Consider the cable car, particularly if you only have 1 day in your schedule. The mountain is a tough 2,000m (6,600-ft.) climb, especially if you don't have a head for heights. If you have 2 or more days, walk up and stay at one of the simple guesthouses on the mountain. You will enjoy a feeling of smugness when you meet the masses piling out of the cable cars at North Peak (Bei Feng; 1,613m/5,295 ft.). By staying on the mountain, you can see the sunrise and the sunset, and enjoy the mountains when the light is soft.
Some Chinese guidebooks recommend climbing up at night with a flashlight to see the sunrise (presumably skipping the entrance fee). The locals say, "You don't fear what you can't see" ("Bu jian bu pa"). This is not sensible. The cable car (¥150 round-trip; ¥80 one-way) reaches Bei Feng in 10 minutes, about 4 hours quicker than you would on foot. If you want to save your knees and leave yourself more time on the mountain, take the cable car down. On the old road, it's 8km (5 miles) to Bei Feng, all uphill. The last mile to North Peak is steep, narrow, and slippery, particularly through Heaven's Well (Tian Jing).
Chinese tour groups, bedecked in yellow hats and white gloves, will gape at you, and souvenirs, bottles of water, and cucumbers will be waved in your face, but there is an enjoyable spirit of camaraderie among the hikers. And at least one of the souvenirs is worth purchasing. As at many of China's holy mountains, Chinese visitors have their name engraved on a brass padlock wishing good health for the family (or a long and happy relationship for young couples) and attach it to one of the many chain railings.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.