CHINA | Zhangjiajie National Park

CHINA | Zhangjiajie National Park

Actually this post is about the Wulingyuan scenic and historic area, which is often referred to as Zhangjiajie National Park (even though that’s only one of four national parks in the area). The park is massive and planning a trip there can be a little confusing. I hope my personal experiences will help make planning your trip a little easier. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help to make your trip to Zhangjiajie just as awesome as mine (hopefully for you with better weather though).


Where to stay?

There are different options for where to stay when you want to visit the park. I’m just gonna cover three here, because I think these are the options that people consider mostly.

The first and in my opinion best option is to stay in the town Wulingyuan. Wulingyuan has it’s own entrance to the park and is therefore the perfect location for exploring the park. Also the town is charming and has good facilities as well as some great guesthouses. I stayed at the hidden homes (also called Yinshe) guesthouse and it was great!

The second option is Zhangjiajie city, this is where you for sure can find the most facilities in the area, also the train station and main bus station are here. However, if you’re staying in Zhangjiajie city it will take you over 30 min to get to one of the park’s entrances, so it’s not the best option if you’re asking me.

Third option is to stay in the park itself. However, you don’t have many accommodation options and the facilities aren’t very good. Most of the buildings I saw looked pretty old and crooked and wouldn’t be the places of my choice.


What to do?

The park is quite big and there are a lot of things to do and see. The main activity is probably hiking, unfortunately the weather was pretty bad when I visited, so I didn’t really get to go on any hikes. From what I’ve heard though the Golden Whip Stream hike is really nice.

If you are not that much into hiking, or the weather doesn’t really allow it, you can also decided to just stick to the walking paths. Still exploring some of the park on foot, but without having to get your shoes too dirty.

Besides hiking/walking, a cool thing to do is go on the Bailong Elevator, this is the tallest outdoor elevator in the world and it was honestly one of my favourite activities in the park. The view from the elevator is stunning and it’s a convenient way to get from the valley to the top. Unfortunately it goes pretty fast, so make sure to enjoy it while it lasts.

Also there are a few cable car routes, which provide some great views and are a good alternative if you don’t want to hike up to the top.


What to see?

The main thing to see in the park are of course the sandstone peaks, which can be found throughout the park. Make sure you get a view from the botton, for example at Ten Mile Natural Gallery as well as from the top, e.g. near the greatest natural bridge. Personally I really liked the view from the upper station of the Bailong elevator, so don’t skip that one just because it might be busy there.

There one particular peak called the Hallelujah mountain, which has been named after the mountain in Avatar, since the people at the park believe the mountain in the movie was inspired by this real life one.


How to get around?

One thing I’ve noticed when visiting China is that the Chinese don’t seem to like walking. In every touristy location they’ve made sure you can basically see everything without walking at all. This park is no different. There is a comprehensive plan of busses, cable cars, a sightseeing tram and elevator.

There are two bus routes, one in the valley and one at the top, both with several stops, usually at the main viewpoints or attractions. Busses go in both directions, but it’s best to travel around the park in clockwise direction as there are significantly more busses traveling that way. All busses are included in your entrance fee, so you’re free to take them at all times. I’ve heard that there can be long queues to get onto the busses unfortunately. However, when I was there it was super quiet, so I never had that problem. There is no timetable, but the busses come and go pretty frequently.

For the cable cars, sightseeing tram and elevator you have to pay extra. It’s pretty expansive, but on most attractions you can get a discount if you can show a student card. The sightseeing tram just goes back and forth to a viewpoint, which can be convenient if you don’t want to waist time walking there. The cable cars and elevator connect the valley with the top of the park. The Wulingyuan entrance is in the valley, so unless you want to spend over an hour walking up steps you’ll need to use a cable car or the Bailong Elevator to get to the top part.


Where to eat?

There aren’t that many restaurants in the park. There is a McDonalds and a KFC, but other than that you’ll have to do with the street food stalls, which can be found around the bus stops, main viewpoints and entrances to the attractions. Everything is pretty expansive and the street food didn’t really look appealing, so maybe your best option is to bring your own. There are more than enough supermarkets in Wulingyuan to stock up on food and drinks.


How to plan your trip?

Planning your trip to Zhangjiajie National Park in advance can be tricky. I found it really hard to find any good maps online that show the bus routes, hiking trails, cable cars and so on. We got this map at our guesthouse and it’s by far the best I’ve seen, so I wanted to share it with you. I hope it makes everything a little clearer, even with all the drawing on it.

I definitely recommend taking at least two days to explore the park. I only had one day and although I feel like I got a good feeling of the park I wish I would’ve had another day to see and do more. Especially if you want to go hiking, you’ll need two days. Also your ticket is valid for three days, so visiting a second or third day won’t even cost you any more money.

As I mentioned above the weather was really bad when I visited. I think it’s definitely better to visit the park with nice weather, but it’s still worth it with bad weather. We found out that you just need a little more patients and wait until some of the fog disappears. There were times when we couldn’t see anything, but then 5 minutes later the clouds would have been blown away and the view would be amazing.


Where did I go?

If you still need some more inspiration to plan your trip, here is the route that we took. As I mentioned we only had one day and the weather was really bad, so we tried to get in a little bit of everything without getting too wet. We started at the ‘Wulingyuan entrance’, from there we took the bus to the ‘Ten-mile Natural Gallery’, from the bus stop we took the tram to the viewpoint and back (if you have time you can also walk. After the tram we hopped back on a bus and went to the ‘Bailong Elevator’, to take us from the valley to the top. After looking around at the upper station viewpoint we took the bus to the ‘Enchanting stop’, where we walked around passing the ‘Heaven Pillar (Hallelujah Mountain)’ and ‘Greatest Natural Bridge’. At this point we were getting hungry, as it was already pretty late in the afternoon, so we took the bus from the ‘Tianqiao Stop’ all the way to ‘Tianzi Mountain Stop’ where we payed a visit to the always lovely McDonalds. Afterwards we took the bus to the ‘upper station’ of the ‘Tianzi Mountain Cableway’, which we took down back into the valley. Lastly, we took the bus back to the entrance from where we could easily walk back to our guesthouse.

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