Mount Huanghan- The Western slopes and Guest Greeting Pine

Day 5- our 2nd day on the mountain. We were both kind of waking up around 5:30 and noticed lights of people/ groups out hiking to a peak to watch sunrise. We both had rough sleeping, but felt good enough at least so we got dressed, gathered our small pack of things, and headed out to check out sunrise. In the interest of not getting up early enough and being hungry for breakfast, we only did the short walk back to the cloud dispelling pavilion where we’d watched the sunset. I wish however that we had just done the jaunt up to Purple Cloud Peak as that was probably the best/ closest peak to our hotel and was tall enough we would’ve been able to see the East side of the mountain.

Ah well, still not a bad view from the pavilion.
We hung around for 10-15 minutes as the sun was already almost up when we got there. The views and affects were similar to the night before… no morning clouds/ fog for us. Then we checked out of our hotel and grabbed breakfast around 6:15 (narrowly avoiding the rush) and I will say breakfast was decent. They had a large array of food, I mostly stuck with rice porridge, rolls, hard boiled eggs, and a ton of fruit. But they had lots of “noodle” options and even toast. They also had an intriguing “orange juice” that was basically orange fanta made from boiled water. So it was hot. Haha at least we knew it was safe.
Then we were headed out onto new terrain. We backtracked to complete the loop in the center and take the path b Xihai hotel up to Bright top. There were a few “hotel” paths that looked like they may be the one we wanted but had no signs so that confused us but eventually we found the sign and trail split we were looking for (further East of the hotels). In other words, if there isn’t a sign, it isn’t the path. Hahaha!
Morning light filtering through all the pines. We really hoped we’d spot a monkey, but alas… we did not.
It was a pretty strenuous up hill walk to Bright Top with stairs continuing forever. It took us at least 30 minutes and we were definitely over it. While the trees were pretty, there wasn’t much of a view and thus I deem this path not really worth doing.
Beautiful reservoirs of water that act as holding tanks on the mountain. While the area gets a decent amount of precipitation, it definitely still needs plenty of water to support all the visitors and hotels!
Made it to Bright Top (view again looking toward the Western Sea)
Trail Stats from Paiyunlou Hotel to the Mercy Light Pavilion (bottom of the Western Steps)
Distance: 8.3 miles
Elevation Gain:1,300 feet
Elevation loss: 3500 feet
Estimated time: 4-6 hours
*These figures are based on maps I saw with distances and elevations of the points of interest called out and are rough estimations.
Points of Interest: Turtle Peak (separate trail), Lotus Peak (closed to peak bagging but you can see it), Celestial Capitol Peak, and the Guest Greeting Pine .
Peaceful morning on the trail
Looking up at Bright Top, the main focal point of the mountain by diving it into quarters
On Bright Top looking over at Turtle Peak (a great sunset/sunrise spot if staying at the Baiyun hotel)
Clouds way in the distance
Once at Bright Top, it was easy to continue following the signs for the “Yuping scenic area, otherwise known as the “western steps” and the path we planned to take down off the mountain. This side was pretty unique with the granite tops being more rounded and boulder-y looking than the peaks on the Eastern steps.
We were glad we started early!
The craziest part of this mountain were the numerous porters offering their services to carry people. And there were.. several people that we passed taking them up on that. (this lady we are pretty sure was carried all the way from the Baiyun hotel area to the top of the Yuping cable car. 
Prices for reference! Only $15 to be carried 2 km! (one of the more flat paths I suppose) .. but like what?!
While I couldn’t myself pay someone to carry me, I don’t blame some of the older folks as this side of the mountain was a LOT of up and down. One part was the steepest set of stairs we came across on the mountain (maybe ever), “the ladder to heaven” and unfortunately we had to go up it.
Our first view of the incredible Celestial Capital Peak.
We walked for probably another hour-1.5 hours before we started seeing the crowds from the Yuping cable car (getting to the area then right around 8:30 or so)
You can see the Yuping cable car far down below it. (those were also already very high for reference)
A cool part of the trail walking under some boulders.
My favorite! Pine trees!
And then we hit the crowds full stride close to the Guest Greeting Pine and entrance to the cable car. If you want to have the tree to yourself, you’re going to have to start pretty early. As bad as this looks however, the distance to the tree wasn’t too bad and it took maybe 15-20 minutes or moving through the queue to actually get to the tree.
I affectionately refer to this tree as the Mona Lisa Tree because I have NEVER seen SO MANY PEOPLE trying to take selfies and pictures with 1 thing. It was hard to even get close; I basically scaled a small rock and even then I couldn’t get a great photo of it. I tried for a bit to have my photo taken with it when one lady really nicely let me down my small rock to stand in front of it. It’s still a terrible photo though so not sharing it here. haha
