2nd best day of our trip (after the Great Wall) as the mountains and sites we saw this day were EPIC. but let’s get things straight.. this day was a TONNNN of stairs.
Our hotel receptionist told us 9AM would be a good time to head up so we didn’t set an alarm but my jet lag woke me up at 3 anyways. I killed some time waiting for Braden to wake up and started noticing tour groups around 5:30. (the first buses to the scenic area leave at 6). So we decided to just get up and get ready. We got some breakfast from the store across the street. (The owner was so friendly! She didn’t speak any English, but she gestured to her mouth and looked like she was asking us if we needed breakfast, and when we nodded yes, she took us directly to the BREAD section. About died. She knew exactly what I wanted. Hahaha) So snacks in hand, we checked out of our hotel, leaving our big bags there and walked the short distance to the scenic bus stop. (literally our hotel was the closest one to the stop)
“Civilized travel starts from me” … words to live by! haha
We bought our tickets for the Yungu Temple which was the start of the Eastern steps and Yungu cable car then queued to get on the bus. This area was SO organized, it was like Disney again. While it was getting busy, we just slowly followed everyone through the lines to get on a ready busy and once it was full, it left immediately for the scenic area.
We were feeling.. pretty proud at this point not going to lie. The bus ride was around 30 minutes and climbed at least 1,000 feet with sharp switchbacks passing through Bamboo forests before coming out in more open alpine plains.
View from the winding bus ride
Once off the bus, it was a short walk to the ticket counter (no lines yet) to pay our entrance fee to the mountain as well as buy a cable car ride to the top. The entrance fee was pretty EXPENSIVE, so if you are a student, make sure you bring your ID as it makes the cost less than half! Braden thankfully had brought his… I wish I still had a valid one. Haha There was a shorter 15 minutes line to board a cable car which we shared with 4 others (2 couples) who didn’t seem to enjoy the ride much. They looked pretty terrified.
Following Braden along the path from the bus stop to the cable car ticket counters
Giant sign right before the ticket counters for park entrance and the cable car
I found the cable car ride pretty thrilling. It was SO beautiful as all of the granite peaks we slowly unveiled the higher we got. Admittedly there were sections that were over such steep drops, I myself was a little afraid… particularly when the wind started to blow our cars. We reached the top after about 10 minutes and were immediately surrounded by hordes of tour groups whose guides spoke with large speaker phones.
So WITH that, here was our plan for our first hike and first half of our day:
Yungu Temple to the bottom of the West Sea Grand Canyon
Distance: 4.5-5.5 miles
Elevation gain: 500-900 feet
Elevation loss: 1300-1500 feet
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. The shorter distance/ time is if you go straight down with the longer distance/ time if you add in Beginning to Believe Peak and Lion Peak.
Points of Interest: Beginning to Believe Peak, Stone Monkey Watching the Sea, Cloud Dispelling Pavilion, and just about everything after that.
We snapped a few photos around the top of the cable car before hurrying away down the path to try and stay ahead of them. But it was too late. We should’ve started earlier as even though we passed several groups, there were always more ahead. By this time it was almost 8AM. I had an idea of where the mountain would be less crowded so we skipped the Beginning to believe area which I’m sure put us in front of many tour groups.
We reached the Beihai hotel very quickly and decided in the absence of too many tour groups there, to detour up and check out the “stone monkey”
The views were absolutely stunning of the surrounding peaks around us and though we skipped the peak, I was definitely “beginning to believe.”
These little trash receptacles were everywhere and I have to see this mountain was kept IMMACULATELY clean. If we saw trash, it was in these bins, but we also saw the bins being clean out frequently. So it was awesome how well they are managing trash up there… even if the amount of plastic waste is astonishing.
After a fair bit of stairs, we reached the monkey! Do you see him? This was one amazing view!
A photo with the monkey! We had our breakfast snacks we’d brought along up here where it was quiet. We concerned going the short extra distance to Lion Peak, but it was closed, so we headed down back to our original path instead.
Amazing views near the Dawn Pavilion.
After hiking down from the monkey, I used the public toilet at Beihai hotel which was horrible, but then again, on the main path for giant tour groups and by this time (8:30ish) was getting very busy. Recommend holding off until getting to the next hotels if you can.
Story of our day.
A view more of the views around Beihai hotel.
It was maybe a 30 minute walk from Beihai to Xihai hotel, and then another 15 minutes or so to our hotel at the start of the West Sea Grand Canyon (North) route, the Pai Yun Lou hotel. We unfortunately had to weave in and out of several tour groups along the way but seemed to make decent headway.
The path was pretty easy to follow with all of the signs at cross roads having the English names so as long as you knew where you wanted to go, you’d get on fine. The map we had showing the trail intersections was also helpful so between that and the signs, you really can’t get too lost.
The worst bit, was that way more groups were headed for the West Sea than I expected. All the information I had read (from 2013 and older mostly) indicated this area of the mountain was scarce with people… well that’s a load of baloney.
No matter though, as this area is worth the crowds, the hype, and the multitude of stairs
The Cloud Dispelling Pavilion
There were moments on the path that were people free and glorious! And there were moments we couldn’t appropriately enjoy because of the people blocking views or speaking loudly into speaker phones. Overall however the trail was so unique, beautifully crafted, and with incredible views, that it would be impossible to not appreciate it.
A really narrow part of the trail. I enjoyed running through it and having freedom to move period as up until this point, the crowds were pretty thick.
Views looking south and of the west sea. (our 2nd hike this day would take us over there)
Some of the many stairs. We had to descend like 3000 feet in around 1.5. Stairs were a necessity.
I left Huangshan with a deep obsession and love of these pine trees.
You will see many, many more photos highlighting these beauties…..
Some more stairs….
Some of the pretty details of the trail. Everything was rock solid but detailed to look like pretty pavers or wood. While I didn’t enjoy the crowds, I did enjoy the unique structure of this trail that basically hung over massive drop offs the whole way.
I spy, a boyscout.
One of the other few spots on the trail we had to ourselves
The trail looked like this most of the way, just jutted right out of a sheer cliff.
More stairs.. but pretty ones at least
Once at the bottom of the Western Sea- Grand Canyon you can hike back up (not recommended) or you can just pay the $15 or so for a rail car ride back to the top. #worthit
We didn’t see a SINGLE person climbing up these stairs. haha no one is crazy enough to do it I guess. IF the southern route which also connects down to the rail car station had been open, I may have been tempted to climb up a different way but alas, it was closed. (I’m really torn up about it)
Finally at the bottom thus concluding our first “hike” of the day. We had a short wait for the rail car to take us to the top and then we’d start the 2nd trail of the day. More information about the hotels on the mountain to come.
To be continuted…
Day 4 cost to this point:
Shuttle to scenic area $4.08
Entrance to park $33.50/adult $16.75/student
Tram ride (Yungu Cable car/ Eastern Slopes) $23.32
2nd tram ride (Western Sea rail car) $29.15
* Costs are for 2 people.