Jade Dragon Snow Mountain: Hiking, Tips, and Tours
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is the most southerly always-snowcapped mountain in the Northern Hemisphere. It is famous for its varied and beautiful natural scenery, and it's well-situated above popular Lijiang Ancient Town in Yunnan Province.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the Naxi language is known as 'Heavenly Mountain'. Meanwhile, its 13 continuously snow-capped peaks are like a flying "giant dragon", so it is called "Jade Dragon".
Because its lithology is mainly limestone and basalt, which are black and white, it is also called "Black and White Snow Mountain". Jade Dragon is the sacred mountain of the Naxi people and the embodiment of their protector — war god Sanduo.
- Chinese: 玉龙雪山 Yùlóng Xuěshān /yoo-long sshwair-shan/ 'Jade Dragon Snow Mountain'
- Height: 5,596 meters (18,360 feet)
- Popular activities: taking a cable car or hiking up the mountain to enjoy the snow scenery
- Suited to: adventurous people
- Time needed: one day
The Highlights of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Scenic Area
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain stretches 35 kilometers (22 miles) from north to south with its highest peak, Shanzidou (扇子陡), reaching an altitude of 5,596 meters (18,360 feet) among 12 other peaks.
The highlights in Jade Dragon's scenic area are Glacier Park, Ganhaizi Meadow, Yak Meadow, White River (Blue Moon Valley), Spruce Meadow, and the Impression Lijiang show.
The mountain is often covered with snow and fog resembling a silver-white dragon from a distance. The summit of the mountain can be seen from the Old Town of Lijiang.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Hiking
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is a popular hiking destination. Skip the cable cars, and ascend the lofty mountain step by step to get close to its beauty and feel its awesomeness. Here are three popular hiking routes.
Alpine Meadow Route
- Difficulty: 3-star
- Start from Yuhu Village, ascend to Alpine Meadow, then return to Yuhu.
- The round-trip hike is only about 9 km (5 miles), but it normally needs about 6 hours.
- There is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) of ascent. The highest point you will get to is about 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) above sea level at Alpine Meadow.
You will cross a grassland and go through a forest to get to a meadow at the southern foot of the mountain range.
You could find cows in the forest. And if you are lucky, you will see yaks on the meadow. From March to May, the slopes are covered with azalea flowers.
You could get views of the peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the mountains around, and Lijiang city in the distance (weather permitting).
This route is suitable for casual hikers and people who want to have a feeling of ascent without too much of a challenge.
If you are interested in this hiking route, contact us. We can help you arrange a Jade Dragon Snow Mountain hiking trip.
- Difficulty: 3-star
- Start from Yuhu Village, and trek to Ganhaizi via Ganheba.
- The one-way trip hike is about 12.5 km (7.7 miles).
- There is 600 meters (2,000 feet) of ascent. The highest point you will get to is about 3,300 meters (10,800 feet) above sea level at Ganheba.
You will ascend through the pine forest, pass through a white-rock alpine scree valley, and finally reach an upland meadow.
Ganheba is located south of Shanzidou, the highest peak of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It is a long narrow valley full of scree — broken mountain fragments left by millennia of freeze-thaw erosion.
Ganhaizi, the end of the hike, is located at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain near Impression Lijiang, the cable cars, and other attractions. It is a natural meadow pasture. Every spring when the weather is warm, the herdsmen living near Ganhaizi will bring their yaks, sheep, and cattle to graze there.
If you prefer to hike at a relatively lower altitude, but still see amazing scenery, you can choose this route. This hiking route is relatively flatter, so there's less joint stress and risk of altitude fatigue.
Snow Mountain Canyon Route
- Difficulty: 5-star
- Start from Yuhu Village to Snow Mountain Canyon then back to Yuhu Village
- The round-trip trip hike is about 19 km (12 miles)
- The highest point you will get to is about 5,100 meters (16,700 feet) above sea level at Snow Mountain Canyon Route, so the ascent is 2,400 m (8,000 ft).
This hiking route is the most challenging and difficult. Good physical strength and adaptability to altitude sickness are needed.
Along the way you'll cross grasslands, climb steep mountain paths, and cross loose scree slopes to finally reach the Snow Mountain Canyon, where you can face the main peak of the snow-capped mountains, Shanzidou, at a closer distance.
If you have some alpine hiking experience, are very fit and well-equipped, and want to see the main snow-capped peak across a vast canyon, you could challenge yourself with this route.
Some Tips for Hiking
- Alpenstocks (trekking poles) can be a great help, especially when descending.
