Tianmen Mountain, Heaven's Gate Mountain
Tianmen Mountain （天门山 tiānmén shān）, or Heaven’s Gate Mountain, is part of the Tianmen National Forest Park in Zhangjiajie China. There are kilometers of trails along with cliff faces, including glass-bottomed sections for tourists who wish to hike to the peak.
The Tianmen Cave, one of the most famous Zhangjiajie sights, is located here. A cable car was constructed in 2005. There is a temple at the top, Tianmenshan Temple, which was originally built during the Tang Dynasty (C.E. 618-907).
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Tianmen Mountain Tourist Map
Tianmen Mountain Road- the 999 Bends
Tianmen Mountain Road is one of the craziest pieces of pavement on Earth. It is known for its 99 hairpin turns, and steep, sharp inclines, so it is also called the “99 Bends.”
99 Bending Road - Tongtian Avenue
It starts at about 200 meters elevation (656 feet) and ends near the peak at around 1,300 meters elevation (4,265 feet). The road is about 11 kilometers (6.84 miles) in length, total. The road also has a stop at Tianmen Cave, a giant natural arch, around the mid-point.
Heave's Gate Cave
Tianmen Mountain Cave, or Heaven’s Gate Cave, is an enormous natural arch, about 135 meters (442.91 feet) in height, and 57 m (187 ft) wide. The arch looks like a gigantic gate into the heavens, and it is what the mountain is named after. It is great to see on a clear day, because when it is foggy, the fog actually passes through the arch, obscuring the view as you walk below.
The World Wing Suit League held the first and second World Wing Suit Championships at Tianmen cave, with one diver flying through the arch in 2011.
The Stairway to Heaven
Tianmen Mountain Cave and the 999 Steps to the Taoist "Heaven"
To reach the cave, 999 “steps to heaven” must be ascended. Nine is an important number in Chinese numerology, representing eternity and living forever. The exhausting climb up takes about 30 minutes total.
For those who would rather skip the walk, there are escalators leading to and from Tianmen Cave. They cost about 32 CNY (4.53 USD) and take significantly less time. Be aware, the cave is often crowded with tourists, and the escalators may have loaded more people than the 999 steps.
Tianmen Mountain Cable Car
The cableway leading to the peak of Tianmen Mountain touts itself as the world’s longest, at 7455 meters (24,459 feet). It averages about 1000 passengers per hour during the high tourist season, with an average trip time of 28 minutes. In the high season, visitors may have to wait in line for hours for a ride.
Views are seen from Tianmen Mountain Cableway
The cableway has an upper, lower, and middle station. Obviously, most visitors will start at the lower station and head up to the peak, stopping at the middle section along the way to visit Tianmen Cave. Adventurous travelers can hike the entire trip, or part of the way, getting on or off the cable car at the middle station.
Tianmen Mountain Glass Walkways
There are 3 glass walkway sections throughout the road up Tianmen Mountain. The acrophobic will be happy to know that they are optional, and standard hiking trails can be taken as an alternative in each section. On clear days, the views of the sheer drops are simply exhilarating.
Visitors will have to purchase special foot covers to walk on the glass, in order to protect it from scuffs and scratches.
1. West Glass Walkway
The west walkway, or “Walk of Faith,” opened in 2011. As you ascent, it leads to the cliff-hanging walkway (which is exactly what it sounds like, but without a glass floor) at Ghost Valley, and then Tianmen Temple.
The Walk of Faith is only about 200 meters from the cable station. The total glass walkway length is about 60 meters (197 feet) long, and about 1400 meters (4,583 feet) high.
2. East Glass Walkway
The lesser-known east glass-floored walkway opened in 2015. It’s on the far side of the mountain and above the Tianmen Mountain Cave, farthest from the main attractions, compared to the other walkways. It is also adjacent to another cliff-hanging piece of trail.
3. Coiled Dragon Cliff Glass Walkway
The newest glass walkway was opened in 2016 and follows Coiled Dragon Cliff. The name of the walkway/cliff comes from its winding, long appearance, like a traditional Chinese dragon doubling back on itself.
Tianmen Mountain Glass Walkway
The glass floor provides a spectacular view of the 99-bends road below. Coiled Dragon Walkway is about 100 meters (328 feet) long, and 1,400 meters (4,583 feet) up. It’s about 600 meters from the top station of the cableway.
Tianmen Mountain Travel Routes
A trip to Tianmen Mountain will take you a half-day at the bare minimum, going as fast as you can. If you take your time and see all the sights you can, you should be spending a full day. A few full-day itineraries would go something like this:
Tianmen Mountain Tunnel Escalator
Route A 1) Cable car up to one of the lower peaks; 2) Hike to a cliff walkway and glass-floored walkway; 3) Chairlift to the summit OR Hike to the summit; 4) Take an elevator to the cable car station from the summit; 5) Take the cableway to the Middle Station; 6) Climb the 999 steps to Tianmen Cave; 7) From the mid-station, again, take the cableway down the mountain.
