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Everything You Need to Know About Climbing Huangshan Mountain

Everything You Need to Know About Climbing Huangshan Mountain

Anhui, Asia, China

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that last semester I reached one of my main goals in China and climbed the famous Huangshan mountain. Climbing Huangshan has been one of the highlights of my time in China, despite my annoyance of the hundreds of Chinese present like ants on an anthill. It was also a bitch to organize. I spent hours combing through travel websites, blogs, and booking sites before I was able to figure out how to even get us there!

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Unbelievable views at the top

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Since I put a lot of effort in to figuring how the best way to climb the mountain, I thought I’d share my new expertise and attempt to make your trip a little less difficult.

First Question: Where to Stay?

When initially researching Huangshan, you’ll find it’s a bit difficult to even figure out where to book hotels.

That’s because apart from the mountain, there’s Huangshan city. And then there’s two areas closer to the base where you can also stay. Don’t pick the city. Huangshan the city is about an hour away from the mountain. You want to stay in the small little town at the base of the mountain: Tangkou.

Tangkou is the closest stop to the base of the mountains. There are plenty of restaurants, hotels, and convenient stores so you won’t be lacking in food or beds. Tangkou is also where all the buses leave to bring you to the base of the mountain.  i.e. where you start your hike.

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I booked a simple but nice and warm hotel through bookings.com where I was able to request a van to pick us up from the bus station.

How to get to Tangkou?

This was definitely a bit of a struggle for me. I’d decided where I wanted to stay, but then couldn’t figure out anything through the Chinese websites that were all in characters! Add in the fact that you need a Chinese credit card to book things and…ai-ee-a (as we often say in Chinese).

I’m based in Shanghai so my advice will be on how to get to and from Tangkou from there.

First of all, you have two options. You can take a train to Huangshan city and then grab a bus to Tangkou, or you can bus it all the way from Shanghai to Tangkou.

Take the bus.

Believe it or not, it’s quicker. The bus is approximately 6 hours from Shanghai  South Bus Station. The train is overnight and its 12 ½  hours. At first this super confused me. Doesn’t it make sense for the train to be faster?

Well, as of now, the train doesn’t go directly to Huangshan. It takes a very roundabout way passing through many other nearby cities. And its overnight. Opt for the bus.

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Booking tickets?

If you have a Chinese friend, they can reserve bus tickets through an app. You can do this too if you can read Chinese and have a Chinese credit card. I had my teacher book and pay for tickets with her card, and then I paid her back.

If you don’t have this option, you can always buy bus tickets at the bus station. You really only need to reserve in advance if you’re on a schedule or traveling through the Chinese holidays (the big ones are National holidays in October and Chinese New Year). Otherwise, you can always show up at the bus station and just reserve the next bus. Or go to Shanghai station and reserve in advance.

For your return ticket, your hotel or hostel should be able to book for you. We paid our hotel the night before and were picked up at the hotel the next morning.

Chinese hack:

我想买一大把票去黄山.

I need to buy one bus ticket to Huangshan.

你可以帮我订一大巴票去上海吗

Can you help me reserve a bus ticket to Shanghai?

Time table: http://www.huangshantour.com/english/SmallClass.asp?typeid=25&BigClassID=92&SmallClassID=388

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Should you stay at the top?

A popular thing to do for the Chinese is to climb the mountain (or take the cable cars) and stay in a hotel at the top. They then wake up at the break of dawn to watch the sunrise. So what should you do? Try and attempt the hike in one day, or break it up?

Pros of staying at the top:

  • Huangshan is big. There’s a lot of sights to see at the top of the mountains. If you stay for two nights you’ll have plenty of time to take a break and explore the whole area.
  • Gorgeous sunrise pictures

Cons:

  • The top is very expensive, rooms and food.
  • Approximately 2/3’s of the time, Huangshan mountain is so cloudy you can’t see the sunrise.

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On a bit of a budget and time constraint, we opted to climb Huangshan in just one day. I think this was a totally doable option and I was still very satisfied with my experience. The rest of my post will be geared towards the one day option so you can adjust as necessary.

