province, and to the Huangshan scenic area. There is a “Huangshan city”, which is actually called Tunxi and is 70 Km, they have re-branded themselves to the name of Huangshan city. away from the Huangshan scenic area. The closest town to Huangshan scenic area is Tangkou. Which is still a good 10 kilometer away, from the scenic area entrance. None of this is doable by foot, of-course.
This might lead to confusion when planning the trip. After arriving to Tunxi by plane there would be typically 3 more buses to take. One to Tunxi. Another to Tangkou. And a last bus that will go up to the park entrance and to the Yungu cable-car.
I visited in peak season. Supposedly the worst time of the year for crowds. I didn’t feel the place to be crowded. Except the last day when some tour groups of 20+ people wearing the same colorful baseball cap arrived. Nothing to bad though, i didn’t feel it was all that crowded in here.
Huangshan scenic Area Hotel list
Hotels on the scenic area are very close to each other and belong to the same owner’s and are similar, so the choice is not very important. Still, Beihai is the most centrally located and most notable hotel here. Shilin hotel is just similar and is the one I stayed at. Is very nice too and has the same prices as-well.
I recommend booking in advance as rooms sold out:
- Beihai and Shilin are very close to each other, and are the top-choices for Surise watching.
- Number 3 Xihai hotel is not so far away, also good.
- Number 4 is a decent choice as-well.
- Huangshan resort & SPA is outside the scenic area, but is the hotel for the hot springs. Also highly recommended.
- I recommend booking through Agoda or Ctrip.com. Their English service for mainland China is efficient.
Huangshan.gov official site in English.