Located in the northwest of Hunan Province, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is part of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area. As the first state-level forest park in China, it covers an area of 48 square kilometers, offering distinctive sandstone landforms to lovers of hiking, photography and adventure.
Airplane is the quickest way to reach Zhangjiajie. Travelers can fly into the city via Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guilin, Chengdu, etc. Trains to Zhangjiajie are available from most cities in China; traveling by train is economical and stress-free. Long-distance bus can be convenient, highly recommended for visitors from places not too far from Zhangjiajie.
1-2 days is recommended to explore the main essence of the Park. It’s very big and full of pillars, but there are various means of transportation available, such as cable car, shuttle bus, elevator, etc. 1 or 2 days should be enough.
Main Attractions in the Park
The park can be divided into four areas: Gold Whip Stream and Yellow Stone Village in the south, Yuanjiajie in the middle, Tianzi Mountain in the north, and Yangjiajie in the west. Each has its own special highlights. See below.
A one-day tour could include Yangjiajie, Yuanjiajie and Tianzi Mountain, 2-3 hours for each.
In a two-day tour, Gold Whip Stream, Yellow Stone Village and Yaozi Village could be arranged on the first day, with visits to Yangjiajie, Yuanjiajie and Tianzi Mountain on the second day.
Yuanjiajie Scenic Area
Yuanjiajie is a natural steep-sided platform-mountain, the most popular site in Zhangjiajie. Peaks and pillars are nearly at the same height, perfect for enjoying the sweeping vistas. It’s beautiful and crowded, even when it’s pouring with rain.
There are two routes to the top of Yuanjiajie. One is by Bailong Elevator (2 minutes) and the other is by hiking along the Luanchuan Slope (80 minutes). As Yuanjiajie is a butte (a steep-sided platform-mountain), moderate physical strength is needed for climbing to the top. We recommend tourists to budget 2-3 hours for good sightseeing.
There are several famous sites here: the First Bridge under Heaven, Avatar Hallelujah Mountain, 'Lost Souls Platform' and Bailong Elevator.
The First Bridge under Heaven
The First Bridge under Heaven is a natural stone bridge spanning two peaks, surrounded by white clouds and oddly-shaped stone peaks. Tourists can stand on the bridge and get some stunning views down into the valley. It’s marvelous, but usually crowded with people.
Avatar Hallelujah Mountain
The Avatar Hallelujah Mountain is the highlight of Yuanjiajie. This Heavenly Pillar was formerly named the South Sky Pillar. It inspired the movie director James Cameron to feature the floating “Mt. Hallelujah” in the world of “Pandora”.
Tourists can look down into the valley from a metal suspension bridge, stunning and breathtaking.
Lost Souls’ Platform
Lost Souls’ Platform (Mihun Tai) is located in a cliff valley, where there are many mesas in various shapes and sizes. From the top of Wuyanding Platform, tourists can capture panoramic views of the Lost Souls’ Platform.
The scenery is breathtaking and mysterious, especially after rain, just like a celestial wonderland enveloped in clouds. Tourists are often obsessed with the view and forget the way back. That’s how the platform got its name.
Bailong Elevator is world's fastest and highest outdoor elevator. It is built into the cliff of the mountain, and looks like a giant dragon soaring up to sky. At 335 meters in height, it takes only two minutes to reach the mountain top.
Tourists will be impressed by the sight of all the mountains at their feet. Paddy fields and ethnic houses feature on the green hillsides.
Yangjiajie Scenic Area
Yangjiajie is in the northwest of Zhangjiajie, covering an area of about 34 sq km. It’s a scenic region of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, developed only since 1991. It is the least-crowded area, but famed for its towering natural rock walls.
The area is abundant in plants and animals, such as white cranes, macaques, ancient trees and rare flowers. Be careful when hiking, as the path is narrow and slippery.
Tianbo House and the Natural Great Wall are popular among tourists. 3 hours will be needed to explore Yangjiajie, but cable car is convenient for getting up and down.
Tianbo Mansion, also known as “One Step to Heaven”, is regarded as a hiking paradise. It’s a steep climb, but you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of stone pillars engulfed by clouds. It’s a good option for escaping the crowds in the park.
The Natural Great Wall
The highlight of the Yangjiajie Scenic Area is the Natural Great Wall, a great wall of natural rock snaking through the landscape. Narrow and towering natural rock walls, different from typical pillars, are its distinguishing feature.
The peak of Tianzi Mountain (also called the Son of Heaven's Mountain), at 1,182 meters, is the highest point in the park. It offers spectacular views of the park and is popular with photography lovers.
There are four highlights of the breathtaking wonders here: the Peak Forest, the Sea of Clouds, Rays of Sunshine, and Snow in Winter. The cloud and mist on Tianzi Mountain enjoys a nationwide reputation, especially just after the rain, adding much charm to the mountain.
Photographers may be able to capture the sunrise and sea of cloud from Tianzi Mountain Upper Cable Station. Spend 2-3 hours to enjoy it thoroughly!
The main scenic attractions here include Tianzi Mountain cable car, the Ten Mile Gallery, Yubi Feng and ‘Nod-to-the-General Platform’.
