Wulingyuan is a large area containing four national parks: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Suoxi Valley Nature Reserve, Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve, and Yangjiajie Scenic Area. Wulingyuan Scenic Area also included Wulingyuan town, a small village with accommodation and amenities, that connects to other parts of the park system.
Wulingyuan has over 500 sites/attractions, and covers about 690 square kilometers (266 square miles). The area is famous for its steep sandstone karsts; thin pillar-like mountains that just out hundreds of meters from the land below. The landscape here was the inspiration for the floating mountains of Pandora in the movie Avatar.
Wulingyuan Scenic Area Facts
- Location: Zhangjiajie City, Hunan Province, PRC
- National Park Hours of Operation: April to October: 08:30-17:30; November to March: 09:00-17:00
- Entrance Ticket Fee: April to October: 248 CNY (4 Days); November to March: 145 CNY (4 Days); 7 Days Admission Ticket: 298 CNY
- Cable Cars, train, and Elevator: There are 3 cable cars in the park, 1 tourist train, and 1 elevator. The following prices are for 1-way trips only. Both-way trips cost twice as much.
- Ten-Mile Gallery Tourist Train: 38 CNY for adults, 24 CNY for children under 1.5 meters.
- Bailong Elevator: 65 CNY, 43 CNY for children under 1.5 meters
- Yangjiajie Cable Car: 76 CNY, 46 CNY for children under 1.5 meters
- Tianzi Mountain Cable Car: 72 CNY, 43 CNY for children under 1.5 meters.
- Yellow Stone Stronghold Cable Car: 65 CNY, 40 CNY for children under 1.5 meters.
Are Wulingyuan and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park the Same?
Not exactly. Wulingyuan Scenic Area is one massive area that includes Zhangjiajie Forest Park. The whole area is known for its mystical beauty and alienesque landscape, but Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is just one of the many national park areas within Wulingyuan.
Wulingyuan Scenic Area Map
What to See in Wulingyuan?
1. Avatar Mountain
If you go to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Avatar Mountain should be on your list of must-sees. Hallelujah Mountain (AKA Avatar Mountain) is exemplary of the steep, pillar-like karsts of Zhangjiajie. It is located at the west part of Wulingyuan, in Yuanjiajie.
There are over 3000 peaks of quartz sandstone in this area. The whole landscape is a geological and natural wonderland including:
- Thirty-two Deep canyons, which are several kilometers in length each.
- Hundreds of Waterfalls, lakes, pools, springs, and streams.
- Caves of different shapes and sizes.
- Beautifully-terraced landscapes from hundreds of years of farming.
- A thriving natural ecosystem, mostly untouched by humans.
2. Tianzi Mountain
Tianzi Mountain is in the north part of Wulingyuan. It is famous for its 3 scenes:
1) The Sea of clouds: During certain times of the year the cloudy weather that the whole area is famous for looks like a picture of heaven. Visitors can see rocky peaks jutting out from an ocean of clouds below.
2) Sunrise over the peaks: As the sun comes up each day, the sharp peaks cast long shadows across the land. It’s as sight unlike any other in the world.
3) Winter snow: During the coldest winter months, there is often snow. Riding the Tianzi Mountain Cable Car over the snow lands below is beautiful, and a truly amazing experience.
3. Bailong Elevator
Taking the prize as the largest and heaviest outdoor elevator in the world, Bailong Elevator, or 100 Dragon Elevator, occupies the side of a tall cliff in Wulingyuan. The elevator is a feat of engineering, capable of transporting 64 passengers at one time, and 4000 in an hour, traveling at 5 meters per second. As it goes up, visitors get a breathtaking view of the valley below.
Bailong Elevator is located just west of Hallelujah mountain, and southeast of the 10-Mile Natural Gallery.
Yuanjiajie is the specific place in Wulingyuan where Bailong lift and Hallelujah Mountain are located. The landscape is in the south part of Wulingyuan Scenic Area and composed of karsts, valleys, and it is known for its misty scenes.
There are several other sites that are worth visiting in Yuanjiajie:
- Mihun Stage: This platform provides the best panoramic view of the landscape available.
- Back Garden: A verdant forest amidst buttes and cliffs.
- The No. 1 Bridge Under Heaven: A natural, forested bridge connecting two nearby karsts.
- Hanging Waterfall: A spindly silk-like trail of water plummets 200 meters to the valley below.
- Tujia Ethnic Village: Where the Tujia minority people have lived and farmed for generations.
- Wulong Spring: Hidden in a limestone cave, Wulong spring has helped form countless uniquely-shaped rock formations within the cave.
5. Yellow Stone Village
Karsts, jungle, and wild monkeys along the trails can all be found in Yellow Stone Village (or Huangshi Fort). Visitors can marvel at the pine trees, seemingly impossibly growing on the tops of mountains and out of cliff faces. It is characterized by its bare cliff faces, steep rocky karsts, and great hiking.
