Huangshan

  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan - © William Mackesy
  • Huangshan -  - © William Mackesy

Key information: Huangshan

  • Famous range of mountains with fantastically eroded peaks and deep, sheer chasms to the walls of which fantastically twisted old pines somehow cling.
  • A place of pilgrimage and contemplation for centuries, it is dotted with pavilions and monuments.
  • Very Chinese landscape you will feel you are inside a scroll painting.
  • Walk the superb paths around the peaks, or clamber up ancient rock-hewn stairs from the base.
  • The Huangshan are a World Heritage Site and very popular in China, so do not expect to be alone until you have walked some way. Public holidays should be avoided.
  • Come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather.
  • Famous range of mountains with fantastically eroded peaks and deep, sheer chasms to the walls of which fantastically twisted old pines somehow cling.
  • A place of pilgrimage and contemplation for centuries, it is dotted with pavilions and monuments.
  • Very 'Chinese' landscape: you will feel you are inside a scroll painting.
  • Walk the superb paths around the peaks, or clamber up ancient rock-hewn stairs from the base.
  • The Huangshan are a World Heritage Site and very popular in China, so do not expect to be alone until you have walked some way. Public holidays should be avoided. Downgraded in 2012 because of the extreme visitor numbers.
  • Come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather.

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating90.5
  • Beauty36
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest12.5
  • Charisma35
  • Negative points10
  • Total rating90.5
  • Note: Negs: severe crowding in many places

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: 1,841m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
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Huangshan - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

Huangshan, the Yellow Mountains, are an extraordinary cluster of over 70 outrageously eroded granite peaks which poets and painters have come to contemplate for well over a thousand years.

The Chinese see the Huangshan as their country's most beautiful landscape, and their fame is fully justified: gothic spires and dinosaur spines, dizzy thousand-foot plunges into dark, water-scoured ravines; twisted pine trees clinging to invisible crevices, azaleas glowing against the grey rock and the fresh spring woodlands. This is a favourite subject of traditional Chinese landscape painting, and the mountains can look eerily familiar as a result.

The vegetation is stunning: most famous is the stunted Huangshan pine, with its flat pans of leaves and extraordinarily twisted branches, each one almost a caricature of itself. The relatively sheltered gullys nurture a wide variety of trees, and in spring great smears of pale pink azalea tree-shrubs add vibrant contrast.

If you are able, you should climb up to the summit area, via the forbidding Eastern Steps, an arduous grind of thousands of ancient hand-hewn steps up a great cleft in the mountainside, or the longer and tougher Western Steps. The easy alternative is cable car (beware huge queues in high season).

You will need to be up early for the famous sunrise over the sea of clouds that covered the lowlands below. It is a cliché, and you will be far from alone, but it really is fabulous. A rumpled blanket of cloud extends to the horizon. The jagged ridges of the Huangshan massif sink down into it, isolated lower peaks protruding, like islands, further away.

The Huangshan massif is like a crown. An undulating, wooded centre rises to a circle of peaks on the outside of which are the extraordinary chasms and broken ridges writhing away into the distance, which make the range so famous. Most visitors pant their way between the famous viewpoints at the edge of the central plateau. Don't ever expect to be out of sight or earshot of mankind in all its glory along the main routes. (We downgraded Huangshan's rating in 2012 because of the extreme visitor numbers.) As soon as you leave these paths, however, you can be alone with the full magnificence of nature.

Ths summit is littered with famous, poetically named sites, viewpoints and pavilions. You should see the Cloud Dispelling Pavilion, the famous Flying Rock, a giant boulder perched teetering on a tiny fulcrum, and the Bright Summit Peak, the range's highest point at 1,841m. You must not miss the upper Western Steps, which wind under the great, sheer Lotus and Celestial Capital Peaks, passing some spectacularly twisted pines, and then teetered uncomfortably along a knife-edge, smooth rock quickly becoming precipice on each side, dropping into a hole under boulder and scrambling down several hundred very steep and narrow steps through a deep cleft.

While many people come up by cable car for the day, you should spend at least one night on the mountains if at all possible.

Huangshan, the Yellow Mountains, are an extraordinary cluster of over 70 outrageously eroded granite peaks which poets and painters have come to contemplate for well over a thousand years.

The Chinese see the Huangshan as their countrys most beautiful landscape, and their fame is fully justified: gothic spires and dinosaur spines, dizzy thousand-foot plunges into dark, water-scoured ravines; twisted pine trees clinging to invisible crevices, azaleas glowing against the grey rock and the fresh spring woodlands. This is a favourite subject of traditional Chinese landscape painting, and the mountains can look eerily familiar as a result.

The vegetation is stunning: most famous is the stunted Huangshan pine, with its flat pans of leaves and extraordinarily twisted branches, each one almost a caricature of itself. The relatively sheltered gullys nurture a wide variety of trees, and in spring great smears of pale pink azalea tree-shrubs add vibrant contrast.

If you are able, you should climb up to the summit area, via the forbidding Eastern Steps, an arduous grind of thousands of ancient hand-hewn steps up a great cleft in the mountainside, or the longer and tougher Western Steps. The easy alternative is cable car (beware huge queues in high season).

