The Foot of the Mountain - Hot Springs and Waterfalls
The hot springs, some waterfalls and low level scenic walks can be found 40 minutes walk (or a short taxi ride) in from the main gate at the south of Huangshan. There are several hotels in this area, in whose grounds are the hot springs. The hot springs are a great place to go to relax the muscles after a day or two's hiking on the mountain.
South Route 1: The Yuping Cableway to Bright Top Ascent
The Yuping (Jade Screen) Cableway route to Bright Top is the less recommended route up, because there's more walking and tourists, but it gives the chance to take in the tallest peaks. Yuping Cableway's south station is known as Kind Light Pagoda (Ci Guang Ge) Station. The Cableway takes 10 minutes to take visitors up to Yuping Cableway's north station, near Jade Screen Pavilion. This saves 1 hour 15 minutes of walking. Jade Screen Pavilion is an excellent viewing spot.
A short distance from Jade Screen Pavilion, past Greeting-guest Pine, is Celestial Capital Peak. This peak is a steep climb (an estimated 1 hour 30 minutes to-the-top-and-back diversion, not counting breaks), but the views and rock formations near the Top, not to mention fewer tourists (deterred by its steepness), make it worthwhile. The busiest place on the mountain must be around the famous Greeting-guest Pine (between Yuping Cableway Station and Celestial Capital Peak), where tourists from all over China take it in turns to have their photo taken with this well-known tree.
The route from Jade Screen Pavilion to Bright Top is very busy in peak times, which makes the narrow paths slow going. Tour guides with megaphones interrupt the eerie stillness of the mountainside. The path offers another diversion (1 hour 30 minutes) off to the highest Top, Lotus Peak, before reaching Bright Top. Lotus Peak was closed recently (August 09), due to footpath repairs and because tourist numbers were too high.
South Route 2: The Yungu Cableway Ascent
The Yungu (Cloud Valley) Cableway route begins at the south station, near Cloud Valley Temple. Yungu Cable car takes 8 minutes to reach White Goose Ridge (Bai E Feng), the north station, compared to an estimated 1 hour 45 minutes of walking. The walking option doesn't offer much, just a pavilion and a rock called Immortal Pointing The Way, and the company of local workers manually transporting bedding and other goods up and down the thousands of steps. From White Goose Ridge the path forks right to North Sea (Beihai) Hotel, or left to Bright Top.
The Mountaintop Loop
Bright Top, Dispersing Cloud Pavilion, North Sea Hotel and White Goose Ridge form a loop at the top of the mountain. Bright Top to Dispersing Cloud Pavilion (20 minutes down or 45 minutes climbing up), takes in the Flying Over Rock, a large tilting monolith. The loop goes past West Sea (Xihai) Hotel on to North Sea (Beihai) Hotel (10 minutes). The path from North Sea Hotel to White Goose Ridge (15 minutes down, 30 up) takes in a rock called Flower Growing Out Of A Writing Brush. Climb from White Goose Ridge to Bright Top (35 minutes) to complete the loop.
West Sea Grand Canyon
From Dispersing Cloud Pavilion, there is a path out west to West Sea Grand Canyon and Nine Dragons Peak. For a more peaceful way to enjoy the scenery of the Yellow Mountains, China Highlights recommend the circuit through the West Sea Canyon, with its less frequented trails and spectacular views. Note that every year from December till April of the next year, West Sea Grand Canyon is closed to tourists because of snow and maintenance.
The peripheral routes from Flower Growing Out Of A Writing Brush go out east to Seeing Is Believing Peak (left fork, 20 minutes) past Pen Rack Peak, or (right fork) to Fairy Maiden Peak (30 minutes).
From North Sea Hotel there is a path north to the north gate of Huangshan Scenic Area, the less visited side. Along this path one can see Dawn Pavilion (it is popular to go up here or to Bright Top to see the Seas Of Cloud and the Dawn), Refreshing Terrace and Monkey Watching the Sea (a curious boulder perched on a ridge), on the way down to Pine Valley Nunnery, where one could catch Taiping Telpher back up.
Taiping Telpher is Asia's longest telpher (3709m long), taking up to 100 passengers at a time from Dispersing Cloud Pavilion down to Pine Valley Nunnery (Songgu An), or probably more popularly up the approximately 1000m ascent. It can be incorporated in a loop via Beihai Hotel and Dawn Pavilion. A good early morning excursion would be to set off from one of the mountain top hotels to see the dawn at Dawn Pavilion, walk down to the nunnery (an hour's walk from North Sea Hotel) and come up by telpher (much quicker than the walk which would be more like 2 hours because of the ascent).
What to Pack
Pack for mountain walking and a day or two's stay at mountain hotels. A day or two is all that should be needed to explore the mountain thoroughly. The rest (cases, etc.) should be left at a hotel in Huangshan City or at the bottom of the mountain. We recommend waterproofs, layers of warm clothes, a windproof lightweight layer, a change of clothes, high calorie snacks, plenty of drinks, a map for reference and a camera. In summer use sun protection as it is easy to get burnt on the mountain. Pack waterproof bags for anything that shouldn't get wet and put it all in a backpack. In winter dress for -10oC, plus wind-chill and snow.
Footware: Decent comfortable trainers with a cushioned sole (with a change of footwear in case they get soaked) should be sufficient in summer. Waterproof walking boots/ snow boots are recommended in the winter when there is likely to be snow. The steps may be treacherously slippery in the winter and some areas are restricted access for safety reasons.