In a country with no shortage of stunning mountains, Huang Shan is one of the most storied in all of China. The area is tightly clustered with at least 72 named peaks, most notably Bright Future Peak (Guang Ming Ding， 光明顶), Celestial Capital Peak (Tian Du Feng， 天都峰), and Lotus Flower Peak (Lian Hua Feng， 莲花峰).
Huang Shan is well known for the steep cliffs, precariously perched pines, and is almost always shrouded in clouds. People are lured from all over to come and marvel at the fantastic landscapes. Due to large crowds, it is difficult to find any solitude. However, since everyone sticks to the main paths, it is possible to find solitude if you go off-trail. Keep in mind that the growth is thick and the terrain is very rugged so be careful. The main paths provide access to all the main summits although some stairways can be extremely steep (stiff class 3) and occasionally single-passage.
The beauty of Huangshan is often heightened by the clouds
Huang Shan has two main approaches, the Eastern Steps and the Western Steps. The Eastern route is shorter at 7.5 km, but supposedly not as scenic as the longer Western route, 15 km. Both are developed with stations offering standard tourist fare (shops to buy walking sticks, instant noodles, etc). There are also three cable cars available to provide quick access to the high peaks. The Jade Screen cable car goes from Ciguang Temple to Yupinglou Binguan. The Cloud Valley Temple cable car goes from the Eastern Gate to the White Goose Ridge. The Taiping cable car goes from Huangshan Qu to the Pine Forest Peak.
View from Eastern Steps ascending towards Baie Feng
Huang Shan is located in southern Anhui province, due west of Hangzhou. Despite the major tourist appeal of Huangshan the transportation throughout the area is limited. The nearest train station is located at Huangshan Center, but despite the name it is still an hour away by bus. The train goes directly to Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai. There is a popular overnight train from Shanghai which departs at 10:30pm from the Shanghai Railway Station. It arrives at Huangshan Center at approximately 10:00am. Buses also connect Huangshan to many major cities. Incoming buses may drop you off in Huangshan Center, Tangkou, or the Huangshan gate, but unless you are very fluent in Chinese, it is difficult to tell until you get there.
For accurate times and prices, it is best to check just prior to departure since times and fares are subject to change. Typically people take a train to Huangshan Center, then catch a bus or minibus to Tangkou, then take a taxi to the gate. Once you’ve arrived at the gate you can choose to start hiking or ride the cable car to the upper mountain.
When to Climb
The mountain is very hot and crowded in the summer. The winter is much less crowded but can become quite cold. The most tolerable weather is probably in Apr/May or Sep/Oct. But if you visit in the first week of May or the first week of October which is a national holiday you will experience ‘Ren Hai, Ren Shan’（人海人山). That is a Chinese saying which means ‘Sea of People, Mountain of People.’ The experience is surely something you will never forget.
Huangshan is open for business year-round. An entrance fee is paid when crossing any of the main gates. The entrance fee (2007) costs 200 RMB although discounts are available during the off-season or for students. The cable cars charge between 30-70 RMB for a ride.
Food and lodging is available on the mountain, generally clustered around the cable cars and also nearby the main summits. Basic lodging starts at 40-60 RMB for a simple dorm-style hostel. A couple nicer hotels are available with suites costing 5000 RMB (over $600 USD). Rates may double during holidays and still book out. There isn’t much selection for groceries, but the kitchens prepare excellent local food with local ingredients. Food costs more on the mountain than elsewhere but is still very reasonable and generally of good quality.