China is a vast country with so many different regions and cultures to discover. As it looks like most expats currently in China will be stuck here for a while longer yet, it’s time to tick some activities off your domestic bucket list. One of the best ways to explore the Middle Kingdom is through hiking and climbing trips. Below I’ve chosen six top hiking and climbing spots in China. Spread out across the country and varying in difficulty, there’s something for everyone.
Source: Denys Nevozhai
1. Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan
No list of hiking and climbing spots in China would be complete without a mention of Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan. The story behind the valley’s namesake is the stuff of legend. The tale goes that a hunter was chasing a tiger through the valley when the terrified cat found itself trapped with its back to the water. To escape the hunter, the brave beast leapt across the 24-meter-wide gap in the gorge. Whether the story is false, true or exaggerated, the gap is now the most iconic viewing point at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While hikers are certainly discouraged from trying to follow in the footsteps of the legendary tiger, I wholeheartedly recommend you take the time to go for a hike in what is quite simply some the most spectacular scenery in the world. The entire trail stretches for 22 kilometers, boasting a wide variety of wildlife, waterfalls, and viewing points from which to get the perfect snapshot of the gorge. There are also plenty of shorter routes for those with less stamina, as well as guesthouses along the way for those who want to split the adventure up into two or more days.
In fact, Yunnan province has an embarrassment of world-class hiking and climbing spots. If you find yourself with more time on your trip or looking to return in the future, you should also check out Yuhu in Lijiang, Yubeng in Shangriila, and Gejia in Honghe.
Recommended for hikers who want to enjoy breathtaking views
2. Yangshuo, Guangxi
Guilin may be the most famous tourist attraction in Guangxi, but when it comes to serious climbing, those in the know flock to its slightly lesser known neighbor, Yangshuo.
Yangshuo is dubbed by many as the rock climbing capital of China, and it’s not hard to see why. There are plenty of spots among the tooth-like hills for climbers of all levels to conquer.
For beginners, there is the Swiss Cheese, named so because of its hole-studded surface, and — the perfect accompaniment — the Wine Bottle, which resembles a bottle of the good stuff. Yangshuo also offers tougher climbs, including White Mountain, which, at 200 meters long and 60 meters high, represents a steep challenge for more seasoned climbers. Meanwhile, Moon Hill, an iconic arch looking out over the lush green countryside, provides the best views.
Yangshuo is also a backpacking hotspot, complete with a bustling nightlife scene more akin to Southeast Asia than mainland China. So book a weekend away in Yangshuo and convince yourself you’re living it up in Thailand.
Recommended for rock climbers of all levels
3. Leshan, Sichuan
Even in a country with many famous Buddha statues, Leshan stands out with its iconic Giant Buddha. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71-meter-tall statue of the big man, carved into a red sandstone cliff face that looks out over the confluence of the Min and Dadu Rivers. Completed in 803, it’s the largest and tallest stone Buddha in the world. People from all over China and farther afield make the pilgrimage to glimpse the great Maitreya.
If you come to visit the Leshan Giant Buddha, stick around for the pleasant, if not particularly challenging, hiking trails that surround it. Zigzag tracks lead visitors up and down the cliff side, while the red earth of the surrounding mountains offers a unique backdrop for those all-important souvenir photos.
Recommended for those who want to mix light hiking and sight-seeing
4. Baiyun Mountain, Guangdong
China has countless stunning far flung mountain ranges, but, understandably, many of us simply don’t have the time to visit the most remote locations. Thankfully, there are some pretty decent options in, or close to, major cities.
Guangzhou, a metropolis of more than 13 million people that sprawls 7,400-square-kilometers, is home to Baiyun Mountain. Also known as the White Cloud Mountain and informally as the “city’s lung”, Baiyun Mountain is a favorite hiking spot for locals. Among 28-square-kilometers and 30 peaks, Moxing Ridge is the must-see spot, standing at 382 meters and providing jaw-dropping views of Guangzhou and the Pearl River below.
It’s the perfect time to visit, too, as the local government just opened up a new link connecting Baiyun Mountain Park with neighboring Yuexiu Park. Now hikers can also check out Yuexiu Park’s famous Five Rams Statue and Zhenhai Tower when touring Baiyun Mountain.
Recommended for hikers who want a challenge without leaving the comforts of city life
5. Nalati Grassland, Xinjiang
From a mountain in the middle of a megalopolis in the south of China to the open sub-alpine meadows in the very far west of the country. It’s here you’ll find the Nalati Grassland of Xinjiang province.
On account of its high altitude and steep climbs, the meadows are affectionately referred to by locals as the “Sky Grassland”. Here, hikers will often find themselves accompanied by herds of sheep, cows, and horses as they amble through the long grass and wild flowers. The best time to visit is from June to September when the flowers are in bloom and the lambs and calves are born.
While other spots on this list undoubtedly provide more accessible hikes, few can boast the unique beauty of the Nalati Grassland. It may be a long trip, but it will not disappoint.
Recommended for hikers who want to go on their very own journey to the west
6. Liupanshui, Guizhou
The Liupanshui area of Guizhou is one of the most iconic climbing spots in China. Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’ve probably seen photos of the beautiful green mountain range that’s home to the world’s highest bridge. Sitting 565 meters above the Beipan River, the Duge Bridge connects Quijing and Liupanshui and looks like a massive version of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Liupanshui is also famous for its climbing opportunities, which are best demonstrated by a local celebrity who’s become known as “Spiderwoman”. Part of a group of climbers who entertain visitors to the nearby Getu River, Luo Dengping performs rock climbing stunts with her bare hands and no safety equipment. During an average show, Luo free-climbs solo up and down a 100-meter cliff in just 20 minutes. You don’t have to do it so quickly or dangerously, but why not book a trip to Liupanshui and channel your inner comic book character?
Recommended for climbers with a thirst for danger and spectacle
What other top China hiking and climbing spots do you rate? Tell us in the comments section below.
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