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The 15 Best Hiking Trails in China

The 15 Best Hiking Trails in China

Written by Carol WangUpdated Apr. 15, 2022

China hiking tours offer energetic outdoor people fulfilling and exciting options for an adventure holiday. With a vast land area, China has some of the best landscapes for hikers to see and experience.

Hiking in China, you can have the awesome experiences of appreciating magnificent mountains, fantastic rivers, and stunning wild places, along with China’s historical and cultural heritage.

Although rural/remote China is not as easy to explore, it is actually well worth the effort. Let's experience the natural beauty of Beijing, Guilin, Lijiang, Huangshan, and more far-flung places in a different way.

Check out our China hiking tours… or read on for more on the best hikes. We have sorted out the hiking difficulty you might come across in China into a 3-level hiking range, from easy to challenging:

  • Easy — For ordinary travelers including children. A typical day involves around 2–4 hours of light to moderate walking.
  • Moderate — For travelers who are experienced at hiking. A typical day involves around 2–4 hours of hiking and tends to involve a few tough climbs to the best views.
  • Challenging — For experienced trekkers looking for a challenge. These treks are a true test of endurance and involve an average of 5–6 hours of serious hiking per day.

1. The Great Wall — The Most Challenging Section from Jiankou to Mutianyu

Hiking from Jiankou to Mutianyu
  • Location: Beijing
  • Difficulty: moderate to challenging
  • Duration: 1–2 days
  • Best times to hike: April to May, September to October

The Great Wall of China is one of the greatest sights in the world. The longest wall in the world, it is an awe-inspiring feat of ancient defensive architecture.

The 4-hour route from Jiankou to the Mutianyu section is the most challenging Great Wall hike, featuring decaying and dangerous steps and spectacular cliff-top tower and wall ruins.

Sense the history as you stand on the unrestored Jiankou section of the Great Wall, which you can enjoy without being surrounded by a crowd… or even a soul. You can experience camping wild on the Wall just like an imperial Chinese soldier.

Having a BBQ dinner, sharing beers with friends or your partner, and appreciating the enchanting views, including sunset and a sunrise over the Great Wall, would give you unforgettable experiences.

Recommended Tours:

>> Read more about Hiking from Jiankou to Mutianyu on the Great Wall.

2. Tiger Leaping Gorge — Hike Through the Yangtze’s Deepest Gorge 

Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking
  • Location: Lijiang
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate
  • Duration: 3 days
  • Best times to hike: Consider avoiding the rainy season (June to September)

Tiger Leaping Gorge is considered one of China's best hiking areas for its perfect adventurous and off-the-beaten routes, rustic Naxi culture, and sheer gorge scenery. The scenery is spectacular, and it deserves its renown as one of China’s best hikes.

It is on the way from Lijiang (2 hours by car) to Shangri-La (3 hours by car) in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. 

Tiger Leaping Gorge is one of the deepest canyons in the world, with a good path high above the Yangtze River, to get away from the throbbing roar of the river, and inexpensive accommodation along the way.

Winding around 22 km (14 miles) in total, Tiger Leaping Gorge provides various hiking routes, including something to meet most hiking levels. Trekking for a half-day, one-day, or two days is available based on your preference.

Recommended Tours:

>> Read more about Tiger Leaping Gorge Hiking

3. Everest Base Camp Trek — Hiking on the Roof of the World

Everest Base Camp Trek
  • Location: Tibet
  • Difficulty: moderate to challenging
  • Duration: 4 days
  • Best times to hike: May, October

The Everest Base Camp Trek in Tibet is one of the most coveted trekking routes in the world. You will trek through Himalayan valleys and remote Tibetan villages, across highland meadows, and desert-like plains.

In Rongbuk Monastery, you can talk with a monk and receive a most sacred blessing.

 It is 66 km (41 miles) of trekking with altitudes ranging from 4,000m (13,000 ft) to 5,350m (17,500 ft). The daily trekking distance is from 12 to 22km (7–14 miles), taking 5–8 hours.

Recommended Tours:

>> Read more on the Everest Base Camp Trek

4. Li River Hiking — Stride through "Landscape Poetry"

Li River Hiking
  • Location: Yangshuo, Guilin
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Duration: 1 day
  • Best times to hike: All the year-round. A few days a year from May to July, hiking may be unsafe/undoable due to storms.

Boasting fantastic natural landscapes and lots of precious cultural relics, Guilin is one of the most popular tourist destinations for people from all around the world. The Li River is definitely the centerpiece of a Guilin Tour.

The Li River section from Xingping to Nine Horse Fresco Hill, where the Li River passes an endless procession of distinct peaks, bamboo groves, and stunning landscapes, is the most wonderful part of a Li River hike. The total length of hiking is about 7 km, 4 hours.

Recommended Tours:

>>Read more on Li River Hiking

5. The Yellow Mountains — The Most Legendary Natural Scenery in China

Yellow Mountains
  • Location: Huangshan
  • Difficulty: moderate to challenging
  • Duration: 2 days
  • Best times to hike: All the year-round. A few days a year from May to July, hiking may be unsafe/undoable due to storms.