Route B 1) Cable car from downtown to the summit; 2) Explore the peak; 3) Escalator to Tianmen Cave; 4) Explore Tianmen Cave; 5) Take a bus to the entrance gate; 6) Get a shuttle bus from the entrance gate to downtown.
Route C: 1) Bus from city to entrance gate; 2) Get to Tianmen Cave by sightseeing bus; 3) Escalator to the summit and explore the peak; 4) Cable car from the summit to the city.
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Tianmen Mountain Travel Tips
1. Preparing for the Wet Weather
Zhangjiajie is in China’s central monsoon region. This means it’s just about always wet. Always bring some rain gear- just in case. Also, always bring some comfortable hiking/walking shoes with good grip. There is no way to visit this place without at least some walking around involved.
- In the summer, bring extra water and something for the sun.
- In the winter, it gets cold and snowy, so bring layers.
- During spring and fall, bring a few extra layers, it can get cold on the windy peaks, as well as at night-time.
2. Looking for Good Views and Good Weather
The views are most spectacular when the fog has lifted, so check the weather before you go. So it’s generally better to time your trips so you are there in the afternoon, as fog usually starts lifting in the late morning.
Tianmen Mountain in autumn
Autumn is known as a foggy season there, but it can go both ways- a little mist can make the mountain views that much more scenic and enchanting, too much, and you don’t see anything.
3. Avoiding Long Queues and Crowds
In general, the high season is March-November, so check for Chinese holidays and try not to go during those times. If possible, don’t go during the National day Holiday (October 1-8), it is the most popular holiday in China for travel. Labor Day (May 1-7) is another good holiday to avoid.
Low season is obviously better for avoiding crowds, but the winter months are colder, and sometimes the glass-floored walkways and other attractions will be shut down due to inclement weather, so it is also a riskier time to visit.
4. What is at the top of Tianmen Mountain?
- Tianmen Mountain Temple- an old Tang Dynasty temple, largely destroyed in the first half of the 20th century, was rebuilt in 1949.
- 3 Glass walkways- great for thrill-seekers and cool pictures.
- Cliff walkways- fun hiking and exciting views.
How to Get to Tianmen Mountain?
Most of the transportation available in the city will take you to Zhangjiajie National Park. From there it is easy to take shuttle buses or taxis to Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park.
From Downtown Zhangjiajie
- By Cable Way: There is a cable car station right in downtown Zhangjiajie. This is probably the easiest way to get to Tianmen mountain, as it takes you right there, and by far the most scenic.
- By Taxi: A fare costs around 15-20 CNY (2.12-2.82 USD). Make sure drivers run a meter so you are not overcharged.
- By Bus: Buses are available from downtown to the park. It takes about 30 minutes on the B Line to Tianmen Square. Buses number 13, 1, 4, and 10a can take you to the Tianmen Ticket Office from downtown.
From the Airport
There is no direct bus from the Airport to the park.
- By Taxi: From Hehua International Airport to the Lower Cable Station in the city is about a 30 CNY (4.24 USD) taxi ride. Make sure the taxi driver uses the meter.
- By Bus: Similarly, you can get to a bus station from the airport in the city center first. After which, you can take the B Line bus to Tianmen Square. Bus No.402, 4 can take you to the Tianmen Mountain Ticket Office.
Wulingyuan is a central area of the National Parks at Zhangjiajie. It has accommodation, and amenities, and is adjacent to Baofeng Lake and the National Park locations.
From the Zhangjiajie National Park ticket office, you can take various park shuttle buses to Tianmen National Forest Park. You can also take a bus from Wulingyuan to downtown in order to ride the cable car up the mountain.
- Wulingyuan to Lower Cable Car Station By Bus: Buses depart from Wulingyuan to downtown frequently, about every 5-10 minutes between 08:00 and 20:00. The fare is approximately 12 CNY (1.70 USD).
- Wulingyuan to Lower Cable Car Station By Taxi: Taxis from Wulingyuan to downtown will cost you about 80-160 CNY (11.31-22.62 USD). Taxis are convenient but admittedly more expensive than the bus.
Even for experienced travelers or ex-pats who know their way around China, it is not easy to arrange local transportation on their own. We can arrange private transport for you in Zhangjiajie. Feel free to contact us and get a quote as this will depend on your group size.
Visiting Tianmen Mountain with Us
Tianmen Mountain Tour
Tianmen Mountain Forest Park is an excellent place for hiking. Traveling with our knowledgeable local guide will make your hiking go deeper and smoother- they spend at least 200 days each year in the park and know the hidden path to explore the undeveloped and lesser-known sceneries.
Why not start your Zhangjiajie Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park Day Tour with us?