Changbaishan Travel Guide - How to Plan a Trip to Changbaishan
Located in Jilin Province at the border of China and North Korea, Changbaishan is a dormant volcano and a large scenic area, boasting rare animals, lush forests, clear lakes, and bubbling hot springs. It is a famous and unique mountain in China.
Changbaishan (长白山) means "Forever-White Mountain", and its top is covered with snow all the year round. At 42° north (the perfect latitude for ice and snow, similar to Switzerland), Changbaishan is considered a ski paradise and one of the best areas to enjoy snow scenery in China.
What to Do in Changbaishan?
Changbai Mountain is divided into four slopes: North, West, South, and East. The South Slope is closed to travelers due to construction and nature protection. The East Slope belongs to North Korea. Thus, only the West Slope and the North Slope can be visited (updated Dec. 2020).
Both slopes have amazing natural hot springs. It takes about 1½ hours by car from West Slope to North Slope. What are the differences between these two slopes?
North Slope — best choice if you don"t ski at Changbaishan
- The first area in Changbaishan developed for visitors: most comprehensive tourist facilities
- The most attractions: waterfalls, pools, forest, etc.
- Easy access to the summit and Heavenly Lake by car
- No ski resorts
West Slope — strongly recommended if you plan to ski
- Less touristy and fewer travelers because it hasn"t been developed until recent years.
- Travelers need to climb 1,400 steps to reach Heavenly Lake after getting off the shuttle bus. But more walking effort will lead you to an amazing view of more of Heavenly Lake from the West Slope.
- Near to Changbaishan Valley (also called Jinjiang Grand Canyon), an ice and snow fairyland forest in winter and a natural oxygen bar in other seasons.
- Ski resorts: The most popular Jilin Wanda Changbaishan International Ski Resort is located here.
1. Heaven Lake — West Slope and North Slope access
Heavenly Lake is at 2,189 meters (7,180 feet) above sea level. In summer, with white clouds and blue sky, Heavenly Lake surrounded by 16 peaks is like a jade jewel set in the sky. You can enjoy the rare and unbelievable panoramic view of this beautiful crater lake.
In winter (from December to March), the lake will freeze, and you can admire the grand mountain-crater ice kingdom with snowy peaks standing guard all around.
From Wanda Changbaishan International Resort (West Slope), there is a shuttle bus to the service center of Heavenly Lake, which takes about 1 hour. After that you will need to climb around 1,400 steps to the lake, which takes about 1 hour.
The lake view from the West Slope is better, because you can see a wider panorama of Heavenly Lake.
If you don"t want to walk that far, it is better to reach Heavenly Lake from the North Slope as the shuttle bus stops very near the lake.
Tip: For safety reasons, Heavenly Lake closes in extremely bad weather. Double confirmation a day before may be necessary.
2. Changbai Waterfall — North Slope
About 30 minutes by shuttle bus from Heavenly Lake, Changbai Waterfall at a height of 68 meters is the tallest volcanic waterfall in the world. It is a waterfall where you might see both ice and flowing water! As you know, ice is typical in Northeast China"s frigid winter. But, because of the heat of the hot springs, some ice from Heavenly Lake will melt into flowing water!
Overlooking the grand waterfall from the viewing deck, you can see two (frozen) torrents like two huge flying dragons — an amazing view!
3. Valley Forest — North Slope
Valley Forest is the source of the Songhua River (the most important river in Harbin, Jilin, and most of NE China). When the Changbaishan volcano erupted, the volcano cone split northwards and collapsed, forming a valley 50 meters (160 feet) deep and about 3,000 meters (2 miles) long.
The valley temperature is a little higher than at Changbai Waterfall, and significantly higher than at Heavenly Lake, so it"s a good “warmer” choice, especially on windy days.
There are huge rocks at the bottom of the valley and tall ancient trees, making it a natural oxygen bar. Take a short walk in the primitive forest and some deep breaths of that super fresh air. There are around 3 km (2 miles) of path for a round-trip walk. On sunny days, you may see rime in the morning.
4. Lushui River Rafting — around 1 hour from North Slope
Have you ever imagined rafting when the air temperature is -30°C (-22°F)?! As Lushui River is the hot spring water from Changbai Mountain, the water temperature is kept between 6 and 8°C (43–46°F) in winter, and it never freezes. The river is at the foot of Changbai Mountain.