The Yellow Mountains are famous for their marvelous and beautiful scenery. The legendary pines, oddly-shaped rocks, phantasmagoric seas of cloud, hot springs, and winter snowscapes give the Yellow Mountains the reputation of having five celebrated attractions.

The Yellow Mountains bring together all the strong points of other famous mountains in one place: grand, strange, baffling, arduous, steep, flourishing, quiet, and spacious.

The most popular activity on Huangshan is hiking around to see the awesome views. Besides, the picturesque ancient villages nearby have also become popular as idyllic hiking destinations.

Recommended Tours:

>>Read more about Yellow Mountain Hiking 

6. Mount. Kailash Circuit Trek — A Pilgrimage Journey

Mount. Kailash Trek
  • Location: Tibet
  • Difficulty: challenging
  • Duration: 3 days
  • Best times to hike: May to September. From October to April, the Mount Kailash circuit may be impassable due to heavy snow.

Sacred Mount Kailash is in the remotest region of Tibet. In Tibetan Buddhism (and three other faiths), hiking around Mount Kailash is a journey of pilgrimage that is of special importance to a person's beliefs and faith.

Even when it has nothing to do with religion or beliefs, many travelers are still attracted by the area's remote beauty, the atmosphere of reverence, and the extreme challenge of the trek.

The distance around Mount Kailash is 58 kilometers (36 miles) with the lowest altitude of 4,675 meters (15,338 feet) and the highest of 5,648 meters (18,530 feet) during the trek.

Recommended Tours:

>>Read more about a Mount Kailash Trek 

7. Ganden Monastery to Samye Monastery — Experience the Beauty of High-Altitude Vistas 

Ganden Monastery
  • Location: Tibet
  • Difficulty: challenging
  • Duration: 4 days
  • Best times to hike: May to October

Hiking from Ganden Monastery to Samye Monastery is one of the most popular adventure trips in Tibet. The trek starts and ends at one of two monasteries that have great significance to Tibetan Buddhism.

The scenery on the way includes lakes, snow-capped mountains, alpine forests, and meadows, as well as Buddhist monasteries. This trek is high-altitude, remote, a decent distance, and rough underfoot with stream crossings.

The daily walking distance is about 15 km (9 miles), taking 5–6 hours. Most of the route's altitude is around 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level.

Recommended Tours:

8. Yubeng Village Hiking — Stunning Views of Snow-Capped Mountains

Yubeng Village Hiking
  • Location: Shangri-La
  • Difficulty: moderate to challenging
  • Duration: 4 days
  • Best times to hike: April to May, October to December.

The Yubeng Village trek is the top hiking route for snow-capped mountains in Yunnan. Yubeng village hides in the hinterland of the Meili Snow Mountains at an altitude of 3,000 m (9,800 ft). It can only be accessed on foot.

During the trek, you can enjoy Shangri-La’s snowy peaks, glaciers, forests, lakes, and waterfalls. The average hiking distance is about 13 km (8 miles) per day. The highest place you would trek to is about 3,800 m (12,400 ft) above sea level.

Recommended Tours:

>>Read more about Yubeng Village in Shangri-La 

9. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Hiking — Sacred Mountain of the Naxi people

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
  • Location: Lijiang
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Duration: 1 day
  • Best times to hike: November to April

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is the most southerly always-snowcapped mountain in China, and it is well-situated within a short road journey from the popular Lijiang Ancient Town in Yunnan Province.

It is more rewarding to explore the holy mountain of local Naxi people’s hearts by hiking, skipping the cable car and avoiding the tourist crowds.

Starting from Yuhu Village, where famous explorer Joseph Rock lived for 27 years, you can hike through the bushes, wade across a little stream, lie down on an alpine meadow, and enjoy exclusive views of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain that only hikers can.

The average hiking distance is about 12.5 km (7.7 miles) at an altitude of around 2,700–3,300 m (8,800–10,800 ft) above sea level.

Recommended Tours:

>>Read more about a Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Hike 

10. Longji Terraced Fields Hiking — World's Most Incredible Scenery

Longji Terraced Fields
  • Location: Guilin
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Duration: 1 day
  • Best times to hike: May to October

The Longji Terraced Fields are located in Longsheng County, about 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Guilin. Longji's terraced fields offer some of the most fantastic scenery in Guilin or indeed China.

As the rice terraces are built into the hillsides, the best, and also only, way to view these fields from many angles is by hiking.

There are numerous hiking trails to explore the rice terraces, and the most frequented trail is from Ping'an Village to Dazhai, or vice versa. The scenery along this route is fantastic, with seasonal colors and traditional minority houses.

The 4-hour hike, during which you can fully appreciate the rice paddies and other beautiful landscapes along the way, has been well-trod over the centuries and most paths are paved with stone slabs.