Once we took the trail past the tree, the crowds dropped off a fair amount but still a steady number of people seemed to be heading for the Capitol peak.
Which when I saw it, even I thought they were crazy. The stairs looked a lot like the “ladder to heaven” stairs and seemed never ending. They must’ve climbed 1000-1500 feet almost immediately with no break. (I’m talking worse than Angel’s landing- steep STEEP stairs) Granted our previous day had left me tired and somewhat sore, but even feeling fresh I don’t know if that peak would’ve held appeal for me.
But neither would what we ended up doing as it would turn out. My one piece of advice when it comes to exploring this mountain, is to TAKE THE CABLE CAR. On either the Eastern or Western steps, please don’t try to hike down them, and seriously don’t go about walking up them. While I’d read the scenery was much better on the Western steps (hence I chose to take the cable car up the East steps, and WALK down the west steps) I found it never ending stairs and boring. Seriously the steps. Never. End.
You hardly get any scenic views and just see a lot of trees. Save your time and energy for hiking the peaks up at the top and just take the cable car.
At the bottom of the western steps walking path, there is a beautiful building that sometimes seems to serve as a visitor center, and a shuttle bus stop. We bought our tickets back to Tangkou and hopped on.
Which, here comes mistake #2 of the day. We forgot that bus stop map photo I’d taken and so when the bus turned down a different road than we expected, we panicked and got off at the first stop. At that stop we were harassed with sellers as soon as we got off so we hurried away from the station. It wasn’t until we were well past the station that we saw the buses were going back to the main road and thus… were going the way we had wanted to go. *face palm
At this point we just continue to walk thinking the hotel we’d left our bag at was just down the road 10 minutes or so
We got off the bus WAY too early. Our stop we wanted was the very last one on the route!
That “10 minute” walk became a blazing hot 30 minute walk with little scenery. By the time we reached the hotel, we were dehydrated and exhausted from our walk DOWN the mountain and then through town.
The light at the end of the tunnel dawned however as we ate at the restaurant yet again (our favorite.. it was so good) and decided that since we had 6 hours until we needed to leave for the train station and had nothing to do, we may as well book a room. Lolololol Weird, I had a hard time explaining that since we were taking a sleeper train to Shanghai that night, we wanted a place to shower, change, and NAP before we headed on our next phase of our journey. $35 well spent my friends. That green tea foot soak was just as great on this day and the nap was even nicer.
At 5:30 we picked up some snacks/dinner for the train and our hotel called us a cab to take us to Huangshan train station. Here’s where it gets good again. Even though I clearly say HUANGSHAN and not HUANGSHANBEI I notice on google maps that our cab driver is taking us through weird back streets, neighborhoods, and most definitely NOT the most efficient way back to Huangshan town. When I tell him not to go to Bei, he doesn’t understand and thus we end up at Huangshan Bei (the HIGHSPEED train station that we’d first arrived at) anyways. So now we have an hour to go before our train departure. We show him our train ticket and say other station a few times and he gets it. So then we are off on another 20 minute ride back to the run down station in town. We did try to pay him extra for having to drive us further but he ended up giving it back to us instead of accepting it. Ah well. In we went where we had about 10-15 minutes wait in the large waiting room, and then we got on our train.
Photo from our next sleeper train, I didn’t get any of this one
It was an older style train for sure, with clunky sliding doors. They were bunk room compartments since we booked a “soft” sleeper so our bunk room had 4 bunks with Braden on the top bunk and I had the lower. We happily discovered that our bunk room was shared with a couple from the Netherlands who I enjoyed talking with for a 2-3 hours about our different experiences on the mountain and around town. It was even the latest we stayed up since we had our ramen noodle bowls and chatted for so long.
Sleeping was an experience. I slept rather well considering it was on a train, but overall I still only got maybe 5 hours of sleep. While maybe not the most “restful” sleep, I found the movement of the train comforting, and my individual bunk comfortable. The train provides a sheet to lay on top of, a decent pillow, and a really nice comforter. So moral of the story, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to book a soft sleeper again.
And thus concludes our epic trip around the Huangshan area, stay tuned for a recap post for hotel, trail maps, and useful tidbits to come all in one post!

Day 5 Costs:
Breakfast included in hotel
Shuttle bus to Tangkou $5.54
Lunch $19
Extra hotel… $35
Store $8.45
Taxi to train station $26.23
Sleeper train $99

Day 5 Total: $193.25
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