Changbaishan is the only place in China offering raft rides on a hot spring river with gorgeous rime on both sides (and then only when the weather is fine in the morning). The rafting takes 40 minutes to 1 hour. Don"t be afraid of getting wet. The water will freeze immediately after falling on the rubber boat!
5. Hot Springs — West Slope and North Slope
The hot springs are a must-try when visiting Changbaishan. Most hotels with hot springs provide free hot spring tickets for you to enjoy a relaxing soak, but hotels with hot springs inside usually cost more to stay at.
A famous hot spring spot is around 900 m north of Changbai Waterfall. There are several hundred hot springs. These springs continuously spray hot water from the cracks in the rocks all year long. The water temperature is above 60°C (140°F). It is said that local people could boil eggs in these hot springs. You may try boiling eggs there.
When the steam falls on the grasses and trees nearby, you can see the rime forming. Enjoy the warmth surrounded by ice and snow in Changbaishan.
6. Skiing — West Slope
There are four main ski resorts in Changbaishan: Jilin Wanda Changbaishan International Ski Resort, Changbaishan Tianchixue Ski Resort, Luneng Shengdi Ski Resort, and Baishan Ski Resort.
The most recommended resort is Jilin Wanda Changbaishan International Ski Resort because it is more tourist friendly:
- Friendly service
- Higher-standard ski facilities for any level of skier
- Many restaurants within walking distance
- Family-friendly: more hotel choices and other entertainments (snow theme park, night bars) nearby
- Extremely great view from the top of the ski resort after getting off the cable car
Jilin Wanda Ski Resort is designed by Canada Ecosign, who designed the venues for five Winter Olympic Games. It covers an area of 7 square kilometers (2½ sq miles) and has a total of 43 ski trails.
Among the trails, nine meet the professional requirements of the Olympic Winter Games, 14 are for intermediate skiers, and 20 are for beginner skiers. No matter what level of skiing you"re at, you will find your ideal slope here.
Contact us to arrange a unique ski tour.
7. Changbaishan Valley (aka Jinjiang Grand Canyon) — West Slope
Beginning around 20 km (12 miles) from Heavenly Lake, Changbaishan Valley is V-shaped, around 70 km (43 miles) long, with an average depth of around 80 m (260 feet) and an average width of around 100 m (330 feet). It resulted from a volcanic explosion.
It is famous for the various tree/rock shapes in the forest. Some look like a crescent moon, some look like a cockerel, and some look like a camel. Keep an open mind to the imaginatively described trees, and you will enjoy this kingdom of animals and plants. In summer walking along the valley is so refreshing.
In winter, the Jinjiang Valley wears a beautiful white coat. Walking in this ice and snow forest offers you a charming and relaxing afternoon.
Tip: We recommend visiting Heavenly Lake in the morning and then taking a shuttle bus to Changbaishan Valley in the early afternoon. Remember to arrive at the shuttle bus service center before 2pm. The last bus normally departs before 2:30pm.
How Many Days to Stay in Changbaishan?
Usually 4–5 days are enough to enjoy the main highlights. For example:
- Day 1: Arrive in Changbaishan and enjoy a relaxing hot spring bath in the evening.
- Day 2: Enjoy skiing at Wanda Changbaishan Ski Resort.
- Day 3: Have a day visiting the scenic spots on the West Slope or North Slope.
- Day 4: Depart early or have another fun day at a ski resort or hot spring.
Unlike Beijing or Shanghai, Changbaishan is more remote — far in the northeast of China. Winter is the peak season for traveling there, when hotels are usually in high demand. Booking your Changbaishan tour in advance will help you save money and troubles. Contacting us at China Highlights will make your planning much easier help you avoid “tourist traps”.
How to Get to Changbaishan
The nearest airport to Changbaishan National Nature Reserve is Changbaishan Airport (IATA: NBS, ICAO: ZYBS). There are direct flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Changchun, Shenyang, Dalian, and Harbin. Departing from other cities, you could take high-speed train to Changchun or Harbin and then fly to Changbaishan Airport.