What route should you take?

If you’re here to climb the mountains, then you probably don’t want to be taking the cable cars. The climb up was the best part! Although the steps were exhausting.

There are two routes of stairs that will take you to the top of Huangshan mountain. The Western stairs are steeper and harder to climb. The Eastern stairs are a bit easier and will take less time. This is the more popular option. It takes approximately 4 hours (depending on your stair climbing prowess) to reach the top by using the Western stairs and about 2 hours from the Eastern stairs.

We opted for the Eastern stairs. I would suggest this as the best way to go up. You’ll have gorgeous views along the way and it brings you straight to the best overlook point (where you’ll also unfortunately meet up with the hordes of Chinese tourists who took the cable cars up.)

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These aren’t even the steep stairs.

We originally planned to go up the Eastern stairs, take a look around some of the many sites at the peak, and then find the Western steps to go down. We ran into a small bump in the road when we couldn’t find the start to the Western stairs.

The top is huge and it’s a maze of hundreds of people. You can definitely get a bit lost. The park also closes at 5pm meaning if you want to start the descent down, you need to find the steps by 1pm or 2pm at the latest.

We ended up walking for hours all over the top just looking for the cable cars. (There are a few different sections.) We also ended up waiting in line for hours just to get to the place for cable cars. Talk about a traffic jam!

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However, the climb up was extraordinary. The views at the top were unbelievable. It wasn’t too big of a deal to choke up the 60kuai to ride the cable car down. And we were at the top the majority of the day. (The hike at the top to the cable cars took at least an hour.)

Further readings for routes:

http://acoupletravelers.com/huangshan/

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Cable cars at the top

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What should you bring?

Make sure you get a full breakfast before you head out. Of course, you’ll also want plenty of water.

We went for ramen for breakfast, plenty of snacks throughout the day, and then a BIG dinner when we got back down.

Make sure to bring sugary items to keep your sugar levels high-Snickers never tasted as good as it did as when we reached the summit. We also devoured crackers, peanuts, and Chips Ahoy.

Other items you might want to consider are a walking stick.

Or hire someone to carry you
Or hire someone to carry you

There are plenty of places and vendors at the top and staggered through the Eastern stairs to buy water and snacks. They are of course, a bit pricier than the convenient stores in Tangkou.

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General Information:

  • The park opens at 8am (I believe). Make sure you catch the first buses to the bottom of the mountain as you’ll have to wait in line for tickets. If you’re planning on hiking, this is essential. (Other friends started too late and didn’t have time to start the hike.)
  • Park tickets cost 160kuai. If you’re studying abroad bring your student ID in order to get tickets half price.
  • If you’re prone to altitude sickness, factor this in. Take lots of breaks and give yourself time to adjust.
  • The mountain top is cold, no matter what time of year you go. Bring a jacket.

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On top of the world

Was this advice useful? Is there anything else you wished you knew before climbing Huangshan?

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About the author

I got my first taste of long-term travel when I took a gap year before beginning college. I lived and worked in Australia in one of the most transformative years of my life. Like many others, I caught the wanderlust bug and now I'm always busy adding to my bucketlist. Besides traveling, I'm into hiking and photography. I'm currently finishing up my senior year in college and planning my next big adventure!

20 Comments

  1. YoMomma
    February 6, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    WOW!!!!What excellent pictures! Being carried to the top looked sort of terrifying, tho I think it is a great idea 🙂 I am very grateful that you didn’t loose your balance during your top of the world picture! AI-EE-A!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    L
    uvYaLots

    • Phyllis @phyllisonthemap
      February 7, 2015 at 9:46 am

      Thanks Mom. It does look slightly terrifying-but I bet she felt like a queen!

  2. Nandin
    April 22, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    Woow i sooo want to go and climb Huangshan!!! Thank you very much for all the info! These are very useful and hopefully i’ll use them one day =P

  3. Azzam
    August 14, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Hi phyllis!
    Good to hear that you had a great time there, im planning to hike there soon. Im amaze that you survive the communication barrier, just wanted to know did you stay overnight at the summit? By photo i can tell youre going down by cable car isnt? Im planning to get down by the hiking trail and wondering if overnight stay would do.