- Prepare a lightweight windproof, comfortable high-top hiking boots, a hat, sunglasses, a wind mask, water, and food. Lightweight breathable layers and a waterproof are also recommended.
- Local mountain guides are important to get the most from your hiking and for your safety. They will lead the way and help with any urgent problems. Two guides are required at least.
- Rainy days are not good for hiking. If you want to see snow-capped peaks, December, January, and February are the best months (driest, though very cold). Spring is also an ideal hiking season with greenery and flowers.
See our 1-Day Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Hiking Tour. Aliternatively, contact us to help arrange a Jade Dragon Snow Mountain hiking trip. We will create a Lijiang tour based on your requirements and interests.
Yuhu Village is located at the foot of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It is 40 minutes' drive from Lijiang Old Town.
The houses in the village were made from a unique composite, called 'monkey head' by the Naxi people — a mix of local rock and dried earth.
America explorer Joseph Rock lived in this small village for 27 years during his research into Naxi culture. He described it as "a land of peace and happiness". You can find Joseph Rock’s Former Residence, displaying photos and other vestiges of his life, in the village.
If you want to start a hiking trip early, staying in Yuhu Village is the best choice. There are several great hotels, such as The Rock Hotel and Villafound Jade.
3 Cableways on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
JADE DRAGON SNOW MOUNTAIN MAP
There are three cableways in the scenic area, running to Glacier Park, Spruce Meadow, and Yak Meadow.
1. Glacier Park Cableway
This is the most popular cableway in the scenic area. It is one of the highest elevation cableways in China.
This cableway can take you up to experience the glacier and its surroundings. Once you get off the cable car, there will still be stairs for you to climb to reach a viewpoint at an altitude of 4,680 meters (15,350 feet). This short climb is difficult, but you will be rewarded by the beautiful panoramic view.
- Altitude range: 3,356 meters (11,010 feet) – 4,506 meters (14,783 feet)
2. Spruce Meadow Cableway
Spruce Meadow is located at an altitude of 3,240 meters (10,630 feet) and is surrounded by lofty spruces. This large meadow is hidden behind ancient woods. Its meadow and forest scenery are peaceful and beautiful.
- Altitude range: 2,938 meters (9,639 feet) – 3,205 meters (10,515 feet)
3. Yak Meadow Cableway
Another cableway goes to Yak Meadow, which has an elevation of 3,650 meters (11,975 feet). It is the furthest cableway from Lijiang, and it is also the least visited area.
Yak Meadow is an area of grass near the high peaks. Taking this cableway, not only can you admire the beautiful scenery of the snowcapped mountain from a great position, but you will also see yaks grazing on the highland grassland.
- Altitude range: 3,180 meters (10,433 feet) – 3,650 meters (11,975 feet)
Tips for Ascending Jade Dragon
1. You are advised to take portable oxygen canisters in case you experience altitude sickness. You can purchase them in supermarkets at the towns, or at the cable car station before going uphill.
2. Be well prepared with thick gloves and warm clothing to overcome the freezing temperatures high on the mountainside. Down jackets are also available to rent at a cost of 50 yuan.
3. Queues for the cableway can last for up to 3 hours during peak season and Chinese public holidays. You’d best avoid those periods or start your tour early in the morning.
- Recommended tour: 7-Day Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La Tour
The Best Times for a Visit
The best time to visit Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is from November to April when enough snow has built up and the sky is clear so that you can have a great view of the snowcapped mountains.
How to Get to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
If you want a hiking trip, then your destination is Yuhu Village. If you want to take a cable car for sightseeing, then you will go to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Scenic Area.
To Yuhu Village
You can take a taxi or a chartered car to Yuhu Village. A trip from Lijiang Old Town to Yuhu Village is about 40 minutes.
To Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Scenic Area
1. Take a tourist bus from Hongtaiyang Square in Lijiang to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
2. You can take a chartered car at a cost of 200 yuan for a round trip. It takes about 40 minutes.
It is much more convenient to book a private tour with us. You will enjoy hassle-free transport with your private driver and guide.
Touring Jade Dragon Snow Mountain with Us
Our tours are developed through years of experience and customer feedback. All our tours can be customized to suit your requirements and interests. You can contact us for help.
Here are our most popular Lijiang tours, for your reference:
- 1-Day Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Hiking Tour
- 3-Day Lijiang Ancient Town and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Tour
- 6-Day Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang Tour
Contact us to create a tour according to your requirements or for any questions.