Tianzi Mountain Cable Car
Take a cable car up to get a glimpse of the wonderful panoramic views of surrounding peaks and valleys, splendid sights of sunrise, and the sea of clouds. It’s like walking in a cloud forest.
The aerial tramway is 2,084 meters long, with 692 meters' difference in elevation from top to bottom. The minimum running time is six minutes for a single trip at a speed of just over 5 meters/second. The cable car runs from 7am to 5:30pm, and the capacity for one car is 8 people.
Typically, we take a single trip to the mountain top then go down via the elevator. Queues here are usually long and full of tourists, but your tour guide will arrange to avoid the rush hour, choosing noontime for the cable car.
Ten Mile Gallery
Ten Mile Gallery is a 5.8-kilometer-long valley, with a stream flowing through and peaks on both sides. The path to the valley is decorated with fragrant flowers, grotesque rocks and monkeys all along, like a natural art gallery.
The Herb Collecting Old Man and Immortals Worshipping Guanyin (a Bodhisattva) are the most spectacular rocks. A small tram is available, if you prefer not to walk.
Yubi Feng is the representative site of Zhangjiajie. Three rock peaks stand side by side at different heights, looking like Chinese writing brushes. It’s said that these three writing brushes were once used by King Xiang. So, the scenic site is also named the Emperor's Writing Brush Peak.
Nod-to-the-General Platform (Dian Jiang Tai) is in a gorge with lots of rock pillars and peaks. It got its name from the shape of those pillars. The tallest in the middle is the “emperor”, and it’s surrounded by “herald”, “soldiers” and “prime ministers”, in different shapes and poses.
The views here are particularly vivid and inspiring. Photographers can capture the best angle for the 'West Sea Stone Forest' of Tianzi Mountain from the Nod-to-the-General Platform.
Yellow Stone Village
Yellow Stone Village is the largest overhanging view platform in the park, about 800 meters above the ground. Though it is similar in feel to Yuanjiajie, it features imposing cliffs and jagged rocks.
There is a saying: You can’t say you have been to Zhangjiajie unless you have visited Yellow Stone Village. It’s highly recommended to take a cable car to get to the mountain top in about 5 minutes, and avoid a long hike.
Golden Whip Stream
Golden Whip Stream is a river 7.5 km long, flowing through steep peaks and lush vegetation. It is one of the best places for viewing the rock structures from below.
With zigzagging creeks, grotesque cliffs, verdant valleys, rare plants and animals, this area is praised as “the most beautiful valley in the world”, a good place for a leisurely stroll along the stream.
Only small restaurants are scattered around each scenic area, serving simple local food. There is a McDonald's at Tianzi Mountain and a KFC in Yuanjiajie.
Local villagers sell food like corn, fruit, and cucumbers on the mountain, and there are small snack stalls selling water, roast meat and vegetables, such as beef, mutton, chicken, pork, dried tofu, pickles, egg plant, potatoes, etc.
Zhangjiajie wine, wild mushrooms, tu-chung and kiwifruit are all popular local products here, highly recommended. A picnic lunch is a good alternative if you like picnics; closer to nature.
Where to Stay
Tourists are not allowed to stay overnight on the mountain. Photographers or hikers who want to stay for sunset or sunrise can stay inside the park. There are a lot of hostels there operated by local people, with simple but clean accommodation.
Hot water is supplied 24 hours, but some hotels do not supply hair-dryers, towels, or toilet paper, etc. Breakfast is Chinese-style with soybean milk, fried bread sticks, steamed bread, boiled eggs, and rice porridge.
Farmers’ guesthouses at Tianzi Mountain can be quite rudimentary. Dingxiangrong Downtown is a good option if you want to watch the sunrise in the park. We recommend leisure tourists stay in Wulingyuan Village, just outside the park. It’ll be much more comfortable.
Free Shuttle Bus
Outside the park, free shuttle buses are available at Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport and Zhangjiajie Center Bus Station in Guan Li Ping Street, taking tourists to the city center for free within 20 minutes.
The first bus starts from Zhangjiajie Center Bus Station at 7am while the last bus starts to Zhangjiajie Center Bus Station at 6pm. There are four bus routes inside the park.
The Mountain Down Bus goes from the Wulinyuan entrance to the Bailong Elevator, making stops at lower stations: the Tianzi Mountain Cable Way, the Ten Mile Gallery, the terminus of the Golden Whip Stream and the Bailong Elevator.
The Mountain Top Bus runs the whole length of the mountain top road, connecting the Bailong Elevator with the Tianzi Mountain Cable Way.
The third bus route connects Yangjiajie Cable Way with the Yellow Stone Village cable way. The last bus connects the Tianzi Mountain town with the Mountain Top Bus.
All buses are free but with no numbers or English signs. If you speak Chinese, you can ask the driver for help at the bus stop.
The 248-yuan entry ticket includes all entertainment and sightseeing in the park, except as follows: Yellow Stone Village Cableway, Tianzi Mountain Cableway, Yangjiajie Cable Car, Bailong Elevator and Ten-Li Gallery Mini Train.
Discount tickets are only available to students under 24 years of age with a student card.
There are three entrances to the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park: the Wulingyuan Entrance, the Forest Park Entrance and the Tianzi Mountain Entrance.