    • Phyllis
      October 7, 2016 at 4:54 pm

      I speak Chinese so that might help a bit! I didn’t stay at the summit-it’s a bit expensive. And you can hike down theres just a long line!

  4. Zara
    October 17, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    You will probably not approve this comment. But I just want to tell you that Huangshan is in China. So if there are hordes of Chinese tourists, please don’t whine about it.

    • Phyllis
      October 19, 2016 at 1:25 am

      A) I like that you started this comment with “you will probably not approve this…” Just shows that you know you’re being a dick but you still felt the need to post. Cheers.
      B) My blog. I can whine about whatever I want to whine about.
      C) No other country have I stood in line on a mountain. And not just any line. A line where I literally couldn’t move. I think it sucks that China isn’t protecting their ecosystems like other countries. For example, environmental-conscious Taiwan limits the number of people that can go on popular hikes to preserve the land. China just wants to maximize profit. So it’s a worthy complaint.

  5. MYK
    November 10, 2016 at 6:45 am

    I’m planning a short hiking trip to Huangshan and this article is just perfect! Thank you kind internet stranger who took the time to write down all the directions – have a good day, wherever you are!

    • Phyllis
      November 18, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      Thank you! This comment made my day 🙂

      Enjoy Huangshan!

  6. CLK
    January 17, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    which season/ month did you go?

    • Phyllis
      January 17, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      I went in September!

  7. TAEHEON
    January 25, 2017 at 11:39 am

    THANK YOU!! I am leaving to huangshan in 2 days and my brain was just about to explode because it was too complicated just to work the plan out (how to get there, where to stay, should i stay up there, am i supposed to use those cable cars etc.). And this happened 🙂 Now i think i can enjoy planning in peace. 新年快乐!

    • Phyllis
      January 25, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      For one of the most famous mountains it’s super hard to find any information on how to climb it! Glad I could be of assistance and enjoy your trip 🙂 Hopefully it isn’t too busy with Chinese New Year this weekend

  8. Ramona
    February 12, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    Hey thank you for this post 🙂 Can you tell me where to book the bus tickets? I have a chinese friend who could pay for me. But i just cant find any informations about the bus from tangkou to shanghai. Yes its very difficult to plan huangshan ;D

    • Phyllis
      February 15, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      Thanks for commenting! I assume you’re talking about booking them online? I honestly have no idea… My Chinese friends just knew what apps to use and would do it automatically. Otherwise, just go down to the bus station in Shanghai 🙂 For the bus from Tangkou to Shanghai, just book at wherever you’re staying. Your hotel will have a service and they’ll do everything for you.

  9. Maike
    March 5, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Hi, Im also planning to go to Huangshan mountain from Shanghai. I only wanted to spent one night for example in Tangkou. I wanted to ask you if it makes sense to go to Tangkou by bus, go to the hotel, spend the night there, and then go to the mountain the next morning, climb back down and take the bus back to Shanghai in the evening. Would that work? How did you do it? Thanks for this great post btw. Cheers

    • Phyllis
      March 7, 2017 at 5:43 pm

      I personally stayed in Tangkou for two nights. We just wanted to relax and eat after spending all day on the mountain. Then we took the bus home first thing in the morning. However, I had some friends take an overnight train back after being on the mountain and arrived the next morning. I still don’t recommend the train but you could catch an evening bus back. Since the park closes at 5pm, I’d say you could get a bus around 8pm or 7pm from your hotel and be back in Shanghai that night. Your hotel can book your bus back to Shanghai if you arrange it when you arrive.

  10. Kyle
    May 2, 2017 at 4:10 am

    There is a high-speed train now to Huangshan (less than 5 hours), just FYI!

    • Phyllis
      May 2, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      Hallelujah!!!! 🙂

Comments are closed.