You will need to be up early for the famous sunrise over the sea of clouds that covered the lowlands below. It is a cliché, and you will be far from alone, but it really is fabulous. A rumpled blanket of cloud extends to the horizon. The jagged ridges of the Huangshan massif sink down into it, isolated lower peaks protruding, like islands, further away.

The Huangshan massif is like a crown. An undulating, wooded centre rises to a circle of peaks on the outside of which are the extraordinary chasms and broken ridges writhing away into the distance, which make the range so famous. Most visitors pant their way between the famous viewpoints at the edge of the central plateau. Dont ever expect to be out of sight or earshot of mankind in all its glory along the main routes. As soon as you leave these paths, however, you can be alone with the full magnificence of nature.

Ths summit is littered with famous, poetically named sites, viewpoints and pavilions. You should see the Cloud Dispelling Pavilion, the famous Flying Rock, a giant boulder perched teetering on a tiny fulcrum, and the Bright Summit Peak, the ranges highest point at 1,841m. You must not miss the upper Western Steps, which wind under the great, sheer Lotus and Celestial Capital Peaks, passing some spectacularly twisted pines, and then teetered uncomfortably along a knife-edge, smooth rock quickly becoming precipice on each side, dropping into a hole under boulder and scrambling down several hundred very steep and narrow steps through a deep cleft.

While many people come up by cable car for the day, you should spend at least one night on the mountains if at all possible.

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

“Huangshan is the No. 3 beauty spot in the world”, proclaimed the pamphlet, a fine specimen of the traditional Chinese love of lists and categorisation which begged questions such as “who says” and “on what criteria”. There would be no point asking whether any of the top 10 are outside China.

Huangshan, the Yellow Mountains, are, however, truly extraordinary: a cluster of over 70 outrageously eroded granite peaks which poets and painters have come to contemplate for well over a thousand years.

The mountains' fame is justified: gothic spires and dinosaur spines, dizzy.....

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PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Guidebooks/maps/background reading

Suggest books and maps

Guidebooks

China – Lonely Planet. Reasonable introductory information on Huangshan and a basic map.

China – Rough Guide. Similar levels of information on Huangshan as Lonely Planet – perhaps a little better.

All general China guidebooks will have a section on Huangshan.

Other books & Maps

Basic maps can be bought in the area.

Stanfords: http://www.stanfords.co.uk/. The best (and the most user-friendly) online source of maps (and is also good for guidebooks).

Best times to walk/weather Best times to walk

April to October. High summer is most crowded (as well as being swelteringly hot on the plains) and to be avoided. Winter is very cold and dangerously icy.

Weather

Always variable. You should get some clear periods if you are there for a couple of days, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather at any time and don't be too disappointed if you lose the views to cloud – it has its own mysterious beauty as the mist swirls around the cliff faces.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: http://www.worldweather.org/ or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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You can get to Huangshan by bus from Hangzhou, Tunxi and various other places. You can get to Hangzhou and Tunxi by train and air.

Depending on their itineraries and numbers, some smaller groups can find hiring a minibus to get them there (and around the area) worthwhile.

From Tangkou and Wenquan, the main towns of the Huangshan area, minibuses go to the main trails and the cable cars up the mountains.

Those on organised expeditions will be transported from/to arranged start/departure points.

You will need to pay a smallish fee to get up the mountains – however you go.

Route(s)

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The best ways up to the summit are the magnificent but very steep and demanding Eastern and Western Steps (3hrs on the eastern steps). Many will prefer to get there by cable car (queues can be very long and dreary in high season).

The summit area consists of over 70 peaks around a relatively undulating centre. There is a huge range of options, so get a map and plan as much variety as time permits.

Ideally, you will see the Beihai – the sun rising over the sea of clouds to the north-east.

You should walk around the rim of the massif to take in the most spectacular views: the main trails may be crowded, but you can get out on your own relatively easily. You should absolutely not miss the outstanding, if at times vertiginous, upper western steps trail from Guangming Ding (Bright Summit Peak) to the top of the Yuping Feng cable car.

Plan to be flexible in case of cloud and rain – walking down the northern steps and taking the cable car back up can, for instance, be a viable if tiring alternative.

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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  • Mountain weather: rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year. Come prepared.
  • Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
  • Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
  • Health risks: this is still a relatively undeveloped country, and you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can do this walk independently, but come fully prepared for a tough walk.

Guided/supported

Travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages. Guides can be provided by CTS or hired locally – but check out their knowledge and language skills and fix a price beforehand.

Some people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Expedition organizers include:

Accommodation

There is a lot of accommodation, of varying standards, available, both at the foot of the mountains and at various places around the summit. Their quality changes and new options appear, so use an up-to-date guidebook (or the internet with caution) and book ahead: making a special journey to Huangshan and then finding there is nowhere to stay at the summit would be a huge disappointment.

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Other information and tips

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

www.huangshan.com.cn

http://www.wikipedia.org/ - basic information.

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Other things to do in the area

See all holidays and activities in China

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Other walks

Walk around the delightful and fascinating West Lake at Hangzhou.

The holy mountain Juihuashan (there are bus links with Huangshan).

Huangshan - © William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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Huangshan - © William Mackesy...
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