How to hike Mount Huangshan
I know how daunting it can be to plan a new trip, even more so when it’s to somewhere especially distant and remote. At first glance, China may just amplify all of those fears for you! But, if you can put up with some of the complexities like the language barrier and applying for a visa, a truly amazing trip awaits. With the right information and preparedness, China might just be the greatest adventure you’ve ever been on!
With that in mind, I think it’s a perfect way to launch the new Huper Travel Guides, where we’ll be sharing everything you need to know when planning your next adventure.
In this Guide, you’ll learn the essentials needed to plan a hiking trip to Mount Huangshan, as we take you through the different steps we took during our visit in 2018. It includes how to get there, where to walk, where to stay, and what to see.
Let’s get ready for your own Huangshan adventure…
Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, is often described as 'the loveliest mountain of China' and has been a magnet for poets and landscape artists for centuries. Funnily enough, these famous peaks aren't actually yellow. The area was renamed from Yishan to Huangshan after the legendary Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) in 747 AD. Legend has it that Huangshan was the place that Huang Di ascended to heaven. The name change brought more and more attention to what was once a barely recognised or even accessible place. Today, with now over 140 sections open to the public, it has become one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the whole of China.
Millions make the trip to Huangshan every year and after witnessing it’s beauty in person, it’s easy to understand why. Let’s jump into what you need to plan your own trip to the Yellow Mountain Scenic Area, so you can experience this place for yourself!
How to get there:
By Train - From Shanghai, Hangzhou or Beijing
From Shanghai, Hangzhou or Beijing you can take normal speed trains any day to Huangshan Railway Station ("黄山" on train ticket) which is on Qianyun North Road in Central Huangshan. There are also high-speed trains to Huangshan North Railway Station (黄山北 on train tickets) which is about 30 minutes drive away from the city centre.
You can also travel on the bullet trains which only take 6 ½ hours from Beijing!
Note: Shanghai only has one bullet train each day which takes 4 ½ hours, via Hangzhou, and departs from Shanghai Hongqiao at 8:31am.
Book your train tickets here.
By Plane - From Shanghai or Beijing
Flying in is of course a more pricy option but if you’re looking to save time, and money isn’t a problem, you can find direct flights to and from Beijing, Shanghai, and many other major cities to Huangshan Tunxi International Airport (Chinese: 黄山屯溪国际机场).
Note: if you’re travelling from Shanghai there is again only one flight a day which departs from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport.
Book your flights here.
By Bus - From Shanghai or Hangzhou
The most affordable way to get to Huangshan is by taking a long distance bus from either Shanghai or Hangzhou. You can travel directly to Huangshan City from Shanghai Long-Distance Bus Station which is a 6 hour journey or 3 hours from Hangzhou to Huangshan Bus Station which is found on 31 Qiyun Road, about 15 minutes drive from the city centre.
Buy your tickets at the bus station at least a day before you plan to travel.
Buses direct to Yellow mountain Scenic Area
There is a small bus station at the front gate of the Yellow Mountains Scenic Area called Zhaixi Bus Station (寨西汽车站). You can travel there directly from Shanghai, Hangzhou, Hefei, Suzhou and Nanjing, meaning you don’t have to go to Huangshan city centre to get to the entrance of the mountain.
Note: you need to take another 30 minute bus journey from Zhaixi Bus Station to get to the cableway stations.
Want to know more about how to get to Mount Huangshan? Feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comments section or send us an email.
Where to stay:
To make the most of your time, you need to stay as near to the entrance of the mountain as possible.
Note: Huangshan Mountain and Huangshan City are at least an hour apart from each other!
The best option is to stop in the town of Tangkou. Tangkou is at the base of Mount Huangshan and has buses heading to both Mercy Light Pavilion Cable Car Station and Cloud Valley Cable Car Stations.
In Tangkou, we stayed in Zero Five One Seven Inn, which you can see on the left of the photo below. We highly recommend it. It’s a family run hotel and they were all super kind, spoke english and were happy to tell us anything we needed to know about the area. They basically became our travel guides and really helped us make the most of the time we had. They gave us a free map and marked out the best routes to take, best times of the day to go, and how long it takes to get to each section. 5 star review from us!
To be able to catch a sunrise or sunset, you need to book a room in one of the summit hotels (details on getting to the summit below).
We stayed in Beihai Hotel, which put us back 2,000 CNY for two nights (£225). Yep! If you want to watch an early sunrise or catch the sunset, which is after the last cable car heads back down the mountain, they make you pay for it. That being said, you won’t regret it. There are a number of view points right outside the front doors of this hotel and we were blessed with some of the most incredible views each morning and evening.
Note: be sure you book well in advance as they get fully booked as early as a year before, depending on the time you plan on visiting. Also, wake up VERY early. I mean at least an hour before sunrise to be able to get a spot at one of the viewpoints before the crowds descend.
Getting to the summit:
Buses to Yellow Mountain Scenic area
From Tangkou, take the shuttle from the East Bus Station on Tangchuan Lu. Buses depart every 20 minutes between 6.00am and 6.30pm to both Cloud Valley Cable Car Station and Mercy Light Pavilion cable car station.
Note: they may wait for the bus to be full before they actually set off.
