Orientation & Information
Buses from Tunxi usually drop off passengers in Tangkou by the bridge or at the bus station in upper Tangkou near the Huang Shan Front Gate.
Two main trails lead up the mountain. The 7.5km-long (4 1/2-mile) Eastern Steps (3-4 hr. hike) are compact and steep and are generally considered less strenuous than the 15km-long (9 1/4-mile) Western Steps (4-6 hr. hike), which are longer and steeper but which have some of Huang Shan's most spectacular vistas. For the fit, it's entirely possible to climb the mountain in the morning and descend in the afternoon in about 10 hours. But an overnight stay at the summit would allow a more leisurely appreciation of the sights and views along the way.
Sedan chairs can be hired on both routes and can cost up to ¥500 for a one-way trip, though there is plenty of room for bargaining. Just be very clear beforehand on all the terms of the deal, including exact starting and ending points, and the price per passenger. If you hire a porter to tote your bags, be clear as to whether you're being charged by the piece or by weight. If the latter, insist, if you can, that the items be weighed before you embark so you have an idea of the total cost, and not when you're at the end, for the load at the end has an uncanny way of weighing three times more than you'd imagined.
For those preferring the path of least resistance, three cable cars go up the mountain: the Eastern Trail's Yungu Si cable car (Mar 15-Nov 15 6:30am-4:30pm; otherwise 8am-4pm) has a waiting line for the 6-minute ascent that can take up to 1 to 2 hours. The Western Trail's Yuping cable car (Mar 15-Nov 15 6:30am-5pm; otherwise 8am-4pm) runs from Ciguang Ge (Mercy Light Temple) to Yuping Lou, which is just over halfway up the western slope; the third, with a length of 3,709m (12,166 ft.) and less frequently used because it spits you west of the summit, is Taiping cable car (same times as above). The trip back to Tangkou takes 1 hour by taxi or infrequent minibus. The one-way cost of each cable car is ¥65. When climbing the mountain, always carry layers of clothing: sweaters and raincoats as well as T-shirts. Hats and umbrellas are useful, too, as temperatures, even in summer, are subject to sudden changes due to the altitude and winds. You might also consider packing your own food and drink, as these become considerably more expensive the higher you climb.
From March 10 to November 15, the park entrance fee is ¥230; from November 16 to March 9 it's ¥150.
Eastern Steps -- At 7.5km (4 1/2 miles) long, these paved, cut-stone stairways are considerably easier to negotiate than the Western Steps, though this is definitely not a walk in the park. Shortly after the start of the trail, considered the Yungu Si cable car terminus, see if you can spot Eyebrow Peak (Meimao Feng) to the south, said to resemble what else but a pair of eyebrows. When you're not huffing and puffing, the climb, which takes you past bubbling streams and pretty pine and bamboo forests, is quite pleasant.
Western Steps -- Most hikers begin their assault on the 15km (9-mile) Western Steps at Ciguang Ge, where you can burn incense and offer prayers for safe trails, not a bad idea considering that the serpentine Western Steps, hewn out of the sheer rock face, can be precipitously steep and narrow. Rest stops are along the way at the Yueya Ting (Crescent Moon Pavilion) and the Banshan Si (Mid-Level Temple, a misnomer -- it should be the Quarter-Way Temple, for that's about where you are).
The real midpoint of the trail is Yuping Feng (Jade Screen Peak), with the Yuping Lou Binguan nestled like a jewel among the pointed vertical peaks. About 20 minutes by foot to the west is the upper terminus for the Yuping suodao (cable car). Before you reach Jade Screen Peak, however, a narrow path hewn between two large rocks named Yi Xian Tian (literally "A Thread of Sky" because only a sliver of sky is visible through this passage) leads to the distinctive Yingke Song (Welcoming Guests Pine), which extends a long tree branch as if in greeting.
South of Jade Screen Peak, an incredibly steep and exposed stairway (often called the Aoyu Bei -- Carp's Backbone) snakes its way to the magnificent Tiandu Feng, the third-highest peak at 1,810m (5,937 ft.). Young lovers often bring padlocks inscribed with their names to affix to the railings at the peak in proof and hope of being "locked" together in eternal love. The views from this "heavenly capital" are simply extraordinary. If you suffer from vertigo or acrophobia, give this peak a pass. Note: The stairway to Tiandu Feng is a steep, 85-degree angle slope; CITS recommends skipping this peak on rainy days.
Past the Jade Screen Hotel is Huang Shan's highest summit, Lianhua Feng (Lotus Flower Peak; elev. 1,873m/6,143 ft.), so named because it resembles a lotus shoot among fronds. From here it's another 20 to 30 minutes or so to the second-highest peak, Guangming Ding (elev. 1,860m/6,100 ft.), where there's a weather station and a hotel. A little farther along is the famous Feilai Shi (Rock that Flew from Afar), a large vertical rock standing on a tapered end. Another half-hour brings you to the Beihai Binguan.
On the Summit -- The highlight at the summit is the Beihai Sunrise, the only reason for overnighting on the summit. Weather permitting, the moment when the first golden ray hits and spills onto the sea of clouds is truly breathtaking. Be forewarned, however, that you'll be sharing this special moment with hundreds of other chattering tourists bundled up in the thick jackets provided by the summit hotels. The Qingliang Tai (Refreshing Terrace), less than 10 minutes from the Beihai Binguan, is the best place to view the sunrise. Alternatively, the Paiyun Ting (Cloud Dispelling Pavilion) between the Feilai Shi and the Xihai Fandian is the place to catch the equally pretty sunsets. Another popular photo op is the Shixin Feng (Beginning to Believe Peak) between the Beihai Binguan and the Yungu cable car terminus.
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.