Recommended Tours:

>>Read more about Longji Terraced Fields Hiking 

11. Daocheng Yading Nature Reserve Trekking — Tread Through the Hidden Pure-land

Daocheng Yading Nature Reserve
  • Location: Western Sichuan Province, 750 km from Chengdu
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 1 or 2 days
  • Best times to hike: April to May, September to October

Daocheng is located in the south of Garze Tibetan Prefecture, around 800 kilometers (500 miles) from Chengdu. Yading National Reserve is one of the most famous places near Daocheng and is great for eco-travel.

As a holy land of the Tibetan people, Daocheng Yading Nature Reserve is well known for its snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes, vast grasslands, and colorful forests.

Daocheng Yading Nature Reserve is a hiking paradise with many hiking routes from classic short hikes to in-depth long treks, which usually take 1 to 2 days. Many trails are located above 4,000 meters above sea level.

Contact us and we’ll tailor-make your own hiking trip in Daocheng.

Recommended Tours:

>>Read more about Daocheng and Yading.

12. Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon — Step onto the 'Sky Ladder'

Zhangjiajie
  • Location: Zhangjiajie
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Duration: half a day
  • Best times to hike: April to May, September to October

Zhangjiajie is an ideal place to explore on foot as it is renowned for its stunning mountain views. No matter which scenic area you visit, some hiking is required.

Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon hiking is particularly popular because of the world-record-holding glass bridge. But the Grand Canyon is about more than just the bridge.

It is a beautiful combination of waterfalls, mountains, streams, cliffs, and caves. Walking in the Grand Canyon, you will encounter many magnificent views, such as 'A Strip of Sky' (a very narrow valley) and 'Sky Ladder', which is a wooden walkway and steps along steep cliffs.

The scenic walk down into the valley takes about 3 hours. Then, you will take a boat ride to the exit.

Recommended Tours:

13. Hiking in Pristine Tropical Rainforest — Have a “Man vs. Wild” Experience

Hiking in Pristine Tropical Rainforest
  • Location: Xishuangbanna
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Duration: Half-day
  • Best times to hike: November to March

Xishuangbanna lies in the very south of Yunnan Province, it is one of three provinces in China where you can experience a truly tropical flavor.

Hiking in a rainforest, you can have a genuine jungle experience that is more interesting than visiting a well-developed rainforest tourist area.

Besides enjoying the peaceful and beautiful forest scenery, you can have a “Man vs. Wild” experience by discovering edible plants and survival skills. 

The length of the hike is about 11 km (7 miles). The journey there is about 1½ hours by car from Jinghong (the main city of Xishuangbanna).

Recommended Tours:

14. Trekking around Gongga Shan — Tallest Peak East of the Himalayas

Trekking around Gongga Shan
  • Location: Western Sichuan Province, 260 km from Chengdu
  • Difficulty: challenging
  • Duration: 5 days
  • Best times to hike: April to October

Gongga Shan is the highest mountain in Sichuan Province and the most easterly peak over 7,000 m, standing at a staggering 7,556 m (24,790 ft), and is of huge spiritual importance to Tibetans. There is a more accessible trail that snakes around the west of the mountain, following the sacred pilgrimage kora undertaken by many Tibetans each year.

The starting point of the kora is just a short drive from Kangding, 260 km (160 miles) from Chengdu. The route takes you past snow-capped peaks, alpine views of classic “Tibetan” landscapes, nomadic Tibetan camps, glaciers, and Tibetan monasteries.

A trek around the Gongga Shan normally needs about 5 days and it is a serious camping trek. Each day the walking distance is about 15 km (9 miles), which usually takes about 6–7 hours, and involves walking at altitudes over 3,500 meters (11,000 feet), the highest place being 4,500 meters (15,000 feet).

Recommended Tours:

>>Read more about Trekking Around Gongga Shan

15. Kanas Hiking — Meet the Switzerland of the East

Kanas Xinjiang
  • Location: Xinjiang
  • Difficulty: challenging
  • Duration: 4 days
  • Best times to hike: May to September

Kanas is located in Altay Prefecture, the northernmost tip of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The top hiking route from Jaden Valley to Kanas Lake is a popular one.

Along the path, you can see beautiful Kanas River, quiet Hemu River, misty Hemu Village, mysterious Black Lake, and finally colorful Kanas Lake.

The whole distance is 78 kilometers (48 miles) on foot. The hiking isn't difficult, but it takes a long time to finish the trek.

Recommended Tours:

Why Hike with Us

  • COVID-19 travel restrictions first-hand updates and advice for registered clients
  • Trekking route road collapse, village flooding, snake blockade, etc. alerts received from local sources; flexible alternatives arranged according to client preference
  • 20 years serving 10,000+ Western clients per year with private tours
  • China's best tailor-made tour company! See TripAdvisor.
  • Free cancellation and full refunds (in these uncertain times), plus unlimited consultancy for a truly personalized itinerary
  • We pursue the ideals of discovery, authenticity, and fun in our tour product design. We will help you avoid commercial and touristy places, according to your requirements. Let us know your ideal Yunnan hiking experience and we’ll create your trip.
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