Jiuzhaigou National Park

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Jul. 23, 2021

Jiuzhai National Park is famous for the mountains, valleys, pristine lakes, and magnificent waterfalls of the area. It is one of the most beautiful national scenic areas in China.

Highlights of Jiuzhaigou National Park

It may take you around 3 days to explore the 114 lakes and 5 major waterfalls in the park. Here below we summarize the highlights you can't miss:

Shuzheng Valley

Nuorilang Waterfall

Nuorilang Waterfall, as the widest waterfall in China, is situated in Jiuzhaigou (nine-village valley) County of Sichuan Province. Measuring 270 meters in width and 2365 in altitude, this spectacular spot has attracted visitors from home and abroad.

Nuorilang, in the Tibetan language, means grand and magnificent, which can best describe what the waterfall is today. When it is frozen up, it looks like an ice curtain hanging on the cliff. A picturesque place -- but you can never imagine the scene if you do not come here.

Pearl Shoal Waterfall

From the Nuorilang Waterfall, going through the Mirror Lake and over a distance, visitors can find the big Pearl Shoal Waterfall among the waterfall group. There are many pine trees and China firs growing around the waterfall because of the suitable temperature and the wet environment. It is not a waterfall straight down the cliff, but through a shoal face of about 20 degrees at first.

When the thin water-course flows over the shoal face, it will reflect bright sunshine like the pearls do. So it gets the name, Pearl Shoal Waterfall. The water flows slowly on the Pearl Shoal and the shoal face, so visitors can walk on the shoal. The water is still cold in the midsummer because it is melt from the snow mountain.

Shuzheng Waterfall

Shuzheng Waterfall lies between Tiger Lake and Wolong Lake. The waterfall measures 62 meters in width and a mere 15 meters in drop, yet it is arguably the most ferocious of Jiuzhai Valley's four waterfalls, even if it is the smallest. The water gushes from the falls in a spray and produces an, at times, deafening roar that can indeed be likened to that of the roar of a tiger if not a lion. The tail end of adjacent Tiger Lake is divided into countless small, stepped branch pools, all of which converge to spill over Shuzheng Waterfall, which is what gives the waterfall its impressive force. The resulting curtain of light-reflecting mists is beautiful to behold.

Rhinoceros Lake

Rhinoceros Lake is the most changeable in the scenery in Jiuzhaigou Valley. And the reflection in the water of Rhinoceros Lake is the most beautiful and varied among the lakes in Jiuzhaigou Valley. Just like a fairyland with the mists covering in the above of the Rhinoceros Lake, the visitors can’t distinguish the lake from the sky, because the lake and the sky are blended together. When you look up, the clouds in the sky flutter like a moving plain white cloth.

What’s more, Rhinoceros Lake is surrounded by all kinds of trees and flowers with varied colors. Because of this, it likes a fairy tale world with elves living there. To the north of Rhinoceros Lake, there are vibrant reeds; to the south of Rhinoceros Lake, there are forests and Silver Falls pouring down from the mountain. In spring and summer, Rhinoceros Lake will become the sea of green. And in autumn, is a harvest season for farmers. However, yellow is not the only color in Rhinoceros Lake, because red and green and other colors could also be seen. The quiet, clear, and blue Rhinoceros Lake with attractive scenery around is a so wonderful place for tourists to relax.

Rize Valley

It is the first valley that the visitor arrives at coming from the south, i.e., from Chengdu or from nearby Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport (JZH), which is typically the route into Jiuzhai Valley (the only other route into Jiuzhai Valley would be via Longnan.

Rize Valley is 18 kilometers long. Except for the virgin forest and a single waterfall, all of the scenic sites of Rize Valley listed below are lakes.

Beginning then at Rize Valley's southernmost extremity, the following scenic sites – and in the following sequence – are distributed along the valley...

Swan Lake

Swan Lake is a 2250 long and 125-meter wide lake. It lies in a deep valley whose steep walls are densely lined with fir trees. Swan Lakes exudes utter tranquility, its surface reflecting the surrounding tree-lined valley walls, its shallow edges bordered with reed-like grasses and flowering plants among which ducks and other waterfowl forage. The lake isn't called Swan Lake for nothing, for migrating swans frequent the lake, returning year after year to perform the annual mating and nest-building rituals that ensure that there will be swans swimming about in Swan Lake for years to come.

