Hiking Huangshan – China’s Magical Yellow Mountain
Huangshan Mountain, literally translated to “Yellow Mountain,” is one of China’s most spectacular sights and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located about 6 hours west of Shanghai, it’s one of the most magical and beautiful destinations I’ve ever visited. If you find yourself anywhere remotely nearby, it’s absolutely worth finding a few days to enjoy this incredible mountain.
Huangshan Mountain vs Huangshan City
Many people who visit Huangshan Mountain base out of Huangshan City, which seems logical, right? They’re the same name, after all! However, the truth of the matter is that Huangshan City is a full hour away from the mountain! It’s much better to stay in a tiny town called Tangkou. It’s nestled right at the foot of the mountain about an hour north of the Huangshan/Tunxi airport (airport code is TXN), and there is plenty of accommodation and food available. I stayed at the Ala Hotel, which is about 200 feet away from the bus station, has nightly Q&A sessions with people going up Huangshan the follow day, and is super cheap to stay in!
The easiest way to get to Tangkou from the Huangshan Airport is to have a hotel in pre-arranged and show the printed booking confirmation to a taxi driver from the airport. Be prepared for a 60 – 90 minute drive to reach Tangkou. Alternatively, if you are coming from Shanghai, you can take a 6 hour bus ride directly to the Tangkou station, from which you can walk to every hotel in town on foot.
Get An Early Start Ascending Huangshan
This advice sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Please allow this morning person to apologize to all night owls reading this. You can choose to climb the mountain from the ground level, or if you want to save your energy for the top of the mountain, take the National Express bus from the bus station to either the Yuping/Mercy Light Pavilion or Yungu cable car station. The bus station is right in the center of Tangkou, and you will want to get on the first bus of the morning by arriving at the station around 6:30 am (the park opens at 8:00).
Since I was fresh off my Huashan experience just 2 days earlier, I elected to give my legs a break and take the Yuping cable car up to the top. It’s a scenic ride and you even get some inspirational Huangshan themed muzak to accompany your view.
Huangshan Mountain Accommodations
It’s very worth spending at LEAST one night on the mountain, if not two. I spent one and wish I had done two so that I could take in all of the sights that Huangshan has to offer.
There are several lodging options, from hotels to campsites. The hotels are fairly expensive but not particularly fancy, but they’re the only game in town if you want a shower, air conditioning and a soft bed. Expect a private hotel room to cost around $150 USD. Beds in shared dormitories can be purchased for as little as $20 USD if you don’t require privacy or a place to securely store your luggage.
If you’re feeling more rugged, you can pitch a tent on any of the hotel grounds. In the courtyard in front of the Bai Yun hotel were dozens of tents forming what seemed like a fun little community, as long as they could contend with the bright display screen outside!
Huangshan Accommodation Options
All hotels are comparatively priced, but their location and level of accommodation can vary quite a bit. Here are your hotel options, in order of niceness. Keep in mind that some locations might work better than others, and I would prioritize a location that works for you over a fancy room.
High End Hotels: Xihai Hotel is located near the lesser frequented Taiping Cable Car. If you stay here, check the schedule for the bus to the cable car station since it runs less often. Also, “high end” is a bit of a misnomer for any hotel on top of the mountain, but Xihai appears to be the nicest (and among the cheapest, actually!).
Mid-Range: Huangshan Baiyun Hotel is centrally located and offers both basic dorms and no-frills private rooms. I stayed here and it was worthwhile, despite the room being a bit dingy. I’d rather have a hotel that’s well located than one that’s comfy, since you’ll be spending all your time on the mountain!
Huangshan Yupinglo Hotel, also called Jade Screen Hotel seems to be comparable to the Baiyun and is nicely located next to the Yuping Cable Car station. It could be a perfect place to store your bags immediately upon your arrival at the cable car station.
The Rest: These are the less favorably reviewed hotels on top of Huangshan, but if their location works for you or you can’t find anything else, a place to stay is better than none!
Huangshan Paiyunlou Hotel has the dubious distinction of being the worst reviewed hotel on the mountain, but it is conveniently located right at the top of the Taiping Cable Car dropoff.
Huangshan Shilin Hotel is very well located near Sunrise Spot for those of you seeking out beautiful morning light. It’s central to many attractions and many of the reviews speak highly of its location and poorly of its quality.
Huangshan Beihai Hotel offers the standard low frills accommodation that many of the others do. Rumor has it they have a reasonably nice buffet so you can replenish your depleted energy from a day of hiking.
Hiking Huangshan Mountain
As soon as you set foot on the top of the mountain, prepare to pick your jaw up off the ground. Huangshan is filled with storybook paths showcasing beautiful views. Here are some of my favorite sights:
The Fairy Walking Bridge
This attraction is so special it needs its own section. Located about 90 minutes west of Bright Top Peak and an hour’s hike from the Baiyun Hotel, it’s worth going out of the way to see. It was built
by ancient monks in 1987 and spans two sheer cliff faces. The view looking down isn’t as scary as you might think, but boy does it make for a great photo op!
Nearby are more breathtaking views of the West Sea and a beautifully crafted stone pagoda. To get the Fairy Bridge classic shot, just find a friend and have them stand on the outcropping just southwest of the bridge.
Starting And Ending Your Days
Staying on top of Huangshan Mountain affords you some great opportunities for special scenery. There are many great spots for catching the sunrise and sunset, and you can see a great map and guide at Huangshang Tour.
At the end of my first day on Huangshan I hiked to Turtle Peak, just a short trek from the Bai Yun Hotel and a great spot to watch the sun set over the sea of mountains. I had to pry myself away after it got dark because it was such a great photo spot!
If the sunset was something special, the sunrise and entire morning experience was simply unforgettable. The sunrise itself was nice, but the sound of the birds singing as I walked along the empty mountain paths just before dawn was incredible. Just after sunrise, head to White Goose Ridge for magnificent, water-color like light on the mountains.
When it’s time to depart the mountain, try going down a different way than you arrived. The Eastern steps, Western steps and cable cars all take you to buses that shuttle back to the same area, so take the opportunity to see something new!
Helpful Tips for Huangshan
- Avoid going on the weekends or Chinese Holidays – Huangshan’s beauty is no secret and it gets crowded on the mountain when locals have a chance to visit!
- Bring your own snacks and water, or else you’ll pay a premium for it when you’re on the mountain.
- Like the rest of China, bring cash. Many places, even hotels, do not accept credit cards, so be prepared ahead of time as you may have a hard time getting cash on the mountaintop.
Huangshan Mountain Resources
- Huangshan Tour – A very detailed site with tons of information about visiting the mountain.