Hiking the Iconic Yellow Mountains

posted in: Asia, China, Travel | 0

Located in Anhui province, Huangshan, or the Yellow Mountains, is one of the most revered and celebrated mountain ranges in China. It serves as the inspiration for many classic Chinese calligraphy paintings, ancient poems, and most recently, James Cameron’s Avatar. With an elevation gain of 6,000 feet at the mountain’s highest peaks, and a breathtaking view of a sea of clouds below, it is definitely worth a visit.

Here is some essential information that will allow you to experience this amazing destination with ease.

Getting There:
The city is incredibly accessible from Shanghai, as there are several high-speed trains, flights, and busses that make the commute daily. My friends and I opted to take the overnight train for the trip to Huangshan (263¥). We then took the bus (200¥) on the way back to Shanghai since we, unfortunately, missed our return train. The beauty of traveling in China is that there are always alternative means of travel if your original plans get screwed up.

One thing to note is that there are two train stations in Huangshan. The normal train takes you to Huangshan Railway Station, while the high speed trains go to Huangshan North. Upon arrival to Huangshan Railway, you can take a bus to the city of Tongkou, where the mountain is located. This is about a one hour drive and it costs 20¥. It takes you directly to the foot of the mountain.

Once you get to the foot of the mountain, you have to take yet another bus to the various cable car terminals. Even if you decide not to take the cable car, that is where you must start and where all the foot trails begin. Each cable car ride is about 90¥ each way. The price is a bit steep, but it allows you to save your time and energy for hiking up to the actual summit. We originally planned to hike the way up to our hotel, but with the rain we realized it would take much longer than our estimated time. In the end, we took the cable car.

Staying There:
The most efficient and economic way to optimize your experience at the mountain is to stay at one of the hotels at the top. When I went to Mount Tai I could spend one day hiking on the mountain and see everything. There was also no need to stay on the mountain because it was right in the city.

Huangshan is a bit less accessible. If you plan to hike the entire way, it would take at least 4-5 hours just to reach the cable car drop off points. Unlike Tai Shan, night hiking isn’t available or advisable. The park is only open from 8-5, so staying overnight at the top is the only way to get any sunrise or sunset views. Also, if you are wanting to spend multiple days exploring the mountain, it is best to stay on the mountain, as you will only have to pay the park entry fee (230¥) once.

You can get a nice photo of the hotel surrounded by clouds from the top of Celestial Peak.

We booked a room at Yupinglou Hotel, just off the Yupinglou Cableway. We paid 150¥ for the dorm beds, which were decently comfortable. Standard rooms are about 700¥ for a triple. There are also hotels that allow people to set up tents and camp outside of the hotel.

The one thing to be aware of is that food options are scarce, as in you only have one: the hotel restaurant. As you can probably guess, it is expensive. We paid 130¥/person for the lunch buffet. For dinner, we decided to eat a la carte, which was a bit cheaper. Our meal came to 180¥, which we split between the three of us. We packed some fruit and granola bars for snacking and for the hike up. Having our own light food allowed us to skip breakfast at the hotel (68¥.) However, we did break down and spend 40¥ for coffee.

The Views:
Our hotel is conveniently located near two of the mountain’s three largest peaks, Lotus Peak and Celestial Peak. The first day we were there, it was raining pretty heavily, and the upper peaks were closed. We spent the afternoon exploring the lower trails. We were disappointed that the fog was so dense that there was no sunset or sunrise for us to see. I had hoped that the sun would burn the fog off early enough to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, like it did at Mount Tai, but it didn’t.

We ventured out at around 8:00 for some hiking before we had to leave. As we started walking down hill through the valleys, we came across the foot of the trail leading up to Celestial Peak. We were actually surprised to see it was open. At that moment, the sun was shining brightly and the fog started blowing away, and we realized this was our chance to hike to the peak. The view did not disappoint!

As with most travel around China, this trip was quite cheap. However, I noticed the park entry fees for Huangshan were much more expensive than the other national parks I’ve been to in Mainland China. Overall, we spent around 1,500¥ for everything, including accommodations, transport, and the various fees associated with the mountain. It is definitely a must-see for anyone coming to China, especially if you live in Shanghai. It’s too close and convenient not to go.