Mount Hua (华山): The Most Dangerous Hike in the World?

The notorious Plank Walk below the South Peak of Mount Hua

On the Plank Walk

I first heard about Mount Hua (one of China’s five sacred Daoist mountains, not far from Xian in Shaanxi province) the best part of a decade ago, while planning a trip in central China. Back then the mountain was only really famous in China itself, and I had to look at Chinese language guidebooks to find out much about the place. Looking at the photos of smooth, soaring cliffs of granite, I was immediately determined to go. The photo that really struck my eye was of the Plank Path (長空棧道) on the sheer cliffs of the mountain’s South Peak; it looked so amazing I thought it couldn’t be real. Continue reading

Mount Wudang (武当山): Taiqiquan, Daoist Temples, and Magnificent Scenery

A foggy day near the summit

For some reason Mount Wudang (武當山), a couple of hundred kilometers northwest of Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province, doesn’t make it into the list of five sacred Daoist mountains, and yet it’s sometimes regarded as the most important Daoist Mountain in the kingdom. Figure that one out.

The ‘Hanging’ Monastery at South Cliff

Mt Wudang owes its historic significance to the fact that it was here that Taiqiquan  was ‘invented’ around a thousand years ago: the familiar story – a monk being inspired by a battle between a bird and a snake – happened right here, in this deliriously lovely spot that now attracts fit hikers and lazy tourists alike with its winning combination of ancient and very atmospheric temple architecture and magnificent natural beauty. Continue reading

Beautiful Dehang (得夯): the perfect antedote to travelling in China

Following the river to Xinzhai

Three peaks and just over a week into our Chinese hiking trip this summer, our energy levels were getting low, plus there was a definite need to slow down and relax for a day or two. According to the original plan, the next destination was Wuhan, in transit to Mount Wudang. Now Wuhan must be one of the least relaxed, least relaxing destinations in China, if not on the planet, so we suddenly had an urgent need to revise our plans or run the very real risk of driving each other crazy.

The Tienwen Platform

For all the adjectives that immediately spring to mind when discussing China, ‘relaxing’ isn’t one that comes up often, so leaving Zhangjiajie after an intense two-days’ hiking, it was pure luck that the enchanted Miao minority settlement of Dehang (得夯) was just a few hours away by bus. Continue reading

The real-life inspiration for Avatar: the incredible landscape of Zhangjiajie (張家界)

The First Bridge Under Heaven (the second highest natural arch in the world) with one of the thousands of vast rock pillars in the area, at Zhiangjiajie

Right, I’m going to keep this short: if you ever get the chance to fit Zhangjiajie (張家界) into a China trip, leap at the chance! However to get the most of it, you’d do well to be super-fit and have a couple of days to enjoy the experience to the full, because (although you’ll run the risk of getting pinnacled-out if you stay too long) Zhangjiajie is HUGE, and there’s a lot of magnificent walking to be hade here.

On Yaozizai mesa

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Mount Heng (衡山): The Softer Side of China

The temple on top of Mount Heng, at dawn

Of all the six mountains and scenic areas we visited on our summer hiking trip around China this year, Mount Heng (衡山; the southern peak of China’s five sacred Daoist mountains, and not to be confused with the other Mount Heng, near Datong in Shanxi Province) gave us perhaps the biggest surprise.

The summit of Mount Heng

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Mount Sanqing (三清山) – wow!

On the Southeast Circuit path

The Guanyin Rock towers above the cable car as it approaches the upper station

There’s no doubt about it; whatever you feel about the regime there, the rudeness of the people, and everything else, China is one of the world’s most extraordinary, amazing, friggin’ mind-blowing destinations!  Continue reading

Hua Shan and Huangshan: China’s Mystical Mountain Scenery at its Best

On Hua Shan South Peak, just above the notorious Plank Path (sometimes dubbed ‘the World’s Most Dangerous Trail’!)

I’m off to China this summer for the first time in four years to pay a return visit to a few of my (many, many) favorite destinations in this vast, vastly frustrating, but incomparably wondrous country, and planning for the trip has led me to think about the many fantastic hiking spots that I’ve explored in the country. I thought I’d briefly describe the peaks and other hiking destinations I’ve visited so far in the hope that it convinces someone to look further than the standard tourist sites and explore more of the riches that China has to offer the active tourist.  I’ll write in more detail about the main peaks I plan to revisit after my return, but in the meantime, here’s an appetizer of what you’re missing out on if you’ve never hiked in China beyond the tourist stretches of the Great Wall. And there’s so much more out there as well….  Continue reading