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Dali Cangshan Mountains, What to See and How to See

Dali Cangshan Mountains, What to See and How to See

Written by Chris QuanUpdated Nov. 14, 2023

The Cang Mountains (Cangshan) are a mountain range west of Dali City. Their snow-capped peaks, flowing clouds, murmuring brooks, diverse flora, and historical temples make them one of the most famous attractions in Dali.

Cangshan National Geopark is a great place to enjoy a bird's eye view of Erhai Lake and Dali Ancient Town. Cable car and hiking are both great ways to enjoy the scenery of the mountains.

  • Chinese: 苍山Cāngshān /tsaang-shan/ 'Dark Green Mountains'
  • Height: The highest summit is 4,122 m (13,524 ft).
  • Popular activities: taking a cable car, hiking
  • Must-see attractions: Xima Pond, Qingbi Stream, Zhonghe Temple
  • Suited to: nature lovers / hikers
  • Time needed: half a day

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Four Highlights of the Cangshan Mountains

The Cang Mountains stretch for over 50 km (30 miles) north to south and have 19 peaks, with the tallest being Malong at 4,122 meters (13,524 feet). Picturesque creeks run between each of the summits, and serene waterfalls cascade their way down the rocks.

1. Xima Pond ('Washing Horses Pond')

Ximatan in DaliXima Pond

Ximatan (洗马潭) is an alpine lake with an altitude of 3,920 meters (12,860 feet). It is famous for its limpid water and enchanting scenery around it. From March to May, blooming azaleas and lush brush make the lake more gorgeous.

According to legend, Kublai Khan, the emperor who founded the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), once bathed his horses in the pond when he defeated the Dali Kingdom (937–1253). So it was named Ximatan: 'Washing Horses Pond'.

2. Qingbi Stream ('Clear Green Stream')

The Cang Mountains consist of 19 peaks. There is a brook between each of the peaks, 18 brooks in total. Qingbi Stream (清碧溪) is the most famous one. It is very relaxing to walk in the tranquil forest and listen to the gurgling stream.

3. Butterfly Spring

Butterfly Spring (蝴蝶泉) is at the foot of Yunnong Peak, about 40 km north of Malong Peak. It is like a gem laying in the green shade of the mountains. If you visit between April and May, when all kinds of flowers are in bloom, you will see thousands of butterflies around the spring.

4. Buddhist Temples

Apart from natural scenery, you can also visit some historical temples in the mountains, like Gantong Temple and Zhonghe Temple.

Recommended tours:

A Beautiful Valley "Hidden" behind the Cangshan Mountains — Shimenguan

Dali Cangshan Shimenguan Scenic Area is located in Yangbi County's western Cangshan slopes, 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Dali Old Town — 1 hour's drive.

There, you could hike along plank walkways on the cliffs and walk into the heart of the valley to enjoy the mountainous scenery, lush trees and flowers, waterfalls and clear streams.

Some exciting activities can also be found there, such as via ferrata (a steel-cable-protected mountainside climbing route) and ATV (all-terrain vehicle) rides.

If you have no special preference for visiting Cangshan Geopark or another area of Cangshan, and you are looking for a quiet mountainous area with some outdoor activities, Shimenguan is recommended. Contact us if you want to plan a Dali trip.


Taking a Cable Car

cable cars in the Cangshan MOuntainsTake a cable car in the Cangshan Mountains

There are three cableways in the Cangshan mountains: Ximatan Cableway, Zhonghe Cableway, and Gantong Cableway.

Ximatan Cableway

Ximatan Cableway is the longest one, with a length of 5,555 meters (18,225 feet), and it takes you to an altitude of about 4,000 meters (13,123 feet).

Ximatan Cableway has a mid-way station where you can get off to take some pictures. The whole journey is about 40 minutes. If it is too windy, you will end your journey at the mid-way station.

As the most expensive cableway, it offers the best scenery. You will enjoy panoramic views of Dali Ancient Town and Erhai Lake and see different mountain scenes: from pine forests and alpine lakes to patches of snow.

Other Cableways

The other cableways will get you halfway up the mountains. If you have no shortage of time and energy, you can take one of these cableways and then climb to the top.

Cableway Costs

The costs may change; these prices are only for reference:

  • Ximatan Cableway: 300 yuan for a round trip; 150 for one way
  • Gantong Cableway: 80 yuan for a round trip; 50 for one way
  • Zhonghe Cableway: 100 yuan for a round trip; 50 for one way

The Cang Mountains Map


Hiking in Cang MountainJade Belt Road on the Cang Mountains

Hiking up the mountains is popular. The main route is not actually a difficult wild hike, since most of the time you'll be on concrete steps and paths.

Most hikers start from Dali Movie Studio and hike for about one hour to Jade Belt Road (also called Cloud Traveler's Path) — an 18-km (11-mile) paved trail that runs from the south to the north of the mountain range.

Leave yourself an entire day to enjoy the beautiful views up on the mountains, especially if you want to hike some/all of the way.

We can arrange a hiking tour of the Cangshan Mountains. Feel free to contact us.

The Best Way — Cableways and Hiking

The best way to enjoy the scenery of the mountains is to combine cableways and hiking, saving time and energy for the best bits.

You can take one of cableways up to the Cloud Traveller's Path, hike along the path to enjoy the views from the mountainside, and then take another cableway down to the foot of the mountains.

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Travel Essentials

  • Location: about 5 km (3 mi) west of Dali Ancient Town
  • Open: 8:30am–4:10pm (Apr.–Oct.); 8:30am–3:40pm (Nov.–Mar.)
  • Entrance fee: CN¥40
  • The best time to visit: March–May
  • Transportation: You can take bus C2 or C10 from Dali Ancient Town to the Cang Mountains, or take a taxi for 15 minutes.
  • Clothing: It's freezing at the top of the mountains even in summer, so make sure you take sufficient layers of clothing.
  • Altitude sickness warning: If you go to the top of the mountains, you should bring an oxygen bottle to alleviate the effects of possible altitude sickness.

Nearby Attractions

the Three PagodasBehind the Three Pagodas is the Cangshan Mountains

Erhai Lake is the second largest highland lake in China. Blessed with a mild climate and stunning scenery, the lake is a perfect place to take a boat ride, or a bike ride.

Dali Ancient Town is one of the most renowned ancient towns in China. There you will see historical architecture built in the traditional Bai ethnic minority style.

The Three Pagodas between the Cang Mountains and Erhai Lake are considered the landmark of Dali. Built more than 1,000 years ago, they are among China's best-preserved ancient Buddhist structures.

Tour the Cangshan Mountains with Us

If you would like to include the Cangshan Mountains in your Dali tour, feel free to contact us. Our tours are very flexible. You can alter the itinerary based on your requirements and interests.

Here are our most popular Dali tour plans, for your reference:

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