Huangshan Mountain: the Yellow Mountains

Written by Sally Guo Updated Oct. 31, 2023

The Huangshan Mountains (the Yellow Mountains) are one of China’s most incredible natural wonders and welcome thousands of travelers every year. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990. Xu Xiake, a famous geographer and writer from the Ming Dynasty, once remarked, “The landscape of the Five Famous Mountains tops those elsewhere, and the landscape of the Yellow Mountains tops that of the Five Famous Mountains.”

This article introduces the highlights of the Yellow Mountains and travel tips for visiting this magnificent place.

Huangshan Scenery
Yellow Mountains

Facts about the Yellow Mountains

Highlights of the Yellow Mountains — The Four Natural Wonders

The Yellow Mountains are famed throughout the world for their “four natural wonders” — peculiarly shaped pines oddly formed rocks, the sea of clouds, and hot springs — which lend to their reputation of being “China’s strangest mountains.”

1. Peculiarly Shaped Pines

Pines on the Yellow Mountains are scattered over peaks and ravines. Growing on mountain slopes about 800–1,800 m (2,600–5,900 ft) above sea level, they usually take root on steep cliffs and stand on alpine peaks where there is little soil. Their tortured branches twist together to form grotesque but beautiful shapes.

Among the pines, the Greeting-guest Pine (迎客松, Yíng Kè Sōng) is the most renowned. It resembles a man waving his hands to welcome guests. This pine is an iconic symbol of the Yellow Mountains. You may see many Chinese people stop to take photographs in front of this pine.

Greeting-guest Pine
Greeting-guest Pine

2. Oddly Formed Rocks

The Yellow Mountains is a natural museum of rocks of all shapes and sizes. Some look like animals, others like characters out of a Chinese dictionary, yet others like various objects, and some are named after historical or mythical tales.

More than 120 have been named, among which the most famous are the Flying-over Rock (飞来石, Fēi Lái Shí), Immortal Pointing the Way (仙人指路, Xiānrén Zhǐ Lù), and Stone Monkey Watching the Sea (猴子观海, Hóuzǐ Guān Hǎi).

Flying-over Rock
Flying-over Rock

3. Sea of Clouds

The Yellow Mountains are the home of clouds and mist. Among the four natural wonders, the sea of clouds is thought to be the loveliest. It bedecks this fairyland on earth. When it is cloudy, the peaks loom out from the mist.

Huangshan Sea-of-clouds
Huangshan Sea-of-clouds

The sea of clouds in the Yellow Mountains is divided into five areas. It is advisable to choose an appropriate spot from which to view this marvelous sight.

1. South Sea: Located between the Lotus Peak and Celestial Peak, the Yuping Building (玉屏楼) is the best place from which to view the South Sea.

2. North Sea: Lion Peak and Refreshing Terrace (清凉台) are the best places from which to appreciate the North Sea, as well as to catch a view of the sunrise.

3. East Sea: The White Goose Ridge (白鹅岭) stands guard against the wind at the entrance to the East Sea Scenic Area. It is a great viewpoint from which you can observe the East Sea. If you take the Yugu Cable Car, you can admire the beauty of the East Sea below, too!

4. West Sea: The Cloud-dispelling Pavilion (排云亭) is the best place to get a view of the West Sea, as well as to catch the sunrise and sunset.

5. Heavenly Sea: Located at the center of the Yellow Mountains, Bright Top (光明顶) is 1,800 m (5,900 ft) above sea level and provides a panoramic view of all the surrounding scenery.

You can behold this breathtaking sight from November to May because of the lower temperature in the mountain area. It gets especially clear the day after rain or snow.

4. Hot Springs

The Huangshan Hot Springs has a history of more than 1,000 years. Located 650 m (2,100 ft) above sea level, the average annual temperature of the springs is 42℃ (108℉). The water is clear and rich in minerals. Not only does it relax the muscles and soothe the skin, but it is also therapeutic for those with metabolic disorders and cardiovascular diseases.

Huangshan Hot Springs
Huangshan Hot Springs

Huangshan Hot Springs comprises around 30 pools with different scents and healing properties, such as rose, milk, coffee, wine, tea, Chinese medicine, and so on. The most interesting one is the fish pool. It is rather enjoyable to have the little fish nibbling at your skin in the pool, and it is a good way to recover after hiking in the mountains.

Recommended Hiking Routes

The first step towards charting out a hiking route is to decide whether you will stay overnight in the mountains or not. If this is your first visit to the Yellow Mountains, we suggest that you stay at least one night in the mountains so that you have enough time to explore the best-known paths and appreciate the sunrise and sunset.

Huangshan Sunrise
Huangshan Sunrise

Front Mountain Versus Back Mountain

The Yellow Mountains can be divided into the Front Mountain and the Back Mountain. To plan a hiking route, you need to decide which side you will go up and which side you will come down.

The Front Mountain area is known for its splendid landscape with oddly shaped rocks that open up into a sea of clouds. Popular attractions include the Yuping Cableway, Greeting-guest Pine, Lotus Peak, Celestial Peak, and Fairy-walking Bridge. The Back Mountain area is known for its beautiful sculpted pine groves. Points of interest are the Yungu Cableway, Beginning-to-believe Peak, Black Tiger Pine, Lion Peak, and Stone Monkey Watching the Sea.

Celestial Peak
Celestial Peak

It is less strenuous to go up the mountain from Yungu Temple on the Back Mountain and come down the mountain from Yuping Building on the Front Mountain.

Route 1: For a 1-Day Trip

Yungu Temple (云谷寺) – Yungu Cableway (云谷索道) – White Goose Ridge New Station (白鹅新站) – Beginning-to-believe Peak (始信峰) – Beihai Hotel (北海宾馆) – Cloud-dispelling Pavilion (排云亭) – West Sea Grand Canyon (西海大峡谷) – Bright Top (光明顶) – Greeting-guest Pine (迎客松) – Yuping Building (玉屏楼) – Yuping Cableway (玉屏索道) – Viewing-waterfall Building (观瀑楼)

Route 2: For a 2-Day Trip

Day 1: Yungu Temple (云谷寺) – Yungu Cableway (云谷索道) – White Goose Ridge New Station (白鹅新站) – Beginning-to-Believe Peak (始信峰) – Beihai Hotel (北海宾馆) – Refreshing Terrace (清凉台) – Lion Peak (狮子峰) – Xihai Hotel (西海饭店) – Cloud-Dispelling Pavilion (排云亭) – West Sea Grand Canyon (西海大峡谷) – Cloud-Dispelling Pavilion (排云亭), where you can enjoy the sunset

Day 2: Enjoy the sunrise at Bright Top (光明顶) – Baiyun Hotel (白云宾馆) – Fairy-Walking Bridge (步仙桥) – Lotus Peak (莲花峰) – Greeting-Guest Pine (迎客松) – Yuping Building (玉屏楼) – Yuping Cableway (玉屏索道) – Viewing-Waterfall Building (观瀑楼)

West Sea Grand Canyon
West Sea Grand Canyon

Huangshan Mountains Weather and the Best Time to Visit

The peak tourist season lasts from April to November; September and October are popular months to visit Huangshan because of the pleasant weather. However, many travelers regard winter as the perfect season for hiking tours there, as trails will be less crowded and there will be snow-covered landscapes and fresh air to enjoy.

Huangshan Winter

For a more comfortable travel experience, avoid visiting during public holidays, such as Chinese National Day (October 1), Chinese New Year (a week-long holiday in February), and school summer holidays (July and August).

Fortunately, the Yellow Mountains is picture-perfect all year round; it offers different kinds of beauty in each season.

Tips for Visiting the Yellow Mountains

1. To save energy, travel with a light pack and leave heavy luggage at the foot of the hill or in the downtown area.
2. Carry a disposable raincoat and waterproof backpack whether it is raining or not.
3. Take a cable car to the top to avoid the numerous steep and narrow stairs.
4. Plan your hiking route before booking your stay.

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How to Get to the Yellow Mountains from Shanghai

The best way to travel from Shanghai to Huangshan is by high-speed train. The fastest train between these two cities only takes 2½ hours.

It is convenient to book tickets on apps or China Railway’s official website. We would be delighted to help you if you need assistance. Most train stations in China have English signs, but if you have any problems, go ahead and ask the station staff for help; some of them will probably speak English.

From Tunxi (Huangshan Downtown)

To get to Huangshan Scenic Area from downtown Huangshan, you can take a tourist bus from Huangshan Bus Station (黄山市汽车客运总站, Huángshān Shì Qìchē Kèyùn Zŏngzhàn). The journey takes about an hour and costs CN¥20 (US$3) per person. The tourist bus operates from 06:00 to 17:00.

From Huangshan Airport

There is no direct bus from Tunxi Airport to Huangshan Scenic Area. You first need to take a taxi to Huangshan Bus Station and then board a non-stop bus to the Yellow Mountains. If language is a barrier or if you prefer not to take public transport, feel free to contact us for a hassle-free private transfer.

From Huangshan North Railway Station

Turn right and walk for about 200 m (0.1 mi) after exiting the train station and purchase a bus ticket to the Huangshan Scenic Area at the Huangshan Tourism Passenger Transport Hub (黄山旅游客运枢纽, Huángshān Lǚyóu Kèyùn Shūniǔ). Tourist buses operate from 09:30 to 19:30 and cost CN¥20 (US$3) per person.

Travel Huangshan with Us

If you are planning a vacation in Huangshan and would like a hassle-free tour, do not hesitate to contact us and share your requirements. Our experienced tour guide, who spends over 200 days in the mountains every year, will customize the route based on your requests, the weather, and the tourist season. We are confident that we will be able to create an incredible journey for you!

Check out our top Huangshan tour packages:

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