If you’re in Huangshan City, there are buses from Huangshan Bus Station which leave every five minutes during the day. Bear in mind that this takes around 1 ½ hours.
Getting to the top - Hiking Routes
There are two ways to hike up to the summit. The easier option is to go up the Eastern Steps, which are less steep and long compared to the Western Steps, which are considerably more difficult. If you choose the tougher of the two options you’re not only getting the extra incredible scenery that you miss going via the Eastern Steps but also a bit more peace and quiet thanks to the extra incline! Most people opt for the easier route up the Eastern Steps and so you can enjoy a rare quiet moment by choosing the the Western Steps. You’ll appreciate it even more when you find out how busy it is at the top!
A popular itinerary, that most people recommend, is to hike up the Eastern Steps, stay overnight in one of the summit hotels to watch a sunrise and then walk back down the Western Steps.
Eastern Steps (2 ½ hours)
Start: Cloud Valley cable car station.
End: White Goose Ridge
Western Steps (5 hours)
Start: Mercy Light Pavilion cable car station.
End: Flying Rock.
Note: there are porters available to take your bags if you need to take your luggage with you overnight.
I can’t say enough about how busy and hectic it is at the top of the mountain. You don’t want to add any extra pressure to your trip by having to rush up and down. We found by adding a couple of days into our itinerary it really helped us make the most of the time. It allowed us to hike up and down the Eastern Steps one day and the Western steps another, taking our time to appreciate and enjoy the scenery and take a lot of breaks along the way! For our days in the summit hotel, we went up and down in the cable cars (see below), saving a ton of time and energy that we could use to get to some of the harder to reach areas on the top of the mountain (see West Sea Canyon below).
Getting to the top - cable cars
Now, if you don’t like the idea of climbing up thousands of steps for hours on end, you can also just go up and down in the cable cars. As I mentioned, we chose to do this to get to the summit hotel and back after we’d spent the first couple of days hiking up and down. It meant we could take our bags up ourselves and also save a huge amount of energy for hiking the different routes on the summit during our stay up there.
Keep in mind that although you do avoid the exhaustion of walking, you’ll be missing out on a lot of the best views if you don’t hike up at all. Also, the viewpoints and landmarks near the cable car stations are insanely crowded. I’m pretty sure it’s the busiest mountaintop in the world!
Remembering that this is a blog about hiking Huangshan I must say it would be a shame to not walk up or down at least once during your trip. But the cable cars do allow a lot more people to enjoy this incredible place and also the ability to have a more comfortable experience which I guess is also great!
Note: queues for the cable cars can be VERY long during peak seasons and they stop operating after 4pm.
Where else to walk:
West Sea Canyon (6-7 hour roundtrip)
In my opinion one of the best things you can do when you visit Mount Huangshan is to hike the West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷). It will take you pretty much all day, but you’ll be rewarded with not just incredible views but also the only other place to find some peace and quiet! The hike is long and steep. The sheer paths somehow cling to the sides of the cliffs and make you feel dizzy just looking up at them let alone looking down form them! The route takes you into the depths of the gorge Xīhǎi Dàxiágǔ and back up and over the Fairy Walking Bridge. It’s considerably more rugged and extreme compared to the rest of the Scenic Area and the majority of tour guides stay far away. It was a highlight of our time on the summit.
West Sea Canyon
In conclusion, wherever you choose to walk to, it will be amazing. Simply point to one of the viewpoints on the map and go and explore. You’ll find some of the most beautiful views not only at your destination but at every turn on your way there.
If you are interested in seeing more of our own favourite viewpoints on the summit, I wrote a second blog about where to take photos on Mount Huangshan. Click below to take a look.
What you should pack:
Lots and lots of water. It’s worth carrying the extra weight. You’ll need more than you think to get through the amount of steps you take climbing to the summit.
We found litter to be a pretty huge problem throughout China. I think we all have the responsibility to take care of the world around us. If you visit Huangshan and spend time in the scenic areas, please take your rubbish back with you! Also, pick up any plastic that you see left behind. Let's look after these beautiful places so future generations can continue to enjoy them.
Walking sticks will change your life when you’re hiking. Huangshan has something like 60,000 steps all in all and having the extra support will make the experience a whole lot more comfortable.
Snacks / Food
There are small stores all over the Scenic Area where you can get bottled water and snacks. Prices do increase as you get higher though as porters still carry everything up! I’d recommend just packing enough to last for the time you’re up there.
Weather in the mountains is always unpredictable and you can be enjoying the sunshine one minute and getting soaked the next. Be sure to pack a waterproof, better to be safe than sorry!
Even on a sunny day the wind can make it pretty chilly on the summit. Also, the early mornings waiting for the sun to rise were bitterly cold! Be sure to pack in a couple of extra layers just to be safe and avoid getting caught out in the cold.
Park Opening Times
6:30am - 2:30pm all week except Saturday when the park opens at 6:00am.
Park Admission Price
230 CNY March-November.
150 CNY December-February.
Children under 4 feet are free. Tickets are half price for students.
Cable Car Opening Times
Cloud Valley: 7.00-16.30
Jade Screen: 7.30-16.30
West Sea Valley: 8.00-17.00 (closed from December-March)