From Changbaishan Airport, it takes about 30 minutes to Wanda International Resort (West Slope). Some hotels provide shuttle bus transfer. We can arrange private car for you to enjoy a more friendly journey.
To the North Slope, it takes about 1½ hours by car from the airport.
If you have a one-week holiday, we suggest a driving journey from Harbin to Changbaishan, passing through China Snow Town (a magical snow fairyland) and Jinpo Lake (see local-style winter fishing).
Recommended tour or contact us to tailor make an itinerary for you:
Changbaishan Weather — Best Time to Visit
Located in the northeast of China, Changbaishan has long, frigid winters. The snow season usually lasts from November to March, which is the best time for skiing and enjoying fantastic snow scenery. The coldest month is January averaging -8 to -24°C (18–-11°F) and the hottest month is July at 18–28°C (64–83°F).
Recommended Winter Packing Tips
For keeping warm: thermal underwear, breathable windproof sub-zero shell layer (coat and trousers), warm hat, scarf, warm earmuffs, warm gloves, goggles, boots, etc.
For the hot springs: swimsuit
For drinks: vacuum flasks (bottled water will freeze outdoors)
Remember to keep your face covered with e.g. a high-necked hood as your face will sting in the cold wind and frostbite may begin in prolonged exposure.
Rental services: If you don"t bring enough clothes with you, a renting service is available, which is especially useful for specialist ski equipment like goggles and ski boots.
For more tips, check out how to plan a ski trip in China.
Average Changbaishan Temperatures by Month
|High (°C)||Low (°C)||High (°F)||Low (°F)|
Recommended Hotels in Changbaishan
West Slope — near Wanda Ski Resort and more restaurants
Stay at the West Slope for skiing, or for a short visit as it"s close to the airport. These hotels provide free tickets for skiing and hot springs:
- Park Hyatt Changbaishan (5*): from CN¥3,400 (connected to ski resort)
- Hyatt Regency Changbaishan (4*): from CN¥3,000 (second best location following the Park Hyatt)
- The Westin Changbaishan Resort (5*): from CN¥2,000
- Sheraton Changbaishan Resort (5*): from CN¥2,000
- Holiday Inn Resort Changbaishan (4*): from CN¥1,800
- Ibis Styles Changbaishan Wanda (3*): from CN¥1,500
Is it possible to visit the North Slope attractions if staying at a West Slope hotel? Yes, but you should depart early and get back to the hotel late because of up to 2 hours" driving each way.
As most of the attractions are near the North Slope, you might want to re-hotel there for the sightseeing part of your tour.
North Slope — scenic town, near more attractions
Erdaobaihe is a small town near the North Slope. It is a very beautiful town, which is said to be ranked among the most beautiful towns in China. There is a big wetland park by the town, and there are many free attractions. A wooden plank road was built by the river, which makes it very comfortable to explore by foot.
The hotels in Erdaobaihe Town are recommended, and they provide free tickets for hot springs:
- Crowne Plaza Resort Changbaishan Hot Spring (5*): from CN¥1,400
- Changbai Mountain Landscape International Eco-Exchange Center (4*): from CN¥900
The prices listed are for the peak season (December and January) for your reference. Check with us for exact prices and room availability if you have a planned travel date.
What to Eat at Changbaishan
The food in Changbaishan is mainly Northeast-style and North-Korea-style. To meet the preference of travelers from other areas, there are many other-style restaurants available now in Changbaishan. Don"t worry about the food choices and prices. You can find whatever you want, especially around Wanda International Resort.
Here are some especially recommended local foods:
- Stewed goose in an iron pot (铁锅炖大鹅)
- Braised pork with vermicelli (猪肉炖粉条)
- Cold noodles (冷面)
- Braised chicken with ginseng (人参鸡)
- Local salad and tofu with a sauce dip — (Zhanjiangcai 蘸酱菜)
- Dried tofu with chili (尖椒干豆腐)
- Pork soup (川白肉)
- Braised trotters (酱猪蹄)
- Stewed chicken with mushroom (小鸡炖蘑菇)
- Frozen persimmon (冻柿)
Touring Changbaishan with Us
Contact us for any more help or answers you might need for your Changbaishan tour, or to have us tailor-make an itinerary for you. Again, linked is our suggested, but fully-customizable, tour plan for your inspiration: