Two-day hiking itinerary in The Yellow Mountains (off the beaten path)

huangshan mountain

The Yellow Mountain in China is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the country’s major tourist destinations. The Chinese name of the Yellow Mountain(s) is Huangshan (黄山). “Huang” (黄) is the Chinese pronunciation of “yellow” and “shan” (山) means “mountain”.

There are many stories and legends about the Yellow Mountains, most of them speak about the magical healing powers of the mountain and about the Yellow Emperor who achieved immortality there.

How to get to the Yellow Mountains from Shanghai?

The Yellow Mountain or Huangshan is located in the south of Anhui Province. Obviously, the first part of your hiking trip is getting to the mountain.

To visit the Yellow Mountains, you first need to go to Huangshan City. This city is located about 1 hour away from the mountain scenic area and there are many convenient buses from the city. You can reach Huangshan City by bus, train, or plane.

By Train

The fastest and most convenient way is to go to Huangshan from Shanghai by train. There are more than 10 trains that leave from different Shanghai stations each day. The trip on a high-speed train (D or G train) takes between 2.5 and 3.5 hours. The ticket costs 200 RMB one way (400 round trip). The high-speed trains in China are very comfortable, clean, and always on time. Personally, I always prefer to take the train over the plane, if the trip duration is less than 6 hours.

By Plane

When I was doing my research on the destination, I noticed that many travel guides present the flight from Shanghai as the fastest and most convenient way to reach the Yellow mountains. This is not true. Even though the flight is only 1 hour long when you add up the time needed to go to the airport, check-in, and get on and off the plane, you will far exceed 3 hours.

Keep in mind that Shanghai airports can be very busy. The security check and passport control in China can be very slow and the crowds of people are big, especially during holidays. Even if you don’t have check-in baggage you may still go to the counter and to do the line, just to print your boarding pass. On top of that, domestic flights in China are notoriously delayed.

In my case, for example I would need: 40 mins to go to Shanghai Hongqiao airport, at least 1.5 hours to print my ticket, check-in, and go through the security check. Also, I would like to arrive at the gate at least 30 mins before the departure time. So I’m only going to the airport for long-distance flights.

By bus

The long-distance bus terminals in Shanghai have coaches leaving for Huangshan every day. The trip takes about 6 hours from Shanghai and 3 hours from Hangzhou.

How to go from Huangshan city to the Yellow Mountains?

On the morning of your first hiking day, you should head to the mountain. Once you’re in Huangshan city, it’s very easy to reach the Yellow Mountains Scenic Area. There are buses that leave from Huangshan Bus Station almost every 10 minutes during the day.

You can take a bus from Huangshan bus station (汽车站) or from Huangshan bus station square (汽车站站前广场). The journey takes about 1,5 hours. The exact name of the station you need to get off on is Xinguoxian Yellow Mountains Scenic Area Bus Station (新国线黄山风景区汽车站). Almost all buses stop at the south gate of the Yellow Mountains Scenic Area.

If you’re planning to go to the mountain just after you’ve arrived in the city, you can also take a taxi directly from the train station or from the airport. The trip by taxi takes only about 1 hour and should cost between 200 and 250 RMB. Don’t worry if you’re not speaking Chinese: taxi drivers are used driving tourists to Huangshan Scenic Area. It’s enough to tell them you want to go to 黄山风景区 (Huángshān fēngjǐng qū).

Or you can simply say:

Qǐng dài wǒ qù huángshān fēngjǐng qū.
Please take me to the Yellow Mountains Scenic Area.

The taxi driver will suggest dropping you at the south entrance (the most frequently used entrance) but you can ask them to go to the north entrance if you want to avoid the crowds and visit the mountain off the beaten track.

What are the main Hiking Routes in Huangshan Mountain?

There are three very popular hiking routes in Huangshan Mountain – the Western Steps Route, Eastern Steps Route, and West Sea Grand Canyon Route. They are all connected to each other. The Western and Eastern Routes are used to climb your way up to the mountain top and they are both reachable from the South Gate of the scenic area. There’s another less popular path to get to the mountain top, which is called the Northern Road. This road is less crowded because it’s only accessible from the North Gate of the scenic area. This gate is further away from Huangshan city and is not deserved by public buses. At the same time, as you can see on the map above, there are far fewer points of interest and viewpoints on it.

All these routes meet in the mountaintop hotel area. The central location of the mountain is called Bright Summit (or Bright Top). It’s also the second-highest peak on the mountain (1860 m).

Most visitors start hiking from the Western or Eastern Steps Routes or prefer to take the cable cars.

In addition to the many hiking routes, Huashang has multiple cable cars:

  • Yuping Cableway
  • Yungu Cableway
  • Taiping Telpher
  • Grand Canyon monorail (funicular).

Check out my Yellow Mountains Travel Guide to read more about the different hiking route and the cable cars in the mountain.

My itinerary for 2 days hiking in The Yellow Mountains

I visited the Yellow Mountains during a 3-day trip. I left Shanghai on a Friday evening and returned on Sunday evening. I spent the first night in a small hotel near Huangshan city and the second night in a hotel on the mountaintop. I think that 2 days of hiking was just enough to experience and see the beautiful scenery of the mountain.

Below I’ve shared my full itinerary.

Day 1 / Friday Evening

I left Shanghai on Friday evening in direction Huashang city.

If you’re traveling by high-speed train, you’ll need between 2.5 and 3.5 hours and you’ll arrive at Huangshan North Railway Station (黄山北). The station is located 20 kilometers away from the city center or a 30-minute drive by cab.

I was travelling by bus, so we needed about 5,5 – 6 hours to arrive from Shanghai. Once we arrived at the hotel, we had a good night’s sleep and got ready for the next day.

Day 2 / Saturday

Northern Steps Route

8:00/08:30 We started our first hiking day early with breakfast. At around 8:30 we took a private mini-bus and headed to the North Gate of Huangshan Scenic Area. From there we took one of the mountain shuttle buses that dropped us off at the entrance of the Northern Route also known as the Northern Steps Route.

09:00/9:30 We started hiking up to Yellow Mountain from the Northern Steps Route. As I said, this hiking path is not popular and not crowded at all. This is probably the best way to visit Huangshan off the beaten track. The path to the top was completely empty and our group enjoyed some calm in this beautiful nature.

I was really surprised to see how empty the path was. It turned out that almost all buses from the city stop at the South Gate and 80-90% of the tourists take the Eastern or Western Steps Route from there. Also, many tourists prefer to take cable cars and are not really climbing up the mountain.

The hike up is relatively easy and it takes about 3-4 hours. It’s mostly stairs and paved paths, not very steep.

If you’re lucky you may even meet some curious monkeys on the way. One of the most common monkey subspecies is the HuangShan Tibetan Macaque (Macaca thibetana huangshanensis). They are easily recognizable because of their large faces and beards. It’s difficult to see from the photos, but the ones we encountered were quite big.

This monkey species is found only in the Yellow Mountains in Anhui Province.

HuangShan Tibetan Macaque

The only disadvantage you may see in taking the Northern Route is that you won’t see any “famous” rocks and trees on the way :). As you can see on the hiking map above, there are no points of interest marked on it.

The Northern hiking path goes all the way up to Beihai Hotel. Once you’ve reached the top, the road will be flatter, and you’ll arrive just at the foot of several good sightseeing spots.

Stone Monkey Watching over the Sea

From Beihai hotel, you can take a very short hiking route that takes you to Lion Peak(狮子峰) and to the Stone Monkey Watching over the Sea (猴子观海). This is a very beautiful site and a great place to see Clouds Sea or watch the sunrise. Some photos below.

15:00-15:30 After taking tons of photos, we’ve reached the hotel and checked in. We stayed in Shilin Hotel, which is very close to Beihai hotel. The Beihai Hotel / Shilin Hotel area is a central location in the mountain, a sort of a tourist center on the mountain top. Here you can find different shops for food and other supplies.

16:00 The day was still not over. After dropping my bag at the hotel I headed to one of the most popular paths in the Yellow mountain: the West Sea Grand Canyon (西海大峡谷).

West Sea Grand Canyon

This path, also called Xihai Grand Canyon, is a must-see spot in Huangshan. It’s not very long and it takes less than half-day hiking (about 2.5-3 hours). It is a circle that starts from Dispelling Cloud Pavilion( 排云亭), goes through the 1st Ring (一环) and the 2nd Ring (二环), and returns to Dispelling Cloud Pavilion.

This route is not very steep and it’s entirely paved with small stairs. It feels more like taking a walk on the top of a mountain than hiking on a mountain. The scenery is very beautiful and majestic. This was probably my favorite route in terms of views and viewing spots.

We had only 2,5 hours left before sunset, so, unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do the full circle. If you’re also on the path in the late afternoon you should decide on a sunset viewing sport and heading towards it at the best time.

18:30 I visited the Yellow mountains in late August and in this time of the year the sunset was at 18:40. We decided to catch the sunset from Danxia Peak (丹霞峰). This peak is near the Bright Summit (光明顶 ): the second-highest peak in the mountain (1860 m) and one of the most popular (and busy) places to see the sunset.

huangshan mountain sunset
Sunset in the Yellow Mountains

The sunset view was nothing special in my opinion. I’ve seen way more beautiful sunsets in mountains or at the seaside. But maybe we were unlucky with the weather.

19:30 We finished the hiking day around 19-19:30 and headed back to Shilin hotel from Danxia Peak.

Day 3 / Sunday

Sunrise in the Yellow Mountains

05:00/5:30 If you want to see the sunrise, you’ll have to get up very early. Make sure to check the exact time of the sunrise in this article or ask at the reception of your hotel.

Your hotel can also advise you on the best sunrise viewing spots around you. They are usually marked on the tourist maps, but the locals can recommend less crowded places. For example, we could have gone to Bright Summit (1860 m), the most popular place to see the sunset, but several people recommended against it, because of the crowds.

Also, be aware that very often the mornings are too foggy and there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually see the sunrise. According to some local guides, only 1 out of 3 mornings the weather is clear and you can see the beautiful sunrise.

08:00 We started our second hiking day around 7-7:30 and after breakfast, we checked out of the hotel. Today the plan was to see a few famous sightseeing spots before hiking down the mountain.

The view from Turtle Peak

We headed directly to Haixin Pavilion from where we started hiking Turtle peak. The peak is very easy to climb and gives you a nice view of Lotus peak – the highest peak in the yellow mountains.

10:00 From Turtle Peak, we headed to Lotus Pavilion. From there we started to hike our way up to Lotus peak. This is the highest peak and the busiest peak in the mountain. It is 1864 m high and as with everything else in this mountain, the way to the top is entirely paved with stairs.

Lotus Peak

This is the most famous peak in the Yellow Mountain, so be prepared for some crows. Indeed, this was the busiest sightseeing spot in the mountain. At some moments, I had to stop and wait for the people in front of me to advance.

The Yuping cable way station is located just in the of Lotus Peak, so most people would prefer to take the cable car up the mountain and climb to the peak directly from the cable car station. This is another reason why you’ll see so many climbers here.

It takes up to 1,5 hours to climb up and down this peak. Once again, it is stairs all the way, so not a technical climb.

12:00 After we climbed up and down to Lotus Peak we had to make our way down the mountain. Lotus Peak is on the Western Steps hiking route and it takes about 2-2.5 hours to get down from the peak to the foot of the mountain.

Western steps

On the way down, you’ll see a few more sightseeing spots and can take your last photos from the Yellow Mountains.

As mentioned, the Western Steps Route is one of the three most popular routes and you will see some tourists on the way down. It is now crowded because many people will prefer to take the cable car.

14:00 By 2 pm we arrived at the end of the Western steps route, where you will also find the first cableway station. From there we took one of the mountain buses that drove us directly to the South Gate of the Huangshan Mountain Park.

Of all the mountains I’ve visited in China, the Yellow Mountain is definitely the most beautiful. I finished my trip with loads of good memories and if I have the chance, I will probably visit again. Check out my Yellow Mountains Travel Guide article to read more about the different hiking routes, other famous summits, and the details about budget and trip organization.

5 thoughts on “Two-day hiking itinerary in The Yellow Mountains (off the beaten path)”

  1. It is really a great and useful piece of info. I am glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. The views are incredible. Thank you for sharing, I am in love with this place and I am wondering if I could use one of your photos for my next painting.

    1. Thank you for your comments! The views from the Yellow mountains are magical indeed. Yes, please, feel free to use my landscape photos for your paintings 🙂

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