The stone village is located in the southwest part of Wulingyuan, south of Yuanjiajie.
How Was Wulingyuan Formed?
Wulingyuan Karst Landscape
Wulingyuan, and its surroundings is a karst landscape. Karsts are hard rocky bodies, usually the size and shape of small hills/mountains, but sometimes, they are steep pillars like in the Zhangjiajie area.
Karst landscapes are formed over hundreds of millions of years. Formation occurs as continental plates are elevated. In the case of Asia, the elevation occurs because the Indian Continental Plate is running into the Eurasian Continental plate. As the Indian plate slides under the Eurasian plate, the Eurasian plate rises up.
As the continental plate rises up, the softer earth erodes. Karsts occur in tropical and monsoon climates because of this erosion. As the sediment and loose earth flows downhill, the gigantic hard rocks that were once beneath the surface become exposed. The massive rocks stick out of the ground like pillars or mountains, and they become karsts.
Wulingyuan Scenic Area Travel Tips
Best Time to Visit
Wulingyuan in late October
The best time to visit Wulingyuan is when the weather is good, but the tourists are low. Mid-late October is a great time, as the weather is drier than usual and tourist numbers are lower.
Try to avoid Labor Day Holiday (May 1-5) and National Day Holiday (October 1-8). During these holidays, the park is thronged by tourists. Additionally, it’s good to avoid the summer holidays, as many people have breaks from work and school, so entire families line the trails, and the park is so crowded that the summer is often called “shoulder season.”
What to Wear
Obviously, this depends on the season you go. In the winter and fall, bring some layers, it gets freezing cold atop the peaks. In the summer, bring plenty of water, sun protection, and light clothes. It’s a good idea to bring a rain jacket and good hiking/walking shoes just about any time of the year.
Places to Visit Nearby
1) Baofeng Lake is a scenic lake amid the canyons and karsts. It is a cool and relaxing visit during the summer. There are many kilometers of hiking trails around it as well.
2) Yellow Dragon Cave is a long, enormous cave southeast of Wulingyuan. Visiting the cave includes an underground boat ride. The cave is large enough that visitors can stand up straight the entire time they are traversing the cavern.
3) Tianmen Mountain and the archway that leads up to it are iconic sites in Zhangjiajie. The name of the mountain and natural arch “Tianmen,” literally means “Heaven’s gate.” The archway is usually misty, and clouds floating through the 135-meter-high arch make an unforgettable view.
4) Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge, the longest, highest, glass bridge in the world is north of Wulingyuan. You can get there by taking a bus for about 10 minutes from Wulingyuan.
Where to Stay?
There are hotels in Zhangjiajie city and Wulingyuan. Where you stay depends on your trip specifics, and what kind of experience you are looking for. The Wulingyuan hotels are more scenic and rustic, while the Zhangjiajie hotels vary widely in price, and quality. Because Zhangjiajie city has more hotels, the prices are lower in general as well.
- Days Hotel By Wyndham Hunan Zhangjiajie offers spacious, comfortable rooms, and is surprisingly affordable. Rooms cost around 375 CNY for one night.
- Zhangjiajie Mini Inn in downtown offers a quality room for cheap. It’s great for backpackers looking for somewhere to crash for the night. Costs are about 110 CNY for a room.
- Zhangjiajie Pullman Hotel in Wulingyuan is a nice, scenic hotel with great rooms and service. The cost for one room is about 500 CNY.
- Jijiehao Gongguan Wulingyuan is a budget hotel offering great bang for your buck, and a romantic location in the mountains of Wulingyuan Scenic Area. Expect to spend around 270 CNY.
See more details for Zhangjiajie Hotels: Where to Stay in Zhangjiajie?
How to Get from Zhangjiajie to Wulingyuan?
From the Airport
Take bus number 4 or a taxi to Zhangjiajie Central Bus Station. The bus from there will take you to Wulingyuan Bus Station. A taxi from the Airport to Wulingyuan will take about 30 minutes and cost around 80 CNY.
From downtown Zhangjiajie, get to the Central Bus Station, where there are many buses to Wulingyuan Bus Station. The bus to Wulingyuan operates between 06:30 and 17:30, and departs every 15 minutes. It costs 12 CNY, and takes about 40-50 minutes to arrive at its destination.
- Generally speaking, it is difficult to travel around Zhangjiajie by public transportation. The most time-efficient and hassle-free way is to arrange a private car. You can contact us and book one.
Visit Wulingyuan With Us
We can do extremely unique tours as well as more classic 4-day trips in Zhangjiajie; our English-speaking local guides, who spend over 200 days each year exploring Wulingyuan, will lead you to off-the-beaten paths, making your trip a deeper experience and go smoother.
Have a look at out sample Zhangjiajie travel itineraries and feel free to let us know your tour ideas!