Cao Hai -Grass Lake

Grass Lake is perhaps the shallowest, and for its size, the most elongated of Rize Valley's lakes. The lake is very beautiful, especially from mid-summer to autumn when the lake's grasses flower in a palette of colors. Being a cool, shady lake, Grass Lake attracts many diverse waterfowl, which also adds to the picturesque beauty of the lake. In autumn, the lake's grasses turn a pleasing golden hue before eventually fading into a lackluster tan, but even in late fall, with broken, decomposing shocks of grass and with the occasional shrieking waterfowl competing with fellows for whatever food remains in the lake, Grass Lake presents a charming sight, and during the heavy but fine rains of autumn, the lake takes on yet another enigmatic aspect that portends a period of extreme austerity ahead for the birds that choose to remain near the lake.

Arrow Bamboo Lake/ Sea

Jianzhu Hai is also a shallow lake, measuring a depth of only 6 meters at its deepest, which also explains the presence of copious amounts of the tall, slender bamboo plant, Pseudosasa japonica, called arrow bamboo, aka hardy (as in "resilient") bamboo. Arrow Bamboo Lake figured in the 2002 film, Hero, starring Jet Li and directed by the famous Yimou Zhang, effusively praised (also by yours truly!) for his 1991 film, Raise the Red Lantern (starring the planet's most beautiful, most enchanting female, Li Gong) that at the time was not shown in China (but note that Yimou Zhang directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics).

Xiongmao Hai - Panda Lake

Panda Lake, whose 14-meter-deep waters are pure and clear, is amply deep for frolicking pandas to bathe without scraping bottom. Since Rize Valley is narrow and "deep" (high-walled) here too, and since the waters of Panda Lake are tranquil (partly because the wind can only reach the lake when it blows along the direction of the valley), Panda Lake reflects the surrounding landscape in that uncanny, kaleidoscopic way that presents the inverted image of the above-water landscape on the lake's surface, where the edge of the lake's surface marks the horizon, as it were, between the real skyward image and its reflected counterpart on the surface of the lake.

Wuhua Hai - Five-Flower Lake

Wuhua Hai is also a shallow lake, one of the shallowest lakes in all of Jiuzhai Valley, which is why it is sometimes referred to as a pond or even a pool, rather than a lake. Five-Flower Lake is a classic travertine pool that displays a myriad of bright colors that each depend on the makeup of the calc-sinter deposits at the bottom of the pool at that particular location, causing the bottom of the pool to appear in a variety of shades of yellows, blues, and greens.

For some reason, travertine pools tend to be most picturesque during autumn, perhaps because the pastel-like colors of autumn complement the almost surreal, kaleidoscopic yet pastel-like tints of the travertine pool. Like many of the lakes in Shuzheng Valley, the string of lakes in Rize Valley that includes Five-Flower Lake ends in a waterfall, this one a narrowly channeled waterfall, causing the lake, owing to its shape when viewed from above, to resemble a colored, tilted gourd that is slowly and endlessly pouring out its identically colored contents.

Zechawa Valley

 Of the three main valleys, Zechawa Valley has the least number of scenic attractions associated with it, which can be interpreted either as a good or a bad thing depending on whether the tourist is looking for a densely packed series of photo-ops or the quantum of quietude that an encounter with pristine nature can offer.

Chang Hai - Long Lake

Long Lake is a natural catchment, or reservoir, that collects runoff water from the surrounding mountains. It is the largest lake in the park. The water in the lake looks deep blue. 

Five-Color Pond

Wucai Chi is renowned for its colorful, perfectly clear water. Most of the travertine lakes of Jiuzhai Valley are very transparent, but the visibility in Five-Color Pond is so extreme that even fine details can be seen clearly on stones at the bottom of this 6 ½ meters deep lake.

The colors of the Five-Color Pond are produced by the travertine at the bottom of the lake, causing refraction of light, which appears as blues or greens as well as various shades of yellow.  But because the perception of the lake's colors is due in large measure to refraction, when the lake is perturbed under windy conditions, the troughs produced by wave action on the surface of Five-Color Pond can appear in bright red or stunning golden hues.

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