Hiking Huangshan Mountain

Imagine standing above the clouds and watching them roll over mountains like a waterfall. Imagine granite peaks, unlike anything in the U.S., shooting up from the depths of the abyss below you. Imagine a perfect setting in which you realize that your view is the inspiration for so many famous Chinese paintings. This is Huangshan.

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Prior to coming to China, hiking this mountain was at the top of my list. It is said that James Cameron found much of his inspiration for the scenery in Avatar from this location.

About Huangshan

Huangshan is considered one of the top three most famous places to hike in China. Located in China’s Anhui province in south-eastern China, this mountain range is not to be missed for any avid outdoor enthusiasts coming to China.

Hiking Huangshan

There are MANY routes throughout Huangshan. Over a 100 to be exact. However the two most popular routes are as follows. Walk up the Eastern steps and down the Western steps or, you guessed it, walk up the Western steps and down the Eastern steps. Walking up the eastern steps is MUCH easier than walking up the Western steps. I hiked up the eastern steps and walked down the western steps and was more than satisfied with the experience.

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walking down the western steps

Getting There

From Shanghai you can take a regional flight to Huangshan airport, about 40 miles from the mountain range. If you want a cheaper option, there are many buses that run daily from Shanghai South Bus Station. The ride is about 5 hours.

Average Costs

Hostels: $25-30 USD  for two person room. $10 for a bunk bed in a communal room.

Meals: $5-$10

Huangshan entrance ticket: $40 USD

Do’s

  •  Bring lots of snacks
  • Try to go from September December when the crowds are less and the weather is cool.
  •  Spend the night on the mountain. You must do this. Seeing the clouds roll over the mountains at 6:00 was one of the coolest things i have ever done. There are lots of hotels on the mountain. If you are going in summer, MAKE A RESERVATION. There are several hotels, i believe six, that are on the mountain itself.
  • Make sure your hotel has a restaurant. You will be hungry. Our first hotel didn’t have a restaurant so we checked out and went somewhere else.

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  • Hydrate
  • Sunscreen. Seriously though, in a lot of parts there isn’t much coverage and you will fry without sunscreen.
  •  Relax after a long day of hiking, have a mountain beer and enjoy the most incredible sunset.

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Don’ts

  • Carry a lot of luggage. There are some very steep steps and your legs are going to already be sore as it is the next day.
  • Hire a guide. You will be ripped off. There are lots of maps around the park.
  • Rely on cable cars. In the summer you might have to wait for two hours just to get in line.
  • Be this girl.

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Suck it up and hike the whole thing. It is SO worth it!

 

 

Hiking from Jiankou to Mutianyu section of The Great Wall

This past weekend, we hiked an incredible part of The Great Wall. This hike entailed a trail that leads from an older more unrestored section of the wall called Jiankou, to a much more developed area called Mutianyu.  Hiking from Jiankou to Mutianyu allows you to experience a contrast between old and new and provides  insight to the two different sides of the Great Wall of China that are world’s apart.

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unrestored Zhengbeilou tower on Jiankou section

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restored section of Mutianyu

Our journey began by taking bus 916 from Dongzhimen’s long distance bus station.We then got off in Huirou county and got a ride from one of the many people offering to take us to sections of the wall. Negotiating a price is a must for the trip from Huirou to any section of the wall you wish to access.

We started our journey at the Zhongbeilou tower of the Jiankou section and walked east towards Mutianyu. This is one of several sections of where to start hiking along Jiankou, however, it is said that starting from this point because the views are incredibly stunning and said to be some of the best on any portion of the wall.

There are four basic ways to reach Zhengbeilou: via the Great Wall from the east (Mutianyu), via the Great Wall from the west (Jiankou), via trail from the south (Shun Tong trout farm at Zhenzhuquan near Wofo shan zhuang), and via trail from the north (Xizhazi).

We accessed the trail from the south at the base of the trout farm and it was a tough two-hour hike before we even reached the wall. However, the trout farm was really cool because there is a local restaurant where you can catch a trout and they will cook it up for you for lunch.  So if you like a challenge, definitly go this way to reach Zhongbeilou. However, many sites recommend accessing Zhengbeilou form the north(Xizhazi) because it’s much easier.

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more unrestored sections of Jiankou

Also, it is highly recommended to hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu and not the other way around because it is much more strenuous and dangerous.

From Zhengbeilou to Mutianyu it took us around three hours with breaks for water and snacks. All in all, our trip from the trout farm to Mutainyu took us five hours. Once you reach Mutainyu there are several ways to descend. There is a cable car, a slide and a walking path down to the base of the mountain. There will be noticable signs around for those options. Due note that the  cable car and slide close at 5pm.

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once you reach this guy selling some goods at one of the towers, you will know you are almost to the restored section of the wall

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view of some of the towers on restored section of Mutianyu

We stayed the night in a local person’s home and it was a great experience. There are a good number of options where you can stay in the Mutainyu village. The beds are modest but cheap and the owners will cook you up a great meal after a long day of hiking. This affords you the opportunity of waking up early in the morning to see the wall in a different light.

If you are traveling with some visitors or really want to splurge on an awesome location, stay at The School House at Mutianyu. This is a series of courtyard homes that have been turned into a pretty cool boutique hotel. It’s also environmentally friendly and they offer a range of activities for children and adults and they even have a spa. Oh, and each room has a view of the wall.

If you want to head back to Beijing reach the bus stop before 4pm and you can catch the 876 bus all the way back to Beijing. After 4pm you can catch the 916 bus to Hauirou than another bus back to Beijing.

Overall, this experience was one of the best I’ve had in China. You truly see some amazing scenery and the contrast between the different sections of the wall is something that you just can’t see anywhere else in the world.